This workshop very nearly turned into ‘how to shoot under atmospheric haze’ – but thankfully the airborne remnants of Indonesia’s forest-clearing lifted at the eleventh hour, and we enjoyed two days of spectacular weather. Even when rain threatened during lunch on the second day, the clouds miraculously lifted. Perhaps it was the collective power of 18 prospectively very angry and disappointed people that did it, or maybe the chicken I sacrificed before driving down. In any case, read on to see what we got up to.
Singapore’s syllabus was a revised and improved version of the Making Outstanding Images framework I used for the USA workshops earlier in the year, and a prototype of what I’ll be covering on days one and two in Amsterdam and Prague later this year. We covered the fundamentals of what makes a good image: a systematic decomposition of the four things* I keep going on about. I’d also have liked to include the exploring style and editing/ postprocessing days, but unfortunately the schedule simply didn’t permit – I had to be back in Kuala Lumpur for another shoot the day after we finished the workshops.
*Light, subject, composition, idea.
We started off with the exploring light and metering session at the top of Fort Canning Park; the participants learned that a) light is incredibly critical, b) metering makes a huge difference to composition, and c) the hill is actually a lot taller than it looked. A lunchbreak was called, during which I looked at some images from the morning and talked about the importance of subject isolation and its various methods, against the nearby background of Clarke Quay. I hope I also managed to cure some of them of their bokeh-addiction, too.
We completed the afternoon downtown around the skyscrapers of Raffles Place – a perfect setting to talk about choosing the right perspective, and how that keyed in to the use of leading lines and natural frames.
Day two began with a blitz exercise: the fun (but of course intensely challenging) kind that I like to set to keep participants on their toes. Fifteen minutes to make five pictures. Seems easy? Yes, but the catch is that you have to imagine you only have those five empty slots left on your card or roll of film; no deleting is allowed. The interesting thing is that when you give people an assignment, they’ll shoot hundreds in an hour – but when you say you can only take five, a lot more thinking takes place, and most people didn’t manage to find all five. A good exercise in shot discipline, to say the least.
We then made our way to Chinatown to talk about balance and the use of quadrants; I filmed a few segments for the upcoming video series (more on that tomorrow) and we repaired to a rooftop on Club Street for lunch and the challenge of composing without the crutch of bokeh.
The remainder of the afternoon brought things together: how to use secondary and tertiary subjects for storytelling; another flash challenge shooting with cameraphones, and the final graduating assignments: open subject, bringing together everything learned during the earlier assignments. More importantly, participants also developed their ability to objectively assess images and realize the value of different points of view in relation to the subjective nature of art/ photography by critiquing each other. We then gave everybody another chance to incorporate the feedback from the group. I was very, very impressed by the level of improvement between the start of day one and the end of day two – everybody managed to up their game significantly. In fact, there were a number of images in the final submissions which I’d have been proud to call my own.
A huge thank you to all of the enthusiastic participants – especially those who flew in – for being great students and also turning up on time to every staging point! I also owe quite a number of people an apology for not being able to accommodate them in this session. Rest assured that I will be back soon, and this time I’d also like to bring days 3 and 4 (exploring style and editing/ postprocessing) along with me. Until next time! MT
The full set of images from this workshop is here on flickr.
One last thing – if you can’t wait and would like to do a workshop in person, I’ve got a final slot left for the Prague session in October due to a scheduling issue with one of the participants. If you’d like more info, please click here, or send me an email. MT
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