This California workshop was originally an excuse to flee from a cold Boston winter.
There were seven of us, in the middle of Carmel, CA, sitting in a circle on a plush white leather couch of an airBnB house. When the afternoon sunlight sliced in, the whole place reminded me of a 70’s Hollywood film set. We’re a group of photographers, a group of strangers, here for "Theory the Workshop." We came here to learn about vital photo skills: technical development, working with models for styled shoots, marketing and editing hurdles, but most importantly, to uncover some truths about our work.
The instructors for this course were Abi, of Abi Q Photography (Oakland, CA) and Brooke, owner of BlushbyB Photography (Salt Lake City, UT). Their portfolio work is primarily wedding photography, but looking deeper, their portrait work exceeds any commercial level and enters a realm of art. To me, Brooke’s work reads like a music staff, and we found out at the workshop that music inspires so much of her deeply emotional work. Abi is passionate about social justice, opening up discussion in her Instagram with the important changes she would like to see in the world.
I found the workshop by first admiring their work online and questioning why it seemed more honest and raw than other photographers I was following. Their work has a wisdom and I wanted some of 'dat.
I swirled my first glass of red wine, lounging on the white shaggy rug of this retro home. I sometimes overcompensate for social discomfort by physically going overboard (I.E. rolling around on the floor). Abi opened with her ice breaker question, something we should be asking ourselves as photographers more than anything else. It's difficult to answer and continued to be for the remainder of the workshop.
"Why are you here?"
In my sixth year in business with photography, I was facing some obstacles around this time. The largest was the not-so-fun but entirely true concept of "the dead season". It was cold outside and the winter was rolling on. No one, including myself (who's a complete ham for the camera) are thinking about portraits. Our skin is dry and barely sun-kissed, there's no excitement for updated wardrobes or really the need to leave the house at all. Like most of my clients, I'd rather be In my living room, burritoed under fleece blankets watching Netflix. But being self employed, I push myself to find things that keep me on top of business during this time: new marketing tips, potential spring deals, updating my website, and YES a warm weather workshop.
There was a hot tub outside on the porch at the house. I stared longingly at it as I rolled around on the rug. I'm a soaker-by-nature gal and even this small pleasure would be my rejuvenation: being outside with the West Coast sun on my forehead. But before basking in this perfect situation, like all things, you had to earn that luxury.
Abi and Brooke dove into the work unapologetically, displaying a whirlwind of slideshows, technical settings, brain-buzzing Q&A's, and taking us to different locations to shadow them on shoots. We got the chance to photograph each other, but the catch was Abi and Brooke would be breathing down our necks. They critiqued our direction and peered over our digital camera screens to offer composition tips and what they would have done differently. Both instructors were inviting but pushy, a perfect blend of professional boot-camp coach and a friend who cares about your success.
It was rigorous. My brain started to go into overdrive, for fear that too much information was coming at me.
It took patience and creative openness to continue the stamina of this workshop to the end. I'm a note taker, so I scribbled as much as possible, hoping that all the information would stick. My favorite part was the one-on-one critique session that took place on a balcony overlooking some majestic mountains. Oh boo, life is horrible. Abi and Brooke gave their impressions of my Instagram feed (which is so fun, please DM me if you want your own read!). They noticed little things about my subconscious photo making decisions that flooded me with joy: like my obsession with color, and that it's acceptable to have oddball photo projects, just hashtag it with #myweirdbrain.
After returning home it took me a week or two to process any of it. But once I did, my intuition took control and I found myself re-ignited and utilizing so much of what was learned at "Theory the Workshop."
Keywords when shooting with models? Got it. Editing tips for Lightroom? Yay, they're still there! Pushing composition and working with difficult lighting situations? Honey, please. It's second nature now. It's like the lessons were instilled in my brain, ready to come out when I needed to use them.
No one is born with technical perfection and the foresight to know what exactly your voice is. The road to finding our own voice is difficult, but there is plenty we can do to learn and nourish our creativity. Dare to ask the questions. Find your tribe and go to them. It will always lead you somewhere breathtaking.
FOLLOW THESE PHOTOGRAPHERS:
Here is a list of my fellow workshoppers' Instagram accounts. Follow them because they are brave and amazing stuff swirls in their artwork:
Kate Thompson : @bettyclicker
Shyla : @5hyla
Carly Romeo : @Twospoonsphoto
Brooke (instructor) : @braillegold
J.Tyler (me!) : @dakotalenoxphoto
Workshop : @theorytheworkshop
April (Friggin' amazing workshop food chef) : @absentkitchen
Alyssa (model) : @alyssmichelle
Jerilyndee (hair & makeup) : @jerilyndee_beauty
Chantel Lauren (dress design) : @chantellaurendesigns