TEAVEL / Hobby holidays: Photography

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The Independent Culture
Lopped-off heads, severed feet, blurred sunsets and bleached-out beach scenes. It boggles the mind to think how many holiday snaps must be taken each day - and how few turn out to be half-way successful. At least with a photography holiday, there will be a few worth keeping.

There are two types of break: those that emphasise the holiday element ('walking with a camera' or 'photography safari') and those that concentrate on specific techniques (printing and developing, or use of flash). Expensive equipment is not essential. The key element is good light, so warmer countries score well whereas an overcast week in Britain could be disappointing. Prices are per person, including board and lodging and travel unless stated. Programmes and prices may alter slightly this summer.

THE LEARNING EXPERIENCE: You don't even need to own a camera for Earnley Concourse's weekends, So You'd Like to Take Pictures?, held near Chichester (0243 670392; pounds 124), which run through all the photographic basics. HF Holidays (081- 905 9558) has a five-night course, SLR Cameras For Beginners, which combines walking in Gloucestershire with guidance on f-stops, focal lengths and depth of field.

THE DAVID BAILEY FACTOR: For those who want to get really serious and concentrate on technical skills, Missenden Abbey in Buckinghamshire (0494 890296) has a selection of weekends on printing and developing, as well as one on night photography at pounds 135. The Field Studies Council (0743 850674), with centres around the country, offers courses in colour-slide photography, close-up and flash techniques, auto-focus and even photographing fungi (from around pounds 90 for a weekend).

TAKING IT EASY: One of the more relaxing places to stay must be the Provencal farmhouse, complete with swimming-pool, which is the base for the photography courses organised by La France des Villages (0449 737678). A week, which combines composition, processing and printing with chauffeur-driven photo safaris to the Alps and the coast, costs pounds 609 (flights not included).

SPLASHING OUT: Alfred Gregory Photo Holidays (0742 729428) range from 12 days photographing the Celtic landscape on the west coast of Ireland ( pounds 1,695) to 23 days framing giant tortoises in the Galapagos and Amazonian Indians in Ecuador ( pounds 4,650). Splashing out in a different way, the 80ft ketch Lorne Leader (08525 212) sails around the

Inner and Outer Hebrides throughout the summer: there's a photography week at the end of August at pounds 395 per person. Divers (CMAS two- star level or equivalent) can take a weekend underwater photography and video course at the Fort BovisandCentre, Plymouth (0752 408021). Full board in shared accommodation costs pounds 76 per person.

GOING SOLO: LSG Theme Holidays (0509 231713) is popular with single holiday-makers, but you'll have to pay a single-room supplement for its seven- to ten-day photography holidays in Brittany, the Dordogne or the Pyrenees which start at around pounds 550. There are also good deals for single rooms at the Kingcombe Centre in Dorset (0300 320684) for its nature photography weekends - pounds 100 per person includingall meals.

FAMILY SNAPS: Millfield Village of Education in Somerset (0458 45823) has a photographic workshop, which includes lighting, composition and developing black-and-white film, for beginners aged 13 and over ( pounds 77 tuition fee only). At both Acorn Activities (0432 357335) in Hereford and Taunton Summer School (0823 276543), which has family rooms, there are courses to entertain the rest of the family while you concentrate on getting to grips with the camera. The Acorn programme includes portrait and dramatic action pictures, while at Taunton the emphasis is on getting the best out of equipment.

CUTTING COSTS: Good value deals include landscape photography weekends in Snowdonia with the YHA (0286 870428; pounds 62 per person) or in the Peak District at Losehill Hall (0433 620373; pounds 99 each); Earnley Concourse (see above) has a weekend, How To Take and Sell Photographs, which could prove profitable.

THE INDEPENDENT PHOTOGRAPHER: There are dozens of clubs where you can get help with specific techniques. Contact a local reference library for information. The main national organisation, the Royal Photographic Society, produces a quarterly programme of events, courses and lectures all around the country which are open to members and non-members. Contact Lorinda Coombes on 0225 462841.

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