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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Making Videos

For some time now, my digital photography tutorial website, The Five Minute Photographer, has contained the five minute slide show based video tutorials I have produced for it. It has been a wonderful experience to be at the helm of this popular little site and there is much more I intend to build for it.
Now, I am making tutorial videos of another kind. The Photo Marketing Association has asked Glynn Lavender and I to produce tutorial videos for the internet, and we have also initiated the process of recording episodes of Creative Photo Workshops new venture - CPWTV. CPWTV will contain tutorials, reviews, and workshop news, along with some silly stuff Glynn and I just want to do for fun. And why not?
Today I found myself once again working with some familiar faces and friends - Glynn Lavender, David Oakley and Sophie Van Den Akker to produce three short tutorials on photography basics. Glynn and I did the talking, David did the recording and Sophie did the modelling - which is as it should be. Trust me, you wouldn't want us doing the modelling and Sophie doing the talking, although she would do a better job of that reversal than Glynn and I would.
Part of our day and part of the tutorials includes Glynn and I taking photographs of Sophie to coincide with the lessons we are teaching. The moment I am notified that these are up on the internet, I will let you know. It will be the same with CPWTV. I will keep you posted here.
For now, here are a few images from our brief shoot with Sophie today....

Monday, March 22, 2010

Advanced Flash Photography Workshop

Saturday afternoon and evening saw Glynn and I back at the Abbottsford Convent running our first Advanced Flash Photography workshop. Having spent the past year running our Creative Flash Photography workshop, we felt it now necessary to build a workshop event that could take students from previous workshops another step forward in their understanding of light manipulation in the camera. Our Creative Flash Photography workshop begins this wonderful process by removing the distaste and fear of flash that many photographers start with and revealing essential principles that make flash a more useful tool in their everyday photography. The afternoon ends with off camera flash and strobist techniques. But there is much more to still learn after that. Our Advanced Flash Photography workshop was an obvious next step and a necessary addition to our workshop repertoire.
Our models for the afternoon and evening were Sophie Van Den Akker of "Emerging Nymph"  workshop fame, and a newcomer to our workshops, a lovely German tourist, Stefanie Walther. Both models brought different qualities to the workshop which rounded out the experience for all and provided different looks and faces to the photographs. We even used the infamous host of Shutters Inc, Bruce Williams, as a model for one of our setups. He was actually quite willing! Considering he had flown down from Sydney to come and take photographs -as against being in them, I can only say "Thanks Bruce" - you were awesome, dude! 
The workshop began with several studio strobist lessons, enabling those who attended to take beautiful portraits using very basic equipment. Starting with just one small flash through an umbrella and then building into two and three flash setups, we ended that session with the addition of Honl gels, snoots and grids. This 'studio' session was a great lesson for those who attended as it proved that beautiful portraits can be achieved anywhere if you know how to use the equipment you have to its complete potential. That learning curve never stops, but it needs to start somewhere. Our opening session was intended to point that out. 
After Sophie left, Stephanie stepped up. Well, actually, she sat down. Placed cross-legged against a plain wall in a room filled with window light, we started another session using one flash and a Honl 1/8th grid to prove a point. We showed how with just one flash and deliberate exposure for flash only you can again create an image so completely unseen to the human eye and available only within the camera. This simple setup yielded so many variations of photographs among our customers and friends that I must admit to having been a little astounded. In fact, having completed the studio session, my good friend Scott remarked that of all the photographs he had taken so far, this was the lesson he was taking home with him. Its simplicity impacted upon him heavily and encouraged him with its potential. 
The evening continued well after our 8 o'clock intended finish. We like to overdeliver I suppose. But as the sun set and dusk fell into night, the structures within the convent area became our new playground and new images were slowly established, taught and taken. I have to admit to being very tired at the end of this workshop and yet nonetheless typically excited by what we had achieved. Not only were some beautiful photographs taken but there were some wonderful lessons and lighting principles learned by all - including me. There is nothing like teaching photography when it comes to learning. I have learned more by teaching than I ever did by doing. I think the process of articulation reinforces what you subconsciously do in your daily photographic process that it enables you to grow exponentially. 
At least that has been the case with me. But I would recommend it to every photographer out there.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Emerging....Again!

Our first Emerging Nymph photo shoot was such a success that those who could not or did not attend were actually saddened by the images they saw everyone else taking! Having missed the experience, they were disappointed they had not been able to attend. Now, we couldn't let our friends and customers down could we?. No! Not the team at Creative Photo Workshops! So, we decided we would simply run it again. And last night was that night. Once again we were given the gift of a beautiful sunset, perfect weather, warm water, good models and good friends.
We were joined by about a dozen of our friends (that's we call customers) along with two models, Brianna Sullivan and Elise Harb. Also, our old friend Richard Connon reprised his role as the lost executive in a post Global Warming world as he donned a suit and stood in the ocean. We were also joined by our Fire Spinning friend, Chris Carlos, who kindly brought some rather acrobatic fire lovers with him. All in all, it was an evening of surprises, providing all who attended with some new and different images.
The interesting thing for Glynn and I was that so many from the first Emerging Nymph evening returned for the second one, reminding me that photography is about two things. It is about creating images - and it is about the experience of creating them. It is understanding this combination that makes our business unique and propels it rapidly forward. 
Previously I had invited the boys from Buy-n-Shoot to come along. Michael and Deon run this very successful photo industry website and were keen to come on down and witness the madness that ensues. They came armed with cameras and notepads and I have to be honest, it was great to have them along. Now I just hope that they write a positive review! 
Last night's event was the end of our Summer Series. As autumn approaches, the sun is setting earlier and the weather becomes even more unpredictable. So, in our wisdom, we at Creative Photo Workshops have planned out our Winter Series of events and will be posting it soon at our workshops website.  We have some rather funny and interesting events planned that will combine the magic mix of fun, photography and learning. For photophiles like us, there is no better mix than that.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Trash the Dress Workshop

The end or our Creative Photo Workshops Summer Series has arrived. Our theme for the evening was a Trash the Dress session and so we knew it would present some challenges. Thus, last night saw a faithful group braving the wind and water for the fun and fine art of photography.  Even braver still were our models, Natasha Humble and Taisen Blackwolf. Natasha is also a photographer and one of our regular tutors and as such she is well known for being a little crazy, so we knew she would don the wedding dress and go into the water. Not having had the pleasure of working with Taisen myself, I wasn't sure what his level of craziness was. However, he proved to be equally insane and it worked to the advantage of our wonderful and faithful customers.
A Trash the Dress session has to be planned out in order to maximise the images, especially when there is a group of photographers who all have different ideas and hopes for the images. So, we started slowly, all the time restraining Natasha whose sole aim was to get into the water! We told you she was crazy, didn't we?
Our sunset was magnificent and gave us an opportunity to mix it with some off camera flash. This ensured that we could expose for the sunset without having our models silhouetted against it. A dozen Pocket Wizards come in handy too!
The photographic part of the evening ended with a combination of time exposures using flash, El Wires, sparklers and roving flashlights. We had Natasha standing in ankle deep water holding sparklers and winding her arms in a very Pete Townsend kind of guitar circle. We even asked her to run through the scene while firing the flash at her several times in a ten second exposure. Nothing was too much trouble for her. Now, that's the kind of model we like!
So, now its time to begin planning our Winter Series. Glynn and I have some great ideas, so watch this space....

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Behind the Scenes at our Creative Flash Photography Workshop...

March Creative Flash Workshop from Creative Photo Workshops on Vimeo.
Saturday the 6th of March - a date that will live in infamy! Why? Well, because it was the day we decided to run a Creative Flash Photography workshop and the weather gods decided to hail us for it....or, should we say, hail upon us for it. However, being the easy going guys and gals that we are, we were not flummoxed in the slightest. We simply took our off camera flash gear, our lovely model, Sophie, the attendees and ourselves inside and continued there.
Abbottsford Convent is not exactly the most waterproof building in the world, but it sure was better than being outside. It hailed! But even prior to that, the skies darkened to a near nightfall exposure and so we were at the mercy of the clouds anyway. Nevertheless, the workshop was a roaring success and all in the class enjoyed and learned.
Our model, Sophie Van Den Akker, of Emerging Nymph fame, was wonderful to work with and her near perfect features were a joy to photograph. Glynn, Natasha and I assisted the dozen or so of our friends in achieving images from their flashguns that they did not think possible at first. By the end of the day, flash was everyone's new best friend. Even our interstate guests - ladies who had flown from Coffs Harbour and Adelaide, were absolutely delighted. Mission accomplished. Now, on to planning some more of these workshops during the cloudy days of our approaching winter....

Monday, March 08, 2010

Creative Flash Photography Workshop

Running a workshop is a very rewarding task. Its not an easy one, what with a dozen or so people to assist on both a group and personal level. Of course, I work with a great team and so I am not alone. But its still a challenge. And....I love it.
Saturday saw us at Abbottsford Convent once again running our Creative Flash Photography workshop. Glynn and I particularly enjoy this workshop because it is a very creative one, and it is also very rewarding in terms of what it achieves for our customers. In our morning introductions, most of our attendees express either fear, disdain or frustration when it comes to flash. By the end of the day, they are excited about the creative potential and without exception they all leave with a new found respect for this little piece of pocket sunlight. 
Our model for Saturday was Sophie Van Den Akker. Sophie was our "Emerging Nymph" workshop model and she proved herself a real trooper for that shoot. But more than that, she has one of the most geometrically perfect faces I have ever seen. She is exquisitely lovely to photograph and I believe that there is much ahead for her in terms of her modelling career if she so chooses. Watch this space. That's all I can say...
Our Creative Flash Photography workshop begins with simple on camera flash lessons that prove that you can still take beautiful portraits of people with your flash actually on the camera, as this portrait of Sophie proves. After a few on camera flash lessons are completed, our off camera flash lessons begin. 
Saturday started out perfect in terms of weather for a flash photography workshop. Its was a pleasant temperature with a lining of cloud. But in the early afternoon, that all changed suddenly when  the clouds darkened the sky to near nightfall and then began to pour down hail upon us, the size of which was not pleasant at all! So, we quickly dashed inside and had to come up with an entirely new set up for teaching off camera flash.  As a result, some very interesting challenges were accepted and some wonderful photographs were achieved. All in all, the day was a roaring success. Melbourne - you can try, but your weather cannot overwhelm the passion of the hungry photographer in a quest to learn! 

Friday, March 05, 2010

The Five Minute Photographer.

My tutorial website, the Five Minute Photographer, has been going from strength to strength these past two years. The videos are growing in number, with a new one added only today! But many have wondered what the nature of the tutorials is like. So I have uploaded a teaser to Youtube so that you can get an idea.
Heck, its the cheapest photography tutorial website to join and the forum is the friendliest around.
Here is the teaser, for those who are curious....

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Love in a Parking Lot

My final day in LA was spent running a workshop with my friend and fellow loonie, Glynn Lavender. Glynn had organised this workshop with Mark Comon, a well known photo retailer and fellow photographer in Torrance, California. Mark is the owner of Paul's Photo - a well known photographic retail outlet. He himself runs a mean workshop and they are very popular. That being the case, we were honoured to have been invited to run one ourselves for his customers. For him, it was a matter of trust. And the gesture was certainly appreciated. It was our first workshop on foreign soil. But it won't be our last. Not by a long shot.
Now, I have to admit to being somewhat concerned when I was informed that the afternoon session of the workshop - the part where everyone actually takes photographs - was going to be run entirely in the parking lot at the back of Mark's store. Paul's Photo is one of those wonderful camera stores in which you can find anything and everything, but its parking lot is no Garden of Eden. However, I remembered that much of what we teach is the irrefutable truth that great photographs can be made anywhere, provided you understand light, perspective, composition and posing. Glynn and I are used to the rather diverse opportunities offered our customers at our usual venue in Melbourne - the Abbottsford Convent. A parking lot was going to provide a challenge to the very mantras we teach.
So, with a couple of slight thematic alterations to our morning lecture, we went ahead. Not that we had a choice! I mean, we had travelled to the United States to introduce the concept of our business to an American audience. No one said it was going to be easy. But I have to tell you, it sure was fun. Two Australian photographers addressing 14 American ones makes for an interesting morning. But all went well. Mark even brought out a couple of bottles of Fosters to make us feel more at home. Little did he know that Glynn and I are not big drinkers. Especially Fosters! But we sure did appreciate the gesture!
The afternoon light in the parking lot was harsh, but that was the very quality of light we needed to prove our point. Finding and utilising shadows, shade, overhead sunlight and reflected light gave our American friends a chance to see that even in their harsh Californian light, great photographs can be made if you know how. Our afternoon session was about the 'knowing how'. For many in attendance it was a complete revelation. Like so many other photographers we encounter in our workshops, location is their priority. Beautiful images can only be made if there are beautiful subjects in beautiful surroundings. Our LA workshop at Paul's Photo proved that to be an erroneous notion. Some of the most beautiful portraits our customers had ever taken were images established at the back door of Paul's Photo, the parking lot and against the wall of the shop next door. After this had been well and truly established, we went inside to the initial lecture area to work with some window light, once again proving that great photographs are available - everywhere. All in all, the workshop was a great success. So much so that we are invited back to run more of our Creative Photo Workshops. 

The Life, Times and Images of photographer, Shelton Muller

Images on this blog are copyright Shelton Muller