Expanding your vision – Allen Birnbach
You’ve probably noticed that when you travel you’re more likely to come away with strong images. Sometimes with images that break out of what you have been doing and set a new creative direction. Why is that?
Humans are wired in a way so that when we move out of routine, our brain chemistry changes. Maybe it has to do with the protective “fight or flight” response of our early ancestors. But in any case, this change in blood chemistry results in heightened awareness that alters how we respond to a new environment.
As photographers, this is huge gift. Put in a new situation, we are more aware of composition, color, line, texture and pattern; the key elements every artist explores in their work. Moreover, taken out of our routine world with more time to think about the world in front of our lens, we are more open to the “what if” in a situation. We are more willing to try a different composition, play with a new concept, collaborate in a new way with a model.
Of all the places on the planet, Iceland is in my opinion the best place to capitalize on the heightened awareness that comes from travel. With every ecosystem on the planet but one, there are incredible geological formations around every turn. From steaming mudpots, to thundering waterfalls, spongy moss-covered lava, calving glaciers and crystal blue fjords, Iceland has spectacular landscapes begging to be photographed. And with just a little over 300,000 inhabitants it’s easy to experience the raw, unspoiled environment just a short distance from civilization.
With all that is available for dramatic backgrounds, it’s really important to have great talent when shooting fine art nudes. Models who in energy and spirit can match the magnificence of the environment in which they are placed. Fortunately, we are working with models who are Scandinavian and European. In my experience, these models are different from models in the United States. They may share the same professionalism with talent in the U.S., but their attitude toward nudity is different. They are comfortable with their bodies, and as a result not shy in front of the camera. They are terrifically talented and great collaborators in the creative process. With these great models, the opportunity to place them in remarkable environment and your heightened creativity, great things are bound to happen.
On our first day together, we’ll gather to get acquainted, talk about the legacy of images in fine art nude photography and look at the work of all the participants. It’s an opportunity for a supportive critique of your work, and the chance to familiarize yourself with the people you will be working alongside of during the week.
Then it’s off to shoot on location. Each day, we’ll seek out environments that will inspire you to explore the human form in all its power and beauty. Watching the weather, we’ll choose where to go to optimize you image-making opportunities. The rides to and from the location are full of conversation, music and laughs and camaraderie builds each day through the week.
Once we are at a location, I’ll do a short demonstration that is tailored to your growth. It may have to do with composition, the technical aspects of creating a great digital file or negative in challenging lighting, or how to work with talent in a collaborative way. The shoot will not be about me, but about you and your development.
After the demonstration, you’ll take turns shooting with a model on a one-on-one basis, rotating with two other photographers in your group. If you are not shooting, you’ll continue to learn by assisting the participant that is behind the camera, observing how another photographer thinks and works. I’ve had many comments from past participants of how valuable this is for their own growth.
At the end of the day, it’s off to dinner, and editing work for a critique the following morning. After the review and answering any questions on aesthetics or technical matters relating to shooting or post processing, we jump back into the SUV’s for another round of shooting.
On Saturday, after five days of location photography. you’ll spend time editing images and working in Lightroom and Photoshop to create final files for reproduction. I’ll be there for a critique and to answer any questions about software and post processing techniques to maximize the impact of your favorite images. We end the workshop with a fun filled dinner that night to celebrate your new-found expanded vision.
I firmly believe that combining the human figure with the dramatic landscapes of Iceland can open up new worlds for you as a photographer. I encourage you to join me in this wonderful exploration that is sure to create lifetime memories.
- Allen Birnbach