Continuing education is an important part of any field. A popular quote I’ve heard (I don’t remember the source) is, “if you’re not learning you’re dying.” It seems pretty appropriate. Photography, computer programming, construction, juggling, circus arts—things are always changing and progressing. And for me, the best way of learning is by doing; by getting my hands dirty. Sitting through a lecture is all fine and dandy, but if it’s not followed up right way by doing, then the lecture is pretty much useless. These days, one of the quickest and most convenient ways of getting that hands-on education is through a few, a very few, workshops. Skip Cohen University provides such a workshop.
The SCU Summer Session (formerly known as Skip’s Summer School) is an annual photography workshop that for the last 2 years has been held near Chicago, in Oak Brook. The current format is 2 full-day sessions with 2 instructors (1 per day), and a couple of evening keynote events, plus a Sunday afternoon and Wednesday morning keynote. Additionally, the students tend to put together impromptu photo walks and model shoots after hours. It’s a ton of fun!
The first instructor I chose was Jennifer Rozenbaum. Jen is a boudoir photographer out of Long Island, near New York City. An area that I’m constantly striving to improve in is communicating with a subject and seeing in my mind how best to pose a woman. I don’t want to spend way too much time in Photoshop correcting for issues I should have taken care of during the shoot. Jen is a phenomenal instructor and an excellent person. Let me tell you, there’s nothing better than having somebody sitting there watching you, and saying, “FREEZE!!” as you start to pose the model. You cannot get that from a video or a book. Theory is good; practice is great; practice under an experienced eye is the best. I’m really hoping I can work with Jen in the future.
The other photographer I learned from (in class, anyhow—there was a TON of learning going on!) was Ryan Schembri. Ryan is relatively young, but he grew up on a photography studio, and he’s been processing and photographing weddings most of his life. Ryan has a really great vision and an inquisitive way of looking at the world around him, to see how he can fit his subjects into the environment and create a stunning photograph. Part of Ryan’s philosophy is being able to photograph anytime, anywhere. Look for the great lighting, try to get a very interesting location in that lighting, and make the subjects look their best in that location. And lighting. It doesn’t matter if it’s high noon or the dark of a bar. Bring along some supplemental lighting if need be, and make excellent photographs.
I think between Jen and Ryan, I have a LOT of practice to start doing. Posing women to look great with amazing light in unique and interesting locations, in varying degrees of dress. That’s the goal! I’ve gotten pretty decent at event photography, headshots, and even some family photography, over the years. It’s time to kick it up a notch. And, boy, I feel like a beginner!
We also took some time out to make some photographs after dark down at “The Bean” and then at Buckingham Fountain. That was interesting. Clay Blackmore joined us, and cajoled one of his models for the day into coming out for some more shooting. Here are a couple shots from that walk. It was really great to be able to just get out and play around for a bit, and to have the model there. I highly recommend that type of activity. Frequently.
I had a BLAST!!!! this year, and I met so many more awesome people! And I reconnected with some from the last couple of years, which was great! Facebook is around and all, but man, nothing beats face-to-face! I love me some good hugs!
My advice to you, after the last couple years: whatever your field of interest, be it juggling, car washing, calligraphy, construction—when looking for workshops and seminars, try your absolute BEST to find education that is hands-on and participatory! As I said, videos are okay and all, but having an instructor watching you, offering real-time advice and instruction. THAT is when real learning happens!
Until next time, keep learning!