This week was fairly monumental for me. For 3 days, I had the great honor of taking part in Cliff Mautner’s Lighting and Skillset Bootcamp workshop in Haddonfield, NJ. I first became entranced by Cliff’s work when I saw him speak at a photographer’s convention in NYC last year. I was completely wowed, not only [...]
This week was fairly monumental for me. For 3 days, I had the great honor of taking part in Cliff Mautner’s Lighting and Skillset Bootcamp workshop in Haddonfield, NJ. I first became entranced by Cliff’s work when I saw him speak at a photographer’s convention in NYC last year. I was completely wowed, not only by his body of work but his approach and personality. But this isn’t a post about my journey from that day to present. This post is about light. It’s about how seeing light in the right way can change everything. Everything.
Cliff, who is both admirably humble and genuinely honest in his approach, makes it quite clear from the start of the workshop that what he is about to teach is not the only way, but that it is simply his way. Honestly, after being taught to see light through his lens, it is hard to imagine that there is any other way. With a remarkable understanding of the difference between “quantity of light” and “quality of light”, Cliff uses it like a brush on canvas making it sometimes hard to differentiate his photographs from a form of fine journalism (or a brilliant wedding photograph) and a timeless work of art. With this in mind, can you imagine my excitement at the opportunity to partake in such learning? In a word, I was totally pumped.
First, just a few words about this workshop in general. Cliff knows how to do it right. He warmly welcomed everyone into his studio and made sure we were well fed and beveraged. He spared no expense on the fabulous models that accompanied us into the city for our days in the field and found ample time to work one-on-one with each and every workshop attendee. He is patient, an open book with his trials and successes, and has a teaching style that allows photographers of all levels to benefit from his wisdom. The things Cliff can teach you in 2 and a half days will absolutely change the way you approach your work forever. I could literally go on for paragraphs about all the details, big or small, that impressed me about this workshop. Suffice it to say, if you’re planning to attend in the future or are considering it, he will more than exceed your expectations and you will walk away a much stronger and confident photographer.
Finally, before going any further, I just have to give a shout to all the amazing, talented and fun-loving attendees I had the pleasure of spending this week with! From Brazil, Tokyo, Mexico, San Fran, Kentucky, Nova Scotia (and as Cliff put it “as far as Pennsylvania”) these photogs were among some of the finest people I’ve yet to meet. I look forward to our continued bond going forward as we all try to incorporate these new ideas into our own unique styles of shooting.
Now for the photos! The following images I shot in Washington Square Park on Tuesday during the time of day when photographers typically run for cover in the shade; harsh, miserable, mid-day sun. I’ll admit that until this week, I was surely one of those photographers. There are so many challenges to overcome in this setting that most photographers would refuse to even schedule a session at this time – let alone embrace it as an opportunity to create amazing images with both depth and subtlety. The subjects in these photos are, in fact, not in the shade. They are in. the. direct. sun. That’s right. Direct, harsh, overhead light. And now? I can honestly say I would jump at the chance to tackle this lighting for any one of my couples. Lunchtime engagement session? Bring it on.
The whole point is learning to really see light. It’s there more often than we think. Not all light is good and not all light is bad. Sometimes it’s in abundance (which is equally as challenging) and sometimes you have to look hard to find the kind you really want. Harness it. Let it tell a story. Let it mirror the emotion the moment delivers. I had forgotten how important it really is and how without it, the world looks flat.
To wrap up, I have two final photos. These photos were not taken in a studio, I shot them outside at 3PM. These shots, for me, are truly the essence of this whole concept. These images remind me of why I fell in love with photography in the first place. And if you really don’t see what I see here, maybe look just a little bit longer. Because I don’t see a bride. I see the kind of beauty and simplicity that I always seek but have struggled to capture before this week. I see drama. Emotion. I see….art.
Many, many thanks to Cliff Mautner for reminding me again why I truly love photography.