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Monday, June 28, 2010

Heartshop Review + more rambling + pretty pictures...

Oh my gosh, could I be any wordier? Again, this is a post for photographers, but scroll down (way down) if you are just interested in seeing the pictures.

So, remember when I rambled on about education, and then when I rambled on about my heart? Well, this year's quest has been to find my heart in my work, through education. I'm taking many approaches since I am not the person who says, "self, what do you love?" and I can clearly tell you. No, I am the person who says, "this, and this, and this, oh, but this too" and I just never get anywhere with that many answers. So I needed to find focus.

I want to preface this saying this is a candid review. I absolutely adore and admire both workshop presenters, and I in no way intend for this to be a negative review, but an honest one.

When Becky Earl and Yan announced a Heartshop, I thought that it would be another good resource for me. First of all I am in LOVE with their styles, and their respective voices. Could there be a better thing? I hmmed and hawed for a few minutes, texted a buddy, she said I should do it, and since I love me some validation, I decided why not. I didn't know if it would be amazing or not. I love both of their styles, but from time to time I see things that I know could be improved technically (hey, I'm not going to nit-pick...they're more technically correct than me, of that I'm sure), but what I did know was that every time I looked at their images I sighed in happiness, and then crawled into a hole feeling sad for myself since I don't produce images that have that much heart. Maybe they could teach me a thing or two about shooting with my heart?

-Two day workshop in Provo, UT
-June 4 and 5
-$825, including three meals

The claim?
-"A two day exploration of who YOU are as a photographer" with the focus being on helping us discover what makes our "hearts beat fast, goose bumps rise, and passion ignite." Helping us find our "unique photographic voice."

What I expected/hoped:
I hoped that they would help me navigate my heart a little more clearly. I was a little worried that it would be more for brand-new photographers. Although I still consider myself relatively new, I have been around the block and feel pretty darn comfortable technically with my camera.

Were my expectations met? Yes and no.

My thoughts:
Overall it was a good experience. Becky and Yan worked REALLY hard to put this heartshop together, and even put up an online forum ahead of time so that the attendees could get to know one another. This was nice, although I was so busy ahead of time that I just didn't have the time to get on and get to know the other attendees. I was a little surprised to show up and find out there was such a BIG group of people in such a small space (I think the small space made the group feel even a little bigger). But all the attendees were really great and I enjoyed getting to know them. When we got there, there were these adorable hand-made bags full of goodies and a workbook that went over everything we'd talk about during the presentations. I thought that was a really nice touch. And nice to have something to refer back to.

We started out talking about their journeys. Becky got teary-eyed, and Yan was adorable with this huge baby-belly that I just found myself in awe over. They both had stories I could relate to. We played a little 'ice-breaker' which was fun, getting to know the girls at my table a little more. They were sweet hearts. After we talked about journeys and did all the intros, we went over the basics with technical shooting (how ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed relate, reading a histogram, etc.) We spent a good while on this, and while I didn't feel I needed this at all, there were several that did have questions on this aspect of photography. I felt like we went into more detail than I would have liked since I already understood all of this, however, I understood that it was important for others to have their questions answered. Becky and Yan did work hard to keep us on track. And I did end up learning how they shot, which is different than how I've traditionally used my camera. It was interesting, and something I played with during the shooting portions of the workshop. I'm not 100% convinced it works for me, but I do like my exposures better, they just have more grain. Still figuring out if I'll change the way I shoot.

We had lunch and then the chaos of breaking up and shooting began. The group shooting was fairly organized (I was truly impressed...they brought in a TON of models and did have a good rotation schedule, although it did get messed up at one point and my group (and I'm sure another) missed out on shooting one of the sets of models, which I was bummed about). There were four stations and they brought in two mentors to help out. The idea was that we would be guided by our mentors in helping us see new ways of shooting, or just doing what we wanted and trying new things. There were stations for different types of lighting, but it was primarily urban and natural light studio locations.
I was with Becky first and she mostly just let me go off and try my own things. I would have liked a little more help (really wanted more instruction on SEEING the light, and camera tilts and angles), and the time I asked her to come help me she did run off to do something else, and I never did get her help. I was a little disappointed, because I really would have valued her feedback. I think that perhaps she might have though I was comfortable and wanted to give me the freedom to explore. I did end up just trying some new things on my own, and was happy with what I got.
When we shot with Yan, I felt almost opposite in that she was doing her own thing, and I didn't really have room to get in and try the shot from the correct angle. However, it wasn't a bad thing since I was able to see how she did it, and it was interesting.
After shooting we met together again and had dinner and then went over what worked and what didn't. For some reason I felt very intimidated to say anything. I was afraid I was going to sound really rude, and I didn't feel mad about it, but didn't know how to word it without hurting feelings. So I just let it slide. I think it came out from another person and we talked about what we'd like to see the next morning. We all agreed that we wanted to see the way that they shot so that we could have a better idea of what we are doing wrong. :)
The next morning they took us all up to a gorgeous meadow to shoot in and split us up into two groups and we photographed families. I was put in Yan's group and I loved watching her photograph this family (my images below). It was fascinating to see how she interacted, and the angles that she would shoot from, as well as the lens choices for certain situations. I found that some of things she did was already what I do, and some very different. I felt like I did learn a lot from this set up.
During this session, Yan pulled me aside and said some things to me, and I was grateful for her noticing that I was struggling getting some things out of myself, and for making the effort to talk with me for a minute, one-on-one.
After this we went back to the studio, had some lunch and finished talking about branding, identity, structuring your portfolio, and ended again with shooting from the heart. (Side note: the food was beyond amazing.)

In the end, I didn't get the a-ha moment I would have loved to have during the Heartshop. In fact, I felt like I left the workshop a little confused. But I don't consider that a bad thing. It made me think about things. I'm still thinking about things. What direction I *really* want to take my business, and my art, instead of just what other people have classified me as, or told me I should do.

Would I recommend this Heartshop?
Yes, I would. But if you are technically accurate, or very comfortable, I think you need to adjust your expectations to realize that will be part of the time taken (as well as a lot of the feedback during the shooting). I thought perhaps we'd have more talk time or activities that helped us find our hearts, but after it was done I realized they were coming at this from a different angle than I'd thought they were. This did not leave a bad taste in my mouth in any way. I still felt it was a good experience, and the fact that I left re-thinking my approach was what I ultimately wanted to leave doing. So, goal accomplished!

Now, since I have so many images from the Heartshop, I've decided to break them up in several posts. Today I'm showing you what I felt fulfilled my heart most. The field, the sun, the relationships. This is me. I love green. I love nature and how it relates to who I am, who we are. I love back-lighting. I love little girls with long hair. I love pathways and trails and trees.

P.S. I just got a new computer, so if my coloring seems off, please email me and tell me what you are seeing (joannataylorphotography at gmail dot com).


tiffcady said...

I love how you always capture the eyes and make them stand out and pop. I think it tells a story in it's self :)

Joanna Taylor said...

Thank you so much Tiffany! You just made my day!

caitlynrose said...

The strawberry baby... I want her. Tiffany is right, you do an amzing job with the eyes and the spirit there. I love checking in on your pictures even though it makes me regret living so far away!

Joanna Taylor said...

Kat, I have this incredible idea: a business trip to Australia. Yes?

Diana said...

hi joanna, i think this is a great and honest review of the heartshop, and i thank you for your detail and candor. it was fascinating and extremely helpful.

i love your images you got of the Lamonts. i'm pretty sure i love them more than my own! you rocked the backlight on the second fam shot, the connection between the dad and his little girl kills me, and the joy you got in the "let's make 'em all lay down like puppies," is so impressive.

thanks for sharing so much.

Joanna Taylor said...

Thanks Diana. You know I adore you.