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2011 Creative Expression Masterclass Results — Erosion

November 8, 2011
Erosion 2, David Thompson Country

I’ve just returned from co-leading a unique event at Aurum Lodge, the Light Matters Masterclass: Creative Expression workshop, run by Samantha Chrysanthou, Darwin Wiggett and me. Our goal for this event was to provide a small group of photographers with a focused experience to help them improve their photography. For the main learning objectives, we picked one topic in each of three areas:

  • Art: understanding tone as the foundation of visual language & design.
  • Craft: using HDR technique as a component of high fidelity processing workflow, for photorealistic results.
  • Profession: moving beyond single image capture to using collections & series to better represent a body of work or a story to an audience.

Given this framework, we provided the group with learning opportunities through seminars, guided field photo assignments, hands-on lab work including extensive image critiques, free-format field shoots for pursuing personal photo goals, and lots of informal discussion.

The field photo assignments were a twist beyond the typical style of shooting on photo tours. Instead of each participant simply looking to get personally appealing images of whatever, the whole group was given an assignment connected to the day’s seminar topic. Usually the results of the field work would then be reviewed in a group session during the evening lab. Due to the packed schedule, for the “art” and “profession” topics we constrained everyone to shoot JPEG in the camera and deliver their results to the review session with essentially zero post-processing. (We really appreciated the whole group being cool with this, it was a key part of the event. It can be daunting to just put your work out front in this way!)

Darwin has just written on his blog about how this took him back to the experience of shooting slide film, where the photographer has pretty much no opportunity to do anything about the photo after the exposure has been made in the camera. I never shot slides (or indeed seriously shot any form of film), and anyone who knows something about my style knows that I’m heavily oriented towards developing the final image in the digital darkroom, after I’ve captured the best raw material I can in the field. For this reason, I expected our masterclass field assignments to be personally interesting and challenging — I knew I’d be hanging it out there along with the participants! 🙂 Further, I expected the final “shoot a series” exercise — headed up by Samantha — to be the most challenging assignment of them all. It’s not easy to go out in realtime and deliberately capture a sequence of images where the ordering and flow is important to tell a story beyond what any single one of the images portrays.

So. For our series field assignment on the last full day of the event, I carried over our first assignment’s constraint of shooting monochrome JPEG in-camera, and added a second constraint of using a single prime lens (200mm) on my 645D, for every composition. I then had to find an inspiration at our location, which took easily half of the allotted time. The first frame suggested itself rather quickly, simply because of a compelling combination of light and subject matter. But then I got a bit blocked as I explored the location, and talked with the participants about what they were thinking, seeing and capturing to accomplish their assignments. My expectation about the challenge was met. 🙂 My concept didn’t crystallize until I found what ended up being the final frame of the series, permitting me to fill in the middle of the flow. So here is a series in 5 frames, which I’ve titled “Erosion”.

Erosion 1, David Thompson Country

Erosion 1, David Thompson Country

Erosion 2, David Thompson Country

Erosion 2, David Thompson Country

Erosion 3, David Thompson Country

Erosion 3, David Thompson Country

Erosion 4, David Thompson Country

Erosion 4, David Thompson Country

Erosion 5, David Thompson Country

Erosion 5, David Thompson Country

If you have any thoughts on this series, or on the general concept of this masterclass event, feel free to comment…

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