Learning comes in many different shapes and sizes. At the Out of Chicago Photography Conference it can be a traditional “sit in a classroom and take in new information” session, but it is also attending hands-on workshops, going on photowalks and putting into practice immediately what the photowalk leader suggests one tries, interacting with other attendees in workshops, presentations, and when just standing around having coffee or snacks. The conference was kicked off by Rick Sammon (http://ricksammon.com) who spoke on getting inspired and set the tone for the next several days.
The photowalks that the Out of Chicago team makes available are, in my opinion, the most unique feature of this annual conference. Last year I just went on one, but this year I signed up for four plus an all-day workshop that included four hours on the street. Each of the photowalk leaders had a different style of interacting with participants, but all were very accessible to answer questions or make suggestions. Some stopped the group - anywhere from a dozen to two dozen people per group - to make a point or suggest an approach to getting certain shots. One gave an assignment, that is, had each of us give ourselves an assignment, and then led us to several attractions in downtown Chicago. We, then, had time to move around and gather shots that would help us meet our self-assignment requirements. Some just got us to a destination and more or less said, “go forth and shoot.”
Some things that I picked up, that is, either learned anew or was reminded to try, were shooting multiple exposures, which my Olympus OM-D E-M1 camera supports. We were encouraged by one leader to shoot short video clips as well as still images and plan to merge them into one multi-media product. Our workshop leader encouraged us to shoot from a low POV (“point of view”) as well as to use an aperture value of f/11 to f/22, position camera close to foreground objects, for example, flowers, and shoot so that the resulting deep depth of field has the flowers and the far away buildings in focus. Another leader kept reminding us to look for interesting backgrounds on the streets and wait for subjects to come into view. She also demonstrated how she enlists “models” to walk through the scene. For one walk we rode the subway (CTA) out to a neighborhood and our leaders encouraged us to try some slow shutter speed shooting with the subway cars coming into the station. At the Chicago Theater on Friday night, Mike Boening not only showed me how to do a Live Composite (long exposure) with my E-M1, but let me try his Olympus 7-14mm Pro lens! And it goes on and on. Nothing beats holding your camera in your hand and shooting. Nothing beats trying out new things with someone with you who can help and guide.
The sit down sessions were equally enjoyable. I attended a few presentations where I picked up several nuggets of information. In one, we were encouraged to look at movies to get ideas for alternative or creative ways to approach traditional portraits. In another the presenter challenged us to make decisions about what gear we really need to take with us on a trip instead of bringing gear “just in case.” Another presenter described his approach to telling stories with environmental portraits. And then there were several panel discussions as well as a live recording of a This Week in Photo (TWIP) episode. In each of these, there was lots of interesting discussion on the “state of mirrorless,” shooting with film, and balancing dSLRs vs mirrorless cameras.
Yes, once again, the Out of Chicago team did not disappoint. They brought us many name speakers and some whom I didn’t know to inspire and instruct us. This is definitely a "must attend" conference for photographers!
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