Brooks Teachers Conference 2014

Last year’s experience at this workshop was so fantastic I immediately signed up for
another go and certainly have not been disappointed that I did. The first meeting
was by the pool/courtyard of their “new” (to them) campus on a former movie studio
lot in Ventura. Oh yeah, this was going to be fun.

The participants in the Brooks Teachers Conference for 2014 start to gather around the fountain and pool.  iPad Photo

The participants in the Brooks Teachers Conference for 2014 start to gather around the fountain and pool. iPad Photo

First day of sessions was filled with information and some tidbits to bring back to
City.  It started with a “Small Object” studio class.  This was similar in topic to my Beginning Lighting class but it was fascinating to watch the instructor’s (Scott Miles) take on presenting and demoing the smae types of things.  He was very good on using simple light plots and carefully arranging the shot.

I tried to fill my session track with things I can use for my upcoming portrait class and
scored especially well with the second session by Chuck Place on location lighting for
portraiture. It was not so much that the data was new to me, but it was presented in
some new ways that gave me some new ideas for how to lead demos and example
work. No matter how much you think you know, there is always stuff that you can
learn from others. Sometimes even your strongest competitors can be your best
teachers.  I would have taken some images of it with the iPad at least but since I did not have a camera I ended up pressed into service holding diffusion panels and reflectors.  Actually I may have learned more about Chuck’s technique that way than simply watching or documenting it.  There may be a couple of lessons in there for me as an instructor…

Then due to an issue with the heat, the next session on my schedule was
cancelled and instead Chuck gave an impromptu workshop on “plated” food (as
opposed to “studio” food). That was perfect for me since it is what Cynthia and I
have been doing. Chuck shoots for major magazines though so he can be much
more demanding of the restaurant owner/chef. But the information was directly on
point and very informative. He tries to use as much natural light plus reflection as
possible in his style and it does work very well when it is only the food items that
need to be shot AND the restaurant is not so busy that good shooting areas near
windows are not taken with diners.

In our case, at the owner’s insistence we frequently need to include the restaurant, or some portion of it, in the shot along with the food item(s). And speaking of that we often are asked to use several food dishes which can really muddy up the shot. But until we get a major food magazine as a client we still must follow the instructions of the chef/owner. They are proud of their food and their restaurant and seem to think it is no problem, logistically or aesthetically, to try to shoehorn all of it into a single shot.  The maddening thing is that even when the overly busy shot gives us aesthetic heartburn, the owners seem to love them.  Go figure…

The beauty retouching class with Christy Schuler was incredible as she talked a lot
about how she teaches as much as what to do. Christy has always amazed me
with how much extensive retouching she can do with very simple use of cloning,
healing, burning and dodging, and color painting. She also gave me a great idea for
a retouching assignment and encouragement to do a retouching class as well.

Her discussions of “historical” retouching from the portrait painting era then first
knowing WHY you are needing to do the retouching and the ethics of retouching
were great lead-ins to the hands-on part. She led off with the quote: “The person
who knows how will always have a job, the person whop knows WHY will always be
his boss.” by Diane Ravitch.

First understand the “Why” behind the retouching effort.   Otherwise, she emphasized, you really do not know where to even start or where to stop. We prefer features free of deformities and asymmetries. Color inconsistency is more indicative of age than wrinkles. But how much is enough and how much is too much? Where on the continuum from harsh
reality to total fantasy the goal for that specific image actually resides is usually found best in answering the “why” question.

The “Language of Photography” session by Greg Voight was well done and put
many of the compositional elements and rules in a new perspective that I will
certainly be adding to class materials.

And the Macro session on small critters, presented by Ralph Clevenger, was as much fun as it was last year. Here are some shots from my iPad (In the mad rush trying to get out of San Diego I managed to pack my tripod but not my camera… what a moke.) The participants just loved getting a chance to get close and personal with the tiny critters.  Here are some shots from my iPAD of participants and the various “sets” where a number of small critters were posing for the crowd,

Ralph Clevenger (denter) starts a demo on photographing small critters and other macro subjects.  Shot on iPad

Ralph Clevenger (denter in light shirt) starts a demo on photographing small critters and other macro subjects. Shot on iPad

Participants not only had a chance for some hands-on shooting but also a chance to photograph some rare specimans.  Shot on iPAD

Participants not only had a chance for some hands-on shooting but also a chance to photograph some rare specimans. Shot on iPAD

The "Critter Wranglers" also helped by positioning some of the animals for the best shots.  Shot on iPad

The “Critter Wranglers” also helped by positioning some of the animals for the best shots. Shot on iPad

I could not help but wonder what in the world those critters thought was going on…

At the same time as the critters session, there was a session on Cyanotypes going
on next door. To facilitate the process they all did photograms based on local flora
around the campus. Here are some of the cyanotype photograms getting their UV
exposure by one of the classroom buildings.

Photogram Cyanotypes dring beside one of the classroom buildings at Brooks.

Photogram Cyanotypes dring beside one of the classroom buildings at Brooks. Shot with iPad

Tim Meyers gave a good session on light styling for portraiture. I always enjoy his
sessions and workshops because although I am pretty familiar with the material, he
generally brings a fresh perspective to his presentations and this was no exception.

Then, all too soon for me, it was over and time to head back south. Brooks’ new
campus on a former movie studio lot is incredible! Don’t misunderstand me, I dearly love our new facilities at City… but… this 28 acre facility would sure be a fun place to teach as well.  Now I need to find a project that I could use as a sabbatical that would let me come and spend a semester here.

I also need to break down and at least get a small P/S camera I will ALWAYS have with me in my briefcase or in the car.

About ndking

Commercial Photographer and Professor of Photography at San Diego City College
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