The Venice Masterclass (in late November) is now concluded, and with it the last of the workshops for 2014. As has become a tradition, here’s the report – and a selection of images and thoughts from the participants. 2015 is looking to be a busy year, and so I’d like to lock in the first sessions for the new year into my calendar. Read on for the report and for more information on the Prague and Lucerne Masterclass in early 2015.
The last Masterclass of 2015 took place in one of the most photographically rich cities I know of: Venice. Yes, it’s full of tourists, but step a little beyond the guidebook and there are plenty of gems to be had. Plus, since everybody is carrying a camera, it’s an extremely photography-friendly place to be. We had the full gamut of weather from Canaletto skies to storms 1.3m acqua alta in Piazza San Marco; of course the most interesting images are always made under the least photographer-friendly conditions!
It turns out the theme of the masterclass was really one of contemplation and precision: most of the time, we worked carefully on tripods and carefully considered placement of every single element in the frame. Overcast days and narrow alleyways made for surprisingly directional – yet soft – light, the kind that results in painterly images. Early sunset meant that it was easy to shoot a darker mood without having to go all night. The first and last days were spent in portfolio review and postprocessing sessions at the University of Venice’s San Servolo island; it turned out to be a tranquil and calm location away from the mad bustle of the Rialto.
As usual, I’m going to let the results speak for themselves – what follows is a series of curated images from each participant’s final portfolio of 10, with some of their thoughts. My objective for the Masterclasses is always two things: firstly, to have everybody come out with better images than they went in with; and of course, to create an environment of enjoyment and leave the participants inspired. We did our best to avoid cliches, and I think for the most part, succeeded. At the end of the six days, there’s always a sense of camaraderie and friendship that lasts beyond the workshop and a little sadness that normal life must resume…but there’s always next time, and it probably also explains the many returning participants.
My own images will slowly be uploaded to flickr and here in the usual form of photoessays once I’ve had a chance to finish the postprocessing…
Thoughts from the participants
Gerner C: In short, the Masterclass Venice was by far the summit of my photographic process ever. Beside enjoying the beautiful and romantic city of Venice, the come together in the spirit of learning and sharing, showed to be an almost spiritual experience for me. The inspiration from the fellow participants and the exquisite guidance by an ever alert and dedicated Ming, I felt myself transcending the limitations and borders I’ve so far been headbanging to cross. The weather was so and so. We didn’t have much sunshine and strong shadows. It was mostly over casted and we even had some rain too. But I learned that almost any weather and light is good. That we can utilise even a silent rain and random street light in the evenings to show moods and feelings that does not come out on a sunny day or any Golden Hour moment. What held me back shooting only in sunlight in the past? The group was a fantastic one. I am convinced all Ming’s WS groups are. The devotion to photography were intense from the beginning and even stronger at the end. It was a very amusing and relaxed group and at times so funny talks and laughter developed that I thought the local Venetians would think we were kind of mad. All of us went through a true photographic conversion from start to end. I felt a certain anxiety in the beginning but at the end of the WS things turned out to be fun and relaxed. At the last day I was totally overwhelmed by the high quality of photography the group shared. Never saw that many unique photos in that short time. It was furthermore very interesting to learn how different we see the same things since many of us actually shoot the same scene but with very different outcome. I came to Venice with the wish to achieve better balance in my images and simultaneously make them more interesting to look at. But certainly and not at least to try to develop and trust the value of my own interpretation of life the way I see it through a camera. Ming advised me to keep concentrating on visual balance around the subjects and leave out non essential stuff from my frames and his support helping me to obtain it was far beyond my expectations. The private shootout with Ming was an unforgettable and priceless experience. It was like having borrowed Ming’s eyes for some time and I felt myself extremely inspired and enriched afterwards. Uplifted and left with far more confidence in myself. At last thank you Ming for being such a share willing soul. Thank you for showing me how to. Thank you being the way you are, a truly outstanding person. Your Masterclass workshops seems to be where the education and the importance of being together culminates and become the two sides of the same coin.
Holger F.: Home again and having done my backups to save our precious work I gratefully want to join the praises you all made in the foregoing mails. This fantastic mixture of hard work 😉 within a wonderful group of inspiring and hearty people will be kept in my mind forever. Thanks to all of you adding this outstanding days to my experiences of life.
A special thank to Ming for his never ending patience and discipline leading this workshop to a great success for all of us. Ming, I greatly admire your educational skills which enables you to transfer – at least a part of – your knowledge to us.
Rudolf F.: Everything said already I could subscribe to as well. I enjoyed the learning experience and the inspiration gained from Ming and all participants. One sad note: It is getting more and more difficult to come home with a picture that is to my satisfaction, the expectations have been raised to a new level. But after all, that’s what we paid for – and it’s good so.
With best wishes to all of you and always good light. Watch the edges!
Michael S.: I only can double what Phil said. I enjoyed every minute and it was great to meet you all. For me it was relaxing and demanding – i learned a lot and hopefully will be able to reproduce that in the future. Thanks again to Ming for his professional and always friendly manner! This and our evenings made it an outstanding week for me. Michael has also written a very humbling and positive report here (in German, but there’s always Google translate)
Phil L.: Thank you all for a highly rewarding week bringing excellent insight and enjoyable company. I feel refreshed as a photographer with new ideas and new ways of seeing. And of course a special thank you to Ming for his expert guidance, workshop preparation and approachable, friendly manner. Spending 6 days purely on photography has been a wonderful indulgence that I will benefit from every time I lift a camera to my eye. Thank you Ming.
Finally: announcing the early 2015 Masterclasses!
Prague, Czech Republic, 6 day program, 9-14 March 2015 (best suited to urban, architecture and street)
Lucerne, Switzerland, 6 day program, 17-22 March 2015 (+/- a day or so; best suited to urban, architecture and landscape)
Duration: 6 days, four practical and two classroom
Tuition cost: US$2,300; $2,600 special bundle including Outstanding Images Ep. 1-5 and Intro to PS Workflow (required, but most participants usually have some or all of these already)
Want to be challenged? Inspired? Push yourself to take your images to the next level? The Masterclasses are aimed squarely at you. They are for the photographer who already understands the fundamentals and is looking at developing their own style, evolving creatively and spending some time with like-minded individuals. The aim is no longer about building core fundamentals by exercises, but to work on vision, the ability to assess and curate one’s work, application of style, postprocessing, and being able to put together a coherent set of images to an objective.
Prior to the course, participants watch the video set (Outstanding Images Ep. 1-5, Intro to PS workflow) to bring them all to a common level; they determine their objectives and prepare a portfolio of 10 images to be reviewed on the first day. I’ve had everything from ‘find style’, to ‘improve landscape work’, to ‘make painterly images’, to ‘learning to see in poor light’ or simply ‘make better images’. We spend the first day in a group reviewing each photographer’s objectives and portfolio, and setting specific things for them to focus on. Throughout the next four days, I’ll spend half a day with each participant and meet everybody at least once (and usually twice) a day for a round of feedback and discussion on the day’s captures. The feedback loop is intense, focused and helps fill in the gaps in one’s toolkit. The final day is then spent back in the classroom with a new portfolio of 10 images: again, we assess and this time, post-process to complete the workflow between vision, capture and output.
This will be the fourth and fifth masterclasses respectively following Havana, San Francisco and Venice; and every time it gets even better; clicking on those links will take you to the previous reports and participant thoughts. I’m continuing to refine the masterclass format to even further improve the balance between focusing on the individual development needs of the participants, whilst allowing space for creative experimentation. What I like about this structure is that it allows for students to be inspired by each other – photography is after all highly subjective – as well as operate at the level that works best for them. And you can do it multiple times because the syllabus is tailored to your needs.
There is an excellent and detailed report from one of my Havana participants, Michael Letchford, here, and a report from the 2013 Prague Making Outstanding Images workshop here.
To book a place for one of the Masterclasses, or for more information, please send me an email. Places are of course limited. I am looking forward to shooting with you!
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