Thoughts on Lukasz Warzecha's Winter Photography Workshop (with Andy Turner)

I was lucky enough to get a space on Lukasz Warzecha's Winter Photography Workshop in Aviemore last weekend.

Lukasz Warzecha is a super-nice Polish "photographer turned visual artist" (a quote from his website, LW Images). I first read about Lukasz in Mountaineering Council of Scotland's members' magazine a few years back. Since then, he's embraced the social side of digital and I've been able to follow Lukasz on Facebook and Twitter as he travels around the world taking highly engaging pictures of people climbing and mountaineering.

LW Images Winter Photography Workshop

Back in 2011, I was disappointed when Lukasz advertised an LW Images Autumn Photography Workshop with Dave Macleod in Wales. But only because it was too far for me to go with no spare money. I remember tweeting Lukasz at the time asking if he had any plans to do a Scotland one and he replied "Watch this space". In January 2012, my waiting paid off when he advertised a Winter Photography Workshop in the Cairngorms focused on "creative image making, composition, different lighting scenarios and advice on how to maximise your camera and equipment to get the best possible picture". Just what I wanted.

Lukasz's promotional pull for his Winter Photography Workshop was Mountain Equipment Pro Partner, Andy Turner. Andy is one of Britain's best winter climbers and has climbed extremely hard routes such as 'The Secret' (graded VIII/9) and 'Sassenach' (IX/9), both on Ben Nevis. (Of 'The Secret', US Alpinist magazine reported it "may be the most difficult onsight of a winter climb in UK history"). In January 2011, Andy also repeated Dave Macleod's awesome-looking 'The Hurting' (XI,11) on the Fiacaill Buttress in Coire an t-Sneachda, in the Cairngorms National Park.

(Of most interest to me, Andy's also climbed on Cerro Torre in Patagonia's Los Glaciares National Park. He and his climbing partner reached Maestri's famous Compressor belay stance on the headwall before retreating due to bad weather).

First up, Mark Diggins, SAIS

It was to Coire an t-Sneachda we were headed on the first day of Lukasz's course. As a prelude to Andy Turner, Lukasz had persuaded Mark Diggins of SportScotland Avalanche Information Service (SAIS) to let us photograph him as he studied snow conditions for the daily report on the SAIS website. Mark, an internationally-respected mountain guide, is the co-ordinator for the SAIS and the lead ranger for the Northern Cairngorms. He wisely sent someone else to do the official forecast that day, which I'm sure he happily justified to himself as we soon attempted to distract him with who-knows-how-many number of shutter clicks and popping flashes, often just inches away from his head. I'd like to say a big thanks to Mark for his patience and his time; I found it all very interesting and informative.

Main event, Andy Turner Climbing

Saturday was 'the big day' and we headed back into Coire an t-Sneachda, this time with Lukasz, Andy Turner and his partner, Ruth Taylor. Ruth is a qualified Mountain Instructor and was responsible for our safety over the weekend. She did so admirably, this time getting us up to the foot of the Mess of Pottage buttress and clipped in to a safety rope so we could concentrate on taking photos. We then spent c.2-3 hours shooting Andy and his friend, Emma Warren, climbing - or more accurately waltzing - up a route on the buttress.

On Saturday night, Lukasz (or Andy, or Ruth, not sure who) wangled us a visit to Glenmore Lodge bar for the BMC Winter Climbing Meet's end of week party. We spent a few hours lurking on the outskirts of the party. I spotted Andy Cave, Alan Hinkes, Nick Bullock and - I think I recall being told - two members of the legendary Japanese Giri-Giri Boys.

How to use off camera-flash

On Sunday, Lukasz taught us about studio work and how to use off-camera flash. It's the first time I've used 'proper' flash and I found the results very interesting. I've already made enquiries about booking a studio here in Edinburgh to take shots of friends and get in more practice. I can see a lot of scope for interesting outdoor portraits, not least close-up shots of overly-tired, muddy mountain bikers. Watch out those of you headed for the 2013 Strathpuffer!

Thanks to Lukasz and his friends for a great weekend;

Plus my fellow students - Dan, Tom, Andy and Rebecca.

Here's to a Spring workshop.