On the weekend of July 11-13, I traveled to UMass Amherst to attend the 63rd annual conference of the New England Camera Club Council. This was my first time attending a photography conference of any kind, as well as my first experience with anything camera club related. Here are my reflections on the weekend in 5×5 format.
Five things I liked:
- Opportunity to photograph models outdoors, with signed model releases, so I can use the photos in my portfolio. Unfortunately, most of the models didn’t really fit what I’m looking for in my own portfolio, but I do think I got some good shots that I’ll be able to add.
- Session called “Behind the Scenes of Nature Photography” with David Middleton. He showed various iterations of a scene until he reached the “final shot” and described how he got there. It was pretty cool to be able to hear his thought processes, and the criteria he used to decide what to eliminate and what to keep in various shots. As a bonus, David was a very entertaining and listenable presenter. Great personality.
- Session called “Modeling Perspectives” with Peggy Arbene, Skip Hoyt, Paul Smith, and Gordon Yu. They went over how to do lighting, backgrounds, pose models, and how to assess and plan for a portrait shoot. I don’t have a whole lot of experience with portrait photography, and I got a lot of useful information in this session.
- Session called “Digital Workflow: The Rest of the Iceberg” by Jim Craner. Offered some nice tips on how to organize and manage large collections of photos, and how to plan for various conditions out in the field. Jim also had excellent presentation technique (as he said, thanks to his many years of teaching middle school), and wasn’t afraid to demonstrate his technical knowledge in an educational and palatable way.
- Opportunity to to essentially immerse myself in photography for a whole weekend. I carried my camera around with me everywhere, and stopped at any opportunity that I felt like photographing something.
Five things I didn’t like:
- Didn’t receive the pre-arrival packet until after I got home from the weekend. It contained such useful information as where to park, a map, a parking pass, information on extra things to bring to the dorm, etc. This would have made my arrival and time on campus a bit less stressful. It took me about an hour from the time I drove into the campus to the time I settled in to my dorm room. I realize that I registered late for the conference (July 1), but still, that should have been enough time to get a packet out to me before July 11. Perhaps in the future they could send the contents of the packet via email, as a PDF or something. That would be more expedient.
- NECCC website wasn’t very useful during the weekend. They should have kept it up-to-date with information on schedule changes, happenings, photos from the events, and information on the models. In general, I didn’t get the impression that the NECCC is a very internet-savvy organization. They should be using things like Facebook, Twitter, flickr and some sort of Wiki software to help organize and distribute their information, build an online community, and draw in the younger and more tech-savvy crowd. It also wouldn’t hurt for them to hire the services of a professional web designer and developer. I can recommend several good ones.
- There was a wireless network on campus, but the NECCC didn’t promote it in any way that I could see. I had to ask about it at one of the registration desks and then get a slip of paper with information on how to access the network. This would be another thing that could help draw in the tech-savvy crowd.
- The dorm and dining hall were located on one side of campus, while the conference was located in another part of campus. This required either a long walk or a bus ride, and the bus rides and bus stop locations weren’t strategically placed. For example, I would have expected a sign right outside of the dorm that said “Shuttle Bus” along with information on the schedule and route. I eventually found one of these posted somewhere inside, but this was after I had already gotten through most of the weekend. Even more annoying, at lunch breaks, I had to walk all the way over to the dining hall and then all the way back to attend the next session.
- Most of the models that they hired to do the model shoots were not dressed very tastefully, at least in my opinion. I don’t know whether that was the models’ decision or the organizers’, but in any case, I don’t think I’d care to use most of the model shots in my portfolio. I realize that other people may have different goals and tastes for their own work, and if the reactions of the other photographers were any indication, it seems like most people were okay with the models’ choice of wardrobe. Still, I would have preferred some of them to wear more modest and/or classy outfits.
Five things I learned:
- Photographers who are trying to take photos to be entered in a contest are a very tense bunch. Always concerned about the subject appearing exactly the way they want, getting into conflict with others who are trying to photograph the same thing. Sure, it’s nice to get a good shot without distractions in the background, but have a little patience. Lighten up a bit and enjoy!
- Perhaps as important as a photographer’s skill in image capture is his or her ability to get to the right place at the right time. Many an impressive photograph are impressive in large part because the photographer had the funding and wherewithal to get to an incredible location at the right time.
- I’ve definitely learned that my interests in photography tend toward photojournalism. For example, I was more interested in photographing the photographers who were photographing the models, than I was in actually photographing the models themselves. I just don’t have the interest in setting up a perfect shot with everything in the right place. I prefer to capture situations as they occur, and try to tell the story of what was happening as I saw it, and usually that doesn’t involve waiting until everything is just right.
- I’d rather take photos of regular people like friends and family than photos of professional (or semi-professional) models. They tend to have more personality and are more fun to work with. There were a few exceptions to this, however, most notably Audra, who is a recent mom.
- I learned how to observe and prepare subjects for portrait shoots, how to interact and how to give direction and suggestions on how to pose.
Five photos of models:
Five photos of other things:
- UMass Campus Center at night
- Conference attendee photographing flowers
- My dorm room at the conference
- Franklin Dining Commons at night
- Construction equipment on campus
You can see a selection of other photos I took over the weekend in the gallery.