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I’ll bore you with my background in another post, but for now I’ll just say that my wife and I are keen and experienced photographers.
I’ve been using cameras seriously for about 10 years and my wife studied photography and has an eye for details that, well, let’s just say I am very jealous of her natural talent. So you’d think we wouldn’t really be that eager to “waste” our time on a photography workshop.
Of course you know I am going to say that that could not be further from the truth. The two most dangerous words in life are “I know”. We never know everything, which is fantastic, because it means we are always learning and can always learn new things.
I am an avid listener of podcasts and, on one of them in early 2013, a great street photographer called Valerie Jardin mentioned that she was going to be running a workshop in Melbourne in 2014. She normally runs her workshops in places like Paris and New York, so the chance of going on one of these workshops without having to fly halfway round the world was going to be great. Just a side note: if someone else is paying for my flights, I am totally cool with flying anywhere in the world.
The workshop was not cheap, at least for our budget, but we both loved Valerie’s work and figured “life is short, so are we”. So we booked ourselves in.
It was a long eight-month wait until the workshop came around, so by that time we were really excited. I was extra excited because I had finally jumped on the mirror-less bandwagon and would be using my shiny new Olympus OMD EM-1 on the workshop. Mandy would be using her 7D, even though I suggested she use her father’s EM-5. Though after the first day, she took my advice and borrowed it from him. It took her 8 months to return it, but that too is another story.
Mandy and I have done a lot of street photography in the past – of course, we didn’t realise that’s what we were doing at the time though. We just love traveling and taking candid photos around the cities and towns we travel to. So why go on a street photography workshop or any type of photography workshop?
The main thing I really wanted to take away from the workshop was how to become comfortable with photographing people. I’d taken plenty of sneaky shots of people when they weren’t looking at me, but I wanted to learn how to approach people and ask them if I could take their pictures. It’s a very different side of photography and, to be honest, it intimidated me a bit at the time. Which is exactly why I wanted to learn how to do it! Best way to improve is to do what you find hard and scary, unless it’s eating gross stuff, that’s just gross.
We came home each night exhausted but in the best possible way. And did I learn to be more comfortable talking to people on the street and taking their pictures? Yes and no. I did learn some great techniques for talking to people and not coming across as creepy, or in my case, at least not too creepy. But I also learnt that you have keep up at it. It wasn’t until a few weeks later that we went out to take pictures of the White Night festival in Melbourne and it took me an hour or two to get comfortable again with just walking up to people and talking to them.
We learnt some amazing things over the five-day workshop. But the best part of the workshop was being immersed in photography with passionate photographer for 5 straight days. This is why you do a workshop – to immerse yourself in photography, to surround yourself with new photographers and see through their eyes in some ways. We learnt so much from Valerie herself but we also learnt from the other workshop participants – what caught their eyes, what they knew that we didn’t or didn’t realise we knew, what we could do when we were forced to think differently. It was exhausting but inspiring and that one workshop “fed” our photography for the rest of the year. There’s a lot to learn out there and the inspiration you’re looking for might just be a workshop away.
If you’re keen to learn more about Valerie’s workshops please visit her site, you will learn tons and have a great time.