Last year toward the end of the summer, I took my first photography class to learn how to shoot my DSLR in full manual, thanks to my sister-in-law, Deborah, who blazed the photography trail by connecting with an organization called The Photographer's Element. That first four-week class was so much fun and I learned so much that I signed up to take another four-week class on composition. I have really enjoyed taking pictures for years now and Paul is the one who really got us set up with a nice camera back in law school when we were doing so much traveling, but it wasn't until taking these classes that I realized what a fun hobby it is and how much there is to learn about what makes a good photograph and how to achieve one.
I'm definitely not much of a photographer and I have tons to learn and lots of practicing that I need to do, but I think I have come a long way in the past year. And last October I learned about an organization called Clickin' Moms and their annual photography conference when they streamed 10 live classes from the conference while Deborah and I were in Yosemite. We didn't get to watch those classes but we talked photography that whole week and took our cameras out trying to be really intentional about not only taking pictures of what we were doing and our kids, but actually taking interesting pictures.
When I'm looking through a viewfinder, and actually, even before I put the camera up to my eye, I'm now assessing things like the quality of the light, color and shapes and patterns, lines and space, emotion and meaning of the subject of my photo, etc. Plus making choices about camera settings for background blur, where my focal point should be, how to frame my subject, and on and on. There are so many different things to think about when shooting like this and I think it is the challenge and thought-process behind it that provides a lot of the reward for me.
Anyway, I decided last October that if it was at all possible, I was going to try to go to Click Away in 2016. When they announced that it was going to be in Seattle, I knew I sort of had to do it. I went all by myself, not really knowing anybody beforehand, but since I have really gone deep into this crazy hobby I have made some online friends and connected through FB with some Bay Area photographers who were looking for me at the airport since we arranged to go on the same flight.
Click Away was a total blast. I feel like I learned so, so much from actually walking around photographing in the exact same light as really experienced professionals, getting to ask them questions (and hearing other people's questions), checking my settings against theirs and looking at the back of their camera screens to compare against what I was shooting - it was so different than an online class and I loved it for what a different experience it was.
I had 5 boutique classes that were small groups of about 25-30 women and 3 classes that were larger, lecture style classes in conference rooms at the hotel. There were always lots of classes going on so I was able to pick and choose what interested me most and then I also got recordings of the live-streaming classes, which I haven't had a chance to watch yet but am looking forward to. I did 1 outdoor observation & nature based class at the Seattle City Center which is a park area near the Space Needle. Then I had 2 family photo shoot sessions - one in a park setting with trees, grass, etc. and the other over at Pike's Place Market in a more urban setting. Unfortunately, I somehow deleted all of my images from one of those sessions, which is a bummer. My other 2 boutique sessions were indoors in suites so that we could focus on indoor lighting and shadows, etc.
I don't know where Click Away will be next year and if I will be able to go again, but I absolutely loved the experience and I think it was so good for me to get away for a few days. Paul took great care of the girls while I was gone and even took Friday off of work to take over my room-mom duties for Clara's Kindergarten class since it was their Jog-a-Thon. I came home to flowers and a clean house and my loves who I missed a ton while I was gone.
Here are some of my favorite images that I took at Click Away. This first set was from a class called "Uncovered Beauty" where we talked about observing shape and color and lines and really thinking and pausing before even putting our cameras up to our eyes so that we could be intentional in the photographs we were taking.
This next set of images is from an urban family photo session in the area around Pike's Place Market. I love that we got to work with backlighting and some lower lighting in this session since we were moving around a lot. I also got really lucky and avoided the rain that was off and on the whole time we were there. Other sessions had to deal with the weather but it was always dry when I was outside.
That's our instructor, Elena Blair, in the middle in black.
This next class was in the Presidential Suite where Obama has stayed (this was a big thing apparently) with Anna Larson in a class about using window lighting in small spaces. The other women were good about rotating around each other so we could also practice taking pictures of our cute model family. I loved both my indoor classes because it gave me ideas for how to take better pictures in my own home of my girls (something I have struggled with and consequently haven't posted many photos along those lines - something I plan to change).
My new friend Claudy & I practiced applying some of the lighting principals we were learning by modeling for each other. Here is my image of here where I was trying to capture Rembrandt lighting (that little patch of light on her cheek on the shadowed side of her face is surprisingly tricky to achieve!).
And here is one she took of me that she sent to me afterwards:
My other indoor class was called "The Art of Darkness" with a photographer named Allison McSorley and she was maybe my favorite instructor of all. I find darker images and deeper shadows really compelling and felt like I had a bunch of a-ha! moments while listening to her and getting to ask her my questions. Our little models were hilarious and the youngest sister, who was 4, had me dying when she came over to me, smiled prettily, then pointed to my teeth and told me that she "liked my rings on my teeth".
I'm just going to throw this out there that if anybody who reads this is interested in learning about photography, I think that Clickin' Moms is pretty wonderful. And I would definitely recommend taking at least one or two basic classes because you can learn so much!