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Saturday, June 26, 2010

In the Valley of Fire

Model, Chrissy, poses for our cameras in the Valley of Fire outside Las Vegas
While its true that I am in Las Vegas for the IPI Convention, I could not for one minute think it possible to leave Nevada without heading into the surrounding desert to do a shoot of some kind. Glynn and I were given many suggestions for locations in and around Vegas, but the Valley of Fire had everything going for it in the end - proximity, availability and aesthetics. Its a fantastic place for photography.
Now, I can shoot my way around a landscape, but I would rather put a person in the landscape than just shoot it on its own. Enter Chrissy. Chrissy was the only model on Model Mayhem who responded to our casting call to shoot, and so she won the chance for some great photographs and we were given a person to put into this fabulous landscape. So, she, her big brother and chaperon, Mike, Tom the ex-Homicide detective and 'murder tour guide', Julie from Dan's Camera, Glynn and I all headed into the Valley of Fire for an afternoon and evening of photography.

Chrissy is a very young model with hopes. Being only 17, she has much to learn but we really appreciated her efforts and her hard work. A model needs to have some element of physical dynamic, but only maturity and experience can build the things that need to happen in the heart of a model to make her truly photogenic. Chrissy worked hard along with us to make the images happen and her brother was a fantastic help. He held flashguns and reflectors, and acted as chauffeur to his little sister. It was hot and dry and the afternoon sun was heavy on the rocks. But the key to working with that kind of light is exactly that - work with it, not against it. So we started with images that highlighted the color of the rocks and the hardness of the light. As the sun fell into the horizon, we finished off with our usual bevy of off camera flash techniques.
Thank you Tom for being our driver and 'murder tour guide' of the Nevada desert, Julie for being the brunt of our threats and 'short' jokes, Mike for being a good big brother and Chrissy for being our model. It was a great shoot and gave us the chance to photograph in the Valley of Fire.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Walk in Durban..

My final morning in South Africa was perhaps the most memorable moment of all. While I thoroughly enjoyed being at the Australia/Germany game and breathing in the atmosphere of all that was going on, there is nothing like a 'photo walk' through foreign city streets. The joy of that experience is twofold at least. Firstly, there is the joy I find always in taking photographs. Secondly, there is the memorable connection you make with a stranger, a moment with a person you meet and whose company you enjoy. I am a gregarious person by nature, and the joy of photographing that person is accompanied by the chance to interact with someone of another mindset, another culture, another language or location. Walking with Madlen, Shem and Teymur through the streets of Durban on our final morning in South Africa proved to be just that kind of experience.There would be many who would not recommend it at all. In fact, there were. Our driver, Earnest, was not keen at all. When we mentioned our desire to be dropped off in down town Durban, you could tell by his reserved but manifest concern that he did not like the idea at all. But, we were not going to be walking alone and we were there in broad daylight. Not only that, but Teymur is a pretty big fella, so I know I felt safe enough! It didn't matter that he probably wouldn't hurt a fly. But I am not one to live my life in a box. I believe that people take bigger risks in every day life. I also believe that there is a balance to be found. I would not, for instance, do this on my own. Neither would I recommend it. Downtown Durban is a rough place. But, it sure was interesting.Stopping a group of young men headed for the beach was our first social experiment. Madlen, knowing that I run a photography workshops business that educates photographers around the world, asked me for a lesson in photography and so I got into the zone. A white wall upon which the South African sun was pouring all of its unforgiving contents was to be our backdrop. Madlen was keen to know what could be done with it. Kismet would dictate that just at that moment, a group of young men would pass by and grant us an opportunity to prove what a white wall could do. All we needed to do was ask. That was perhaps the hard part. After all,what would their response be?They were shy at first, and not at all rough or intimidating. Rather, they were happy to pose against the wall and in the end came up with some ideas of their own. They laughed as we showed them the images we were taking and I was reminded that they had probably never had a formal photo session in their lives. These handsome young men were very friendly and obliged us with anything we asked.
"Yoobie keffle witt dem kemrez, eh!"
Turning into a crossing street, a man in a hat came out into the street to meet us. "Yoobie keffle witt dem kemrez, eh?" he said in a very South African accent, obviously concerned that the tens of thousands of dollars of camera gear we were carrying would find its way into the hands of members of the local community. Immediately I asked him if he would pose for a portrait against the plain blue wall of his gambling establishment. He was happy to do so, but only after shaking all our hands and offering us his name. Philip. He once again stated his concern for us, knowing that we were from out of town. Then, pulling down his shirt across his right shoulder he was proud to reveal his 'war wound', a scar resulting from a stab wound he received in that very street. I, in turn was happy to photograph him doing so.The morning proved to be like that again and again. Interaction upon interaction, image upon image. For me, it is a perfect way to begin and/or end my time in any city. It gives me my own feel for the place, my own memories and my own perspective. It allows me the chance to assess for myself what a community or culture is like, based upon my own personal experience. I understand that the experience and the resulting assessment of it is not based upon extensive research or weeks of time spent, but it is nonetheless untainted in the same way. A few hours of pleasant interaction and engagement coupled with the joy of taking photographs is a perfect and far more pleasant means by which I get to remember my travels and the cultures and communities I encounter. I don't care if its accurate. I don't even care if its a mite quixotic. I probably actually prefer it that way.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Memorable Moments in South Africa

Well, I am finally doing something serious about my blog while I am here in South Africa. Its been a busy time while I've been here and so please forgive my tardiness! I have had some internet issues too, but enough of the excuses.
Why am I here? Well, I was invited to be a part of Memorable Moments South Africa 2010, a project that required the presence of a group of photographers and bloggers from different countries to capture all of the atmosphere surrounding the events that are happening in South Africa as we speak. I would mention them by name but Kodak have suggested that we refrain due to potential legal issues. You see, they are not an official sponsor. But you know the events of which I write.
Its a wonderful honour to be here for Kodak Australia. Unlike the other representatives, I was apparently chosen to be here without having to enter a competition to do so. I was simply told by the two lovely ladies at Kodak with whom I deal that they knew who they wanted to come and be part of this project. Wow. Thank you both.
I don't want to bore you with the details of each day's events but rather speak of the project itself. As I have mentioned, its about the creation and enjoyment of 'memorable moments' and Kodak's long term connection with that idea. We are all familiar with George Eastman's original slogan, "You take the pictures, we do the rest", a slogan that kept Kodak alive for over a century, at least in terms of its basic philosophy. So, we have simply been taking photographs with the Kodak Slice and our own DSLR cameras and capturing video with the Kodak Playsport. With everything going on in this country at the moment it is easy to take some wonderful photographs and capture memorable footage. If you have not seen the Kodak Playsport at work, you should really have a look at this fabulous little piece of hardware. I love mine. We have used its predecessor, the Zi8, to make videos of our workshops that have been such an asset to our Creative Photo Workshops website and indeed, our business.
As I write this, I am sitting in my hotel room with fellow photographers Teymur Madjderey and Shem Compion, as well as Madlen Niclaus from Kodak in London. We are chomping on some rather ordinary pizza and doing what we are here to do - report on the atmosphere surrounding the events here and use our photographs on the internet to promote the notion of Memorable Moments. So, we are Facebooking, Flickring, Tweeting and blogging about the events thus far. We have each been asked to submit for Kodak's 1000 Word blog also, and I have already submitted my entry. I awoke early one morning with an editorial epiphany and just had to write it down over a coffee...or two. Look out for it at the blog...
South Africa is a lively place at the moment, as you can imagine. There is a buzz here that is, I would hazard a guess, a different atmosphere to what this country has known in decades past. Being here at this time is a wonderful experience. There are thousands of visitors from so many countries and the South Africans have gone all out to make us all feel so welcome. I flew on a plane from Johannesburg to Durban that was filled to the brim with Germans and Australians. They all would have turned up at the game that evening having been made very welcome. Even the friendly competition that arises between the 'representatives' of each nation is worth experiencing. It is a friendly rivalry that rarely means more than just a chance to jibe and to be proud. South Africa is is indeed a country that has seen some serious interracial healing, and it is now on display for the world. Its willingness to hold these events at such great cost is perhaps a reminder to the world that it is no longer caught in the anachronism that was Apartheid. It is a beautiful country, and one can only hope that conditions here will improve to balance the economy between the classes.
The images in this blog entry are from the various events Kodak has taken us to and involved us in over the last few days. Because our brief is to capture the atmosphere of this country at this time, we are quite free to photograph it as we see fit. Therefore, whatever we encounter is up to us to choose to capture. How we do it, if we do it, is our decision. All Kodak want is to have a selection of images and videos that capture the memorable moments that we have had, and that this country is also experiencing. For mine, I must admit, I am more than happy to oblige.

Monday, June 14, 2010

In South Africa for that thing I am not allowed to talk about...

Well, if you have been following my movements on Facebook, you will know that I am in South Africa for Kodak, capturing the atmosphere for that World Famous event I am not allowed to talk about. At this moment I am sitting in my hotel room in Durban getting ready for that game that is happening tonight that I am not allowed to officially refer to.
Kodak Australia have asked me to blog, Twitter, Facebook etc while I am here, and I am really enjoying it. I have met some great people from other countries who are also here as part of the Kodak Team, and I am really enjoying meeting some wonderful South Africans too, as you can tell from the photograph above. These girls are the very ones who checked me in to this wonderful hotel. This one was simply grabbed with my new Kodak Slice camera. I am loving my new Playsport too!
I will do what I can to keep you up to date as I travel. But for now, I have to get my gear together. There is a game tonight...apparently...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Film Noir Workshop

Little did I know that she had brought two friends with her...Smith, and Wesson....
"It was a dark and stormy night. I had a date with destiny and her name was Trouble. I got in my car and headed for the station. I was there to meet a dame - the kind of dame that takes a man's heart and breaks it like a toy. The kind of dame that makes you come back so she can break it again and you feel something for a change. It doesn't matter that it burns your insides up worse than cheap Scotch.

She loomed through the fog like a dream that becomes a man's worst nightmare. I was waiting for her. Little did I know she'd brought two friends with her - friends by the name of Smith and Wesson..."

Ok, ok ok...enough of me waxing dime novel lyrical. I'll stick to photography, shall I? Ah, but last night's Creative Photo Workshop Film Noir event was wonderful, even if I say so myself. Glynn and I were on our game last night, and our models Taisen Blackwolf and Natasha Humble could not have been better chosen for their roles. Donned in the getup of the 40's film noir movies and lit by two continuous FotoBestway heads, they looked the part in the mist generated by our recently acquired fog machine.
The first order of the day was to instruct everyone to set their jpegs in the camera to monochrome. If they were going to shoot in RAW as well, they would have a colour image to boot. But learning to shoot and see in black and white was a serious part of what Glynn and I wanted to convey last night. It is a wonderful and eye-opening thing to learn.
As our customers also learned, Film Noir is one of those photo genres where what you don't light is more important than what you do. Its about creating mystery with darkness, and allowing the imagination to wander therein. For photographers, its about metering for the highlights and using the camera in manual mode. For our customers it was about learning, and enjoyment - the two essential parts of every workshop we run. 
Abbottsford Convent was the perfect venue for this shoot because of it arches, collonades and textures. Its classic staircase also made an accurate setting for our opening setup, and after that we did not need to wander far to create a diversity of Film Noir images. We use the Abbottsford Convent for the majority of our Melbourne events, but last night it came into its own.
I have to say that I enjoyed last night's event very much. I always enjoy running our events, but some more than others, I have to say. Last night was one of those. It was very satisfying. I am pleased that our customers went home with images straight out of their cameras, images that didn't need PhotoShop or Lightroom to make them happen. That should be the way of it as often as possible. Composing and metering in camera to create an image to the degree possible while on location is at the heart of the satisfied photographer. There is something about looking at a complete image on the back of your camera and realising that you have created a masterpiece, right there, right then. At the very heart of all we teach lies that very principle. We hope you can come along sometime to see how possible it is, and how very satisfying. 

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

A Digital Life

Back Row Left to Right: Richard Ingram, Casey Hamblin, Kerry Sumner, Tamara Bodor, Adam Davidson, "Aunty" Jan Hannasky, "Guru" David Oakley, the fabulous Nathan Muller. Front Row, Left to Right: Shelton Muller, Glynn Lavender, Natasha Humble, Amanda Anderson, Keith Anderson.Absent: Bruce Williams, Meryn Pratt, Kellie Webster

Thank you to ALL of you!
Photo: Richard Annable
The past weekend was so incredibly busy, and so incredibly rewarding at the same time. The annual PMA photographic industry Expo was held in Melbourne and Creative Photo Workshops was there. We worked solidly from Thursday to Sunday, setting up our stand and then catering for the thousands who thronged towards it.
To give you some background, I have been pitching the idea of having photography opportunities at the Expo for some years. Each year I have watched as members of the public turn up for the Expo with cameras in hand - and nothing to photograph. I have wanted for so long to give them that experience. This year, it happened. And it happened BIG.
Me on Radio 3AW at the Expo
PMA Australia gave Creative Photo Workshops a 6x19 metre stand and a carte blanche chance to make it work. They gave us furniture, and we supplied the rest. It was a great opportunity and we were not going to miss the chance to show the industry what exactly is needed to perpetuate itself - people taking photographs, and loving it.
If not for our wonderful friends, Glynn and I simply could not have managed. Once our studio was setup and the speakers sounded out the invitation to come and take some photographs, hundreds of people at a time would visit the stand. Without the wonderful assistance of Meryn Pratt, David Oakley, Kerry Sumner, Adam Davidson, Jan Hannasky, Natasha Humble, Richard Ingram, Richard Fryberg, Bruce Williams, Tamara Bodor , Kellie Webster and my fabulous son, Nathan, we simply would have fallen apart. And I am still overwhelmed with gratitude that these lovely people gave up so much of their time to be a part of what we were doing. 
Each day had three mini workshop sessions in rotation, and each were as popular as the next. People surrounded our demonstration studio area to learn and to take photographs for themselves. It was wonderful, and I have to admit feeling a strong sense of validation about my desires to have an event like this finally take place at the annual photographic expo. Some of the photographs that people were taking were simply beautiful, thanks to the lighting provided by FotoBestway and the tuition of our CPW Team. A special thanks also to our models, two of whom have experienced CPW madness before and decided to come back for more, namely Sarah Hardy and Taisen Blackwolf. Thanks also to Jessica, Chloe, Emily, Danny, Deanne who came along for the fun and provided great faces for our customers.

If you want a taste of the madness and fun that ensued, have a look at the videos that our mulitmedia Guru, David Oakley, has put together for us....just to give you an idea...
My son, Nathan had his own experience at PMA, having won the PMA Young Achiever of the Year award for Victoria. I am so proud of my son simply for being the person he is. But it is wonderful to see him rewarded for his qualities and for his secular potential from key figures and businesses within the photographic industry. He was so gracious in defeat when he missed out on the National Award that it made me even more proud to be his father. I also know that he lost by a very, very small margin. At his young age he is earning the respect and admiration he deserves. As photo industry marketing Guru, Bill McCurry said to me "Give that boy a microphone and he has the room in the palm of his hands.Three of him and I could retire to the life I want to become accustomed to.."
All in all, this year's PMA Expo was an incredible success. I am exhausted, I have to tell you. But I am excited. It was an incredibly rewarding experience at a profound personal level.

The Life, Times and Images of photographer, Shelton Muller

Images on this blog are copyright Shelton Muller