The End Is Nigh

Shawna Leigh at Strangetown Studio, 2017

I decided a few months ago that after some 14 years of photography training, I was going to hang up my virtual board-rubber and concentrate on other aspects of my business – and perhaps some new business ideas as well. This was a very difficult and emotional decision for me but the more I considered it, the more it seemed like the right thing to do.

I began teaching photography at Birmingham Botanical Gardens as a way of earning a few extra quid while studying for my photography degree. As quite a shy person, I didn’t really relish the idea of standing in front of a group of fee-paying students and finding out I didn’t know as much about photography as I thought I did. But contrary to my expectations, I not only really enjoyed teaching, but I knew more than I thought I did, and I continued to learn with every course I taught.

Over the years, in courses and workshops at the Botanical Gardens, mac (Midlands Arts Centre), Stratford College, Solihull College, via Fotofilia and FOTO-CLUB, and at numerous private venues and institutions, I have had literally thousands of students in front of me. It has been a real pleasure and a privilege to watch absolute beginners develop into competent (and sometimes professional) photographers, some of whom I still consider friends. Our journey has taken us through at least 6 studios, too many courses and workshops to count, overseas trips, exhibitions, two successful photography clubs, numerous “copycat” “competitors”, a fair bit of frustration and a LOT of laughs.

So why would I give up something that I have grown to love? Well, there comes a time when other priorities arise, and you realise that what you’re offering is no longer achieving the level of interest that it used to and is suffering from a very crowded marketplace (so many photographers I know have begun to offer training on a more regular basis where they were previously less interested) and a growth in “peer knowledge” where groups of beginners or near beginners come together to “learn” from each other, often at little or no financial cost. Quality, it seems, can be less important than cost and increasingly, people are happy to glean bits of experience from other eager amateurs for free than have to pay the inevitable overheads/salary of full time, qualified professionals. I can understand this and believe it’s an inevitable consequence of the widespread belief that “anyone can be a photographer”.

Also, when many of your workshops rely on professionally-minded models, it can be frustrating to note a significant decline in the reliability of models, both male and female. I’ve been fortunate to have worked with some wonderful models (and non-models) over the years and there is a reason that some are invited back time and again – they can be trusted to show up when a group of paying photographers are expecting them too. Sadly, I have been let down by more and more models at the last minute – arriving up to 90 minutes late or even not at all, calling in sick or suddenly uncontactable shortly before the shoot only to pop up on social media as working elsewhere or out on the tiles. The modelling interface sites like Purpleport and Purestorm are no help in this regard – when I left appropriate feedback on one model’s profile to reflect a last minute no-show, the feedback was removed within 24 hours. It is therefore increasingly difficult to provide a supply of “new” models for workshops without that knotted-stomach feeling of wondering whether they’ll show up.

So, I’ve arranged a few last bits and pieces for FOTO-CLUB early in 2018 and then that’s it. You’ll find these here on the website. I’ll say a proper goodbye to FOTO-CLUB nearer the day but for the moment, thank you.

Helen G in Strangetown

The shoots we’ve done so far at Strangetown Studio have proved what a versatile and inspiring space the studio (and the Telsen building as a whole) can be. On Wednesday 28th June, we’ll once again be putting it to the test when the gorgeous Helen Gibson is the model for our first female “studio evening”.

I’ve been looking forward to this for a while. Helen is one of those models that I’ve been dying to work with and this is a great excuse. There are still spaces if you’d like to join us…

Images below courtesy of Joby Rawlins (left), plus two other photographers (name not supplied by Helen). 

helen g

Gypsy Caravan Shoot With Ivory Flame

There are some shoot ideas that just hang around in your head for years and then one day, the opportunity arises to make them a reality. Such was the case with the forthcoming FOTO-CLUBGypsy Caravan Shoot With Ivory Flame“. Ever since I first worked with the wonderful Ivory Flame a few years ago, I’ve thought “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to do a gypsy-themed shoot with Ivory Flame and a traditional horse-drawn gypsy caravan…”.

And then, as if by magic, when looking around the beautiful house and gardens that were to be used for the “Luxury House Fashion Shoot” a few months back, there, at the end of the huge garden… was an original, authentic gypsy caravan. Suddenly it fell into place and I quickly asked the owner if it would be possible to use it for a shoot.

There was only ever one model I wanted for this. Ivory Flame. The epitome of ethereal and natural “English Rose” beauty with a bucket of Pre-Raphaelite influence and a hint of Celt thrown in.

I look forward to posting the images here soon, but there are still spaces if you’d like to join us. The venue’s address will be revealed once you’ve booked but it is near Lapworth, Solihull.

GYPSY smaller

“Urban Ballet” Comes Home

The FOTO-CLUBUrban Ballet” shoot seems to have become something of an annual institution and happily, this year we’re continuing the tradition. However, we finally have our OWN perfect venue for this shoot – the new Strangetown studio and the many stairwells and corridors around the Telsen building.

As usual, the main dancer/model is the wonderful Emilie Walt, my “go to” model for dance-themed shoots, and Penny (a friend of Emilie’s). There are still a couple of spaces so get in touch if you fancy joining us.

URBAN BALLET 2017

Six Of The Best From Ten Of The Best

Every couple of years, the photography club(s) I run (now called FOTO-CLUB) stages an exhibition but I decided to do something different in 2016 and opted instead for something that became known as “the book project”.

Club members were offered the opportunity to each submit a series of six themed images and ten brave souls rose to the challenge. Some of the group attended my five week evening course called “The 6 Pic Project” to guide them in the development of their submission. The result is a wonderful 8″x 8″ softback book which was launched officially at the club’s December meeting at the 1000 Trades bar, just over the road from the studio. Club member Andrew Crawford is responsible for superb design finish of the book.

I think the book was a very welcome and inexpensive alternative to our usual exhibition and so I anticipate us doing it again next year. We were given an excellent printing deal by Dunns in Cradley Heath and I’d like to thank them once again for their support. Dunns were so pleased with the book that they chose to display it at a recent trade show. But most of all, I’m incredibly proud of the club’s photographers for their excellent work.

Rapid Descent

Every time I’m doing a Photoshop demo for my students, I like to dig out an image I haven’t used before if possible, just to keep it a bit “fresh” for me as much as anything. This week, I trawled one old hard drive and found a very static image of the lovely Bethanie Stokes which I’d taken during a workshop in Digbeth, Birmingham, a couple of years ago.

I used this image to briefly demonstrate the “quick selection” tool and a couple of the motion filters, settling on the “motion blur” filter to give an impression that Beth was rushing down the steps, sliding the hands down the handrails as I used to do as a  kid. All done in about four minutes so not the finest piece of editing I’ve ever done but for once, I decided to save the image at the end of the session rather than delete it. I kinda like it.

Roseanne

I’m very much looking forward to photographing the gorgeous Roseanne this Monday on the FOTO-CLUB “Special Studio Evening“. It will be the last studio evening for quite a while and I’m hoping that if the weather permits, we’ll shoot for a while outside in the yard at the back of this studio. Keep watching for images…