Sep 302012

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending the 2012 Photographic Society of America’s International Conference in San Francisco.  With many thanks to my generous sponsor, Hunts Photo and Video (thank you Gary Farber!), I also had the honor of presenting “Visualization:  Picturing the Unique Possibilities” as the Friday evening Featured Speaker with a lively crowd of enthusiastic photographers.

While I was prepared for hours and hours of set-up for my presentation (some of you know just how anal, er, I mean, detailed-oriented I am…), thanks to the support of AV equipment gurus, Sam Berzin and Greg Edwards, my projector calibration, music sound check, and lighting scheme for the conference room worked perfectly within minutes!  With my unexpected free time, I happily snuck into a handful of presentations prior to my showtime.

Out of the jam-packed schedule of intriguing sessions, the two presenters who impressed me the most were sports photographer, Brad Mangin and Adobe software extraordinaire, Julieanne Kost.  Seems somewhat illogical for this outdoor photographer to seek out those topics, doesn’t it?  After all, I don’t spend any time photographing baseball.  And I spend maybe 33 seconds per image tops in post-processing.  (Please no snide remarks about how I probably should spend more time than that.  Look, I’m an ex-software engineer who spent ten years behind a computer. I just want to play outside now!). How did I end up in their presentations then?

I intentionally sought out Brad’s session to help give me some fresh thoughts on photographing people enjoying outdoor sports.  Baseball, hiking, biking – no matter the physical endeavor, it simply boils down to capturing people in motion and telling a compelling story with a camera.  Boy, could Brad do that well!  With boundless enthusiasm, he’d show a remarkable photo of a player making a spectacular diving catch.  After describing in detail how he had planned and captured the shot, he exclaimed, “I love good action shots.”  Then he’d display a player silhouetted against a field and with the same passion, he pronounced, “I just love silhouettes of players.”   He flashed picture after picture on the screen, and every time, his response was exactly the same.  In less time than you could spell “photography,” it was perfectly clear:  this guy loves EVERYTHING about baseball!   In addition, I’d bet my telephoto lens he knows more about the game of baseball than the many of the players do!  He knew history, procedures before, during and after the game, equipment details, upcoming important statistical milestones, you name it.  And his strong story-telling images show just how much he knows and enjoys the game – see for yourself on his website:

UMEAC-00055 - Mushroom gills, Acadia National Park, Maine

I learned about the “Dutch Tilt,” which is a technique where you tilt your camera to the side to turn static lines into more dynamic diagonal lines, by watching movies and studying various cinematography approaches. By doing so, it’s changed how I photograph close-ups of natural subjects, like this mushroom in Acadia National Park, Maine. (Click on photo for larger view – prints available!)

Immediately following Brad’s presentation, I had just enough time to sit through a portion of Julienne’s Lightroom talk.  I unfortunately could not attend her later Photoshop session, which would have made more sense for me based on my post-processing software preferences.  But regardless, the rumor on the photography streets is that she is a good presenter.  That’s a major understatement.  Julienne’s a phenomenal presenter!  Not only was she showing beautiful imagery, she was explaining things so clearly that I could have opened Lightroom three days later and confidently made the same adjustments she had shared – without having ever used Lightroom before!  As if that weren’t enough, she would intermittently crack jokes that made me laugh out loud in my chair.  For example, in explaining how to activate the black and white feature, she said, “Use the shortcut Control-V.  You know, because Control-V stands for ‘Vlack & Vhite’.”  How could you ever forget what Control-V does now?!  If I’m ever in the market for an Adobe class, I’m definitely looking her up:

What excited me most about both of these instructors were all the new ideas I gained for my own photography even though neither of them focused on the types of subject matter I like to photograph nor approached photography as I do.   Seeking out people who aren’t like us and listening to their unique perspectives can help ensure we don’t get too stuck in our own ways.  They can help expand our horizons and push us out of that cozy comfort zone – and quickly too if they have the same contagious passion Brad and Julieanne had!

So which photographers or other visual artists outside of your normal shooting domain do you like to follow and gain inspiration from for your work?  For example, if you normally like to photograph nature, do you study any food or street photographers to trigger new thoughts and influence your nature images?