Archive for August, 2014

Almost Flying

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

“I want you to go home feeling like you’ve just been thrown out of a very tall building and just realized you could almost fly and you will make it to the ground safely but shaken.” -Sara Lando, August 2014

And so began our introduction to what surely will go down as my own personal highlight of the summer. Shaken, not stirred.

I almost didn’t go. I’m not a studio photographer, after all. I own several speedlights and a few pocket wizards. I know what the Inverse Square Law means. I can hook up a light stand. And I have a vague notion of how an umbrella might be used to give a Rembrandt look. But beyond those mean basics, I’m pretty lost when it comes to off-camera, manual, artificial lighting.

Truth be known, I’m one of those guys David Hobby once famously referred to, when they averred a purist preference for natural light, as really being scared shitless.

Thing is, though, I’ve had a glimpse through the door.

You can’t read Gregory Heisler’s book and not be blown away by what is possible with a strobe. You can’t read Zack Arias’ brutally honest book and not understand the degree of commitment that crafting – as opposed to simply finding – extraordinary imagery takes. You can’t walk David Hobby’s yellow brick road on – surely one of the more selfless acts in modern photography – and not come away with the realization that amazing photography, constructed, not found, is but an idea away.

I first heard of Sara Lando – a commercial and portrait photographer from Italy – through her work as an instructor at Gulf Photo Plus. Social media is a wonderful thing.

But it was her blog that really gave me the insight that here, truly, was a remarkable woman. A photographer who, early on, threw away the rule book. I like ballsy people.

Alas, Dubai is a stretch.

A summer tour to the States, though? To Baltimore no less? That works.

And so it was. A day of flying, trying not to crash.

My comfort zone is the found photograph. Working the edges with an unobtrusive Leica. One shot, quiet, move on. I tend towards reflection and introspection.

Sara, more than anything else, dumped me out of that comfort zone. She insisted on shaking things up. It was a nervous, anxious, exhausting day. Easily the hardest day of photography I’ve ever had. But one I won’t soon forget.

I loved working with real, professional models. Self-conscious that they might see through me, that I didn’t have a clue?

You bet.

But working with people who, beyond being simply comfortable in front of a camera, also bring their own creativity in collaborating with a photographer in creating a beautiful or impactful image… was a revelation.

I want to do more of that.

Working with my partner-for-the-day, Mai, was an inspiration. How often do you get to work with someone who has set aside their career as an attorney in order to pursue photography full time? Talk about ballsy!

And the public critiques of our two assignments – the core of much of our anxiety during the day – was profoundly helpful. One of the things I love about Sara is that she is bluntly honest. She was respectful, but quickly homed in on what worked and what didn’t. I was amazed at how quickly she sees imagery. Of the nuances she recognizes. The couple hours we spent doing that were incredibly insightful.

The best part, though, was watching Sara, herself, work. How she built her sets. How she worked with her models. How she charged the whole scene with her personal energy. Seeing how she took an idea, a vision, and translated that into an image that took your breath away.

It truly was an amazing experience.