Good Morning Everybody,
Well, today we head out bright and early to fly into Denver Colorado and then on to Vail for my wedding celebration this weekend at the Lodge At Vail – a gorgeous location.
We've got about four days of shooting, but Sunday is the big day where we be cranking for about 12 hours at 8,000 feet shooting the wedding for some of my favorite clients.
This will be the fourth shoot for me with the family. I photographed the Bar/Bat Mitzvahs of both children several years ago, and photographed the daughter's wedding just a few years ago. This weekend I am photographing the son's wedding. Vail is one of their most favorite places in the country. I was thrilled to get the call to shoot the event for the them.
Anyway, I'll fill you in on Monday. Hey, let's get on with today's post. Here we go...
Food For Thought Friday - Are You Stealing Your Material?
Last Friday I posted a piece about how to be a good student when attending seminars, workshops, and classes. I thought it would have generated a bit more "comment" activity. Thanks to those who did comment, I always appreciate hearing your thoughts and insights. Maybe the article was too long to read, but I felt strongly about it and thought it was an important post. If you want to give it a quick read, you can find it right here.
Anyway, what I learned that week with Rocky Gunn was not the end of the story. Here is the rest of the story. During that week, we had a beautiful couple who was posing for us or rather Rocky. Each of the class was going to receive Rocky's top 50 images for the week. That was like a really BIG thing - we got a chance to take a bit of Rocky home with us so we could study his images, refresh our memories and eventually take our own photography to the next level.
Sure, everybody was shooting over Rocky's shoulder to try to capture the shot. Everybody had their cameras blazing taking photographs of the couple. I remember at one point Rocky found a spectacular location, posed the bride and groom into a beautiful composition. Next, he grabbed a 40mm Distagon lens super wide angle lens and placed it on his Hasselblad.
Wow! In my camera bag I had the identical lens - a $6000 optic that only a few photogs even owned. I quickly attached it to my camera. I watched how Rocky framed the shot. I framed the image identically and I took the shot. I thought, “Wow that shot will make a great sample print for me when I get home.”
Here is the rest of the story. After getting back home, I couldn't wait to get my film off to the lab. It would only be a few weeks till I got the proofs back I was able to see my results.
Anyway, they finally arrived and I started looking through MY (emphasis on purpose) images. There was – the shot – the most beautiful shot that Rocky had done all week. Yes, I was holding a nearly perfect replica of Rocky's gorgeous shot in my hands that I had taken!
My intent was to have this negative enlarged to a 30” x 40” photograph, frame it, and hang it in my studio as the example of MY (emphasis again) work. Don't ask me exactly what happened at this point. Maybe it was my photographic guardian angel sitting on my shoulder whispering in my ear saying, "But David you didn't take that shot. Rocky set it up and you copied the shot. It wasn't your original creative thought. Why do you think making a large wall sized portrait is representative of your work - it's not. It's still Rocky's shot!"
Well, the words my little photographic guardian angel in my head hit me in a profound way. It was at that moment that I realized that I had indeed copied the shot. It wasn't my original idea or composition. It was not my shot at all.
I quietly reinserted the negative back into the negative glassine and placed it back into the envelope with all the negatives from the week. I never printed any of those negatives up for samples. They were filed away. And to this day I have no clue where those negatives are.
If I had decided to make up the samples, I would have been stealing - I guess the correct term is plagiarizing Rocky's work. What credit is that to my own creativity and ability as a wedding photographer - the answer is none. What was important to me that special week was that I learned what Rocky was doing. I was able to take his lessons and let them mix with my own creative juices. That combination of creativity has allowed me to create an image that I could call uniquely my own.
There are lots of students out there shooting over the Masters shoulders. Many students think they are there for the Master to set up the images so they can shoot the shot to what - call it their own for their "portfolio" images. Folks, nothing could be more unethical.
It's not about copying the work of the Master. It's about learning the techniques from the Master, blending and mixing them with your own creative processes, and then truly producing an original work on your own.
My best advice to every "student" reading this is to, with the teachers permission, time sync your camera to his/her camera and shoot wide-angle overall views of whatever they are doing. In my classes, I always give the students a class CD with all the my favorite images I shot from the week. Their time synced overviews with my favorite shots gives them a wonderful learning tool whereby then can revisit the week anytime they want and study any of the shots I've put together.
What an efficient way to ramp up learning if indeed you are trying to emulate the work of somebody you truly admire in the profession. When I was attending classes - back in the film days, we never had that kind of luxury. In today's digital world, every student today has the luxury of learning more quickly, the ability to fine-tune our techniques, and become a much better photographers in your own right if you make the effort.
It's not about copying the master, it's about you becoming a master.
Food for thought--
Hey gang, we've got a plane to catch bright and early today. We land in Denver about 10 a.m. and then head to Vail for Sunday's wedding. I hope the snow pixels are ready to boogie this weekend! I can't wait to get there and get shooting. I'll keep you posted on how things went next week. Until then, have a wonderful weekend and I'll see ya' on Monday. -David