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Tag : Photography workshop

30 Jun 2017

Being seen in Saint Tropez

Tomorrow starts my Provence photo workshop in France, but I came over a little early to make a quick visit to Saint Tropez and to get acclimated to the time change before all my participants arrive.

Photographer friend Ron Lake and I are hosting the workshop, Ron has extensive experience in Provence and is our guide for the week. We had a great time stomping around Saint Tropez, taking in all the glam and being among the people who are here to be seen.

The Saint Tropez harbor is filled with big yachts from all over the world and at night they are the place for parties. Floating near the worldly yachts are small fishing boats owned by the locals. It was fun to see the late evening light reflect off the buildings in the water. The glitz isn’t my cup of tea but I enjoyed going into the old part of town and seeing the buildings and where the real people live. We came across a wonderful home entrance with an old grape vine growing up beside a blue door and then spreading out overhead.

Tomorrow we head out the fields of lavender, I’m looking forward to another great day.

30 Mar 2017

Having personal photography projects keep you motivated and focused

Personal photography projects large and small keep photographers enthused and motivated and are a great way to focus your photography efforts.

A personal photography project is simply selecting a subject to shoot multiple times. It can be shooting a historic building in different light, a series of portraits of your children, a big tree in a nearby park or a creek at different times of year. It could just be improving a technique or getting to know your camera better.

I have at least one project in the works at all times, usually two or three. When I get a moment of free time to shoot, I don’t have to wonder what it is I should shoot, I jump right into one of my projects. Here are some things to think about when coming up with a project.

Have an objective, a goal in mind. Be clear on your outcome. I find it best to write it down, that makes it real and easy for my old mind to remember! The goal can be to master a new skill, to create a series of prints, or to make a calendar as a gift.

Make your project something you are passionate about. You are much more likely to keep the project going if you are loving what you are doing rather than something you “should” be doing. I really enjoy photographing older men with classic faces, if they have a big old beard, even better. So whenever I see a great face, I tell the guy he has a great face and ask if I can photograph him. I always give anyone I photograph my business card and tell them I’ll send them a photo if they email me.  

Be sure you can return multiple times. One of the main reasons to do a personal project is to make the best images you can of your subject. That rarely happens the first time you photograph something. Pro photographers return to the same subject many times so they get the right light in the best conditions possible. I’ve photographed this covered bridge in Vermont at least 30 times and have many really good shots but there is a better one there. If I keep working it, I’ll get it. I had a long discussion with a pro friend about how cool it would be if we could just walk up to a scene and make a great photo right away. The more we talked the more we realized how boring that would be, the creative process would be removed and we’d be photo robots. Working a scene is a challenge and is rewarding when that great shot is made.

Have a project that happens on a regular basis at a scheduled time or a place you can just show up and shoot anytime. It could be a flower garden, karate class, a monument you photograph at night or downtown at sunrise. I’m working on a project photographing five trees atop a hill 20 minutes from my house. Since they are to the west from the road I can shoot from, I decided to shoot them at sunset and the beautiful light that happens until the sky is pitch black. I’ve gone over 20 times since December and it amazing how different the sky looks each time. It is making a great series of photos and I’m bummed when I can’t go because of other commitments or bad weather conditions.

Try a subject with a learning goal, or end product in mind. You might want to learn more about light, or shooting in manual mode, or photographing people. Before digital I did some light painting using strobes, but it was very hard to do and I didn’t get too good at it. Now lighting painting is something I love to do because a made a personal project out of perfecting my technique. I have several size flashlights I use to add light to the scene. My big one is 18 million candle power down to using my iPhone as a light. This was just a little penlight during a 30 second exposure and a car streaking through

Choose a subject with a variety of visual possibilities. If your project is a rock in your front yard, so there only so many pictures you can make before you aren’t too excited to shoot it again. I have a large project going photographing trees and a couple of sub-projects that are tree based at the same time. I love the look of birch trees and found a grove 10 miles from my Vermont home. I go there whenever I can and it looks different each time. My five trees on a hilltop project sounds like there isn’t much variety but I’m really using the trees as a foreground object to see how different the sky looks.

Planning your project. I’m not naturally organized so I have to work hard to keep my life is some sort of order. I use Evernote to plan my projects in several ways. It lets me create notebooks that are subject based and I can put notes, photos or web pages in the folders and add searchable keywords. When I come across a location that will make a good photo, I take a picture of it with my cellphone through Evernote and add keywords like sunrise, winter, trees, or whatever. Evernote captures the GPS coordinates and address so I’m able to easily find it again. I have Evernote notebooks for nearly every place I’ve been or hope to go in the future. Costa Rica is on my list of places to go and whenever I run across an online article that is interesting I add it to the Costa Rica notebook. I mentioned I’m working on a big project about trees. My trees notebook is packed with info from all over the world.

Get feedback. One of the most important ways to improve anything is getting qualified feedback. I don’t mean posting a picture on a forum where someone says “great capture.” That doesn’t help at all. You need to know who is providing the feedback whether they are a friend, co-worker or member of a photo club or Meetup group. My New Jersey photography Meetup group (https://www.meetup.com/somerset_photography) has monthly critique nights and they are a great way to get feedback. I’ve seen people grow immensely since I started it several years ago. Having a mentor is also a great way to get guidance and coaching. I love working with other photographers through my photographer mentoring program.

How do you know when the project is over? It can be when you’re bored with the subject but it would be better to have the final output in mind when you start. I did a personal project where I decided for 90 days I was going to photograph what is good is my life and post a photo each day to Facebook. It was lots of fun and on the three days I missed people were asking where that day’s photo was. Here are some things you might do:

  • Post photos on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
  • Create a photo book – either through a publisher or a one off
  • Do a slide show presentation for senior centers, libraries
  • Create an exhibit at gallery or places like senior centers or libraries
  • Create a website
  • Sell prints
  • Make a calendar

I’d love to hear what projects you come up with and how you plan on displaying your photos. Please leave a comment below.

05 Feb 2017

Lot’s of snow for Vermont Winter Photography Workshop

Today was the last day for this year’s Vermont Winter Photography Workshop. The weather was good, there is lots of snow on the ground and we had a great group of eight people. They came from all over, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. We were prepared for the cold, so it didn’t feel like 15 degrees during the day.

We hit many locations during the three days, farms, covered bridges, towns, rural scenes and a couple of real Vermont country stores. Several of the group hadn’t walked on a lake before, so going out on Silver Lake to see people ice fishing was a bit of an adventure.

I always know it was a good shoot when my SUV is a filthy mess. After our breakfast stop this morning, I was surprised to see a lovely note scratched on my back window. Thanks gang.

28 Jan 2017

Shoot fun macro photos when stuck indoors

I like macro photography, getting up close and taking a different look at things. Today was my second macro photography workshop this month and it was a lot of fun, as usual.

I start off with a presentation and then set up five studio situations that anyone can do it at home. It is a great way to keep the skills sharp and have fun when you don’t feel like going out and fighting the weather.

I like putting a lemon in a glass and adding seltzer or mixing oil and water and seeing how it looks up close.

One of my favorite shots is putting glycerin on plexiglass and putting objects underneath and shooting the refraction. Peanut M&Ms are my favorite candy to eat and photograph, the colors are very cool.

10 Oct 2016

Making an island glow

Glowing islandAt Chittenden Reservoir in Vermont there is a pretty little island about 300 yards off shore. It is a favorite  place for photographers and I’ve photographed it on many occasions at different times of day and different seasons. I decided to try it at night and use a large flashlight to illuminate the island using a technique called light painting, where you pass the light over the subject many times during a long exposure, I usually do 30 seconds.  So tonight I started about 30 minutes after the sun went down and shot for the next hour. There was only a slight breeze which gave me the nice reflection on the water. Then I was lucky to have a shooting star which gave me a beautiful final touch. This is one exposure with only minor adjustments in Lightroom. As the sky got darker I needed to bump my ISO up to 400 and I was shooting at f/5.6.

05 Oct 2016

Last day of this year’s Vermont Fall Foliage Workshop

7936It is always sad to come to the last day of a workshop when I have met so many fun, nice and interesting people, but the 2016 edition of my Vermont Fall Foliage Photography Workshop came to an end today. Eight participants came from all over the country to enjoy Vermont’s beauty and hopefully improve their photography skills. My friend Nat Clymer joined us on Tuesday to share his photographic knowledge, it was great having him here.

04 Oct 2016

Meeting the friendly people of Vermont

7780-2We headed north today during my Vermont Fall Foliage Photography Workshop, to check out the area around Groton and Peacham, which has some of the best scenery in Vermont. There are a couple of ponds in Groton State Park that are amazingly scenic and they didn’t let us down. I’ve been there when the color was better but we still made some nice photos.

One thing that always strikes me about Vermont is how welcoming the people are. While in Peacham we were photographing around a church and a neighbor came out to show us some wild turkeys walking through his field toward us. Peacham gets tons out of town photographers and I’m sure many walk through this guy’s fields without thinking that they may be stomping on a fence, but he invited us come into yard to photograph his cows and the approaching turkeys.

While in Peacham, workshopper Steve Minden took a fun picture of me in the town’s information booth.

 

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03 Oct 2016

Making quick friends

7746-2As the week goes on the color gets better at my Vermont Fall Foliage Photography Workshop. We hit several of the local hotspots and found some nice color and cool scenes.

We have a great group with two people from California, two from Florida, one from PA, Ohio, NY and CT. It is always fun to watch a group of people who don’t know each other quickly meld together with their common interest of photography.

07 Jul 2016

Tuscany photo workshop comes to an end

LF5S6415Today was the last day of a great Tuscany photo workshop. It was a long, hot week in Italy filled with great memories, making new friends, eating wonderful food and photographing spectacular scenes.

Tuscany is known for its light and it didn’t disappoint, we were out at sunrise and stayed up late shooting the Milky Way. We covered lots of territory, saw medieval towns with amazing buildings, rolling hills in the countryside covered with wheat and rolls of straw cut after wheat was harvested, vineyards and, my favorite, the cypress trees.

I love making beautiful landscape photos and I was lucky enough to get some decent shots. I also enjoy photographing people and the Italians were gracious when I asked them if I could make a picture of them. They weren’t so polite when driving a car but they always gave me a tender smile when I pointed at my camera and aimed it at them.

Some of my favorite photos are in the slideshow, I hope you enjoy them.

06 Jul 2016

Tuscany’s rolling hills, wheat and trees make great photos

LF5S6644-Edit-2The rolling hills of Tuscany are filled with wheat and it is being harvested as we tour the countryside in my Tuscany Photography Workshop. Toss in a few unique trees and great early morning light and it is a perfect recipe for beautiful photos.

We got off the main roads and got the rental cars mighty dusty as we kicked up the dirt while finding unique places to photograph. Our GPS unit didn’t always find the road we were looking for but it made for more adventure as we got off the beaten path.

We were looking for the long shadows coming across the hills, giving them shape and depth. Deep blue skies added to the scene when I could isolate a tree that was in a wheat field.

See a selection of my Tuscany photos.

 

 

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05 Jun 2016

Finding something different during Acadia workshop

The IslandDuring my workshop today in Acadia National Park, we were on top of the world, or so it seemed. Cadillac Mountain is the highest coastal peak in the Eastern U.S. and many times during the year it is the first place in the U.S. to see the sunrise. It is quite the panoramic view and during a late morning journey to the top the sun was shining through some clouds and making the water shimmer. A small island seemed so isolated in the water and clouds, so I knew I wanted to capture the feeling of it being all alone. As I was taking the picture in color I was thinking what it might look like in black and white, since the strong backlight on the clouds and water weren’t going to look good in color. But the black and white version emphasizes what I was feeling.

21 Mar 2016

A final look back at Guatemala

3814Now that I am back home after flying all day yesterday, I can take a good look at my photos from the trip and think about all the wonderful things I saw and people I met during my workshop in Guatemala. I can’t thank Edgar Monzon enough for putting us in great locations, driving us around, showing me how he connects with people on the street and for helping me get a new passport. Edgar worked hard to set up the trip and it showed, his arrangements were flawless, the hotels and meals were great. Edgar is a special person and I’m happy to be able to call him a friend.

Guatemala is a beautiful country, mainly due to the people. Most of them don’t have much money, many live in pure poverty but as Edgar says they might not be rich with money but they are rich with happiness. They greet each other, and us, on the street and seem to have a special spirit.

I put together a selection of photos below, I hope you enjoy them.

15 Mar 2016

Hang on to your wallet and passport when traveling

A mom and her kids perform at a busy Guatemala City street corner hoping for tips.

A mom and her kids perform at a busy Guatemala City street corner hoping for tips.

Like I said yesterday, the people of Guatemala are very friendly, except for that one guy whole stole my passport wallet, which, yes, had my passport, a couple of credit cards and some cash.

It happened Sunday morning while on the streets during the procession. I had a large passport wallet in my front pocket but it must have been sticking out some. We were wading through people elbow to elbow, so it got pulled while I was in the crowd. I noticed it was missing when I got back to the hotel but I thought I must have left it at Edgar’s condo. I contacted him and since we were going to be back near his condo yesterday, I didn’t worry about it until last night when we couldn’t find it there.

Crap.

So I spent some time online to find out what I needed to do. I’d never lost my passport before and had no idea what to do. Fortunately there are benefits to being American and the State Department is one of them. I needed to fill out a couple of forms online, print them and go to the U.S. embassy back in Guatemala City, 90 minutes away. I planned on taking a taxi but Edgar wouldn’t let me. His daughter drove down this morning and took me to the embassy while Edgar guided the rest of the workshop in Antigua.

(more…)

13 Mar 2016

Guatemalan Procession is like no other

procession carpetEdgar and I got up early and went to a large procession in a village not far from his condo. I have seen small processions in Hispanic communities in the U.S., but nothing like the way they do it in Guatemala. The procession is part of the Catholic’s Holy Week celebrations but on a scale I couldn’t imagine.

First, people stay up all night decorating the streets. I don’t mean hanging flags or banners along the street, they make intricate carpets in the narrow streets where the procession will go. They use fruit, vegetables and other plants to make beautiful displays on the street. But the most amazing is what they do with sawdust. They dye it in bright colors and spend hours, literally not sleeping all night, to do amazing artwork on the street. There are miles of these carpets and then they are destroyed as the procession walks over them.

procession streetThe procession itself is hard to explain. Men carry a large platform that has statues of Jesus during the crucifixion through the narrow streets. The platform they were carrying is larger than a semi-trailer and looks like it weighs as much as a loaded one. They had 40 men on each side of the platform and they could only carry it a few blocks before they needed to change carriers. The grimace on their faces told me they were struggling under the weight. They walked in unison so the platform would gently rock side-to-side in rhythm as they slowly moved down the cobblestone streets. Other men with long poles lifted power lines so the statues wouldn’t get snagged. Making the turns on the narrow streets was a feat in itself, they barely fit around the corners. They procession lasts about 12 hours as they slowly wind through the village. Nearly a million people pack the streets, making it nearly impossible to move.

procession bargeWe could only stay a couple of hours because we needed to get back to Guatemala City to meet the other workshop participants. This is one event I’ll come back and document right. Especially since Edgar said there are even larger ones during Holy Week.procession face

12 Mar 2016

Welcome to Guatemala

Vista Real HotelI arrived in Guatemala City today for my five-day Guatemala Photo Workshop. I was met at the airport by my friend and our host for the week Edgar Monzon. Edgar has an incredible itinerary planned for us and it will be an exciting week.

Almost as soon as we got in his car he started telling about a processional in a small town about 90 minutes away that happens tomorrow morning. He didn’t plan on us going since the workshop starts in the afternoon and we need to pick people up at the airport, but it sounds like an exciting event. The problem is we need to be there by 6 a.m. or we won’t be able to get into town because of the massive crowd.

We are staying at the fabulous Hotel Vista Real in Guatemala City. It is one of the nicest hotels I’ve stayed in and it is less than $100 per night. It is worth the flight to Guatemala for a long weekend just to hang out at the hotel.

But Edgar has a condo in the town next to the processional and staying there will let us sleep almost two hours later. Since this is the first night of the trip, it made sense to leave the hotel and stay at Edgar’s place, which is very nice also.

So tomorrow we are up early and heading into the crowds for some fabulous photos.