Tuesday 23 February 2021 talk: Justin Minns – “A Learning Curve” – Landscape photography

Last meeting: Justin Minns – “A Learning Curve” – Landscape photography


Justin gave a very comprehensive explanation of how he gets his stunning landscapes and gave tips on how it is done. He structured his talk in 10 top tips. For late risers look away now – Set the alarm: this has had the biggest impact on his work. He said you need to get up early and be at your location an hour before sunrise for those golden hour colours. Sunrise can be more magical than sunset, especially if there is no wind, frost is around and maybe some mist. This adds atmosphere to your compositions. Let there be light: photography is of course all about light. You may not always have ‘good’ light so learn how to work with what you have got. Side light can give your subject depth and dimension. Work your subject trying different points of view relative to the direction of the light. Backlighting works very well in woodlands especially if there is fog.


Compose yourself: Justin runs photographic workshop and the biggest issue photographers struggle with, and the hardest to get to grips with, is composition. Justin showed a series of images showing various composition tips: rule of thirds, leading lines, layers, framing etc. However, at times it is worth going with your gut instinct and override the ‘rules’. Be prepared: You do not want to be looking for the best place to get your shot in darkness, so it is worth getting to know places near you and when the conditions are right going to those locations with an idea of what your composition is going to be. For places he doesn’t know he plans his location shoots by using a mix of google maps, SunCalc app, ordnance survey maps, ClearOutside app, BBC weather etc so that he has a good idea of the lay of the land, the direction of the light and what the weather will be.


If at first you don’t succeed: a perennial favourite for nearly all our speakers – return to the same location and persevere. Justin showed various attempts to get the shot he wanted of Dunwich Heath before he got it right on his fourth visit. He returned to Felixstowe to take this photo of an odd structure on the beach with the tide in which was commended in the 2013 landscape Photographer of the Year. Keep going back was his motto. Go with the flow: after all the pre-planning you may be so focussed on the plan you miss what is in front of you, so go with the flow, adapt and change the plan.


Get close: understand what different focal length lenses can do and try using different focal length lenses. Try to fill the frame with the thing that is of interest. Slow down: other presenters have emphasised this in terms of slowing down, thinking and feeling about your subject. Justin was also talking about using slow shutter speeds as well. He used a slow shutter speed to get the receding water near Hunstanton pier to act as leading lines – the swooshery effect as he called it. Justin also spoke about using neutral density filters to allow you to use longer shutter speeds.


Shoot raw: this will give you more details and allows you to capture more of the scene. All the gear … no idea: he showed his gear and went through what it consisted of, but said it is the least important aspect of making him a better photographer. The way Justin has improved his photography was getting up early, planning, composition, lens choice and more. Being in the right place at the right time and knowing how the light works, what the atmosphere is and composition have been the most important things.


It was a thoroughly engaging, illuminating and instructive talk.

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Oxford Photographic Society