Creativity and Synergy

16 Oct
 

As some of you know, it seems as though we have been on the road forever. Clearly, I was too busy at our New England Fall Foliage workshop to even post last week. Everyone left Sunday afternoon, and we had a private client come in Monday noon who just departed Thursday evening. While exhausting, it has at the same time been energizing.

One of the things we try to do as instructors is inspire vision and creativity, challenge people to go beyond what they thought they might achieve, and refine their composition and processing of images. In doing that, we gain as much inspiration from our students as we hope they do from us.© 2008 Arnold Zann.  All Rights Reserved.  From Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  For usage and fees, please e-mail Arnie (at) ZAPphoto (dot) com or contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278 or at  919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. east-coast time.

These past two weeks are cases in point. The New England Fall Foliage workshop was based in a small-town, lake-side cottage where I often played Gray Wolf growing up. With tables, comfy sofas, a fireplace, and the owner’s family rogues’ gallery, it is a setting to make people feel instantly at home. People pitch in from the onset, throwing another log on the fire, doing the dishes after our reception.

We head out the first afternoon to a pumpkin farm where I have been photographing literally for decades. The early 19th-century brick house has been in the family for generations. There is now a small herd of Devon cows on the property for the cheese operation that the owners have started. Pumpkins and gourds of all shapes, varieties, and sizes grace the front lawn. Sunflower heads can be seen in the trees and other unlikely spots. Payment is by the honor system with a tin can sitting on the farm stand that is decorated with small Indian corn tacked up along the roof line.© 2008 Margo Taussig Pinkerton.  All Rights Reserved.  From Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  For usage and fees, please e-mail Arnie (at) ZAPphoto (dot) com or contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278 or at  919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. east-coast time.© 2008 Margo Taussig Pinkerton.  All Rights Reserved.  From Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  For usage and fees, please e-mail Arnie (at) ZAPphoto (dot) com or contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278 or at  919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. east-coast time.

Before we get there, however, we get sidetracked at an old beaver pond I know well. Reflections, back-lit foliage, gentle grasses all catch the attention of our group. What was going to be a quick stop lasts over an hour! This is good; we are in no hurry.© 2008 Arnold Zann.  All Rights Reserved.  From Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  For usage and fees, please e-mail Arnie (at) ZAPphoto (dot) com or contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278 or at  919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. east-coast time.© 2008 Margo Taussig Pinkerton.  All Rights Reserved.  From Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  For usage and fees, please e-mail Arnie (at) ZAPphoto (dot) com or contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278 or at  919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. east-coast time.

At the pumpkin farm, we always enjoy watching our workshop participants start out. At first, some are tentative, but soon, everyone is finding subjects that interest them. One of our group invariably heads into the barn, followed soon by one or two others who notice and find something for themselves.

As we explain one technique or another to one or two of the participants, others gather to listen in, eager for more knowledge.

A cow stares back at us through her stanchion, then retreats to her private place. I moo at her, and, true to the species, she looks back out. Curious, they certainly are. A couple of our participants get their shots, using the line of stanchions as a diagonal element leading the eye into the picture.

One of our photographers is attracted by the green, crook-necked gourds. I pick one up and place it on the stoop in front of the mild shed’s red door, then another, giving them a human attitude. I switch gourds to show that each has its own personality. He gets into it. Later in his photographs, I see that one is wearing a babushka, another a tie. Humor abounds.

Very early the next morning, we head to one of my favorite and little-known waterfalls. It is a location that is good in sunny or inclement weather. The different levels and variety of small pools provide interest for everyone with plenty of room to spread out. Before we scatter, though, Arnie and I talk about techniques to photograph water. I fire off a quick frame to show those who are interested how it might be done.© 2008 Margo Taussig Pinkerton.  All Rights Reserved.  From Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  For usage and fees, please e-mail Arnie (at) ZAPphoto (dot) com or contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278 or at  919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. east-coast time.

People are already sharing images on the backs of their cameras or through their view finders and getting input from their fellow photographers. They encourage each other and gain inspiration from what others have done.

Meanwhile, we float around, giving mini assignments, encouraging everyone while pushing for tighter, more effective composition, pointing out photographic possibilities, as well as answering questions.

After a while, we head for a nearby inn with birches and a view. It is another unscheduled, brief stop that ends up lasting close to two hours.© 2008 Arnold Zann.  All Rights Reserved.  From Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  For usage and fees, please e-mail Arnie (at) ZAPphoto (dot) com or contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278 or at  919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. east-coast time.© 2008 Arnold Zann.  All Rights Reserved.  From Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  For usage and fees, please e-mail Arnie (at) ZAPphoto (dot) com or contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278 or at  919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. east-coast time.

Some are getting hungry, so we pack up, have a picnic lunch down in the valley, and continue into the mountains. We are greeted by a bloat of tour buses (think of a bloat of hippopotami) belching forth leaf peepers. Our group is not happy seeing all these people.

“Don’t worry,” I say, “they’ll all be gone before the light gets really good for us.” Our group is not yet convinced.

These tour groups land at a location for 20 minutes, then blow the whistle to call the peepers back to their cushy chariots to “do” the next location. They also get hungry and want supper by 5:30 or so. That’s perfect for us, and we start photographing in earnest. Arnie and I create a couple of images to inspire some of the participants to do their own versions.© 2008 Margo Taussig Pinkerton.  All Rights Reserved.  From Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  For usage and fees, please e-mail Arnie (at) ZAPphoto (dot) com or contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278 or at  919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. east-coast time.© 2008 Arnold Zann.  All Rights Reserved.  From Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  For usage and fees, please e-mail Arnie (at) ZAPphoto (dot) com or contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278 or at  919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. east-coast time.

The group is amazed that we can photograph after sunset. They are having a great time, but finally, it’s time to find food. We stop at a restaurant on the way home and settle down into chairs and deep sofas around a big square table. There is a lot of laughing and kidding along with discussions on life and photography. Everyone is feeling good. They are pleased with the locations and the images they have made. They joke about the tour buses that turned out to not be a problem.

These have been two long days, so we take a break and start imaging around 8:00 the next morning. People get to “sleep in” to 7:00. Everyone pours over the images from the five locations we have visited thus far. Arnie calls everyone over to look at this or that photograph one of the participants has done showing a different point of view. One is an elegantly simple one of a few leaves on a branch done with a long lens and the background completely thrown out of focus. Over the next day or so, we see more people try that technique and produce beautiful images of their own. The synergy is wonderful.

Everyone gets so caught up in seeing what they and the others have done, that editing seems to bog down. Imaging clearly is not going to be done very much today! They don’t even want to break for lunch, so people pull out granola bars, salsa and chips, and other munchies to stave off hunger. Our bowls of nuts and gorp are devoured.

It’s time to load up the cars and head back to the mountains to another of my favorite locations. Everyone is so pumped up from yesterday that they can’t wait to get out and find more images. A couple of them disappear, and we don’t see them again until well after sunset. They are learning to see, and we already notice a big difference in their photographs. Their eyes have gotten stronger, the refining of their vision better. They are entranced with water and what it can do. They love the color of the foliage. We show them different possibilities. I am lucky enough to replicate a shot I did years ago on film.© 2008 Margo Taussig Pinkerton.  All Rights Reserved.  From Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  For usage and fees, please e-mail Arnie (at) ZAPphoto (dot) com or contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278 or at  919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. east-coast time.

The sun sets, and we are still out there, flashlights sometimes in hand to help focus. Our students are in their element. Stomachs occasionally rumble, but no one minds. Food is not a priority right now; we’ll get there eventually. Finally, there really is no light left for what we want to do. Arnie and I get to do a couple of final shots. Same scene, different view, just as we tell our group. You can have ten people, all shooting the same scene, but the photographs will all be different.© 2008 Arnold Zann.  All Rights Reserved.  From Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  For usage and fees, please e-mail Arnie (at) ZAPphoto (dot) com or contacts us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278 or at  919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. east-coast time.© 2008 Margo Taussig Pinkerton.  All Rights Reserved.  From Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  For usage and fees, please e-mail Arnie (at) ZAPphoto (dot) com or contacts us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278 or at  919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. east-coast time.

We gather at a big table at a local restaurant and share the successes and challenges of the day. The spirit is wonderful, and we are having a great time. Friendships have been formed. The mood is upbeat in spite of the paucity of sleep, perhaps even because of it. After all, we have been doing what we all love — photographing beautiful landscapes, whether the broad view or close-ups.

I always say, “Remember what attracted you to the scene and make sure that is your only subject.” Arnie adds, “Simplify and isolate.” Our mantras are clearly taking hold.

Another early morning takes us to an oft-photographed farm. We arrive to find a gaggle of photographers from overseas who are taking advantage of the exchange rate against our US dollar.© 2008 Margo Taussig Pinkerton.  All Rights Reserved.  From Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  For usage and fees, please e-mail Arnie (at) ZAPphoto (dot) com or contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278 or at  919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. east-coast time.

“Quick,” I quietly urge, “Go find your spots!”

Everyone scatters, and as the rising sun hits the foliage, it is magical, and we hear shutters clicking away.

The sun rises a bit more, and the gaggle departs; we stay for more wonderful images, the farm now “ours.” We roam the hillside where we have gotten permission to photograph. In helping others, Arnie and I find images to illustrate back lighting, including high-key images.© 2008 Arnold Zann.  All Rights Reserved.  From Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  For usage and fees, please e-mail Arnie (at) ZAPphoto (dot) com or contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278 or at  919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. east-coast time.© 2008 Margo Taussig Pinkerton.  All Rights Reserved.  From Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  For usage and fees, please e-mail Arnie (at) ZAPphoto (dot) com or contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278 or at  919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. east-coast time.© 2008 Margo Taussig Pinkerton.  All Rights Reserved.  From Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  For usage and fees, please e-mail Arnie (at) ZAPphoto (dot) com or contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278 or at  919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. east-coast time.

We head down to the farm to see the owners and thank them by buying some maple syrup. We catch up a bit, as I have been photographing there, with permission, for years. We chat about those who come to photograph this beautiful place, tramp all over the place, don’t leave anything in the donation can nor buy any maple syrup. They are not what I call house broken.

After a few hours of imaging, we drive to our afternoon locations, including a lovely dirt road with a canopy of foliage and a field with a view down into the valley. Everyone has so much fun with the foliage canopy, that we miss the late-afternoon light in the field and valley. Instead, we get a beautiful sky, and some learn that they can get brilliant foliage even after sunset.

We allow ourselves an easy last morning. One comes early to photograph down by the lake with the early-morning mists rising, ephemeral in their presentations. Others drift in for imaging. The wood stove exudes a cozy warmth. Another of our group brings in coffee and doughnuts. Everyone is looking forward to the group critique, asking others for input to help decide which images will go into the “slide” show.

Finally, everyone heads into the smaller living room and crowds around the large monitor to critique each other’s favorites. They want to see what Arnie and I have done.

I laugh, “When have we had time to edit anything, let alone process it?”

They chuckle, knowing first hand how busy we have been helping them.

The mood is positive, and people are blown away and inspired by what they see others have done. There is a strong feeling of camaraderie and support. Participants are amazed at the positive reaction and input by their workshop mates, and Arnie and I are once again inspired by the work of our students.

Some people have to leave early, but they drag their heels, not wanting to leave this great group. Hugs abound, and everyone wants to make sure I send out all the e-mails so they can keep in touch. After all, we have spent five intensive days together. We are family. There is a bond.

A few stay after the workshop for questions and more input from us. We hate to see them all go. Not only is there synergy amongst the group, but for us, too. Again, they inspire us as we have hopefully inspired them.

It takes us several hours to pack up, clean the cottage, and head back to our digs. We enjoy a couple of hours outside in the late-afternoon sun, visiting with family and friends. After an early supper, we fall into bed, tired, but happy everyone did so well. The weather has been gorgeous, the fall colors have been intensified by a late frost, and the temperatures have been perfect. What more could one ask?

* * * * * * * * * *

Our private client arrives at noon the next day. She is enthusiastic, and we are instantly comfortable with one another. There is lots of laughter and gentle reminders of our Principles of Photography. An M.D., she is a quick study.

We return to some of the same spots we visited the previous week. The colors and light are different each time, so we always see it with a fresh eye. Her energy is boundless.

Because of her interests, we concentrate more on close-ups and details. We lend her our wide-angle lens for a different perspective, to force her to think more globally in her scenes. It’s a challenge at first, but she has fun with it.

At the inn with the view and birches, we find ferns that have changed color dramatically since last week. I can’t resist photographing them as our doctor friend works on an assignment we have given her using one of our long lenses.© 2008 Margo Taussig Pinkerton.  All Rights Reserved.  From Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  For usage and fees, please e-mail Arnie (at) ZAPphoto (dot) com or contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278 or at  919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. east-coast time.

We go to a Vermont village to explore. There’s a covered bridge that Arnie photographs, showing the patterns of the construction echoed in the shadows.© 2008 Arnold Zann.  All Rights Reserved.  From Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  For usage and fees, please e-mail Arnie (at) ZAPphoto (dot) com or contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278 or at  919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. east-coast time.

I find a small branch of Corkbark Euonymous, splendid in its fall regalia, begging to be photographed.© 2008 Margo Taussig Pinkerton.  All Rights Reserved.  From Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  For usage and fees, please e-mail Arnie (at) ZAPphoto (dot) com or contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278 or at 919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. east-coast time.

The next day, we return to one of our mountain locations. The Columbus Day weekend is over, and the traffic is light. No bloat of buses. In fact, we nearly have the spot to ourselves. There is another assignment for a broad shot. Our new friend finds her vantage point on some well-scoured rocks, worn glassy smooth by centuries of ice during spring melt. We both find it hard to find a secure spot as I show her why and how to set up for an HDR (high dynamic range) photograph. Arnie is amused by our contortions and records it in true photojournalist style. And yes, you do see someone’s bare feet beyond the tripod!© 2008 Arnold Zann.  All Rights Reserved.  From Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  For usage and fees, please e-mail Arnie (at) ZAPphoto (dot) com or contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278 or at  919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. east-coast time.

Dusk settles in, and we head up to the pond where the sky is brilliant. I come over the rise and see some bright leaves against the green of the pond. Fish swim just beneath the surface, causing riffles. Occasionally, they rise for a tasty bug and a ring of concentric circles forms. I photograph it to illustrate complimentary colors.© 2008 Margo Taussig Pinkerton.  All Rights Reserved.  From Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  For usage and fees, please e-mail Arnie (at) ZAPphoto (dot) com or contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278 or at  919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. east-coast time.

Inspired by a gorgeous shot our doctor does of a log in the liquid gold of the reflected sky, I find my own image. While the sun has set, a longer exposure enables us to capture the sky and the magic of light it produces.© 2008 Margo Taussig Pinkerton.  All Rights Reserved.  From Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  For usage and fees, please e-mail Arnie (at) ZAPphoto (dot) com or contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278 or at  919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. east-coast time.

It has been a long day, and the chill is setting in. We pack up everything and head to those same comfy sofas around the same square table. We bask in the glow of the creative spirit we share, sorry that tomorrow is our last day together for this workshop.

After such beautiful weather, it is supposed to rain, and in the middle of the night, I hear it start. It is a gentle rain, one that will intensify the colors without (pardon the pun) dampening our spirits. We start out at a nearby village with a covered bridge, but down in the valley, it is too somber for what we want.

“Let’s head up the hill,” I suggest, and where we were going to turn right, the name of the road on the left strikes a chord in my memory. Sure enough, I have been here before, albeit some years ago. The fog drifts in and out, and the colors are gorgeous. I do a demonstration on setting up for a stitched image. Arnie points her to some fungi on an old stump. I look for patterns in the misty foliage.© 2008 Margo Taussig Pinkerton.  All Rights Reserved.  From Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  For usage and fees, please e-mail Arnie (at) ZAPphoto (dot) com or contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278 or at  919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. east-coast time.

A couple of people who are driving by on the narrow dirt road stop to see what we are doing. We chat, and it is all very amiable and neighborly. A farmer on a tractor waves to us as he hauls a bush hog behind to cut the field above us.

It is time for a break, and we go back down to the village where we find some wonderful, freshly-baked muffins to go with our hot drinks — chocolate, coffee, and fresh apple cider. Our discussions are eclectic and fun.

After our hands have warmed up, we photograph the mill pond and falls from the covered bridge. Before we leave, however, to process images, we stop in to watch the glass blowers demonstrate their craft. There is a new design with a thin bead of glass wrapped around a champagne flute or goblet. It catches my eye as the artisans open the” glory hole” and unknowingly back light a sample flute.© 2008 Margo Taussig Pinkerton.  All Rights Reserved.  From Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  For usage and fees, please e-mail Arnie (at) ZAPphoto (dot) com or contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278 or at  919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. east-coast time.

The private workshop technically ends at noon, but no one is in a hurry to end the fun time we have been enjoying together. We finally end eight hours later. Synergy is a wonderful thing, whether shared among three or among ten or twelve. The inspiration it fosters sparks the creative juices in all of us.

That’s something to remember as you go out and photograph. Go with someone else. It is not always good to photograph in a vacuum. One needs input and feedback. Our students get it from each other, and we get it from them. It’s what keeps us all inspired.

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7 Responses to “Creativity and Synergy”

  1. TBC 10-24-08 at 1:04 PM #

    Dave,

    Everyone certainly enjoyed Ursula. Thank you for sending her to us. I think she had a really great time, if the laughter was any indication!

    We missed you and Les, but I suppose Les’ wedding did take precedence!

    Take care, as always,

    TBC

     
  2. David Robertson 10-21-08 at 11:22 AM #

    Margo:
    I read the blog and felt like I was back there with you and Arnie again. What a beautiful place and what great people with whom to share it. It sounds like you had a good group this time and that my friend, Ursula, requited herself admirably. I can’t wait to get back together with you and Arnie at one of the workshops in 2009. Best wishes from California, Dave

     
  3. TBC 10-20-08 at 2:16 PM #

    Tom,

    Indeed, I checked out the images on your blog, and I have no say, you really succeeded in remembering what attracted you to the scene, then in simplifying and isolating!

    Well done.

    Meanwhile, what fun we all had! We look forward to seeing you all again.

    Take care,

    TBC

     
  4. TomDwyerPhoto 10-20-08 at 1:52 PM #

    Can I pile on with the kudos for a great week in New Hampshire? The inspiration came from all directions, Margo and Arnie of course, in the field and at the house, just looking over the shoulder of our fellow students. The images were truly amazing.

    The inspiration goes on. I was shooting at Letchworth State Park this weekend and I could hear Margo and Arnie speaking to me on each shot.

    I only have a couple up on my blog (blog.tomdwyerphoto.com) right now…however I hope to add a couple more this evening. Everyone’s comments will be welcomed.

    Thanks to everyone.

     
  5. Anonymous 10-18-08 at 7:10 PM #

    What an evening reminiscing with Margo and Arnie, the New England Seminar was the highlight of my summer. The participants, Ursula, Sarah,Cindy,Tom,Alan,Maria and Ginny Mom were an inspiration to me beyond words. Keep up your exceptional photography.

    Hope we meet again.

    The computer expert

     
  6. TBC 10-18-08 at 7:23 AM #

    U,

    You were the life of the "party" and gave so much to others with your infectious smile and sense of humor. Let us know how the images come along for your upcoming exhibit with the Native Indian artist. It sounds fabulous. The palette you found in your various scenes will compliment that southwestern artistry so well.

    Hope you and your family are enjoying your trip and the suggested routes we gave you.

    Arnie and I finally met your wonderful hostess at Shaker Hill Inn B&B. She packed scones for us on the early, early mornings with our private client. We felt as though we were guests, too.

    The comment was along the lines of, "I assume you will not be having breakfast with the rest of us." I can't imagine why she made such a comment!

    One morning, when we allowed ourselves a later wake-up call, the host came in and quipped in his dry, New England sense of humor, "Hmmm, late morning?"

    They both enjoyed you and your family tremendously.

    We look forward to seeing you next time. Can't wait!

    Hugs,

    TBC and Arnie

    P.S. We're dining with Jim and Evie tonight, and I'll pass along your regards.

     
  7. Anonymous 10-18-08 at 6:09 AM #

    i had a blast, I miss you guys already!
    It was fantastic and I am amazed what wonderful pictures we all came home with….big hugs to you and Arnie…and Jim too! OXO, U.

     

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