Monday, July 12, 2010

Santa Fe Photo Workshop - Part 1

Many photographers, even those who are my friends, are horrified that I will "despoil" an image by manipulating it or adding other images to it. There were many very good photographers in my class ranging from those who blog about it to those who have their own portrait studios to those who use it as a creative  outlet from their careers as doctors.  Yes, a diverse group and then there's me!  I always try to describe myself as an artist who uses photography although I have shot editorial photos for PR clients. 

The name of this workshop was "Dreams and Imagination", led by world famous photographer Elizabeth Opalenik.  In a nut shell she was giving these photographers who had been so conscious of focus, permission to shoot out of focus (amoung other things) to create a feeling or a mood.  I try to do this by blending and combining images and perhaps adding drawings to the piece or pulling it into my Painter program to push color around.  We were also going to be able to shoot models, both costumed and nude.

Opalenik first talked about the difference between taking and making pictures and opined that all photographs are in the end, self portraits.  She also spoke about a book which I have not read yet called "Zen and the Art of Archery".  Then our first assignment, to go out to meditate and then take a few photos from where we were seated outside on the grounds of the Carmelite Nunnery (cloistered) where the Santa Fe Photographic Workshop has made it's home for the past 20 odd years.

I came back with this photo, which I think is successful in creating a feeling.

I was sitting in the doorway that connected an outdoor patio with outside the building.  It was an old brown wooden door with keyhole.  I was going for the other side of the interior - sort of an Alice in Wonderland feeling for me.  Of course as an artist, I have always felt that I was on the outside looking in.

Our next assignment that day was to shoot a portrait of our partner in a beauty and the beast mode - what they thought was the best and worst of themselves. In a way, my partner Helen and I, mistook the assignment,  We revealed much to each other about our childhoods, teen years and our strengths and weaknesses. We also talked about what we liked and didn't like about ourselves.  Then we took photos.  Opalenik came around and started to give us a few suggestions and tips which were readily employed.  I really liked that she would go from group to group to do this.  Helen and I then went out for a bite to eat and then it was time to go back to my room to process the photos and be there tomorrow morning at 8:30 am - arrg!

It was a double arrg when my cell phone alarm awakened me after only having had about 5 hrs of sleep that night.  I staggered back to the campus the next morning for the critique, which was a bit
brutal but very honest.  The photos I shot of Helen were very cliched and not very good technically.  I did get a few tips from feedback from other people's photos: Overexposing a portrait a bit will get rid of those pesky wrinkles we get as we age and to create a blurry, dream-like effect one can shoot with a long exposure while walking towards the subject.  Another tip we got was if the photographer wears white, it will bounce light back into the subject's eyes!  I'll be shopping for a white shirt this coming week!  The final tip of that day was to get an image when something is moving where the subject stays in focus but the background blurs, one should try to pan with the movement.

Of course this was only the 2nd project that I had run on manual mode, so I didn't beat myself up too much.  Today (I wrote this Sunday on the plane) I gave myself permission to begin combining photos to get a better portrait of Helen, which I think I have in the image below.  To me this is her as a Chinese girl looking in on American culture.  Once I get her email address, I will have to ask her if she thinks it works!

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