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Thursday, December 24, 2009

What makes a good model?

As a person who has worked with his share of models, I learned long ago that a model is more than a pretty face or a beautiful body. In fact, those can perhaps be her least important assets. Certainly looks count, but they can be easily negated by a lack of intelligence or a blank personality. I have found that sometimes the most beautiful girls can be the most difficult to photograph, and those whose looks are nowhere near as striking can have far more impact within the frame - if they have something going on behind their eyes.
A model who has a good sense of self - both physically and personally - is going to be easier for a photographer to work with. If he or she understands how shape and form translate within a frame they make the job of the photographer so much easier. If you can add to that intelligence, social grace, humour and a natural sense of elegance you have a great model. Looks are a bonus.
I had the chance to work with a young model yesterday. Her name is Lauren Busacca. When she arrived I saw a pretty young girl.  Not oustanding, but pretty. However, I learned the moment I pointed a camera at her that she understood the process. She knew light, posing and the meaning of the word 'photogenic'. She knew herself well. She understood the power of her eyes and the need to be more than just pretty. At the ripe old age of 20 she had already had 17 years of dancing experience and her understanding of shape and form was a natural and welcome result. Working with her was one of the most pleasurable shoots of this nature I have ever had. She halved my workload by bringing more than just the physical form of herself. She was just delightful.
The same was true of Axel. Now, I am not an expert on 'handsome' but I didn't see Axel as a particularly good looking  man. But I will say this. He was photogenic, and I enjoyed photographing him also.
I have worked with models whose physical appearance was beautiful, impeccable, striking. However, in many cases, they had little understanding of what was really needed. Their lack of intelligence, their relative indifference or their outrightly boring personalities meant that they did not translate well in pictures. Conversely, I have worked with less attractive models whose very being lives in an image.
If you are a model, perhaps a university student looking for a part time occupation or even something more permanent, don't think for one minute that all you need to bring to the photograph are your physical attributes. Believe it or not, the camera picks up much more than your perfect figure or your Fibonacci face. A good photographer will need more from you than that. Bring your heart, your humour, your intelligence, yourself. For some reason, the camera seems to like those things as well.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Cal and Mel's Wedding

So there I was, lying on my bunk in a tent in Pushkar, India, when my phone lets me know that a text message has arrived. Its from Cal and Mel. Who are Cal and Mel? I had no idea. But apparently they are getting married soon and would like me to photograph their wedding! "I am in India" I respond, "so I will get back to you the moment I return, ok?"  They were fine with that. Phew! By the time I met with them,  the wedding was a week and half away. "You are free on that day, aren't you?" they asked. Yes. Believe it or not...I was. I had photographed Cal's sister's wedding 5 years ago. The moment I arrived at his home to meet with him and Mel I knew the connection. Its a wonderful thing to know that you are remembered with such fondness after all that time.

Well, Saturday arrives and its the old team - Richard and me. Richard is a great wedding photographer in his own right, so to have him there to second shoot and supply his usual brand of humour and support makes the day doubly worthwhile. We get into a rhythm of shooting and joking that on this occasion had the chauffeur in fits of laughter, let alone the bride and groom. Richard and I share the same feelings on being a wedding photographer. If we can't bring more than our cameras to a wedding then we shouldn't be in this business. Now that Richard is very busy running his own photography business, I don't get the chance to work with him as much as we used to.
Cal and Mel's wedding was a giggle from start to finish. They were certainly in the zone for a laugh, and so the day was set to go. We photographed at The Briars in Mt Martha, and later at the winery where their intimate reception was held.

Thanks for a great day, Cal and Mel. It was an honour to photograph your wedding. Thanks for your support too, Richard. We got the band back together!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Our new website

Glynn and I are very excited to be working along with David Oakley of Rivid Studios in the design of our new website for Creative Photo Workshops.  Until now our main presence has been through Facebook, which has worked very well. Also, our interim website has sufficed.

However, with the growth of our business taking on international proportions, we have have seen the need to develop a website that not only explains the unique nature of our workshops, but also allows our workshop groupies (aka customers) to book their favourite ones and pay for them online.
David's ideas for the website flowed inexhaustibly through our discussion and we look forward to seeing the end product. For the moment, watch the video he has put together. It will give you a fairly good idea of the glorious madness that signifies our workshops, but also the kinds of images that can result.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

It was a Krystle Ball

Today was another fun day. I had the privilege of running another Creative People Photography workshop for Croydon Camera House. So, it was another day of laughter, photography and great people.
Our regular model/tutor, Natasha Humble, was not well today and organised for another girl to come in her stead. Now, I am normally a little apprehensive about stuff like this. Natasha is not only a great model for our workshops ( being somewhat attractive and a whole bunch of fun) but she is also a great photographer in her own right. So, she is perfect for our workshops. She not only poses for the photographers but gives each of them a right talking to if they are getting it wrong - in the nicest possible way, of course!

However, the moment Krystle arrived I knew we were all going to have a great day. Krystle is not an experienced model. She is more like the girl next door, with attitude...but not the kind of attitude that makes you want to run. Krystle was just a whole lot of fun. The fact that we don't use experienced models per se' makes our workshops more practical and more valuable. There is little use showing people how 'easy' it is to pose and photograph someone only to find that the ordinary people they photograph later will feel nowhere near as comfortable in front of a camera. We like to use models who are attractive, of course. But more than anything they need to have personality and be very real. Krystle fit the bill.

Thanks for being there for us today, Krystle. I am sure I speak for everyone when I say that you made the afternoon's practical session an absolute joy. It was an absolute ball!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Daniel and Meaghan

Ok. I am completely nuts. Its confirmed.

Just to fill you in on the reasons for this particular epiphany, allow me to explain.

Nathan and I arrived home from Nepal and India on a Friday night. We had been up for about 36 hours. In that time we had spent time in Kathmandu, a day in Delhi, a few hours in Singapore and the flight home. Our plane pulled in at about 8pm Melbourne time. We went home, slept and got up on the Saturday morning - to shoot a wedding. Now, that is madness. Just to add to this craziness, I had another wedding booked for the Sunday. But I knew it would be ok, and it was.

But photographing Daniel and Meaghan's wedding was an absolute pleasure. Apart from a brief shoot in the CBD (where Daniel spent a fair bit of time at a tailor having his pants repaired after tearing on the door handle of the bridal car) their reception and formals were held at Rupertswood Mansion in Sunbury, a place in which I have long wanted to photograph a wedding. Daniel and Meaghan gave me that chance and I loved it. What is funny is that perhaps the place that grabbed my creative juices the most was the cellar - four walls and a light bulb. The ornate furnishings, the architecture, the grandeur of Rupertswood itself could not match the cellar. I don't know why, but perhaps I enjoyed the challenge - and the result - the few minutes we spent creating photographs in that room. In the workshops that I run and the video tutorials that I have online, I am well known for the saying "Find the Light and Put 'em in it". Perhaps that is why a single lightbulb in a plain cellar can mean so much to me.

After the photography was done, we were kindly asked to stay for the reception. Now, this is something I don't normally do. By the time I am finished photographing, I have three basic needs - a couch, a remote control and a  glass of red wine. However, the offer was too good to be turned down. Not only that but they had hired a band I used to sing with, and sometimes still do. So I got my chance at the microphone too! I never turn down a chance to sing with the band....

Thank you Daniel and Meaghan for a wonderful day spent with you and your families. I appreciate the trust, always.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Brisbane Workshops

Well, today is the first day I can actually say that I am beginning to think again. As I said in my last post, I have hit the ground running since my return from India and I must admit - I am tired. Very tired.
The past four days have been exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. That is true of many things, but for me it is always true of a workshop. That is just one day. Try four. And the Brisbane humidity took some getting used to.
Yes, Glynn and I have returned from four wonderful days in Brisbane running our workshops. It was a wonderful experience, sometimes fraught with a little disaster or sudden change of plan, but all in all it was a success - at least from the comments we are getting from those who attended and seeing in their status updates on Facebook.
Friday opened with our Creative People Photography workshop. Our beautiful young model, Sashaan, who is all of 15, was wonderful to work with and I doubt a bad photograph of her was taken by anyone. She is a delightful young lady with whom I would work again anytime.

She returned on Saturday and was accompanied by Josh and Clint, two male models who caused quite a stir among the many women for our Creative Flash Photography workshop.I wonder if the girls were learning anything, or just using the workshop as an excuse to ask Josh to remove his shirt all the time. Either way, I think they believe it was money well spent.

Sunday and Monday saw us running our Creative Wedding Photography workshop - the two day version. It is an extensive workshop which designed to assist those who wish to improve their wedding photography or simply begin doing them. We discuss the everyday wedding and use everyday locations and situations to keep the lessons real. Even one of our models (the lovely Anna) was a young lady who worked in a local chemist. Rob, our groom, was also a regular guy. The only experienced model for that workshop was our other bride, Kylie Levander. I believe that this is a far better way of assisting wedding photographers. Supplying experienced models and shooting in exotic locations or beautiful mansions is not much help at all when shooting a real wedding.
I know that one of the highlights was our Monday morning session in St Augustine's Church, where the group was addressed by Marion, the cleric who performs all the weddings there. She was very nice, but informed all the photographers of her issues with photographers who show little respect for the occasion and the ceremony itself. She then took us through an entire ceremony process, and there were many in the group who found that extremely helpful.

I would like to thank all the wonderful people who attended our four days of madness. I hope you had fun, and I  hope all of you have some great new tools to work with that will enhance your photography!

What would CatMan Do?

Ok, ok...its corny, I know. But I needed a title and it was the first thing that came to my head. Sorry.
Oh, and I warn you. If you are an animal lover (aren't we all?) or a bit squeamish, some of the images in this blog may offend.
And there are further apologies too. For instance, sorry about the delays in the blogs folks. Since returning from India I have hit the ground running and blogging has just not been possible. It is my firm desire to fill you all in on everything, especially the final part of my India tour.
With Kanha done and dusted, our tour ended with our return to Delhi on an overnight train. Our free time in Delhi meant a bit of rest, and the chance for all of us to say our farewells. They were all such great people to travel with, and we all got along so very well. Most of us had traveled together before so we knew each other quite well.
Nathan and I were booked to fly out the next morning to Kathmandu. We had decided months ago that Nepal was a lot closer to us from India than it would be from Australia and for the few extra dollars it takes to get there and stay, a few days in Kathmandu would be interesting. So, he and I had some Father and Son time there. It was wonderful. Arriving late in the afternoon, we were greeted by the amber glow of sunset in the nearby Himalayas as we watched them from the plane window. A taxi took us to our hotel while a guide tried to sell us tours from the front seat for the whole journey. I just wanted him to shutup and get out. I was trying to see the city I was driving through for the first time. In the end, I excused myself from the 'conversation' and just looked out the window.

The following morning found us walking through the local tourist market near the hotel where we were staying. Tamel Market, I think its called. As we turned a corner, Nathan and I were greeted by a lovely fellow who walked with us and talked to us. He was a local guide and, naturally, he was looking for work. His name was Bhimsen Nepali, and he was about to show us a wonderful time in his country.
He met us at our hotel the following morning at 7:30, complete with a taxi he had hired for the day. He had spent the evening thinking about us and the fact that we were a father and son photography team fascinated him. So, his suggestions for the day ahead were interesting.

It was a Tuesday, a day associated with the worship of the Hindu god, Kali. Outside of Kathmandu, about an hour's drive away, is a festival of sacrifice held in her honour each Tuesday. For those queasy of stomach, let me say that this may not be a festival you would enjoy. Goats, Cows, Bulls and Chickens are sacrificed here, their throats publicly cut and their blood spilled freely out to appease Kali and perhaps allow for a favour to be granted. Now, I have seen animals slaughtered before, but never religiously sacrificed. Nathan had seen neither. So, while it appeared somewhat macabre, the photojournalist in both of us compensated for the unsettling nature of what we were seeing and we photographed the event.
After that, we were driven to the Boudhanath Stupa and the Monkey Temple, each of which are standard tourist places. After that, we spent the final part of our afternoon at the public cremation site on the Bagmati River. I have only ever seen a dead body once before, and it wasn't placed upon a pile of wood and set on fire. Nathan has never seen a dead body. For both of us this was something so unusual, so compelling and so sad at the same time.

We watched an old man being carried in, his lifeless body wrapped in a bright orange tie-dyed cloth. His face was uncovered and his mouth was opened by his sons. Into it was placed a flammable substance and within moments flame emanated from his open mouth. This ceremony having been completed, his body could now be burnt.

You feel somewhat uncomfortable photographing such a grievous occasion. And yet, at the same time you are compelled to do so. No one concerns themselves with your presence as if it was an unwelcome intrusion. The public nature of these cremations seems to be more than accepted. Nonetheless, I was wondering how I would feel as a son if there were people photographing my final moments with my father. Having me beside him, Nathan said he felt the same way. Nonetheless, it was intriguing, compelling, fascinating and yet somewhat macabre to us. Our inner photojournalist took over while we endeavoured to be as respectful as possible.
That day done, we headed back to our motel, the smell of burning flesh still lingering in our clothes. Needless to say, a shower was in order, as well as fresh clothes - something we were running out of!

The following day found us in Baktapur, a centuries old town nestled about an hour's drive from Kathmandu. It is interesting place indeed and I would always suggest a visit there to see the pottery and other crafts that still thrive among its inhabitants. Or, if your imagination is failing you and you need a further lesson in sexual positions, the carvings in the temples here will assist. It seems the ancient Nepalese knew how to get it on. I must admit to feeling, however, that the previous day's events and images were going to be difficult to follow, despite the interesting aspects of Baktapur.

However, Bhimsen's hospitality would grant us one more wonderful experience. He informed us that his wife and children wanted to meet the two of us and that we were invited to dinner at his home that final night. Nathan and I jumped at the chance and we spent a wonderful evening with Bhim and his family in their humble home. Wanting to feel better about our appearance before we arrived, we went to a local barber where Nathan and I were not only given haircuts but also a gruelling 'massage' which involved all sorts of bone cracking and torso twisting. I must admit, we both felt better afterward though. It was fantastic, especially for the $2.25 it cost each of us.
All in all, Kathmandu was a wonderful experience. The few days we spent there with Bhim as our guide were unforgettable. But the plane home beckoned. Being on an adventure is one thing...home is another thing altogether. I love my international adventures but I love coming home too. Be it ever so humble...

The Life, Times and Images of photographer, Shelton Muller

Images on this blog are copyright Shelton Muller