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Let Cambridge inspire your photography, David Clapp, Photographer and Canon Ambassador

At the very beginning of a photographic journey, it is no understatement to say everything can seem extremely daunting. Surrounding you is a world of photographic inspiration, afloat on an ocean of technical complexity. Leaving the camera aside, just understanding the principles of photography can be enough to make the beginner rather nervous. Yet there is a path through towards inspiring and passionate pursuit, so how to we stop this turning into a complex artistic struggle?

Cambridge is beautiful. It is surely England’s most inspiring historical city, with incredible architecture and English character. From the beauty of the colleges, to the winding rivers, the hazy days of summer are simply divine. For me, the centre of Cambridge has always been a gentle experience, of observing and exploring the classic backstreets and bridges. Just some minimal equipment, a camera and two lenses, can be all you need to capture some truly remarkable images. 

Beginning and adventure in photography must contain something inspirational. Living in the South West of England, near Exeter, the draw is towards the open moors and jagged coastline, but this can be a tough and draining pursuit of perfect weather conditions. On the other hand, Cambridge is local; it can be about observing life and capturing it spontaneously by exploring street photography. It can also be about architectural photography – the magnificence and grandeur of Cambridge is perfect to learn the ropes, so let’s start to look at the subjects and places to push your photography into gear.

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Choosing the Right Camera

If you are shooting a full frame camera, choose a medium zoom – a 24-70 focal length is absolutely ideal. This will give a lot of creative opportunity in one lens with everything from vistas to street portraits (if you dare!). Another great optic is a 70-300 zoom. This can be used for longer distance scenes, details and even macro style images. Buy yourself a polariser for each lens, a small shoulder bag and then do a lot of research. 

The River Cam is a great place to begin. Not only are there wonderful barges at Jesus Green, there are willow trees and other scenes of pictorial England along the way. Then there are the bridges. Personal favourites are Mathematical Bridge, which has a fabulous backdrop of beautiful buildings, but also Kitchen Bridge, which looks towards the Bridge of Sighs. Any of the river banks with a view towards a bridge can create some memorable pictures. 

Set your camera to a black and white picture style. Not only can you have a lot of textural photographic fun, but it is also a great way of learning how to explore shape and form. Infrared photography has become very popular in the last ten years; this is another medium that works very well in Cambridge.

Look for Inspiration

Copy the work of others – do not be ashamed. No one hands you a guitar, shows you three chords and then tells you to ‘go and write a song’. At the beginning of every creative pursuit, inspiration is absolutely key to motivation. Use it to allow you the space to breathe. Find some cliches, this give you the chance to produce a quality image, so you can understand your cameras technical capabilities better. 

The Colleges are so very beautiful. You may have heard that you need specialist lenses to shoot architecture, but don’t worry – it’s not necessarily the case. The 24-70 lens can be al you need to begin. Remember, architectural photography is all about symmetry. If you cannot visit St John’s, then head for a local church to practice. Churches are all about symmetry – stand in the nave and look towards the alter, placing everything in the centre. Shoot vertically upwards, set the lens to a wide angle, as wide as you can get. The 16-35 focal length comes into its own here, a lens to aspire toward. 

Finally, good photography is all about timing, both of the subject matter and the time of day. All imagery looks far more flattering at sunrise and sunset, but this may not work where you are. Again, research your intended subject using tools like The Photographers Ephemeris to see how the light falls and to calculate the right time. Shoot into the evening light and into twilight for some truly evocative images around the city. 

Photography is about observation and spontaneity. It is also about learning to use lens and cameras to the very best of your abilities, understanding settings, but more importantly understanding composition. Look to the work of other locals and professionals alike for inspiration – with good research, photographing the beauty of Cambridge will kick start your passion and prepare you for adventures beyond.

David Clapp Website: https://www.davidclapp.co.uk

Canon UK: https://www.canon.co.uk

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