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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Once Every Two Years...

The Foto Bienalle that is currently being held in Ballarat, Victoria, started out as something a little smaller in nearby Daylesford a few years ago. Now, it is a much larger event and the city of Ballarat has been asked to look after it...which they are doing very well.
This is an event that is all about the photography. There are exhibitions, camera markets and workshops. This is where I came in...last Sunday. Jeff Moorfoot, renowned Australian photographer and Festival Director asked me if would like to run a workshop and of course my answer was "Yes"! So I drove to Ballarat early on Sunday morning after the very wet wedding the day before, grabbed a quick Ham,cheese and pineapple toasted sandwich from a nearby cafe - and ran the Creative Flash Photography workshop for day. It went very smoothly actually! Considering that this is the most difficult workshop to run, I am surprised how well it went. And I received some lovely feedback from it too...

"Thanks so much for such a fantastic workshop yesterday & for being so generous in sharing all your knowledge, I learnt so much & had a great time. I'm really pleased with the photos I took and look forward to using all of what I learnt in the near future....It was certainly one of the best workshops I have ever attended..."

"Many thanks once again for yesterday's workshop - great insights with a bit of humour included..."
"I just wanted to drop you a quick message to thank you for such a wonderful day yesterday in Ballarat for the Creative Flash workshop. Many mysteries of flash were resolved for me yesterday but it has also provided with more questions on techniques etc that I will work through. The workshop was conducted in a fun and non-threatening way as some people may be intimidated but you encouraged participation from all not only in the theory but also the practical "hands on" exercises..."
"Wow! I am still on such a high after your workshop yesterday...Thank you so much for everything... I am so excited about getting stuck into things!"

References to the workshop went like this...

"Shelton was excellent: engaging, informative, generous (with both his time and knowledge) and fun!
He engaged each participant personally and structured his instruction to our needs (his commitment to knowing each participant's name after only a brief introduction was better than I have ever experienced and this set the scene for a very personal experience).
I came away from Shelton's workshop with a lot of practical and technical knowledge that I can apply to my photography with confidence. Equally, I learned some fantastic new creative techniques.
... Shelton extended the workshop to 5pm when we were held up at lunchtime due to very slow service at the cafe where most participants went. This was over and above his responsibility..."
"Just wanted to let yourself and the BIFB committee know that the workshop yesterday with Shelton Muller was fantastic.I had a great day and learnt heaps.
Shelton was an excellent tutor & his model Natasha was very obliging, modelling outside in the freezing cold.
Thank you for so much for organizing such a wonderful workshop..."

And there you have reward. It is a wonderful thing to help people in such a profoundly creative way. Thank you to those who attended and made the workshop so much fun!

Monday, September 28, 2009

The coldest and wettest wedding EVER!

Apparently, this past Saturday was the coldest and wettest Grand Final day on record - or something like that. It was damn cold, no matter which way you look at it! In Melbourne, the day of the Grand Final is like a day of worship. It is the day when the two premier Australian Football League teams fight it out for the Trophy - the Grand Final Premiership. As someone who cares little for Aussie Rules Football, it meant little to me. I was too busy photographing Adriano and Melissa's wedding anyway! And what a day it was. Despite the weather, together with the couple and my wonderful assistant, I managed to create images that I am proud of.

I was very happy to be joined by Nathan, my wonderful son and best friend. He is embarking on his journey as a photographer and his work as an assistant and second shooter on the day truly went above and beyond. Thank you, Son. I was also joined by my sister, Christina, whose work as a make-up artist is better than any other I have ever worked with. She is fastidious, creative and so passionate. She was on hand all day for the bridal party and acted also as photography assistant, dress 'foofer' bouquet holder, bride warmer, hair fixer and overall help. But her make-up (the real reason she was there!) was perfect and her all day wedding service is unique to her. The groomsmen weren't going to take advantage of her services though. Perhaps they figured that they were pretty enough as they were...
Melissa was very keen to have memorable photographs. Despite the weather, she braved the cold winds and diagonal drizzle to achieve photographs that even she knew were a once-in-a-lifetime possibility. Naturally I had to be very careful that she didn't overdo it, and my leather jacket came in handy over her shoulders many times. Me? I was in the zone. I didn't feel a thing.
Before the ceremony, Melissa asked for a shoot at the Warragul Railway station, which I was more than happy to do. She and Adriano had also secured Old Gippstown as the location for their post ceremony photographs. Thankfully they did as it offered us the chance to get in from the rain and still create images together. The weather was terrible, but there were chances to move outdoors from time to time. For those moments I used my share of off camera flash and my newly acquired Pocket Wizards came in handy when I needed Nathan to hide behind the bride. He's slim, so he fit easily behind Melissa's beautiful handcrafted wedding gown. He was such a hard worker on the day, and I would recommend him as an assistant and second shooter to anyone who wants one. He is also fast becoming a prime wedding shooter in his own right. He created images on the day that are nothing short of beautiful. Yeah, I am proud. Can you tell?

Thank you Adriano and Melissa. It was such an honour to work with you both on your day of days. I did try and make the sunshine happen for you, but alas it was only an off camera flash. At least it worked! But I was honoured to be asked to photograph your wedding, and I was honoured by your desire to brave the weather and work along with me in the cold. I wish you both every happiness.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

To be so highly honoured...

While leading our recent Creative Photo Workhops Echuca Weekend, I was asked to pose for a photograph. The artist behind the camera was David Oakley, a remarkable man whose journey back from near death to where he is now is nothing short of miraculous. Some years ago he was the victim of an horrific crime. Now, he is an artist of incredible vision.
So, I posed as per his request - something I am not really fond of doing. Silly faces into a camera is one thing, but posed portraits? That's something I ask others to do! But because he was a paying customer (and a helluva nice guy too!) I was happy to help. After all, it gave me another chance to help him work through an image.
A couple of weeks later and I see this, the image here in this post. I must admit to feeling somewhat honoured beyond my station. I am indeed so grateful for this work of art, one that uses my flawed form as its basis. Thank you David. Thank you so very much.
David informs me that this portrait will be on display at his upcoming exhibition in Sandringham on the 9th of October. I will be there, if only to get a picture of me next to this portrait.
Thank you David. I am deeply honoured.


Last night I had the immense pleasure of photographing a young man whose prospects as a popular singer are certainly very high. I have no doubt regarding his potential in the world of popular music. His name is Bobby, and he is only 15. However, even at this young age he has gained a following here, and overseas.
He is a student of Susie Ahern, who has worked as singing coach on X-Factor and Australian Idol and has taught and coached some of Australia's most well known singers and performers. Susie asked me to take some publicity and promotional images of Bobby and I was very happy to do so.
Bobby is a delightful young man - typically teenage but with a sense of confidence and humour a little beyond his years. He was easy to photograph and understood the concepts we were working through very well. I hope that as his following increases along with his fame he will remember the photographer who captured him when he was on his way. I think I would like to photograph a world tour - ok Bobby?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Jamie and Sarah's Wedding

I know I always say this, but its true....I had the distinct honour of photographing another wedding this past weekend. It was the wedding of Sarah Cleaver and Jamie Mackieson. Sarah and Jamie have recently purchased a piece of verdant paradise in Timboon, Victoria - about 20 minutes drive from the Great Ocean Road. It was Jamie's dream to marry Sarah on his own land and it was my pleasure to see his dream come to fruition and to photograph the entire process. Sarah and Jamie raise Highland cattle for beef while they both teach in the local school.
Knowing the weather's unpredictable nature in this region, Sarah and Jamie had planned to have a pre-ceremony photographic session to ensure that they would have some beautiful photographs before the weather turned in the afternoon, which it often does. They were happy to break with tradition in order to prioritise photographs, which I thoroughly agree with. For me it was also a relief for exactly the same reasons. Its always nice to know that you have the photographs that the couple will be looking for when they receive their wedding prints.
The ceremony took place on a small bridge in a rainforest area framed by the remains of a 120 year old trestle bridge. It is a place where Jamie and Sarah walk together each day. From there we walked further into the forest to find an even more dilapidated trestle bridge where the light was beautiful for more portraits of the bridal party. We returned to their property to photograph them under their favourite apple tree and then to the marquee on the hill where the reception was held, followed by an evening of fireworks.

It was a beautiful wedding - perhaps one of the most memorable of my career. All the elements seem to come together to make this experience so wonderful. Jamie and Sarah are such lovely people and I thoroughly enjoyed catching up with Jamie's family, for whom I had previously photographed their daughter Amanda's wedding. The light was beautiful and the surroundings paradisaic. There was plenty of time to do what I have to do and create what I desire to create and there was such willingness on the part of the bride and groom to have beautiful photographs of their special day.
Driving home the next day along Victoria's Shipwreck Coast, photographing the Twelve Apostles, Lochard Gorge and Erskine Falls was a wonderful way to finish the weekend.
Thank you Jamie and Sarah for the honour of entrusting your dream wedding to me and my camera and for the sheer pleasure it was to be with you, your family and your friends on your special day. I won't forget it. I have photographed hundreds of weddings in my time. There are some that you remember with real fondness. This will certainly be among them.

Leica M9 launch

Well, I am just back from the official press event for the launch of the Leica M9, S2 and X1 - all of which make it look like Leica is back to making cameras that they can be proud of. It has been some time since they have done something this impressive without the assistance of Panasonic. The X1, for instance, is entirely Leica. Panasonic were not involved - so I was informed. The X1 looks like a fabulous little 'street camera' but at $2700 AUS its not a cheap option. But you can always count on Leica to have a high price - even if its Panasonic equivalent is 50% of the Leica model.
The M9 is a 35mm size sensor digital rangefinder camera that accepts Leica's legendary M series lenses. It is a serious step up from the M8 in that it is what is commonly called 'full frame' (I hate that stupid expression - all cameras are full frame) and Leica has addressed the 'issues' that have been inherent in the M8 - so we are told. Master Photographer John Laham was on hand tonight to talk about his passion for all things Leica and his new found love for the M9 was quite contagious. Although at a $10K price tag, not that contagious.

The S2 sells in Australia for about $43K. It is a 37.5 Megapixel camera with a 30x45mm sensor. It will rival everything in its class, but with the added advantage of 35mm body handling and a completely sealed camera, unlike its contemporaries that require digital backs.

This kind of resolution matched with the kind of superb optical quality for which Leica lenses are renowned will make this camera one for that elite group of photographers whose work can actually make a beautiful piece of equipment pay for itself.

Unfortunately that does not include the likes of me...

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Real Rewards

That I am paid to do something I love is a reward in itself. This is especially so with regard to my work in running photography workshops. However, when you receive an email that contains words such as these, you understand that the real rewards of your work are much more personal and longer lasting...

I guess I am sending this note to you because I want you to know what a difference you make to people's lives when you do what you do. I suspect when you photograph a wedding the bride feels like the most beautiful of all brides, all because of you.
Your ability to give individual attention and make people feel like they really are important for that moment in time, is a gift that you give so generously. You taught us so much last weekend, with laughter, lots and lots of laughter, discussion, demonstrations and by introducing us to other aspects of photography that we knew nothing about, and encouraging relationships between everybody there, no matter where they were on the ladder of photographic success. The fact that (name withheld) and I were the least knowledgeable out of the entire group was never obvious and your praise and encouragement had us believing we were finally starting to 'get it'.........even when we weren't.
Although it we knew it was a business experience for you, we never felt like that (except when you waited to be last to have breakfast because we were your clients). It felt like we were amongst friends who were all after the same thing, to be better at photography and we had the feeling that it was definitely achievable.......and it was you and that gave us that gift.
So Mr. Muller thank you for making us smile, thank you, thank you, for giving us confidence and for sharing your wealth of knowledge.........Every time and I mean every time, I think of that weekend, I smile.
Thank you for all that you gave me..."

Recently I know that my son, Nathan (pictured above with me) also came to understand this feeling when he helped us with the tutelage of others at the recent Echuca workshops. Its a feeling that few other experiences can provide. He also received a similar email from the same lovely person.

The money that you may earn is spent paying for the phone, the car, the gas or the electricity. But the kindness of words such as those above are not soon forgotten, if they ever are. I am deeply grateful for this honour. I hope I always remain this grateful for the privileges granted my in my work. May it never fade...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The video I promised you...

Well, I did promise you a video from the Creative Photo Workshops Weekend in Echuca, otherwise known as 'EchucaPalooza'. it is! The images are not mine exclusively as you will see the shooting and post processing styles differ. Rather, they are a compilation of images from the CPW crew and some of the attendees.
Sometimes Youtube videos don't frame correctly in this blog so if it doesn't, simply click here
Enjoy. It don't get better than this!

For Digital photography tutorials, click here

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

EchucaPalooza '09

While much of what I do on a day to day basis is not particularly 'blogworthy', I must tell you about the Creative Photo Workshops Weekend that my friend and business partner, Glynn Lavender and I ran in Echuca recently. We were assisted by Richard Annable and my son, Nathan, whose teaching skills and devotion to assisting others made me very proud. Our models were Creative Photo Workshops veterans - Caroline Tra and the inimitable Natasha Humble.

While I could go on for many pages about the good times we had, I will spare you the details and allow you to watch the Youtube video I will post here later. It contains some images and behind the scenes snapshots of the craziness that the Creative Photo Workshops crew brings to each event. We don't want to do it unless we are laughing and enjoying the process. Laughter is the best way to teach, and photography should never be anything but fun. So, suffice it to say that each day brought with it many great photographic opportunities, some chances to teach interesting and helpful photographic techniques along with great laughs and wonderful new friends.

The weekend was exhilarating, but exhausting for those of us who were looking after our customers. Each day began with a 5am start and continued in a fun photographic frenzy for the rest of the day. We made sure to the best of our ability that each person had some 'one on one' time with each of us while also catering for the group as a whole, creating photographs and photographic opportunities for all. The weekend's workshop consisted of everything from landscapes at sunrise and available light portraiture to off camera flash and strobist techniques with models. We photographed sunrises over the Murray river, models in alleys, brides in old woolsheds, Paddlesteamer captains, vintage American Trucks and even bearded fellows with parrots. Yes, there were no prevailing themes, only a weekend filled with fun and photographic variety.

This was the first time my son Nathan has worked in an official capacity for Glynn and I and I must admit to being very proud of him and his abilities. No doubt he too will become an integral part of Creative Photo Workshops in the not too distant future. The skills needed to run a workshop are far more than just photographic prowess. To run a photography workshop you require patience, understanding of photography and the difficulties that people deal with, insightful teaching skills and above all a good sense of humour. All of these were exemplified in Nathan over the weekend.

He also realised the rewards of teaching something as passionate and personal as photography. They are the sense of achievement and the positive effects of changing someone's life to a degree. When someone struggles with their photography, or indeed any art form they are passionate about, it can become quite an emotional roadkblock sometimes. The ability and privilege of being able to assist someone in their creative endeavours and open their eyes is indeed an honour and immensely satisfying at a very deep personal level. Yes, the money is there as an income, but the rewards go far deeper than your back pocket ever could.

There were a lot of hugs forthcoming at the end of the weekend and in the cases of some who attended there were even tears of gratitude. You can't put a dollar value on that feeling. Photography has brought many blessings, adventures and creative fulfillments to my life, but this is yet another advantage to being the kind of photographer it seems I have become. For those photographers who are apprehensive in 'paying it forward' I can only say that you are missing out on one of the most wonderful aspects of our craft - helping others to see the world and capture it as their hearts yearn to. But that's ok. If you don't want to do it, Glynn and I are happy to take those rewards for ourselves.

Thank you to all who attended our 'EchucaPalooza' weekend. You made it very special for all of us and we are grateful. Thank you also to Natasha, Caroline and Graham, who was our male model in the old woolshed. Graham, I will be looking for the same Akubra you have for myself mate!
The EchucaPalooza Crew
The Whole Crazy Bunch

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Recording Shutters Inc

Funny how I have rarely, if ever, mentioned Shutters Inc on this blog! Its just a popular photography podcast I have been recording with the inimitable audio engineer extraordinaire, Bruce Williams for about 135 episodes!
Tonight's episode found a 'drop in guest speaker' making his second appearance on Shutters Inc in person. Richard Annable has many times been mentioned on Shutters Inc and now has appeared twice as a guest photographer. My son, Nathan, also recorded with us tonight, seeing he has a voice, a place in the industry and fit well into the context and subject of our discussion. While Richard was speaking and Nathan was considering his next contribution, I took a picture with the Ricoh GRD III.
Richard Annable and Nathan Muller contributing to Shutters Inc

Seeing as my condenser microphone is currently being borrowed, we resorted to sitting very close to my SM58. It was alot of fun. Tonight's discussion? "Be Yourself, Price Yourself" - a discussion on the unique vision of each photographer and the need to be realistic about pricing your work - realistically and positively. To download episodes of Shutters Inc, click here or set it up in your iTunes.

The Life, Times and Images of photographer, Shelton Muller

Images on this blog are copyright Shelton Muller