Eighteen people (twenty-one registered with three apologies for absence) attended the weekend course on bryophyte photography. Even with three tutors, these numbers were the maximum possible for the practical session.
Despite guidance sent out in advance, it was anticipated that some people might turn up with equipment problems; therefore an informal introductory session was held on Friday evening, and the Saturday sessions started at 10 a.m. to allow an early dash to town to rectify the odd vital omission, or to replace some unsuitable item. The main problems were unsuitable tripods, or problems (both physical and electrical) of connecting the flash to the camera when used out of the camera shoe.
Undoubtedly a major attraction of the course was the chance to see Harold Whitehouse’s superb stereophotographs of bryophytes. This was nearly not to be. Harold was first of all plagued by the rail strike, and arrived at the wrong station at the wrong time on Friday night; a misunderstood message via security staff meant that he waited to be collected for over two hours in bad weather with all his equipment, whilst we were still waiting to hear from him. And then on Saturday, just as the stereo slide show started, his projector dropped its transformer onto the cooling fan with an awful noise. However, resourceful students (mainly Ken Adams) soon repaired the machine, and were rewarded with a fitting grand finale to Saturday’s lectures.
Earlier that afternoon, Harold had fascinated us with an account of the camera he now used, made from the body of an old Agfa Isola and two lenses from a imslo, plus a lot of ingenuity from his late wife Pat. He also explained how lesser mortals could take and view stereo photographs of bryophytes, using their more ordinary equipment.
The remaining three forty-five minute illustrated lectures (two in the morning and one in mid afternoon) dealt with the subjects: general bryophyte photography, close-up and high magnification photography, and microscope and SEM photography. Each of these was shared between Michael Proctor and myself, who had earlier attempted to coordinate their contributions over the telephone. Perhaps inevitably, this resulted in more than sufficient material, with the result that both morning and afternoon teabreak got lost in the wash, and a rather generous one-and-a-half hour lunchbreak became seriously less. It seems that all the students were either very pleased with the value-added course, or alternatively were very polite. One student was heard to remark that “Saturday had been a most interesting week”.
On Saturday evening, almost all the students turned up for an informal and cheerful social evening with wine at the organiser’s house, where they could quiz the tutors on individual problems. Harold was persuaded to put out stereo viewers so that students could look at his photographs at leisure.
Sunday morning was spent at Marie Louise Gardens in Didsbury, putting theory into practice. The aim was to leave everyone with a working setup that would at least enable them to take reasonable life- size photographs of bryophytes in the field, without too much trouble. The key seemed to be the little close-up flash calculator dial, which most students requested, and which is being published (with instructions) in J. Bryol. 16(3), June 1991. Sunday afternoon was spent back in the University laboratory, to discuss high-magnification work and much else as well, before the course dispersed.
Much more time was needed, and perhaps an extended course might be considered for the future.
Tutors: Dr Harold L.K. Whitehouse, Dr Michael C.F. Proctor, and Dr Sean R. Edwards (local organiser).