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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Abandoned Homestead Workshop

Last night found Glynn and I enjoying the fun that is integral to running our workshops. We all gathered at an abandoned homestead in the semi rural part of Melbourne's windy western suburbs. The homestead was originally built in 1859 and will apparently be sacrificed for an upcoming freeway. We thought that it might be wise to get in while it was still standing.
Our models last night were Lauren and Daniel Busacca, Richard Connon and our Creative Photo Workshops tutor and model, Natasha Humble. The light was simply beautiful and the diversity of our models was more than enough to provide our customers and friends with different images and opportunities.
It was a very different workshop in that it had no real theme apart from the location. I suppose that is theme enough in itself, but most of the photography took place outside the homestead, although some lovely available light images were established inside. Either way, it certainly provided a great backdrop and context for the portraits we did.
(Image above:Glynn Lavender)
At the end of the evening we established a photograph in the old cellar of the homestead using tow off camera flash units and a blue 'El Wire' - basically battery operated neon string. Because I was holding one of the heavily snooted flash units, I was not able to get one of these images myself, but Glynn's image can be seen here. We finished up at around 10:30, by which time we needed to go. But don't worry. I will be doing this shot myself one day!
Next Wednesday, Glynn and I are taking the night off. But we will return with more of our Summer Series soon!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A video...a great day

If you listen carefully, you might recognise the voice.
Then, turn the volume down...
Enjoy this video, produced by David Oakley of Rivid Productions - the webmaster of our Creative Photo Workshops team. Thanks David! You Rock dude!

Young and Old from Creative Photo Workshops on Vimeo.

For digital photography tutorials, go to The Five Minute Photographer...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Young and Old

I had been looking forward to yesterday for a long time. Glynn and I love doing what we are doing at the moment - running our workshops, building a community, helping people reach the goals they set within the arena of their photography. It is incredibly rewarding and we cannot help but love it. But yesterday was a chance to 'pay it forward' - to give something to a community because...we could!
One of our dear friends and fellow photographers, Kerry Sumner collaborated with us to help organise a day for a group of volunteer photographers to travel to Benalla, a country town in our state of Victoria. It is here, in an aged care centre where she regularly travels to visit with a very special man in her life, her uncle Lindsay. Because she knew the staff there very well, she was able to organise access for us all, and a 12 seater bus as well.
So, we all met at 7:30 am and took the two hour drive to Benalla. We were all very excited to be a part of this chance to use our photography for the good of others - namely the residents of this aged care centre and their families.
They were all very excited that we were coming. There was about 10 of us, men and women who wanted to be a part of this project to provide portraits of these wonderful older people who are often forgotten when it comes to portraits. I actually imagined that many of them would not want to be photographed, something I am feeling more and more as I get older. But we were wrong. So many of the ladies had dolled themselves up and done their hair just for the event. The men, feeling their beauty on the inside, had not perhaps gone to the same lengths but were nonetheless just as keen to be photographed.
Either way, I was so pleased to hear that they were not afraid to sit and have their portraits taken by several people - sometimes at once! They were happy to take direction, pose for the light and be a part of the creative process. So, we spent the day conversing with them, discussing the past and present, enjoying their surroundings and laughing at their often rather wicked senses of humour. I believe that youth is never a matter of numbers of years past or left to go. Youth is a matter of attitude. Some of these people were among the youngest I have ever known. Their dignity and desire to be photographed despite the years that have etched themselves into their faces astounded me and taught me yet another lesson in humility, beauty and reality.
I hope that we are able to do more of these kinds of events. We will be sending discs of images to the centre so that families are able to access the images that we have taken in an effort to honour and dignify their elders. Some of the images we took are moving and sad. Others are the result of a humorous interchange. Others are simple portraits of dignified people. It was a day I won't want to forget in terms of the joy it brought and the lessons learned.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Summer Series Workshops - City Walk

Last night, Glynn, Nathan and I enjoyed leading the third of our Summer Series workshops for Creative Photo Workshops. We all met in the city at 6pm and immediately began working with the environment, the light and our three wonderful models - Caroline Tra, Lauren Busacca and my son's friend, Richard - who became acquainted with the craziness when he saved us at our last workshop by coming down to be our model at the last minute. It seems he is a sucker for punishment it appears.
The light in the city last night was magnificent in all its moving nuances. That is a great thing for our students. Us too for that matter! We love to teach the value of light and the power of metering and exposure in our images. When light dances to various tunes during the course of our workshop, we get the chance to teach more variations of its effect and our control over it in the camera. Last night presented so many opportunities for this. Within the first few minutes one of our attendees commented that she had already received her money's worth, making the rest of the evening a bonus. We love it when that happens.
So, last night we walked from the GPO, through the Bourke Street Mall, down under Flinders Street Station and across to Southbank in time for the fires that erupt along the river on the hour. With three tutors, three models and their entourage of boyfriends, girlfriends and Mums, we were quite the sight to see. But most importantly, we were able to assist our customers in not only creating some wonderful images on the spot, but also taking home the principles behind their creation so that they can continue to grow as photographers in their own space and time.
For more information about our workshops, along with testimonials, images and video footage, go to our website and have a look. For digital photography tutorials, click here.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Danielle and Luke's Wedding

Because of my passion for Creative Photo Workshops and my digital photography tutorials site, The Five Minute Photographer, I am concentrating less on wedding and commercial photography these days. Not that I won't accept assignments as they come in, but rather that I will be less hungry to look for them. I must admit, that is a great feeling to begin the new year with. I am really enjoying the process that my photography is taking me through at the moment.

However, Saturday was Luke and Danielle's wedding and I was so glad to be there! I had been recommended to them by Matt and Andrea Rolfe, who themselves run a successful photographic studio in Cheltenham, Victoria. I have known Andrea since she was only a little girl and her father, Ian Rolfe and I have been fellow photographers and friends for parts of three decades. Ian wrote for my magazines for over thirteen years and is a passionate landscape photographer. Small world, isn't it? Yet, I digress...

Luke and Danielle made it clear in our original discussions that they while they were eager to have lovely photographs of their wedding, they themselves were not all that great at having their pictures taken. Danielle particularly was not looking forward to that process. Nonetheless they were hoping that I could break through that barrier and still produce wedding images that they would love. They understood how difficult it is to create some of the images they wanted purely spontaneously so they were prepared to 'put in' as it were, but it was not something that they felt they were actually comfortable with.
And herein is the issue for the wedding and portrait photographer. As I often say in our Creative Wedding Photography workshops, a wedding photographer needs to bring more than his or her camera to the wedding. They need to bring themselves, their hearts, their warm personal interest in the couple and their day. You can't accept an assignment with parameters like Luke and Danielle's and treat their wedding like just 'another shoot'. It just won't work.

Because Nathan could not assist me on this particular wedding, I had with me a rather whacky assistant, Natasha Humble, who, by her very presence in a curvaceous red dress and her gregarious personality made her an 'interesting' second shooter to say the least. I say that in the nicest possible way..of course! Personally, I look forward to the day she takes the big step and shoots weddings herself. I think she will be a force to be reckoned with! She has a great talent as a photographer, but also the ideal heart and personality for it. In her role as tutor for Creative Photo Workshops, she finds these opportunities ideal for gathering greater experience and she made my day so much easier too.

As we worked through the day, we found Luke and Danielle becoming far more comfortable with the process. Perhaps it was the champagne. Perhaps it was the fact that the ceremony was over. Perhaps it was that they were enjoying the process more or perhaps it was a combination of all three things. Nevertheless, we enjoyed our day very much and created some images we are all very pleased with.
And, as I always say - Thank you Luke and Danielle for the honour to photograph your wedding.

I say that because it is always an honour to be chosen to capture the most important day in a couple's life. There are many photographers in the world....and only one is selected. If you don't feel the honour in that, don't do the job.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Right up my Alley

Nathan, Glynn and me hamming it up for the group last night...

Last night, Glynn, Nathan and I ran another Summer Series workshop. It was a Laneways Shoot in the heart of Melbourne city. It was fabulous fun, and the variety of images that both we and the group produced is quite remarkable. If you put your mind and heart into a shoot and then add a mix of students and photographers, models and light you can come up with dozens of combinations and styles of images that at first would be difficult to imagine. That has to be one of the reasons I love photography. Its ability to create something so ethereal from the most ordinary circumstances means never finding yourself with nothing to create. The key is having an understanding of light, exposure and your camera. That, I suppose is where we come in. Our workshops, combined with my digital photography tutorials website, The Five Minute Photographer, grant me an opportunity to do something I love doing very much - enabling photographers to grow in this very process - one that has brought so much adventure, joy and satisfaction to my life.

The evening started with a small disaster as one of our booked models sent me a text saying that she had accidentally double booked. Hey, I can't be too hard on her. I have been known to do the same thing myself over the years. But, our lives were saved when one of Nathan's friends, Richard, was hauled into the city by his lovely girlfriend, Rhiannon. Richard modeled for us all night, posing for the group and holding his pose like a real trooper. For someone who as never done this before, he was a real trooper. Rhiannon got shot as well! She is a very photogenic young lady, as you can see in this portrait, above. We were also ably fitted out with another regular model for our Five Minute Photographer and Creative Photo Workshops shoots, Caroline Tra.

Last night we helped our customers to establish a variety of photographs using both the available light and flash, and mixing the two successfully with different ratios. The great thing about working with Glynn is that we are so different in our approach. If we saw photographs the same way, our customers would not have the advantage of our different perspectives and vision. Glynn's photography is very different to mine and I admire his work very much. He says the same about mine. Our ability to hand each other the reins for the benefit of our customers is unique and our teamwork is something to see, I believe. We are both men who naturally take the lead and yet are more than happy to hand it over to the other person at any moment. Because of this I believe that our customers get a very special experience. I suppose that what I am saying is that together we form something that is greater than the sum of our parts.
Add to this mix, my son Nathan and the prettiest member of our team, Natasha Humble. Nathan's perspective is young and fresh because of his youth. His photography astounds me sometimes. Traveling with him through India reminded me of just how amazing his vision is. Natasha's take on photography is also fresh because of her newly discovered love of light and the camera. Her experience as a model for our workshops and her love and innate understanding of photography gives her a unique advantage as a tutor for our team. As a result, I think this team is going to achieve some wonderful things.
Watch this space...

Monday, January 11, 2010

Creative Flash Photography Workshop

Saturday was another workshop day for me. It was 38 degrees here in sunny Melbourne, so it was a hot one.Nevertheless, we had a great day running our Creative Flash Photography workshop. Glynn and I had a great turn out with some familiar faces from our friendly photography fraternity and some new ones to add to it! Our model was the lovely Lauren Busacca and the ever present model-now-tutor, Natasha Humble. 
Our workshop begins with a two hour tutorial, and then the afternoon shoot initiates exercises that familiarise the student with simple on-camera flash techniques such as fill and bounce. While simple and common techniques, we have hardly had a student yet that has not benefitted from the particular ways we teach these simple methods using combinations which include the correct balances of flash with ambient light. In so doing, flash becomes less prominent in the image while still playing a pivotal role in the balance and interplay of light.
The final part of the day involves establishing simple off camera flash setups in which we explain and use Guide Number calculations and the mixture of flash and ambient. The images reveal something very ethereal, something that the eye does not see at that time and in that moment but is nonetheless possible in camera. These moments are the climactic end of our afternoon shoot, leaving everyone with the hunger to get home and try it out for themselves.
For more information about our workshops, simply click here.
For online photography tutorials, click here.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

An Interview with Joe...

Last night I had the honour to interview Joe McNally, renowned photographer for National Geographic and author of the two books here pictured - The Hotshoe Diaries and The Moment it Clicks. We did this interview for the Shutters Inc podcast at odd hours for the both of us. For myself and the host of Shutters Inc, Bruce Williams, it was midnight. For poor Joe, it was around 5 am in Florida. But he was such a lovely guy, and certainly there were no tickets on him. Anyone who refers to themselves as 'NumbNuts' in their own book is not the kind of person you would feel in any way unapproachable.

We discussed Joe's approach to photography in general, and to each image as he is assigned them. He was very open and freely discussed his techniques, preferences and philosophies about photography. I have to admit, I thoroughly enjoyed the half hour he was able to fit us into his very busy schedule.
Thanks Joe! I hope that visit you mentioned to Australia comes to fruition!
You can download Shutters Inc directly from iTunes or click here if you are less patient. Joe's interview will be available this coming Sunday...

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Our exciting new website!

Yes, I am excited. Very excited. After a year of working with my friend and marketing whizkid, Glynn Lavender and utilising a make-do website, we finally have a website for Creative Photo Workshops that I have to admit is rather wonderful. Designed and built by our very good friend and website master, David Oakley, it is a fully interactive site that allows people to see all the workshops we are planning and even book them online. This makes our planning and building of workshops so much easier.
This coming year has its share of workshops and tours planned already. We have workshops planned in Australia and New Zealand, the Cook Islands and even the United States. There is much more to come. The hunger to learn about photography and to acquire the skills to create dynamic images is growing. With the digital age came a presumption that all the photographer needs to do is point and shoot and wonderful images filled with colour and life will present themselves on a silver platter.
But, with the advent of digital, the silver is gone, and the silver lining never came in its stead. Digital photography did not bring with it any magical fairy dust that makes great photographers out of everyone with a half decent camera. It only brought with it a more immediate medium of capture that enables photographers to create images with a faster learning curve...provided they know what to learn and how. This is where we come in.
Our workshops are fun and entertaining. They are hands on, bring-your-camera events that prove to you that you can do it. With a little understanding, you can take your photography to new heights. And we prove to you that its not difficult. You just need to understand some principles.
So, come along sometime to one of our workshops and have laugh, learn some cool stuff and take some great photographs. At least now you know what website to go to!
For online tutorials, there is still The Five Minute Photographer...

The Life, Times and Images of photographer, Shelton Muller

Images on this blog are copyright Shelton Muller