PCSkiGal: Jill Takes You To A Fall Photo Workshop
“Stop it!” I want to shout inside my head. Everywhere I look is a photo opp. It’s one thing when everything I see is a potential story. But when thoughts become images there’s no room for anything else.
Like how photos take up more space than documents on your hard drive? Plus, I’m usually driving. If I pulled off every two minutes I’d never get where I wanted to go. But I can’t turn it off.
I spent two days straight during the HERA Climb for Life with pro photo dudes Jay Kinghorn and Jeremiah (Miah) Watt and a small gaggle of outdoors folk who – in a nutshell – wanted to take better pictures. Some had point and shoots, some borrowed gear and looked like they were part of Time Magazine’s staff. All cared about lessons. Here’s what I learned:
(Editor’s Note: The photographic examples Jill uses to illustrate each of the tips below can be viewed at Jill’s blog).
I’m lazy. We shot the sunrise off Guardsman Pass at 7 a.m. Saturday morning. That meant waking at 5:30 a.m. Ouch. While everyone else was tromping around the steep hillside, I planted my feet and extended and retracted my zoom lens. I’d rather shoot a sunset. I guess it showed.
We all met back at Black Diamond Equipment (basecamp for the Climb4Life), where BD’s photo editor Sandra Salvas critiqued our images. One of the first things she said was, “Don’t be afraid to move. Get in close, get low, step far away and shoot wide.” Don’t just stand in the middle ground.
Sandra had worked for Forbes Life Mountain Time, Warren Miller, and SKI Magazine before she moved to Park City to work for BD. Here, she’s an editor, stylist, director, photographer for marketing materials, tradeshows, catalogs, the website, visual merchandising, and advertising campaigns. Her advice? Be present and be aware of what’s going on around you. She did a live edit of Miah’s photos so we could see why she likes or doesn’t like a picture. Then she walked around and spoke to us individually about what she liked and what might help make our photos better.
I’m not a photographer and never professed to be one. Ever since Ryan told me I danced like Elaine from Seinfeld, I’ve been overly self-conscious about dancing in public. Ever since Lisa threw my photos under the bus in front of a crowded room of photographers at an OWAA conference last year - making all of them laugh at my expense - I’ve doubted my abilities. I’m super competitive and my hardest critic. But, if I don’t know what I’m doing wrong and how to get where I want to be, I tend to stop trusting my instincts.
My images do get published because they tell a better story to my story than stock images. So it pays to know what I’m doing behind a lens. The outdoor photography component of the 11-year Climb For Life is part of a growing trend to include photography workshops whenever possible. Not everyone wants to be the action, they’d rather shoot it. And everyone has a chance at greatness with modern camera technology.
As much as I wanted to climb, I knew I couldn’t miss this opportunity to learn from those who not only rock their fields but know how to get more out of you without destroying your drive.
When I brought back my first batch images from Day 1, Jay, Sandra and Miah all asked what do I like; which pictures are my favorites. I didn’t know anymore after the OWAA roast.
Tip #2 - When you shoot a sunrise, put less land in your frame to get the right color/exposure/light. But avoid too much sky unless it’s spectacular.
Tip #3 – Rule of thirds. Always. Don’t put your subject smack in the middle of your frame. It’s boring. If you have to, crop.
Tip #4 – Shoot in layers. If you use a high aperture (That ‘f’ in your display) you can put more in focus.
Tip #6 - Know where your subject is going to be; anticipate. Have your model do the route a few times so you know the moves ahead of time.
Tip #7 - Find inspiration; something that gets you psyched.
Justin scrambled up and down the boulders at 5-Mile in Little Cottonwood Canyon for our benefit. Miah coached us individually to set up the ‘perfect’ shot, but I wasn’t feeling it. There just seemed to be so much dirty stuff in the way. Not to mention that I’m not a huge fan of bouldering. We crossed the highway and headed down to the creek for our portraits where I found more passion.
Jay discussed lighting. At midday, it was harsh. The shadows did no one any favors so we tried reflectors (we used white boards to bounce light from the sun back at our subject) and shaded areas.
Tip #8 - Backlight is your friend.
At just the right angle (and without using your flash) you can get both a ring of light and still see your subject. Try a variety of angles and don’t give up.
Tip #9 - Be comfortable with your camera and make your model comfortable.
I got Jay laughing when I pretended to be a French fashion photographer and told him to “make luv to ze camera.” Give your subject tons of feedback. Let them know what they can do to help you take a better pic. Chat with them, explain to them what you are doing.
Tip #10 - Don’t keep looking at the back of the camera. You may miss ‘the’ shot. Make sure you are there and present.
I headed home with visions of light and f-stops dancing in my head.