For the amateur photographer, there’s no better way to experience a city than through a viewfinder. Fancy doing it en masse? Manchester has a multitude of photography tours, walks and workshops.
Taking a tour of your home city and photographing buildings you see every day may seem like odd past times but guided walks and camera geekery aren’t just for tourists. An increasing number of amateur photographers keen to see their city from a fresh perspective are signing up for guided photography walks of Manchester. The odd tech chat about lenses, camera models or storage apparatus may be overheard but unlike studio classes, which can sometimes belabour the hardware issue, tours put atmosphere and appreciation of the city at centre stage. The tours also provide opportunities to meet like-minded individuals; those with a shared appreciation for rescued buildings as well as cameras. You’ll walk away feeling like you’ve connected not just with Manchester but with the locals who love it too. Before you start reaching for your city map and spare lens, here are our tips for making the most of Manchester’s many photography tours.
Location and Distance
Tours tend to concentrate on a centralised area, such the Northern Quarter or the shipping canal between Piccadilly and Castlefield. Others remain entirely within one magnificent building, providing hours with which to explore its every staircase and cupola. These may operate outside of normal opening hours, offering a certain measure of exclusivity (and an escape from the photobombs of random passersby). A few also offer access to restricted areas, such as Aidan O’Rourke’s photo workshop at Victoria Baths, where you can step behind the “No Entry” signs and capture a building usually off limits to the public.
Level and Formality
Most photo tours assume participants are comfortable with concepts like aperture, shutter speed and ISO. If you’re still learning these aspects of photography, it’s best to tackle them in a longer course. Manchester Photographic’s two-day workshops have both a walkabout and a classroom element that specifically addresses technique. Let the tutor know what your target skills are and they’ll be able to offer advice and point out specific shots. Formality is slightly more varied. Some tours are introduced with a PowerPoint presentation, others offer the services of a model and Manchester creative community, MadLab’s photography workshops run with no set destination.
It may be a challenge when attempting to pack light but having the right gear is key. Bring camera kit that can be easily carried and don’t forget essentials like clean lenses and extra data space. The organisers of the tour may be able to loan specialist equipment such as tripods for night time tours. Appropriate shoes are another must, especially on Manchester Photographic’s oh-so-gritty “Urban Canal” tour, which ventures under bridges and into litter-strewn areas. You’ll need something sturdier than your favourite pair of flip-flops.
Great shots sometimes mean sacrificing the chance to learn about a location itself. O’Rourke’s Victoria Baths photo walk puts the traditional tour at the end of a three-hour shoot, when fatigue may well have set in. The good news is that you’ll have already snapped to your heart’s content and have no problem keeping up with the commentary. And best of all, there’s no danger of finding yourself left alone with your camera.