Since I first started in photography, I had an unending thirst for more knowledge about photography, lighting, posing, and anything else having to do with my profession. It was always my desire to just be better this month than I was last month. While that didn’t always work out, it wasn’t from lack of trying. In fact, I always worked my hardest to become the kind of photographer I envisioned being when I was a kid in high school.
One way that I have found to learn and do more on a higher level is to associate myself with other photographers. Top photographers in the industry are not only inspiring, but educational and informative. And most intend to be. You might be surprised to learn that in one of the most competitive industries for self-employed people, most photographers want to teach other photographers.
My favorite outlet for learning and educating other photographers has been the Digital Wedding Forum, an industry-leading online forum and educational tool that connects professionals all over the world. It has changed the way I look at my own imagery, and given me insight into trends, equipment and processing methods that have made a huge difference in my daily workflow.
So, when the DWF (as it is affectionately referred to) asked me to become a Pro Portrait Expert, I couldn’t turn them down. In fact, what it means is that I am a recognized authority on portrait photography, and serve to assist and educate other photographers, as well as provide answers to questions that plague us all as portrait artists.
I’ve never thought of myself as someone seeking accolades. I don’t enter competitions or contests, and rarely do I even ask for feedback on my own images, except from the clients to whom those images are most important.
My role as an educator to photographers is well-established, with a stint at Shepherd University, several local organizations, and now my own workshop series for professionals and amateurs. So, now as a Portrait Expert, I’m ready to do even more things to earn a place in everyone’s mind as someone who truly cares about my craft, my clients, and my fellow professionals.
It’s no secret that the northeast has been pummeled by snow over the last couple of months. In our area alone, some 5-6 feet of snow has fallen in under 60 days. And while some areas of the country laugh at such “small” amounts, it is an overwhelming amount of snow for an area that is used to more like a foot or so TOTAL over an entire winter.
But one of those old sayings comes to mind: “When life gives you lemons…”, well you get the idea. I went out after the snow stopped on Saturday, February 6. It was later in the day, the sun was beginning to shine through and I took a picture that I really liked. I spent a little time working on some of the “moods” that I wanted to achieve, and thought I’d share them here.
This is the original image, captured essentially from the front walk. What I like so much about it is that the ice on the branches is glistening with the light coming through. It’s peaceful, serene, and c-o-l-d!
I was looking to capture the elements of warmth in the image, at the same time keeping the frozen stuff from looking too yellow. This did what I hoped for. It served to highlight the mood of hope… which is what we needed after two feet of snow.
I was also intrigued by the blues of the cold… something about looking at light through snow that really envelopes a quality of blues that you just don’t see at any other time.
Finally I wanted to see this in black and white. It was a virtual winter wonderland that served an enormous purpose toward my wanting to keep up with my personal photography.
A few posts back when I was talking about Sara B, there were some images in there that we did, both in the studio and outdoor in 20 degree weather. She was quite a trooper, braving cold AND wind to get these photos done.
Today, Sara and her mom Lisa were in the studio to review images and pick their faves. After about an hour, they had narrowed the selections down to 12 images. The objective, apparently, is to create a portfolio for Sara’s upcoming auditions.
When we were reviewing the images, I realized that I neglected to show one off that we all just raved over. The reasons why they like it are pretty apparent. But the reason why I like it is a little different.
First, all of the images we shot outdoor were shot with indirect on-camera flash. My assistant for the day, Kaila, was holding a 2×3′ bounce reflector about four feet away on camera right. I had the flash pointed toward the reflector, and Kaila "aimed" the reflector toward Sara. She managed to do this very effectively for most of our outdoor shots.
A week or so ago, a friend of Diana’s and mine contacted me about teaching a workshop while on an exotic excursion in and around a town in the Italian Alps. I will admit to being hesitant at first. I have almost forever been the "home is where I’m safe" guy. That means my day starts at home, I go to my studio, I get done, and go home. I love being home. And the thought of venturing out, not just beyond my home, but outside my country and into a very small area in a country I’ve never visited was, well… daunting.
So Daniela (the friend/vacation arranger person) asks me to give it some thought and let her know what I could come up with as far as an educational workshop that would fit with an existing program which includes tours of some of the area’s most incredible scenery, food, wine and entertainment.
After a few days, I had some ideas in mind, but I wasn’t really sure how they would play out within the existing scheme of the vacation agenda. So, Daniela visited the studio on Wednesday to give us an idea of not only what to expect, but more about the gist of the adventure. And after the first hour, I was going into a daze. Diana soon recognized this and quickly rushed me a large mug of hot coffee.
By the time we were done talking, I realized that the location (San Martino di Castrozza in the foothills of the Italian Alps) was quite nearly The Perfect Place for a sweeping approach to a lot of different photographic possibilities. But I had to rein myself in a bit, because a) everything I’d want to cover could last for months, b) there’s so much more to see and do that there’s no way I could keep your attention for more than a few hours at a time, and c) *I* want to see more of the sites.
So, after all that, what are we looking at? This is more or less preliminary, but the general concept is the same:
1) The trip is from August 29-September 7. The time we spend in San Martino di Castrozza would be the majority of the time there, but each day we would venture out to surrounding areas. 2) Each day of the trip, something new is going on. A photographer who lives there is something of a nature/landscape expert in the area, and conveniently quite an amazing photographer. Alessandro Simon is a full-time photography instructor for The Alpine Adventure Agency, which is owned by Daniela and her husband, Ken. Alessandro would be showing you the best places and settings for your equipment to get great images of the scenery around you (and above you, and below you, etc.) 3) In the afternoon for six of the days of the trip, I will have an opportunity to work with you to find the best places and angles to take advantage of the sweeping and intimate imagery available for portraiture and wedding photography. The town itself has so many wonderful places, that it will be hard to contain yourself. We have already lined up a beautiful model (a local) who is happy to pose for us during these portions of our workshop. 4) In addition to the photo workshop and opportunities, you will also have the opportunity to hike, take an amazing cable car ride, dine in some of the most incredible restaurants, learn from expert chefs in a cooking demonstration, visit a glacier lake, a fabric maker, an amazing wood sculptor, enjoy local entertainment, and so much more than I can possibly explain here.
Things are still unfolding, but my plan is to create a workshop that will truly prepare you for the adventures in photography, both at home and in exotic locations. Optional evening sessions will be available (and we’re still working out the details on that) to explore new horizons in lighting, composition and posing your subjects.
Please contact the folks at Alpine Adventure Agency to get started. Information on pricing, availability and the agenda will be available soon.
This workshop is available to all levels, as much of what will be covered can be a refresher for professionals who haven’t done studio work in awhile.
The Lighting Essentials Workshop home page has most of the information, but since I got a call today about it, I also wanted to add that we are going to cover on-location action lighting (such as for basketball). The objective is to cover as much information, demonstration and situational lighting as possible on the first day. On the second day we’ll begin practical, hands-on of many of the different kinds of lights and individual requirements.
If you want to bring your own lights, please feel free. But it’s best to tag them so that they don’t get picked up by someone who has a similar bag. Also, you MUST bring your own camera, lenses, batteries and cards. You can also bring a laptop and your favorite processing workflow software if you like.
Refreshments are provided, and our facility is a working studio, not a hotel ballroom or warehouse. Our class sizes are strictly limited to 10-15 students so that we can give you individual attention as needed.
A discount is available if you register before 1/31/2010, and additional participants from the same studio can register at an additional discount.
So, I’m driving to the studio this morning… the usual route.
Let me back up a second.
Diana and I usually ride in to the studio together. Since we live in Shepherdstown, the ride to Pikeside in Martinsburg is about 30 minutes in length. I usually drive, and Diana usually rides shotgun.
Along the way it is not unusual for us to see deer, squirrels and various other wildlife. We’ve seen raccoons, opossums, hawks, and a heron once in awhile (especially down by the river, but once crossing the road), and even a couple of foxes. We tend to point them out to each other, and often in an effort not to make them part of the roadkill statistics. :\
This morning, however, we’re on one of the back roads (to avoid all the traffic lights that have sprung up around here) and after rounding a turn, I see a turkey… not one of those skinny, ugly birds you see in groups of ten or more. This was a fluffy turkey that was on a pathway to suicide. If I’d delayed a half second in responding, our little friend would have met his demise. If the brakes had locked up, again we’d be having a turkey feast this weekend. Instead, the bird missed my front bumper by mere inches.
The part of the story that’s missing here is that Diana often contemplates her day on the ride into work. Which often means she isn’t watching the road by this point, since we are typically out of the danger of wildlife crossing the road. So, as I hit the brakes, she lurched forward into her seatbelt. Now fully aware of the surroundings, and a healthy dose of adrenalin, she said a silent curse for the turkey, and went back to contemplating.
There comes a time when you just need a little change. I guess I’ve reached that time. I’ve been using one blog system for a number of years, and it has served me well. But for a number of reasons, I have decided to change the way my blog works.
1) We are now hosting our own blog on our website. The blog address is http://tlcphotography.com/blog. This gives us an opportunity to control how much we can do and from whence our images go and are stored.
2) Improved automation. A lot more things are available for the new blog system that I find more advantageous for the type of blogging I do.
3) Remote handling. I can do just about anything without having to “log in” to do it. I’m all about making it easier to do.
We’ve been doing seminars and workshops, teaching and sharing our techniques for many years. This is the first year we’ve opened our workshops up to everyone, though. We are pleased to be working directly with Photo One Software and with TimeExposure’s ProSelect in our first workshop of the year. Both companies have been very supportive and eager to help move our educational products into the lime light.
Photo One’s Doug MacFaddin posted this on their blog:
I recently spent several days visiting my brother, who is vacationing in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. He rents a house there each year for two weeks of rest and recharge.
On our first day there, I discovered boogie boarding. Now look… I’m 50. And I decided on my 50th birthday that I was not going to act the way I thought a 50-year old should act when I was 20… you know… old. So, taking turns with Diana, we taught ourselves how to ride the waves, waiting for the proper wave to break and somehow knowing that it was right. It didn’t take long to get the hang of it… and after a couple of hours, we quit and went back to the house to relax.
On our second day, we discovered that there were THREE more boogie boards in the house, so all four of us (me, Diana, my brother Jon, and his girlfriend Patty) had the opportunity to “play” at the same time. Jon got into the mood last, but he nevertheless enjoyed the adventure. Doing anything new often means that you want to keep doing it more… and bigger… and so on.
So as I was going a “little” further out, some by choice and some by being pushed out by the undertow, I quickly realized I was at about four feet of standing water and about seven feet of wave water. Another little push and I was at five feet of standing water and eight feet of wave water. I’m six foot two when I stand up straight, so I was in (pardon the expression) deep water. What struck me first was that I knew I was still being pushed (pulled?) further out.
So, I grabbed the board, which was about three feet long and 18 inches wide, tethered by a vinyl cord to my wrist via a velcro strap. I attempted to pull myself up on the board so I could paddle in… the board flipped (how annoying). When I fell back, I went completely submerged. And I felt that gentle tug of the undertow again. Seems every time my legs or feet fell closer to the ocean floor, I got tugged further out. This repeated twice more, but without becoming submerged.
Diana called to me, but all I heard was “too far.” I could have extrapolated a lot from that. But what I also realized at this point was that my position and my inability to get onto the board was going to be a bit of a challenge – one I’d never faced.
Only an hour before, I’d read a magnet hanging on the refrigerator in Jon’s rental home. One thing it said was “call for help by waving your hand.” The other was “don’t panic.” So, I called loudly for Diana, and then called loudly for help. I waved my hand in the direction of the lifeguard (who immediately bolted from the chair). I turned my head and saw Diana headed my way. I tried the board again, fell off, and went submerged.
This time, though, I pulled my legs up. I didn’t feel the undertow.
I pulled the board toward me, hearing Diana briefly over the waves and surf: “board is behind you.” I turned and so it was. I pushed myself up with my arms, somehow pretending I was a fish (I CAN swim, but swimming ABOVE the surface is often a challenge for me. :(…). Since I knew I wasn’t going any further out, then I reckoned that I was either going further in, or that the lifeguard or Diana would reach me before I got into real trouble.
Again I pulled the board toward me and somehow it flipped right directly in front if me, back of the board into my waist, and I pulled myself up so my belly was on the board. I felt myself move a good ten feet toward the shore. I wasn’t TRYING to ride, but I was riding the board.
I realized I was going to be okay. I waved off the lifeguard, and motioned to Diana I was going to be okay. I got an indication from someone on shore (my brother?) that the lifeguard needed an okay signal. I stood up in four feet of water and gave her the okay. She echoed that signal and moved back toward the really tall chair that they sit in.
Diana kept moving toward me, and the face I love was both worried and relieved at the same time. I smiled at her, and she seemed to relax a bit. We walked up to the tent that we had previously set up on the beach (umbrellas are for very small people), and Diana lay her head on my chest… it was beating rapidly. The whole experience was over, but it could have ended differently.
The entire thing took less than a minute, from the moment I realized I was out too far until the lifeguard turned around to go back to her chair. In that minute, I knew two things… that I need to learn more about how to use flotation devices on open water, and that I wasn’t going to be a statistic because I did something stupid.
I just kept telling myself “just don’t panic.” And I didn’t.
I told you that, to tell you this. The economy over the last couple of years has given us all cause to reflect on our expenses and our savings. Everyone has made some kind of adjustment to the way they plan their budgets. We have tried hard to work toward helping keep photography as part of your budget. And just briefly I want to remind you of some of those things:
1) Third Friday Free Portraits… 15-20 minute sessions for kids. Each month is a new theme… July is “Day at the beach” (appropriate!) where we’ll take pictures on the beach at our studio (yes, we have a real beach in our backyard). 2) NO price increases on weddings, dance, portrait sessions. 3) New LOWER pricing for senior portraits 4) We have maintained 2005 pricing for our special promotions… those prices will remain in effect throughout the remainder of 2009. 5) Senior portrait session discounts (50%) have been extended through July 31, AND the yearbook/cap & gown sessions are FREE.
A lot of times we get caught up in the daily minutia.
And days like today I’m reminded that there are more important things than tweaking this or fixing that. Today is Earth Day, and it is an opportunity for all of us to reflect and recognize our responsibility to our planet and to each other. Whatever your stance may be on global warming or issues that affect our environment, there’s one thing certain: We have ONE planet. And if estimates are accurate, there isn’t another habitable planet nearby that we can jump to if something happens to this one.
We have been trying to be responsible:
1. We have stopped using paper products, both at the house and at the studio. Paper, styrofoam, plastic… they all take years (and longer) to breakdown in the landfills. We use stoneware and ceramic plates and mugs, real flatware, and wash them for reuse the next day.
2. We recycle our plastic containers by refilling our bottled beverages with water and one of those single-serving drink mixes. At the end of the day, the bottle goes into the recycle bin. We recycle all of our glass, plastic and metals from the studio and from home.
3. We recycle items we don’t need anymore. We have recycled furniture, clothing, and much more through online groups like Precycle and Freecycle. We donate used clothing to Goodwill (which is also a tax write-off!). We even reuse items we cannot use elsewhere.
4. This year, we introduced the no-paper Senior Catalog. Last year, we sent out nearly 2,000 paper catalogs, using some 10,000 sheets of 11×17″ paper, as well as 2,000 9×12″ envelopes. This year, we designed the catalog for use online. And to add more incentive for people to download their own catalog and view it online or on their own computer, we offered a $50 coupon so that they didn’t have to print it out or have us print it.
5. We are reducing our paperwork in the studio by using fronts AND backs of paper to use all surfaces. The objective here is to stop wasting the back of the page. Now, law requires us to maintain paperwork for all transactions, so there’s little we can do to eliminate the use of paper. But at least we can utilize the paper we have a little more efficiently. We have even taken to emailing invoices and receipts to client’s email addresses in an effort to reduce that paper usage.
6. Finally, we are eating smarter. We buy very few pre-packaged foods… the packages that get thrown out and fill up the landfills. We buy fresh meats, fresh veggies and throw in our own spices and sauces. Each day for lunch we have a salad with chicken and fruit. Our dinners, many of which have been prepared in advance, are stored in reusable containers that we open up, empty and wash.
We need to take care of Earth. She’s going to be here long after we are gone. But it would be nice to leave it clean for the next person… ya know?