Today I’m putting in a plug for a Raul Touzon workshop being held at the Dragonfly Gallery in Austin, TX. This workshop is called “The Portable Sun” and focuses on creative flash techniques. I’ve attended a Raul Touzon workshop in the past (please read my review here) and highly recommend him as a teacher. The images you see above and below were taken while attending that workshop. We spent some time on “the portable sun” although that wasn’t the focus of the previous workshop.
I’ve messed around with flash techniques (both on and off-camera) enough to know that you can get bogged down in the technical details in a hurry. That’s fine in some situations but there are times when you just need to know enough to make it work. I haven’t attended Raul’s portable sun workshop but based on my previous workshop experience I can say that he strikes a great balance between getting technical (he can go deep if you need to) and not missing “the moment” because you’re fiddling with dials and buttons on your camera and flash. There are times (especially in journalistic photography) when you just can’t get a flash meter out or fire off a series of test shots. The image of the lady in the bar (The Broken Spoke in Austin) was taken spur of the moment — no setup or test shots. You can see that I need some practice…but that’s why we attend workshops.
Go take this workshop. Registration info is here: http://www.dragonflygallerytx.com/workshopraulportable.htm
Here are links to my posts which have some reference to my Raul Touzon workshop experience:
Practice makes perfect as they say. The shot above — which is by no means perfect — was the result of some practice attempts to capture the motion of an Austin Capitol Metro bus as it sped up South Congress Ave toward downtown. I was taking a photo workshop and the main purpose in taking this shot (and a whole series of others like it) was to get better at capturing a subject going by and get it in focus. Of course there were many other considerations like exposure, etc but mainly I wanted to practice the setup and the panning (handheld) of the camera.
I was using “Raul’s Rules for Motion” as I’ve taken to calling them. A few hours before this shot was taken, Raul Touzon had explained to our photo workshop his method for doing shots like this. Here are his rules:
1) 1/15s (or slower) shutter speed
2) Multi-frame mode
3) Pre-focus on subject’s path and turn off auto-focus
4) Shoot perpendicularly to the subject’s motion (ie the line between you and the pre-determined focus point is perpendicular to the subject’s travel path)
5) Follow the subject to get in a rhythm (lock onto its motion) and start shooting before it reaches the point you focused on
For the workshop critique we had to present images straight out of the camera but here I’m showing one post-edit. I played with all sorts of tweaks and settled on this treatment. Here’s basically what I did (all using Lightroom): B+W…some vignette, mild clarity and contrast adjustments, and used the adjustment brush to add a bunch of contrast and clarity to the bus. I added extra clarity to the cross walk lines to highlight them a bit as well. There are some weird streaks in the top of the image — maybe a bird in the frame? Not sure, but it adds to the mystery of all the background blur.
This shot didn’t have perfect execution — I would prefer that the bus was a bit sharper — but I like it anyway. I like the how the cross walk lines lead to the bus and how the circular motion can be seen in the street in the foreground — exaggerated by the 15mm focal length that was used. The bus stands out just like it is supposed to as well. I’ll certainly experiment with this type of shot again.
Other posts (from me) about Raul Touzon’s workshops: https://michaeltuuk.wordpress.com/2010/04/27/my-first-photo-workshop-experience/, https://michaeltuuk.wordpress.com/2011/03/01/raul-touzons-portable-sun-workshop/, https://michaeltuuk.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/zipping-by/
[Update: Some very important edits — mainly a shout-out to Dave Wilson — stayed on my desktop rather than making it into this post. Adding them in the second paragraph now…]
I took a photography workshop this past weekend (my first) and learned first and foremost how much I have yet to learn about photography. Teaching the workshop was Raul Touzon, a documentary photographer who does work for many big publications, including National Geographic. Thought I’d share a bit of my experience here.
The first thing I need to do is call out Dave Wilson and thank him for setting up this workshop and inviting me to it. Dave recently took a workshop with Raul and has been regularly posting images from that trip over the past few months. When he sent out a note saying that a workshop was being held in Austin AND it was very heavily discounted due to a mix-up in dates, I jumped on the opportunity. I’m extremely glad I did. Great learning experience. Great social experience as well — awesome, encouraging classmates.
Raul doesn’t mince words in his lectures and critiques and I got the definite sense that he rankled a few feathers among some students. Admittedly I was scared to death in anticipation of my first critique, and unfortunately I was the last (of 20-ish students) to be critiqued…had butterflies in my stomach for a couple hours. I did find it helpful to sit through the earlier critiques and by the end could predict much of what I would be critiqued on. I thought that Raul kept a good balance between getting in your face and encouraging you — I came away without any emotional wounds 🙂
For our photoshoot on the second day we spent the afternoon inside the Broken Spoke — an iconic Austin country bar and dance hall. We had models to shoot and were to work with the many different light sources in the place and to use off-camera flash when appropriate. We had the following general rules for our shoots:
(1) Use your widest lens — 10-20mm in my case
(2) NO headshots or plain-old portraits — if you’re shooting people make them
environmental shots. Use interesting angles.
(3) NO edits allowed — images presented for critique in front of the class had to
come straight from the camera w/o adjustment or cropping.
These restrictions were quite difficult for most of us — weren’t used to shooting this way at all.
I enjoyed shooting with the models (I can’t ever get my kids to model for more than 3 clicks these days). As the day finished up I approached the young lady in the image above (a customer) and asked if I could photograph her. She was more than happy to oblige and began to tell me about herself and some of the other ladies at the table. This is one of the shots that the instructor picked as keeper-ish out of the 20+ I had to submit. I was shot handheld with the camera in my right hand and the flash in my left.
While no one would describe this shot as “way out there”, it definitely is something I never would have shot before. Wide angle for a portrait? Would never cross my mind. Angled composition? Nope. That half sign in the background? No again. What did the instructor like? Unique angle, foreground of the hands on the menu, menu has the name of the place, the sign adds to the sense of where you are and explains the lighting on the hair, the contrast on the face. The eyes — while normally you want to get those eyes lit the shadows exaggerate the heavy mascara put on for a night of dancing. He explained much that could be improved of course but he pointed out some positive aspects that I could keep in mind for future shots.
I was certainly challenged to approach photographs in a new way. While I need a lot of work to consistently execute what I learned, I have another set of tools and more ways to approach an image moving forward.
Dave Wilson’s site: http://davewilsonphotography.com/
Raul Touzon’s site: http://www.touzonphoto.com/