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I’m sure a number of you reading this have a few stories you can tell about photography workshops. Some good, some not so good, some maybe a little embarrassing (Matt Gibson and Bryan Allen, if you’re reading this don’t say a word). A few months back a friend and former workshop participant called me while he was returning from another workshop. He called to tell me that he wanted to take my workshop again and that he appreciated how I did things. He didn’t appreciate the workshop he just attended, primarily because the instructor was not in a good mood. Then I recently took a workshop in which the instructor was incredibly nice, talented and accomplished, but lazy and very wasteful of our time, and there was a bit of a mismatch between how the workshop was pitched and my skill level. Back in October of 2009 I assisted a friend with his workshop and it was clear that all the participants thought it was an amazing experience.
And let’s not put it all on the instructor’s shoulders. Have you done everything in advance of the workshop to make it a great experience? Here are 5 issues that I think are very important in considering your next (first??) workshop (and I’m sure there are more you can share in the comments section):
1) Does the instructor have a good reputation as a teacher? If you haven’t heard it before, hear it now. A very well known and talented photographer does not necessarily translate into a great workshop instructor. Educating, inspiring, and motivating individuals organized into a group is a special talent. A GREAT workshop leader will create multiple opportunities for you to learn, practice and reflect on the process, seeing and drawing out into the open your strengths and weaknesses.
2) Does the instructor spend time shooting for him/herself? Not everyone is bothered as much by this behavior as I am, but it really sends a message about the instructor’s intent and concern for your experience. In a landscape workshop, for example, if I’m shooting for myself then I can’t be giving you any attention, assistance or support. In a portrait workshop, I may need to shoot to illustrate a teaching point. In any event, don’t be afraid to ask the instructors if, as a matter of practice, they will shoot for their own portfolio during the workshop and decide for yourself how you feel about it. You pay a lot for workshops – you deserve a lot in return.
3) Does the instructor’s personal or professional work and vision inspire you? This issue helps you decide if there is something you can learn from the instructor. Its easy to image that the more advanced you are, the fewer people are out there who can actually teach you something new. The instructor’s vision and talented will most likely be reflected and shared throughout the workshop experience. This is far from a deal killer for any particular workshop, but its important to consider on your own workshop journey.
4) Have you considered what you want from a workshop? Here is a laundry list of things you MIGHT want from a workshop: building/improving upon your eye for the subject matter, new field techniques, basic and creative technical skills in post-processing, building your confidence and inspiration with a new subject, networking, exposure to a new subject (ie. the north shore of Lake Superior or Fashion Photography), or maybe you just want a fun vacation. The list could go on and not every workshop and workshop leader is going to provide a one-stop experience for you, but at least you can begin thinking about what you want from your experience and set priorities that fit with a workshop.
5) Are you prepared to receive it? This may be as important a factor as the instructor - and maybe more so. Its critical to do the following things, if possible: get plenty of rest ahead of and during a workshop. The better instructors will push you mentally and physically (within reason I hope) and rest will allow you to absorb the maximum from the experience. Also, have your equipment ready. Is your computer and software ready to handle the raw files your new camera produce’s? Do you know HOW to use your camera or have your owner’s manual close at hand? Do you have the ability to bring backup camera/computer equipment? Have you double checked with the instructor about equipment, computer and software requirements of for the workshop? Things are tight and its tempting to skimp on critical items to save a few bucks. Budget and save for your next workshop so you can be as prepared for the experience as possible.
No doubt we can add to this list. Feel free to do so in the comments section of the post. If you’re looking for a workshop on location portrait photography, then I urge you to consider:
Bryan Allen Photography – a premier educator and amazing photography talent.
A good friend and photography, Chet Ellingson, turned me on to this guy…Eric Curry and his series of photographic paintings titled American Pride and Passion. There is something about the look, the craft, the intensity of post production, the taking of images and turning them into paintings that really turns me on. And make no mistake, Eric Curry is a painter and his understanding of the flow of light demonstrates this fact. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have and be sure to watch the video tutorials. He shoots hundreds of frames and blends them in Adobe Photoshop. Wow. I’m already putting together two shoots based on this technique and look forward to sharing them with you all. This is really cool work…please share via Facebook or other social media outlets using the menu below the post.
To highlight some new activity you can expect here, I’m dedicating this post to a new section titled, “News” which will feature more frequent (but not necessarily regular) photography-related content. Commercial architecture photography is a passion and vocation of mine. Digital photography has had a significant affect on the craft of architecture photography, but its also made it far more dynamic and creative. Great architecture, where ever its found, somehow moves us and is why I’ve always been drawn to the subject matter. This morning my friend Mark Karney sent me a link to a movie trailer for Julius Shulman, a famous architecture photographer who recently passed away. I’ve also included a YouTube video documentary on Julias you might enjoy. I think both are super insightful about how one of the most regarded architectural photog’s of our time thought about his subject matter. Enjoy…
[youtube u6iYguE1zaU nolink]
This image was shot just before sunrise, August 13, 2009. The fog started to move inland off Lake Superior and into the harbor of house. There were high clouds (not seen in this image) and the fog was frequently changing its character. I don’t often shoot the lighthouse, but these conditions were producing a quality of light I have rarely experienced on Lake Superior (probably need to move there:))
I chose to underexpose the frame, making the lighthouse a silhouette, and forcing saturation into the colors. I also waited for the right fog bank to reveal the sliver of land in the foreground.
Technical Data: ISO100, f/11, 1.3sec shutter, -2EV exposure compensation, 70-200mm lens. no filters.
I’d like to use this image to introduce you to a new site I’ve launched, AC Johnson Photography Fine Art Prints. Over the years I’ve had a number of people make a request for this and finally found a cost/price effective solution to offering prints for sale. The site still needs a little tweaking for graphics, but its fully functional. Please take a look at the various galleries.
I’m choosing today’s image to discuss the relationship between subjects in big scenic landscapes. In a few weeks I’ll be teaching a 4 day workshop on landscape photography up on Lake Superior, a very amazing but difficult place to shoot big landscapes and this discussion will be the FOCUS of our shooting: finding relationships between land, water and sky that create a cohesive and balanced image.
Some landscape images are dramatic. The sky has gone crazy or there is some form of crazy, dramatic light effect. The latter is more common on Lake Superior during the summer. Clouds OVER the lake during sweet light are hard to come by for various meterlogical reasons. Dramatic has its own visual value, but that does not necessarily imply Balanced. I see many images in which there is drama, but virtually no relationship between the key elements. Creating a balanced, cohesive image usually takes a lot of scouting and a little bit of luck. Today’s image has both.
One, of several ways, to create relationships between subjects is to look for opportunities to capture elements that repeat themselves. In this image I was LUCKY to get just that. I’ve shot over this rock foreground several times, but on this evening I did not start there. I was shooting a different area, working with the concept of cloud motion blur. But the direction I was shooting, combined with the cloud structure, was not yielding much. Upon making this observation, I pulled up stakes and moved to this location to grab the last few remaining minutes of light and let things go where they wanted to…
I got lucky. I saw it in the LCD display. This amazing relationship between sky and foreground in the form of repetition of shapes. While this image is heavily photoshoped for the purposes of black and white photography, nothing here is manufactured. The repetition of shape allows for the subject of the sky to now work in harmony with the subject of the foreground. I have balance from top to bottom, two potentially conflicting subjects now working together.
Unfortunately, there is something working in this image against harmony. Perhaps you have a sense of what it is?
Some audio to go with the image:
Technical: ISO 100, f/22, 30 sec, Singh Ray Warming Polarizer, 3 stops ND, 2 stops reverse ND
Today’s post title is inspired by another amazing photographer, Guy Tal. In a recent post on his blog, Guy discusses the purpose behind his landscape photography, “…you are there to make images of beautiful experiences. Make it a beautiful experience first, and you will have something to photograph.” Guy’s writing articulates very well a message I’ve been delivering to camera clubs all winter and spring, and is the energy behind the name of my blog, EXPERIENCE, and its a major theme in my workshops. A huge THANK YOU to Guy for articulating this so well.
This image was made last Friday night, on the Lake Superior, under the overpass. I left Saint Paul and arrived there with just one hour to shoot. It was cloudy, late, cool transitioning towards cold and beautiful. I photographed, I sat and watched a man catch a trout, and I listened to the water. I experimented and played with images, I got my feet wet because I forgot my waders. 3 1/2 hours to shoot for an hour, go to sleep and turn right around in the morning and drive back, and for what?as it enters
To EXPERIENCE. A BEAUTIFUL EXPERIENCE. I’ve added some audio captured at the same time and location as the image, to add to the experience.
Technical: ISO100, f/10, 24-70mm @70mm, 3 images/1 stop bracket HDR processed with Photomatix Pro software
Are you new to landscape photography? Want to add a new level of emotional content and more realistic capture to your landscape images? Try Split Neutral Density filters. In Part 2 of this TWO PART series Alec takes us all the way through the WHY and the HOW of these amazing filters.
Had a chance to get out this past weekend and do some landscape work. Today’s post features some of the color images I want to share and the following post will feature a set of black and white images.
One of the issues I was reminded of this trip was JUST HOW DIFFICULT landscape photography can be. Weather doesn’t cooperate, you have to hustle, scout, hustle more and take chances, lots of chances. You have to pay attention to everything and be willing to move. You have to pay attention to the light, the sky, the foreground. You have to be safe and you have to protect your equipment.
Image 1 was made using a 24-70mm Canon lens, a Singh Ray warming polarizer at twilight at the mouth of the Split Rock river. I was shooting Image 2 when I saw some serious changes taking place in the clouds. To take advantage of the changes, I decided to pack up and run 200 yards to an entirely different location, throw down my gear, compose and shoot as quick as I could to take advantage of the situation. Moments later it was all over.
Image 2 was shot a short while before image 1. I was struggling with compositions and sky conditions. This too was shot with a warming polarizer which was absolutly necessary to pull any contrast out of the clouds. I’m not yet sure how I feel about this image but thought it good to share in contrast to Image 1.
Image 3 was shot Monday evening at an area called Twin Points. The wind had come up out of the east in excess of 25 mph and 4′ white caps were breaking at the beach. Travis and I shot for a long time there, a number of these images seen in the next post of black and whites. This is the very last shot I took before we left, wet and cold. This was a 2 second exposure, using a warming polarizer and Singh Ray Reverse 2 stop Split ND filter for the sky.
Today’s images are outtakes from a small fashion show at the Midtown Global Market last Saturday. I want to share them and a few nuggets about getting better shots in difficult situations.
Helpful tips for event/portrait/candid photography:
1. Of course, pay attention to light. This event was inside, but located in the main court, right underneath a large, diffusive skylight. There was a lot of great light everywhere; That observation let shoot the last image in amazing, diffused natural light, no flash.
2. Don’t be afraid to shoot ISO 1600 if you need the shutter speed; Most contemporary digital cameras have outstanding quality at this ISO. Any problematic noise can be removed with software solutions.
3. Shoot a long lens with low aperture; All these images were shot at f/2.8 on a Canon 70-200mm tele. A very sharp lens, it also allows you to shoot strangers without entering their personal space and will hold depth of field in critical areas.
4. Use Flash; the first three were shot with the use of flash, a Fong Dome diffuser on the flash, camera exposure compensation set at -2/3 EV and the flash output set at -1/3 EV. The effect is to darken the background overall, and not over-flash the subject…this is my taste, but I find the combination can work very well…but not in all situations.
5. MOVE YOUR SUBJECT. In many cases I’ll ask my subject to reposition, so he/she is well off any background. This allows my intended subject to become dominate, especially with the flash falling on only my subject;
6. Go shoot public events like these. The offer a great opportunity to practice in a setting that is less intrusive for the photographer. There were lots of people taking pictures, including me and another professional. No one I asked for a photograph turned me down.
7. SCOUT. I arrived an hour ahead of the time the organizers asked me to be there. Left my camera in the car, walked the area, observed light, considered backgrounds, color in the space. Then I went back out, grabbed my gear and began to work.
Today’s image is a re-post from quite a long time ago. Its also one of my personal favorites for many reasons.
I want to use today’s image to talk about concepts in photography and using visual design elements to work with those concepts. I don’t always go out and shoot with clear concepts in mind. Sometimes I go out to shoot just to be out shooting. Sometimes I go out to shoot and I don’t shoot anything. There are no rules you must follow, but there are always opportunities. Having concepts in mind that you enjoy working with will allow you:
1) To recognize new opportunities where you might not have seen them previously;
2) Permission to begin shooting if you get stuck or feel uninspired;
3) To develop a style, or look, to your images that is all your own.
CALM; a concept I work with often on Lake Superior - Shooting a subject with multiple personalities, like Lake Superior, can take a long time to get to know. It has a reputation for being surly, but I’ve spent the last few years photographing it in very different moods. The mood I like the best is when its dead calm, which happens QUITE OFTEN. I have really grown to enjoy this quiet, gentle yet powerful personality of the lake and work with that personality as a CONCEPT for many of my shots.
The visual design elements I used in this image (and many I shoot) were: super-slow shutter speeds combined with BIG WAVE ACTION of Lake Superior, shooting FOR black and white conversion in Photoshop, and a very simple, dramatic line/subject.
Sit down, make a list of adjectives that describe subjects you enjoy shooting, then build on those “concepts” using visual design elements, lighting, etc. to bring the concept (s) forward in your image. Then the next time you’re out shooting and feel unsure about what it is you’re trying to accomplish, come back to the concepts that draw you to the subject matter in the first place.
I’d love to hear from others in the comment section about what subjects they enjoy shooting and what concepts they work with when shooting that subject.