Hello Friends and Family,

Link to this year's index by clicking here.

Travel & Stock Photography

Another trip to Santa Fe and another fabulous class. This one was taught by Neil and Susan Silverman who travel the world taking superb pictures and selling them, mostly as stock photography. For those of you who don't know, stock photography is a marketplace where photographers supply photos for magazines, brochures, textbooks, advertising, etc.

When they are shooting in the U.S., they travel in a custom vehicle — a four-wheel-drive flat-bed truck fitted with a camper shell. They say they are able to go farther from paved roads than anyone else before they get stuck.

On the doors are stickers with their business name, "N & S Septic Tank Service". And you thought they were photographers? Of course they are — but if they traveled in such a vehicle with "Neil and Susan Silverman Photographers" painted on the doors, they would attract the attention of anyone interested in walking away with some expensive photographic equipment. No one even wants to park next to the N & S Septic Tank Service truck!

Before we could go out shooting pictures, we had to learn the first lesson of Silverman photography. They gave each of us a 35 mm plastic slide mount attached to a string so we could wear it around our necks. The purpose was to use this "viewer" to visualize the shot and to evaluate multiple positions and formats and focal lengths prior to lifting the camera to our eyes. Too often we get anxious to take the picture — knowing that we can always fix it in Photoshop. However, even Scott Kelby (the famous Photoshop guru who was also teaching this week at the Santa Fe Workshops) agrees that the better your image from the camera, the better the result after Photoshop. Get the image right then enhance it in Photoshop. It takes a bit of getting used to — but it really works.

With that lesson under our belts, we went out Monday afternoon shooting photographs at Santa Fe's central plaza. They wanted us to use what they had talked about in the morning, such as looking for interesting parts of buildings, catching moving vehicles, approaching strangers to ask permission to take their picture and using your "viewer". Requesting permission is a challenge if you've never done it before — but necessary since photographers need signed "model releases" before we can sell an image.

They told us a story of a photographer friend who took a great beach sunset shot with a couple holding hands looking at the setting sun. Because they were at a distance and not the primary subject of the shot, the photographer had not gotten a model release. The picture turned out great and was licensed by his stock agency and published. However, it turned out (as you may have already guessed) that the couple were having an affair. Normally, you could not have identified the individuals because they were facing away from the camera but, in this case, the guy was wearing a distinctive sweater that his wife had made for him. See you in divorce court! Of course he sued everybody.

Also, one of our objectives this week was to do what the Silverman's refer to as "extreme photography" — by which they mean get an different angle, vantage point, close up, etc. — something in the photograph that will grab the viewer and say "look at me". In the photo of the kids below, I was on my stomach, trying to be extreme — and I think the extra effort was rewarded.


I did obtain parental permission to photograph the kids in this week's LAHP but I confess that I didn't get model releases — they seemed a little young to be signing anything — so these are not for sale. Obviously, if I'm going to capture such wonderful shots in the future, I have to get those model releases regardless of the age of my models (parents would sign).

On Tuesday, we were up bright and early for a 7:00 AM shoot at the local Farmer's Market. Neil and Susan wanted us to deal with the difficult lighting conditions early in the morning. It was a challenge but one with interesting results. The shot at the right was serendipitous. I was shooting the arrangements of corn when a shadow appeared on the end of the tent used at one of the stalls. Unplanned. Interesting. Shoot it before it's gone.

The photo at left captured one of the cutest little farmer's daughters you could ever hope to encounter. When we first arrived, she was quite reluctant and shy — she really didn't want her picture taken. However, the Silvermans have a lot of experience in dealing with prospective models and Neil's patience with this one was richly rewarded. She finally warmed up and engaged with us. Some of my classmates even coaxed her to pick up a camera and turn the tables on the photographers.

Wednesday we went to an outlet mall during the midday sun. An outlet mall? Yes, an outlet mall. The purpose of the trip was twofold — first to deal with the light directly overhead which is one of the toughest lighting situations that a photographer faces — and second to photograph Tasio, a young man that Susan and Neil had met at the mall previously and who agreed to model for us.

In the scene to the right, my eye caught the long shadows, bright clouds and beautiful Western blue skies in a corner tower at the mall. A bit of whimsy shows in the positioning of the shot so that the cloud might also appear to be smoke coming out of a chimney. A little ambiguity to increase the visual interest.

Tasio was a delightful subject with an interesting face and physique. He was so wonderfully patient with us as we asked him to walk this way and that, turn his head left or right, look up, look down. In this shot, we were working with light under an overhang augmented by a reflector. I guess it is possible to get good photos at noon.

Wednesday evening we went to Cerrillos — a small, almost deserted town outside Santa Fe. In the 1870's, it began as mining town and is little changed since then. The light was bad because of heavy storm clouds with occasional lightning flashing in the distance. We struggled to get a photo, any photo under these light conditions. As we were wondering about, I spotted a light in the rear of this building. So I checked my "viewer" in several different positions and focal lengths and was about to try and capture an image when I saw someone inside move. I didn't realize there was anyone there. Of course, I did not shoot it but the person turned on the exterior decorative lights which I did capture.

Next on the agenda was a trip to the small town of Madrid where we visited a funky little bar called the Mine Shaft Tavern. Certain nights entertainment is scheduled — on Tuesdays, it's belly dancing. There were a number of local women and one man who have some schooling in belly dancing and who danced for the bar patrons.

Do I need to tell you how bad the light was? There were colored spotlights that illuminated the dancers if they were forward on the stage but beyond was mostly shadows. I found that I had to set the ISO (equivalent of film sensitivity) to 1600, my camera's most sensitive setting. I also had to open the aperture and slow down the shutter. It was so slow, I could not hold the camera still enough for a sharp image. Finally, I surrendered and set the shutter speed even slower, intentionally trying to capture blurred but interesting flashes of light and movement. In the end, I got the shot shown here— only to realize that is what Neil and Susan wanted us to discover. Duh! It took me a while but now I got it!

On Thursday, we went to the Eaves Movie Ranch. This is a western movie set that was used to film, among other things, The Cheyenne Social Club with Jimmy Stewart & Henry Fonda and directed by Gene Kelly (yes, that Gene Kelly).

Again, we were confronted with the harsh midday sun and again the diffusers and reflectors saved the day (don't sound nearly as impressive as "the masked stranger with the silver bullets saved the day").

The star was JC, the horse shown here. You can tell by his expression that he knows he's the star and upstages everyone including our host, Thomas. For that reason, I called this photo, "JC and His Cowboy".

But in reality you can't be the star unless you put on a great performance — which he did as captured in this image.

We had four models/actors portraying western characters with very authentic costumes and accessories. I went "extreme" for this photo with a surprisingly good result.

Pictured here are three of the local townsfolk. They were all very much into character and very proud (and rightly so) of the authenticity of their period clothing, firearms, spurs, etc. They were also quite happy to accommodate our requests for poses. Great fun!

On Friday, we were scheduled to photograph a Native American man that the Silvermans had encountered at Starbucks. He agreed to model for us, asking only for a photo with his bow. Larry Littlebird proved to a be one of those rare individuals who impacts everyone with whom he comes in contact. You see, Larry is a story-teller — a spiritual story-teller — who deeply impacted each and every one of us in the class.

Our cameras captured the dignity and strength of this rare individual but his spirit captured our hearts. My meager contribution was to try and capture his hands — because his hands spoke as loudly as his voice — a very special man with whom we were tremendously privileged to spend time.

Thank you, Larry Littlebird.

As I mentioned in the issue documenting my first workshop in Santa Fe, each instructor assembles a slide show set to music, featuring the work of the students. Click here to see the slide show.

One final note. You'll recall that in my previous class I encountered a classmate/new friend who very much resembled an old friend. I know you'll be skeptical (as well you should be) but it happened again. Armando, a young man with family roots in New Mexico going back 400 years, resembles my old friend from Lanai, Larry. I shared Larry's website photo with Armando and he saw the resemblance as well. Santa Fe is a magical place but I would not have expected such magic even once — and now I have experienced it twice.


Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com