I used to be able to do this; no joke. And my adductor is healing nicely, so I should be able to do it again soon.
Always stretch before you boogie.
One of the attendees of my workshop told me this little anecdote that I absolutely loved. A friend of his is a teacher at a high school, and asked her students one simple question: “Can you name any photographer, living or dead?”
Silence. One student picked out a business card someone had given him and read the name off it.
If that doesn’t sink in, let me put it another way: In American culture, “The Situation” from Jersey Shore is way more famous than any photographer in history. Let that sink in for a bit.
At best, this entire industry has one rock star (Annie Liebowitz). Also, one classic pop diva ignored by the hip young masses (Anne Geddes). And I’ll give you Ryan McGinley as an indie hit.
There are a lot of things to take away from this — yes, you can bemoan a lack of education in the arts. But I LOVE it. Photographers aren’t important — their work is. Honestly, I couldn’t pick Richard Avedon, Alfred Stiglitz, or even modern masters like Steve McCurry out of a line-up — but I know their work inside and out. The Internet makes everything personal, turns everything into self-publishing, making the individual more important. It opens new opportunities, but it can get things twisted around.
Why does this get under my skin? It’s not a matter of individual behavior — most really well-known wedding photographers are the nicest people you could hope to meet. And, as the ad above shows, lots of industries have “rock stars.”
It’s all about what people aspire to. Is what really drives you to become more and more famous, or to do better and better work? Maybe fame is simply supplanting money as a form of currency — there have always been people out simply to get rich — but the central problem is that I believe that what wedding photographers do is more important than what many rock stars or celebrities do.
We aren’t important, but our work is. Love what you do and do it well, and you will spend a lifetime crafting the memories and social histories of people on the most important days of their lives. You will take photos that make children gape in amazement that their parents were so beautiful, you will take photos that will be laid with people in their caskets, you will take photos that can make people cry even if they don’t know the people in them.
Is that really less important than being the drummer for Nickelback?
UPDATE: Mark leaves a fantastic story in the comments: “I teach a HS class in photography. When I asked my kids to name one photographer they all said Ashton Kutcher. Then they saw a grown man cry!”
On February 5th and 6th, 35 avid and awesome photographers came to 2 Stops Brigher Studios to talk shop and learn about some of the crazy stuff I get up to as a photographer. I figured I couldn’t teach a workshop about how to be fabulous, since I’m just a pretty normal guy, or how to run a business, since the most important thing I know is to work with other people who know how to do that stuff, or selling actions and presets, since I don’t use them.
What I do know as a New York City photographer is how to make the best of situations that aren’t always in your favor, and I thought it might be useful for some people to get my perspective. Also, I’m always looking at photographic gear and saying “Is there anyway I can use this in a weird way that would make some pretty cool pictures?” and we spent most of the day talking about some of the things I’ve found that can give you some new tools for bad situations — things like the “Brenizer method” of bokeh panoramas, video lights and light-painting for low-light, using flash composites for dynamic shots on bright days, and more.
I had such a wonderful time, and so many people have been asking about it, that I am going to host another one soon! I’m thinking April. Watch this space.
There are going to be a lot of photos in the full write-up, so click below to read the rest!
I’ve been asking for Nikon to make fast, wide primes forever, and we finally got one! Meet the 24mm f/1.4!
Also out is the 16-35mm f/4 VR, another new type of lens from Nikon. Both of these have potential to let me see in some new ways this season, so I will be testing them ASAP. Read my quick take at End User Blog!
(I’m not counting the discontinued 28mm f/1.4)
I couldn’t have had a better time at Saturday’s workshop, and was absoutely thrilled with how everything went — my staff, Isla and Thomas, did a killer job throughout, Phillip Stark could not have been more gracious a studio host, and our models and couples were top-notch! But, as they used to say in Reading Rainbow, “You don’t have to take my word for it …” When you have an audience filled with 35 people, almost all of whom have a blog, you know there are going to be a lot of independent reviews. The first comprehensive one I’ve seen is this article by Dmitri Gudkov, but let me know if you have any others and I’ll add them to this entry!
You can also see 117-and-counting attendee photos here, including proof that it is nearly impossible to take a good shot of me while I am talking.
(Photo by attendee Jeniel Corpuz)
UPDATE:I randomly stumbled across this review in a Nikon forum by one of the attendees. Since he didn’t think I would see it, that means he’s not sucking up to me. ;-)
I am inspired by his shooting philosophy. He lives for the “worst” shooting conditions and actually gets bored when things go right the first try. I take that as always learning and being prepared for the worst. I also appreciate his take on ‘getting it right in camera’. I hate using photoshop and really appreciate the fact that he can get such great results with spending 5-10 secs per image and sometimes not even touching them.
I highly recommend his workshops and I will be attending one of his in the future again.
UPDATE: A nice review by Zack Delaune, who came out from New Orleans for it:
After two days of hanging with Ryan, I knew this wouldn’t be any normal workshop. And he confirmed that right out of the gate by starting the discussion with the “why” of photography rather than the “how”. His philosophy on the subject definitely changed the way I think about photography, and especially wedding photography. So, big thanks to Ryan for flipping da script, as the kids say.
Once we got into more technical things, we discussed bounce flash techniques, the “Brenizer Method”, and quick flash composites. In that portion of the workshop, Ryan focused on tools we could add to our bag of tricks to make us more versatile photographers, even in undesirable situations. He demonstrated by making some beautiful shots in the ugliest flourescent-lit hallway I have ever seen. This was a refreshing reinforcement of something that I have been preaching lately to anyone who will listen. To get a beautiful shot, you don’t NEED a “beautiful” location
UPDATE: Here’s a nice video by Brett Maxwell showing the process of the shot shown here. I didn’t know I was being recorded and wasn’t speaking with that in mind, so hopefully you can pick up some of the audio. And although it sounds like I was overshooting, taking thousands of shots, those are the sounds of all the attendees’ DSLRs behind Brett. When I’m thinking about shooting, and not about talking, I say “you know” a lot. But before and after this I explained to the attendees more about the process, and showed the results.
I’ll have a full write-up of my workshop later today, but here’s a teaser image from it. One of my mantras that I shared with the group is to keep pushing yourself until there is a decent possibility you might fail — if all of your shots are pretty good, you’re not expanding yourself. (Of course, this has to be at times where you are safe to fail on a few frames. The first kiss is probably not the best place for it).
So I let the group watch as I decided to give myself a challenge: I would find the most boring, ugly place around and take photos right there. So I found a featureless office hallway with the ugliest green fluorescent lighting you’ve ever seen. The only thing it had going for it was the natural perspective of a hallway. So I took my awesome couple and sat them down, so that we could see that perspective better, and I lit them with a very warm, tungsten video light. With white balance correction, that turned the ambient from a horrible puke-green to a kind of funky and cool deep turquoise, a nice contrast to her red shirt, and of course this is kind of a funky couple.
I just finished three days of hosting meet-ups and mixers and workshops, oh my. I had the most amazing experience, which will get a full write-up tomorrow. But to start off with, let me publicly reveal my big, secret assignment: I challenged the workshop attendees to take portraits of a stranger … and, if possible, to take those portraits in their homes. This is an intensely challenging assignment for most people, and it’s one that I encourage photographers who are very interested in the documenting of people’s lives to try on their own. The lessons everyone draws are unique, but you learn a lot about making others comfortable, about being comfortable in your own skin as a photographer, about subject trust, and all of these skills that are very, very hard to teach in a one-day workshop.
I didn’t want to assign the attendees anything I wasn’t willing to do myself, so I went out and found a stranger of my own. Meet Tom. Unfortunately, Tom lives way, WAY out in Queens, and with the workshop planning I simply didn’t have time to go out there, so I photographed him at my office. But as soon as we started talking about the project, I knew I had to shoot him.
Tom saw this shoot as an opportunity to learn a bit more about himself. We got quite personal in our discussions and I won’t share them here, but he is 21 and sees himself in the middle of some major life transitions that have him searching for questions like “What’s next?” “What do I even want?” and “Who am I, anyway?” Trust me, these are questions that we keep asking ourselves, or should. But he also has a strong sense of whimsy — his role model, in ways, is Calvin from “Calvin and Hobbes.” So I wanted to get at that a bit with these portraits. We started indoors, using a mix of warm video light and cool window light to visualize these transitions and melancholy, but as we got more comfortable I had him change into one of his favorite shirts, a colorful Simpsons shirt he happened to have with him, and we headed out for some portraits with a lighter feel.
The biggest lesson of this assignment? We all want our stories told. Make people comfortable, and they will share theirs. Thank you, Tom, for sharing yours with me.
(The skyline is reflected in his glasses on purpose)
This will hopefully be the coldest engagement shoot I ever do. Not Nick and Rebecca, who are warm and fun and awesome, but the unbelievably freezing weather. Since Nick and Rebecca are long-time friends of mine, I felt free to poke at them a bit about the weather in this Nikon D3s video.