Photo Project


L andscapes, cityscapes, architectural shots, nature shots, action shots, night photos and candid photos help tell one part of the story of an educational experience embarked upon by Canterbury students this summer. The students were enrolled in the school’s first travel-based photography class. Terms referring to photographic techniques, such as shutter speed, depth of field, aperture setting, cropping and uncluttering, represent a second dimension of the experience that used English landmarks and landscapes as the raw material for this picturesque summer class.

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Over the summer, a group of 19 students and adults flew to England, to begin an 11-day tour that took students to castles and cathedrals, small rural villages and large cosmopolitan cities, lakes and mountains. Of course, the people, landscapes, architecture and busy streets provided countless photo opportunities.

The instructors for the summer course were Maria Kirkland, Canterbury art teacher, and Ramsey Railsback, a Canterbury parent and professional photographer. “Students have always had an inherent interest in photography. They know strong photos when they see them and want to know how to produce their own. This is a skill that can be taught, which is why all of our students see a great deal of success,” said Mrs. Kirkland.

“There is a human need not just to record surroundings but to interpret them. When we express ourselves through the camera lens, we are saying to the viewer, ‘I want you to see the world the way I see it.’”

Mrs. Kirkland, Photography and Art Teacher

Mr. Railsback and Mrs. Kirkland met with students before the trip abroad to orient them on the capabilities of the 35 mm digital camera, and to talk about how to take interesting and artistic travel shots using a variety of techniques. During their explorations, Mrs. Kirkland and Mr. Railsback guided students on framing photos, creative composition, contrast control and using light and shadow. They worked one-on-one with students in the various settings, and in the evenings focused on the editing and post production process.

After returning from England, each student worked through hundreds of images to produce travel photo essays that communicate a story about a place or subject. “The students’ photo essays show aspects of natural scenery and people that I did not see on the trip. They were enthusiastic and always thinking creatively,” said Mrs. Kirkland. “I am grateful to High School director Bob Schantz for his expertise on England and leading us to places with so much photographic potential, and to Ramsey Railsback for so willingly sharing with us his immense talent and know-how.”

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Our Tour

  • Itinerary

    The first two days of the trip were spent in Yorkshire. On the day of arrival, students trounced through the West Riding moors of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights before traveling on to York, a city of narrow ancient streets filled with shops and cafes. Students visited majestic York Minster, a cathedral that traces its origins to the early 7th century. The old city of York is defined by medieval walls and gate towers that surround it. After leaving York, students went to the ruins of Fountains Abbey, founded by Benedictine monks in 1132, and then to the village of Hawes, a typical farming village like those made famous by James Herriot in All Creatures Great and Small.

    In Hawes, the photographers took time out to taste and sample the local Wensleydale cheeses and to shop in the street market, an activity typical of occasions aimed at helping the students to taste and experience the local culture. The trip continued north to Bamburgh Castle, the seat of the kings of Northumbria, and to the site of the ancient Celtic monastery and castle on Lindisfarne Island. On route to Bamburgh, the students had an unexpected opportunity to get up close and personal shots of Queen Elizabeth II, who was visiting Alnwick to attend a reception for 7,000 people who have helped develop a charitable organization that she supports.

    Later the students walked along a section of Hadrian’s Wall in the heart of the Pennine Mountains before going to the beautiful Lake District, where they walked around Buttermere, a high mountain lake, and then to the top of Ancock Tarn to photograph breathtaking views of lakes Grasmere and Windermere.

    The final days of the trip were focused on spires of the colleges of Oxford and the majestic masonry and beautiful gardens Blenheim Palace before taking in the inexhaustible photo opportunities provided by London. In London, the students captured pictures of traditional sites such as the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey and the Queen’s Guard, but they also had the bright lights and colors of Picadilly Circus and Covent Garden in their lens. Of course, the people of the busy streets of London provided countless photo opportunities.