Vienna Street Photography Workshop: Eric kim

I had been wanting to go on holiday for a long time.

Three and a half years to be exact.

So when Nick suggested we attend one of Eric Kim‘s European street photography workshops I was really excited.

I had never really tried my hand at street photography. I was a little apprehensive about how well I would do on the course. I needn’t of been. Eric explained, on the first evening of the course: we were there to build confidence and learn new techniques. Not to take the best picture of our lives in that one weekend.

Our base for the weekend was Hi-Pe.at. Martin, the founder of Hi-Pe.at, was also taking part on the workshop. He was such a friendly and welcoming person, he even hosted us for the weekend. It really made the weekend special for us. We were made to feel completely at home. On arrival Martin was kind enough to host a Campari Soda reception with nibbles. He also gave us all a small pack containing a map, water, Manner biscuits (which I am now obsessed with!) and a rain poncho. The welcome made me feel really comfortable ready for the tasks ahead. Hi-Pe.at is located in Neubau, Vienna’s 7th district. Which is, I have on high authority, Vienna’s coolest district. In Eric’s (approximate) words it was full of ‘hipsters with cool hipster beards and hipster coffee’. I even got a ‘hipster cola’!

The first evening consisted of orientation and getting to know each other. Aside from mingling, this was done through a critique of each others photographs. Now, beforehand we were asked to send over three photographs to Eric for the purposes of critique. So I am not sure why I didn’t expect to stand up in front of the group.

But I didn’t.

I needn’t of worried. I genuinely couldn’t of picked a more lovely set of people to take the journey with. On reflection, the reason I did worry about the critique, is that I usually only show my work via the internet. I nearly never get face to face feedback. Looking at each others work, we were invited to say what we liked alongside what we might like to change. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to shoot alongside some really talented people. Doubly so to have had their honest opinions on my work.

We had a short break before discussing our assignments for the next day. Martin kindly came round a bottle of wine for us all to have a glass. Since I had researched Vienna before our trip, I knew there were several vineyards around the city limits. I ventured to ask if the wine was local.

“You have no idea how local,” Martin replied with a smile, “my sister makes it!”

It’s the small details like this that really bring me joy.

We continued on and Eric gave us a brief overview of some composition techniques commonly used in street photography. We focused on the golden triangle. For this you envisage a diagonal line from bottom corner to opposite top. Then a line at a 90degree angle shooting off the diagonal around the first of third, third of the image. The point where the lines intersect is where you place the main focus of the image.

This is a rough idea of what it would look like. Don’t measure my angles. because I haven’t!

golden Triangle

Then we were given our assignments: Street Portraits.

In Austria, along with several other European countries, there is a law that protects a person’s right to their own image.  Taylor Wessing discusses how this is at odds with a photographers freedom of expression. The law means, if you takes someone’s photograph, you cannot publish it without their consent. How this applies to photographer’s work that is either personal/non commercial or amateur (ie only publishing on social media and not making any money from the image) I wasn’t 100% sure. But I wasn’t about to test the waters on that one.

The way in which Eric gave us our assignment prepared us to not only avoid this issue but to also to concur our fears. We were to approach people and ask them if we could make their portrait. Our goal was to get as many No’s as we did Yes’. Eric then gave us a few pointers on how to approach the initial conversation, diffuse potentially awkward or confrontational situations. Eric, for those of you who’ve not met him in person or over on his YouTube Channel, graduated charm school, with honours. Before I met him myself, I did often wonder “Who is this Eric Kim guy Nick keeps going on about?!”. But now I know!

The next day we were paired up and sent out! I got paired with a gentleman  named Andi, who lives just outside Vienna. It was really great to have been paired up with someone who knew the area. While walking between locations, looking for subjects, Andi made sure to point out all the places of interest and let me know a bit of history too.

We delved into our task with vigour. The first person I asked was my first yes!

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© Katherine Broadbent

P. was a really friendly man and was more than happy for me to test out my skills at making his portrait. He also spoke English (I speak only a small amount of German) which made things easier. I saw him stood between the light and shadow on the street and I just had to capture him. I then asked for his email so I could send him the photos and get his permission to use the photo on my social media and blog. I was really flattered to hear he loved the photo. Especially as he told me he always hated the photos of himself.

After a couple of hours shooting Andi and I met back up with Eric for some one on one time. Eric chatted to us about how we were finding the assignment. We then all walked around together and Eric gave us so me more coaching on chatting with the people we met.

I have a lot of trouble with regulating my mood. Those of you who read my blog regularly will know that I struggle with my mental health. I got so swept up in all the excitement that by lunch time I had a crash. I know when it starts.

My mind starts getting muddled and I can’t remember things.

We ordered lunch but I couldn’t focus on the menu. Then I couldn’t even remember what I ordered. I suddenly felt very far away.

I was worried how I would come across to people I just met and who didn’t understand what was happening. I don’t even understand it! To make matters worse, when it happens, I find talking difficult. If I talk about what’s happening I tend to get hysterical. So I put a bit of mindfulness into practise and sat an observed the conversation.

And took some photos.

We met up with the rest of the group. I got a bit more upset still. I had a mild panic and cried a little (hid it behind my sunglasses). It’s not that I don’t want to open up to people about what’s happening. My emotions get extreme and I “overreact” sometimes. I get hysterical about things that, before and after the meltdown, I see as really inconsequential. It’s really difficult for me to explain how I sometimes cry as if something truly terrible and heart-breaking has happened. When actually the thing that’s happened (and sometimes nothing at all happens) is something as trivial as not being able to focus enough to read a menu.

I was there to meet people and learn. I was not there to have one of my frequent ‘melt downs’ that so often threaten to ruin my days. Time was precious and I knew that in one hours time I was going to be fine. Back to my calmer self. As if it had never happened. Talking about it, in that moment, was only going to make it worse and/or last longer. In any case, Nick was there for me. He understands that I have my ‘moments’ sometimes. He knows how to deal with it perfectly; he checked I was okay and gave me a reassuring hug then we chatted about how our mornings shooting had been. I could see that a couple of people in the group had noticed I was upset, this made me love them all the more! I kept focused on the sights, sounds, smells and textures around me and the low point passed.

Then we got back out on the street!

The next lovely person I met was S.

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©Katherine Broadbent

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©Katherine Broadbent

I saw S. walking with a friend in the street. The effortless coolness of her style instantly made me want to make her portrait. Eric also tasked us with making conversation with our subjects. By engaging with someone in conversation we can capture un guarded looks and moments.

Overall I learnt a lot on the course that I can now practice and apply to my work in the future. Eric was a fantastic teacher. I did have a few personal problems that I need to work on in my own practice as a photographer.

One thing in particular I found difficult was getting close up to people. Eric tasked us with getting really close up to our subjects, within an arms length. I tried so hard. But I couldn’t do it. I find getting that close into a strangers personal space. And in extension having my own space encroached upon. Incredibly difficult. I don’t enjoy it but I think it is worth while challenging myself to try it.

As I couldn’t get that close to strangers I snuck up on Nick instead ;D

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©Katherine Broadbent

I would highly recommend a workshop with Eric Kim. I would recommend it to those with no experience and those who consider themselves Street Photography Pros alike. Eric is a really inspiring teacher and all round awesome human being. I don’t think I shot my best work on while on the course. But that wasn’t the point. Thanks for the good times and the memories!

Stay tuned for my next post about the rest of our Vienna trip!

Reflections: Michael Kenna

We’ve just booked our tickets for The Photography Show 2016 at the NEC, Birmingham. This gave me the sharp reminder I needed, that:

A. I’ve not written up my thoughts and reflections on last years speakers.

&

B. I’ve not blogged for a very long time.

“I was there.”

Michael Kenna @ The Photography Show 2015, March 22.

Michael Kenna is an incredibly inspiring photographer with a unique and creative style. Regardless of whether or not you’re into landscape photography I would recommend taking a look at his work either on-line, in print or, if you have the opportunity, at a gallery, book signing or talk.

I’d like to share with you a few reflections I’ve had after listening to him talk about life, philosophy and photography.

Kenna introduced the talk as his life story told through his photographs. He touched on how our experiences in early life directly effect our later years. Speaking firstly on the development of his style, Kenna explained how growing up as part of a working class family in an industrial area influence what he found beautiful. Kenna spoke of searching for ‘less grand’ landscapes. After coming from such a built up and busy environment Kenna sought out calmer environments and less complicated vistas. Secondly Kenna spoke of being one of six children. Coming from such a bustling household he described how he lived in his own imagination and learning discipline through solitude and thought at school. When taking photographs later in life Kenna spoke of walking alone to absorb the atmosphere of a place; a continuation of his childhood meditations. During his time as a photographic assistant he found his best work was achieved when he was out walking the dogs.

Themes, informed by Kenna’s meditative style, shine through in his subjects and composition. He explained he often looks for an ’empty stage set’, of not filling the whole frame and letting your imagination fill the space. Searches for not only lines and graphic shapes but also visual questions, memories and traces of what was left behind. An example Kenna highlighted was  ‘Upset Chair’.  The chair is one of the ‘marks we leave behind’. He went on to explain ‘Once you know, you loose interest.’; so he strives to keep the mystery.

On long exposures: Kenna explains how this process reveals ‘What was there, but not seen. What you feel, not what you see’ enabling us, as photographers, to create ‘pictures our eyes cannot see’.  He went onto explain how, during the long exposure process, we can use the time to become grounded in our own reality. Kenna highlighted how a photograph is a visual record of a moment when ‘You are there and you are experiencing it. You had a conversation with an amazing landscape.’ He went on to say how photography is a path to having a conversation with the world. Later he talked about how each photograph we take has it own history. That the photo itself may not be as good as the experience of getting it was. Kenna shared with us about his time spent shooting in Hokkaido, Japan. He explained that he only captured a successful image on the third visit. Kenna describes a photographer, not as an author, but as a part of an equation.

A topic I feel we can all relate to, as photographers, is being unsatisfied with our own work. Kenna described how, no matter how good his images were, he felt they could always be slightly better. This is perhaps on of his motivations for revisiting the same sites, year after year, to completely study and truly connect with a location. Kenna explained that how we view the world is informed by our own individual history. He went on to talk about how we must always push ourselves to find our own unique angle in our photography, through making a personal connection with the world around us.

I’d like to leave you with a two quotes, which I found particularly inspiring, from Michael Kenna during the talk:

On capturing a moment:

“Those sheep were there.

I was there.

It happened.”

On the experience over the photograph:

“If it breaks, who cares?!

If there was no film in the camera who cares?!”

Behind The Scenes: Still Life

Last month I was lucky enough to win a social media competition through The Photography Show. It was one of those, “subscribe and like this post on Twitter” deals and I ended up winning a paper backdrop from Creativity Backgrounds (you can also find them on Facebook & Twitter @cibackdrops) in a colour of my choice.

I found their website was easy enough to use and their prices reasonable, a 1.35 metre wide by 11 meter long roll (4’5″ x 36ft), 140 gsm is £26+VAT and delivery. They also do an offer where when you buy 3 rolls and you get a 4th roll free. If I need to buy backdrops in the future I will defiantly go to them first. The colour choices are all marked with their CMYK equivalents so it’s really easy to look up the closest Pantone; ensuring you really understand the colour you are purchasing. As we photographers all know too well, the colour represented by our screen and the colour in real life can be very different! I chose Silver Birch which is a soft grey with undertones of purple.

Now being new to using back drops I don’t have a background stand/support system. Creativity Background do stock one on their website but at £170+VAT it was too steep an investment to make straight away. I had no idea how I would get on with the product and, at the moment, I am not making money from my photography. Initially I thought I would  use a clothes runner rail. The one I had in the house was too short, so I improvised with some Ikea shelves, a stack of magazines and my linen basket!

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Again you might notice I don’t have any studio lighting… so I improvised with a floor standing desk lamp! And there’s no way I can afford an assistant; so the cat stepped in 😉 The set up was a bit of a faff so I would recommend buying a portable background stand if you are going to be using backgrounds regularly as I can imagine using one to be so much easier. And it’s a must if you are shooting with models as you will need a secure system that is taller than your model!

After some arranging, re-arranging, adding and taking away props; here is the resulting image.

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© Katherine Broadbent

This image is pretty much as was captured in camera. I made a couple of adjustments to the white balance and removed a couple of marks in post process. The blur/bokeh is down to my Helios 44-2 58mm lens. A brilliant, and very popular, vintage lens that creates lovely soft, swirly bokeh. I picked mine up on ebay for about £35 and the adaptor ring was about £5. My camera body was of course my trusty Nikon D300s. No longer available new, sadly, but it has been recently replaced by the D500. Which I’m not lusting after, after seeing it at The Photography Show 2016… honest 😉 Okay maybe just a little bit!

With the backdrop I really loved how it reflected and reacted to the different light levels creating a variety of tones across the image. As it’s 11 meters long I didn’t have to worry if I marked or damaged it as you can just cuff off any damage and still have plenty left to play with.

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© Katherine Broadbent

This second edit was created using the Mextures App, I emailed the image to my iPhone and added the textures and filters. It’s a really cool app and I have a review coming soon.

Initially I had the idea that I wanted to incorporate vintage glass in the composition. With that in mind I went hunting for items of different heights, colours and texture that would compliment the theme and the colour of the backdrop. All the props I picked up from car boot sales, charity shops and generic home wear stores. The flowers were just from a local supermarket.The cheapest props were 50p and the most expensive £5.99 and all of them will be used around my home and in future compositions.

This image was created for my Aunt’s Birthday.

I will add that none of the companies mentioned asked me to write a post, mention their business name or link to their website/s. I was just incredibly grateful for the opportunity to try something new and equally impressed with the products.

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Project Update: Frozen Botanicals

The typical British Bank Holiday weather, this weekend, inspired me to revisit my Frozen Botanicals Project.

I added to, edited and re processed the project and I have 6 images I feel are really strong.

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© Katherine Broadbent

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© Katherine Broadbent

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© Katherine Broadbent

Looking at the images together I feel I need to revisit the Fern, Gorse and possible the deseeded Cow Parsley. I will need to keep visiting my local park and keep an eye out for the Cow Parsley. Once the autumn kicks in and the plant life wilts back / dies, a visit up to Theatford or Dunwich for the rest.  I don’t like to collect living plants and have built using dead ones into the projects ascetic. Anything that looks fresh has already been broken off the plant when I find it.

We went out to Dunwich Heath yesterday evening and there was the perfect piece of fern. I picked it off the floor and posed it with some heather.

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I am now kicking myself for not bringing it home!

But to end on a positive note the fern shot makes a sweet background image for my phone.

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M.I.A & Friday Adventures: 12th July 2015 Holkham Estate

The past month I have hidden away from social media and photography. I’ve been struggling a little bit with my mental health. To be honest I’ve not just evaded social media and photography these past few weeks. Life in general was getting to be a bit to much. So I made my excuses to hide myself away… jobs for family, jobs for friends, my day job… my car needs an MOT…ect ect ect.

But today I turned a corner!

After my mood picking up over the past few days I decided that I would go out. I decided on a place very dear to me, with the aim to try and recharge myself artistically and spiritually. It was almost a non starter when I started freaking out en route to Holkham. One is rather partial to the odd melt down. I actually got 1/3 of the way there and then drove back home, fighting off hysteria. By the time I got home I had pulled myself together enough to be calm and clear. So I set off again.

I decided to take it easy and focus mainly on walking and being mindful. If I got photos, I got photos. Today was about feeling good and I didn’t need the pressure of getting a great shot for my project or Wex Monday. I allowed myself some freedom to explore.

That said I did get some fun shots.

© Katherine Broadbent
© Katherine Broadbent
© Katherine Broadbent
© Katherine Broadbent

Very rare colour shots! I usually prefer my compositions in black and white but these just worked too well in colour to banish them to monochrome.

I also found a really interesting stretch of beach that I would like to revisit, soon, with my tripod and filters.

Over the next few weeks I will continue to strengthen my photographic muscle. perhaps work in some more structured exercises. I need to be ready and on top form for a very exciting workshop soon!

Plus we had the pleasure of a Photography Symposium, hosted by Wex Photographic, here in Norwich. So I will do my best to write up the talks in good time! Unlike the Michael Kenna talk I have yet to write up from back in March… Plenty to be getting on with!

Wex Monday Week 20

Sadly I won’t have anything to enter this week!

Firstly, I’ve spent the week making updates to the way my blog appears. Woohoo! Launched my domain!

Secondly, I’ve been asked to restore some photographs. It’s a surprise so after the event I’ll be happy to show the fruits of my labour!

Thirdly, I have been preparing for my first photography work assignment! A dear friend of mine has asked for my services in doing some product shots for her new business. So far, I’ve picked up the products and built a light box.

Fourth. And I know a lot of my fellow photographers, who often find themselves out in the wilderness will, appreciate this one. My car was filthy!

Sunday Outing: 10th May 2015 Holkham Hall and Gardens

We decided to utilise our free tickets to Holkham Hall this weekend. We had booked to see an evening talk by Chris Steele-Perkins on his latest project. Sadly due to low take up, the event was cancelled. While I  have spent many hours walking along Holkham Beach and Nature reserve I had never before been into the Hall or it’s grounds.

Walking along the drive the first thing you are struck by are the acres and acres of land. Second of all are the deer! If I were more of a wildlife photographer I would have tried to get some shots but my inexperience put me off. We chose not to park in the main car park and have a longer walk (and free parking). However if you do park in the main car park at the hall, the price of your parking can be redeemed in the café or gift shop, when you spend over £10.

© Katherine Broadbent
© Katherine Broadbent

The hall itself is lovely and the volunteers are always eager to chat and provide fascinating information about the hall. Photographs as I was informed as I walked in are allowed. However I did find that the lighting was poor in most of the rooms, I’ll be a bit more prepared for that when I go back next time and crank up the ISO a little.

The hall is in the midst of a renovation creating a new gallery and events space. As a result the Café and entrance hall are in temporary structures on the lawns. Happily they still deliver a brilliant service.

Whilst in the café I was rather taken by the flowers on our table so I popped on my macro lens.

© Katherine Broadbent
© Katherine Broadbent

This was one of my more abstract shots. Since I hadn’t had much inspiration for taking any shots indoors I decided to keep my macro on as we explored the grounds and experiment with composition.

© Katherine Broadbent
© Katherine Broadbent
© Katherine Broadbent
© Katherine Broadbent

 © Katherine Broadbent

As we were leaving I couldn’t help snap a quick photo of this rustic gate on my smartphone. I edited it using Snapseed on the journey home!

If you’d like to visit Holkham Estate, which I highly recommend you do, visit the Holkham Website for opening times, costs and availability.