CONFIDENCE Photography Workshop for Women

Make Mine a Double

We all do it: The Second Helping. Sometimes it’s just too irresistible; the way the sugar glistens atop that last slice of apple pie on the Thanksgiving dessert buffet. Or the second glass of “oh I really shouldn’t, but what the heck” type of libation that tastes like it should be served in an edible juice box instead of a curvaceous glass with an umbrella in it. Or my personal favorite, that last row of Samoas, which sends yet another box to the recycling bin. This past weekend, however, I wolfed down a heaping second helping of CONFIDENCE. And oh my, was it satisfying.

Picture a room full of this: Twenty-some girlfriends you haven’t met yet. One phenomenal woman. One dashing young chap. Twenty-one glorious hours that stand between where you are and where you want to be. Oh, and there are gobs of cameras involved; not a single one set in Auto mode.

I devoured my first helping of CONFIDENCE last year at the Washington, D.C. workshop, which was even more galvanizing than I had anticipated. The proof is in my decision to apply for the SOAR! scholarship. The workshop was filled with talented women, ranging from experienced pros to hobbyists who had purchased their first DSLR only weeks before. I fell somewhere in-between, in more ways than one. But seeds got planted that weekend; the kind of seeds that grow change, action and dare I say…confidence.

Fast forward six months and I’m tip-toeing out of my home under the cover of a dark and frosty morning in D.C. to catch a flight to Scottsdale for my second helping of CONFIDENCE. This time though, I knew what to expect, so I came to the buffet with a bigger plate. And I planned on being that party guest who fills it up to the brim and then drips it all over the nice Persian rug on the way back to the table. And I did too.

I filled up my plate with each and every one of the gifted women I met coming from as far as Canada, Spain and Mexico. I filled up my plate with their stories, their experiences, their knowledge of everything from homeschooling to horses. I filled up my plate with ideas and plans for the direction I want my business to take. And my favorite part – I filled up my plate with Charisse, Rachel and Wendy. These are women you will want to stay tuned to, people. They are going places.

But here is what stopped me in my tracks this past weekend: GROWTH. It was an experience I don’t often take the time to truly relish. If it had physiological characteristics, it might resemble the feels-so-good-it-hurts muscle soreness you get 12 hours after returning to a long-abandoned exercise regimen. Or maybe it’s more like that tingly-burning feeling when you swish too much Listerine. All I know is, the seeds I planted last year at the D.C. workshop blossomed into…oh, I’m just gonna go ahead and say it – CONFIDENCE. I connected. I shot. I captured this.

and this.

and a little bit of this.

And for the sprinkles on top – I did it all with my sexy, new Sony a33! (More on that later, but dang ladies…she is F-I-N-E).

I have returned home with a full heart and a mind teeming with purpose. Ideas and plans, both lofty and pragmatic, are making alphabet soup out of my brain. As the weeks and months unfold this year, I’ll share it all with the hope that you’ll experience your own growth too. Be all in with me.

And I really hope the hotel doesn’t charge me for the CONFIDENCE I dripped all over their carpet, but it was totally worth it.

~Ali

Love Fest

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending a Confidence Workshop, taught by Me Ra and Brian in sunny Scottsdale, AZ.  Anyone familiar with the two of them, already know where this is going. But I will tell you anyway.I love, love, luv them. I love how they care for women and people. I love how ”real” they are in their presentation style. Clearly I felt blessed, to be able to soak in the wisdom, peace and beauty of this great couple. But to do so in Arizona with the sun shining, beautiful scenery and a great group of women all supporting one another was truly an experience. Speaking as one who had been to a confidence workshop previously, I was pleasantly surprised at how much additional information, positive energy, and new friends I was able to leave there with.

I arrived feeling fairly comfortable with using my camera in manual and how to somewhat achieve the images I saw in my mind. I left feeling 98.99% positive that I could not only handle my camera in a way that would allow me to get images I am proud of, but more importantly, to do it with confidence. (Note the margin of error because I also decided to leave my perfectionist attire in AZ.) Perfection is not my goal. Capturing real life is. We used our new Sony babies this weekend to do it.

We learned to use the camera as the tool, but to use our hearts as our guides to help us capture the moments as they are unveiled before us. I also walked away realizing that sometimes the best thing I can do to improve my images is not to stress about what technical data may have slipped out of my mind, but  to allow myself to pause, and see with my heart. It is in these “pauses” that some of the most amazing moments will be captured.

I was challenged by other deep thinkers who were in attendance. Men, other than Brian are usually not in attendance at these workshops. However, we were lucky to have Jeff Jochum attend ours and share some of his business acumin with us.

But I will always keep in my heart, the beautiful and talented women whom I was able to meet. We laughed, cried and learned together. The beauty of women who are on individual paths of self discovery, transition, or skill building coming together to learn and encourage one another is an amazing thing. While there I was able to meet Ali & Rachel, and Wendy. It felt like I knew them long before that day. I loved them right away.

It seems almost impossible to walk away from the Confidence Workshop and not have had a shift in perspective or a boost in confidence. I know I did.

No Longer the Face of Auto!

This past weekend we had the privilege of attending MeRa’s CONFIDENCE workshop in Scottsdale, AZ. This weekend we were taught so many things, not just about our cameras but about ourselves also.

I started this workshop knowing basically nothing more than how to turn on my camera.  Actually, I could press the button to take a picture….and most of the time it worked! Let me tell you this about me….I was the face of auto. My camera’s dial lived on the green box. Sometimes I would go to take a picture, but nothing would happen and I had no idea why! You can imagine my frustration when I missed a great shot but I had no idea how to fix it or why it happened. I now know that there was not enough light so my camera could not focus. But how do I fix that? That question kept popping in my head. Well, in auto I couldn’t fix it. I had one of three things happen:  yellow picture, white picture, or no picture! Here’s a great example of what my pictures looked like before the workshop:

Now, after 2 days with MeRa and Brian, I know how to fix my auto problem! I learned how to change my ISO, my aperture, and my shutter speed. Even better- I know what they are, how to use them and why! The best part…on the first day I was able to get some straight out of the camera shots that I can be proud of! Are you kidding me!? I took a picture-pictures- that I am proud of and want to show people. What a feat!    After spending less than 2 days with MeRa and Brian, I took this picture:

Guess what? I am no longer the face of Auto! I took this picture in manual!I took all my pictures this weekend in manual! I chose the ISO, I chose the aperture, and I metered! And I learned all this in two days!  A couple more pictures I can be proud of:

Now that’s a great picture!

Of course we learned the technicalities of the camera. But we also learned that there is so much more that goes into photography. Photography isn’t just taking great pictures; it’s about connecting with people. It’s about shooting from your heart. It’s about taking a step back and wait for the pause. Great photographers don’t continually shoot and hope to get great shots (guilty mom right here!), they take a moment to step back. Because sometimes the pause is where the moment is.

We were asked the first day to rate ourselves on a scale of 1-5. I rated myself a .9 on knowledge but a 5 on confidence because I had faith that I could learn. And I did!  Now my confidence is at a 10 because I know I CAN DO THIS!  I know I will take pictures that I am proud of and that will make my future clients happy.  And isn’t that what this workshop is all about-building CONFIDENCE in ourselves?

A time for reflection…

Karen and Fay have taught me so much this year. They have instilled in me the skills and the wisdom to meet challenges head on, the confidence to embrace who I am and be happy with that, and most powerful of all, the ability to recognize and acknowledge ‘what is so’.

I always tend to focus on what more I could achieve. How much better I could be. What new things I need to learn. Until recently I saw this as a strength. Now I question it.

The simple act of looking back on ‘what is so’, of harvesting your accomplishments, is such a powerful tool. It reminds me where I started. How much I have achieved. How much I have improved. It gives me the confidence and inspiration to dream of how much further I can go…. It helps me to be kinder to myself.

For this weeks weeks video blog, along with the exercise, I was inspired to consider ‘what is so’ with the images I’ve been capturing. Where I was a year ago and where I am right now. And how many thousands of images it took to make it here. How much practice. How much passion. How many bad images it took to learn to take better ones.

And in the process you know what I learned? My biggest confidence challenge along the way – ironically the Seattle CONFIDENCE Workshop – was the start of my biggest growth and transition period. It took this exercise for me to realize I walked away from the CONFIDENCE workshop ‘confidently’ shooting in manual. I was previously an Av shooter but I never looked back. I now shoot everything in manual and I never even think about it.

It’s so good to consider what is so…

Night time photo session – something’s got to give….

On Sunday my family and I had the opportunity to be models for the ladies at Me Ra Koh’s San Francisco CONFIDENCE Workshop. It was interesting to find myself on the other end of the camera especially having recently attended the very same workshop myself. I knew first hand the challenges they faced as they tried to capture images of our family and deal with two boys on a big day out who would normally be napping around this same time.  I really appreciated their energy, passion, humor and patience and for taking the boys off my hands for a while ;-)   Thank you ladies – I can’t wait to see what you captured!

After the photo session Me Ra honored me by asking me to talk to the group about the SOAR program. I know she felt bad putting me on the spot but the truth is, had she asked me earlier, it would have totally stressed me out. I suspect she probably knew this. Turns out, after a shaky start, where I totally proved my point that I can’t TALK in front of a group and THINK at the same time I actually enjoyed it. How great is it to be able to share one of the greatest experiences of my life, to encourage others to consider applying, and to honor the two people who made it possible.  What was even better was to find there were so many SOAR sister’s in the group – five beautiful and familiar faces I see on facebook every day. It was such a pleasure for me to actually get to meet Judith Isserman, Ajira Darch-Sharp, Charisse Rhodes, Nicky Peterson and Lynde Alvarez. Wish there was more time to connect and that I’d made the connection earlier!

So where am I going with this and where is this month’s photo exercise? That’s a good question and it’s coming. At the workshop Charisse asked me an interesting question. A question about how I was able to balance things now – photography, SOAR, and family.  And the truth is, I had no good answer. I guess I have finally accepted that this illusion of ‘balance’ I’ve been madly pursuing really doesn’t exist. There are times you are moving forward. There are times you are slipping back. There are times when you have the luxury to learn, to explore and to grow and times when you are just chasing your tail. When you want to scream at the top of your lungs ‘STOP THE BUS. I WANT TO GET OFF!’.

The last ten days I have been on the CRAZY bus. Last Sunday I ran my first half marathon. On Tuesday I got up at 4.30am to fly to Orange County to attend Jeff Jochum’s Business Clarity Workshop. That made my head spin. On Wednesday evening the boys and I did a spontaneous photo session with my friend Bree Hester so I had images of myself for my website. I worked on my website until midnight. On Thursday friends from New Zealand arrived and visited with us until Saturday.  In between visiting I worked on a SOAR video. In between all this was a sick child and a sick husband, laundry to do, a house to clean, blog posts to write, and other commitments. And the reality is… something had to give. Are you with me yet….?

Yes, four paragraphs later, I’m telling you the something that had to give was this month’s photo exercise: ‘Going to Extremes: Night Time Shooting for an Engagement Session’. At the last minute I realized I’d run out of time – I didn’t have models and I wasn’t prepared.

So meet my friends from New Zealand, Kathryn and Pete. They are not engaged and don’t intend on marrying. It’s not their thing. If they truly loved me and wanted me to succeed I say they would simply get married so I could book my first wedding. They’re not convinced. I managed to convince them to pretend to be engaged for the sake of this blog. They gave me five minutes at the fabulous restaurant we dined at. The fairy lights in this beautiful archway caught my eye. Their hearts just weren’t in it. Good food and good wine were waiting. My four inch heel clad feet hurt. My heart wasn’t in it.I bumped up my ISO and snapped a few shots. Something has always got to give. Can anyone relate?

Night3 Night2
ISO 3200, f/1.8, 1/40

Linda

Dream Weekend

More often than not I envision my dream weekends filled with my husband and children, perhaps on a beach somewhere frolicking in the water.  Has anyone ever really frolicked, not sure I have, but in my dream weekend I would totally frolic.

(60mm, 1/50, f/4, ISO 100)

That being said, this dream weekend was not filled with any of those things that I would normally imagine.

(60mm, 1/50, f/4, ISO 100)

My dream weekend was work!!  Can you believe that!!  The fun part was that along the way it was filled with moments that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

(50mm, 1/800, f/2, ISO 100)

This weekend was a once in a lifetime experience, and much like our weddings it was over in a blink of an eye.

(50mm, 1/800, f/2, ISO 100)

Should I start at the beginning so you can have a full picture of what I am talking about?…….

Thursday afternoon I packed up my car with my little travel bag, because if you knew me you would know that I never over think things, and I am so casual about just throwing on some clothes and heading out the door, all the while looking stylish and amazing.  Okay, that is an absolute, boldface lie!!  I packed as if I was leaving the country and never coming back, seriously, it was a bit ridiculous.  I hit the road to pick up Linda and Jen at the airport, and then we would be off to have dinner with Me Ra and Brian.  We were all floating at this point.  Dinner went swimmingly well, and my face and ribs hurt from laughing so hard.  After dinner, we found our way to the house we would be staying at.

I must confess I was nervous about staying at a complete strangers house.  I jokingly told my mother-in-law a horror story that I hoped would not become our fate upon arrival to this mystery home.  It was dark and I’m pretty sure I missed 4 or 5 turns along the way, but we finally made it to the home of Sue and Randy.  These two amazing people made the three of us feel like family in their beautiful home.  Their kindness, generosity, and laughter made our weekend all the more rich, thank you Sue and Randy!!

Friday morning began a little later than we realized, and after a couple missteps on the road we found our way to Julie Watt’s studio.  Julie was immediately warm and welcoming, and I think we all were at ease within seconds of meeting her.

She welcomed us into her studio, and we sat down and talked for quite some time.  Julie was an open book, so transparent and willing to share with us her journey to where she is now, and where she will go from here.  Her honesty and warmth was refreshing, and it allowed us to open up more and be honest about our hopes and fears.  Julie doesn’t take herself too seriously (in a good way) and I found that inspiring and comforting.  I think as new photographers we are frequently intimidated to be around other successful photographers; as if they will somehow figure out that we are completely lost.  I didn’t feel this way at all with Julie.

Julie also talked about the power of being able to take a self-portrait.  She had a number of images for us that she had taken of herself along her photographic journey.  I was inspired with how comfortable and inspiring her self-portraits were.  I honestly think she could make an amazing coffee table book with just these images.  I felt a tinge of envy at her authenticity and comfort in her own skin, and was encouraged that perhaps someday I could feel the same.

Julie shared that she too struggled with not feeling she was enough, and that she too would get a pit in her stomach when she would see the work of other photographers in her market.  Her solution to this problem was to stop looking at other blogs and websites.  She committed herself to finding inspiration in art, and instead of jumping on line she would head to the library for inspiration.

(This photo is of one of our amazing models on Sunday, she was so open an willing to try anything and we connected almost immediately, there were these crazy wood structures at the end of the railroad tracks that looked like the Star of David, we jumped in and had a blast)

This led her to sharing something with us that will forever be a part of how I look at an image.  She showed us how to look at our reflection in the eyes to teach us where the light is coming from, and what kind of source I might need based on that information.  She taught us to look at how the shadow falls in an image to tell us where the light was coming from.  It was so much fun!!

(Can you tell where the light source is coming from? Hint….look at the light reflection in her eyes.)

I felt like I actually got something on a deeper level in that instant.  So often we, as starting photographers, are intimidated by light and lighting that we forget to have fun with it.  Now I get to play detective and try to decode an image.  I can’t wait!!

Just before we left, Julie took us outside and allowed us to play with her fish eye lens.  It was my first attempt at it, and it was so much fun.

I was amazed at how close you could get to your subject and still see so much of what was in front of you.

When Linda picked up the camera she got so close to Jen that I thought she was going to bump her nose, it was hilarious!!  The three of us left Julie’s studio feeling hopeful and enriched.  I can only imagine how her clients must feel?!!  Such an amazing woman!!  Thank you Julie!!

The rest of the weekend was a blur of excitement and frustration.  My daughter asked me this morning to tell her about my weekend, and I paused wondering how I can explain what I discovered about myself to a five year old.  I had imagined my answer being…..It was an awesome weekend, you should see how much I improved and how much I know about what I am doing now.  Part of that is true, but there was a much deeper and more complicated understanding that I came to realize this weekend and at the Confidence Workshop.

Me Ra and Brian have gifted me so much more than possibility at a career; they have given me a deeper hope and belief in myself as a person.

(85mm, 1/320, f/3.2, ISO 100)

Through their honesty and openness I was able to see that I don’t need to be another Me Ra, instead I need to be the best me that I can be.  When we have our kids, we are told not to compare them to other children.  I think the same needs to be said about ourselves…. as women, and as photographers.

(50mm, 1/400, f/2.8, ISO 100)

So I am home now with the hope and the belief that being me is going to be enough.  I know that there will be days that this feels as far from the truth as possible, but I will gently remind myself that I am not alone.  Just as I would remind my children to be kind to themselves and give themselves time to learn and grow, I also need to do the same for myself.  My daughter expects perfection from herself the first time she does something.  I am always so quick to explain to her that it is in the process and the trying that we learn so much, you do not have to be perfect you just need to try.  How can I expect her to understand this if I myself at 29 can’t even do it?

(50mm, 1/400, f/2.8, ISO 100)

So I am newly dedicated to leading my children by example.  No more of this do as I say, not as I do.  Its time that I stand up with integrity and honesty and the sort of individual I expect my children to be.

Shine On,

Lindsay

Good news! The Pressure is off…

I now know a concrete way to explain metering to you and can use it to my advantage when taking pictures…

And that is the least of so many things that I have learned this weekend at Me Ra and Brian’s Confidence Workshop.

There is no mistake that the workshop title, “Confidence…” allows for interpretation.  I am definitely more confident in camera use but I’ve taken steps forward in other ways as well.  Me Ra and Brian’s experiences, both personal and together, have created this almost unbelievable, extremely creative, overwhelmingly inspiring story.  They are just normal people who are willing to “show up” in life.  Their heartaches, victories, losses, and gains are in every way related to who they are as photographers and their mission for their photography business.  Whether success is a photography business or something else, they want me to succeed.  They want you to succeed.  And they are working their tails off to prove it.  I couldn’t help but think all weekend…I’m so honored to be here.  And I mean that in ways I can’t even articulate on this blog.

I want to also mention how interacting with the other women attending is such a significant part of the weekend.  I met so many ladies, each with a unique, impacting story.  Learning with them was so non-threatening.  I was freed from the typical habit that women have mastered so well–comparison!  What a change to practice being just who I am, where I am, and using whatever few tools that I have in place.  No pressure here to be anything more.

On that note, one of the most impressive things to me about Me Ra’s story is the way she began to build their business.  She did NOT go out and buy fancy equipment to get started.  She used a homemade album, business ideas, and the willingness to trust her creative path; she chose to “show up” with what she had in front of her.  She made it work y’all because there was no need to dabble…a busy mom, a wife, life’s challenges both behind and ahead of her.

Being inspired by that, I have made a decision.  I am going to purposefully seek my own creative way of pursuing this business.  I have looked at more blogs, more portfolios, more web designs, more “you name it” than I care to admit.  The negative to this is that the more I do so, the more I rely on someone else’s influence to tell me what is the next step, the right composition, or what’s okay in photography.  And if I keep that up, I might experience some temporary success, but it sure wouldn’t be authentic–I can’t maintain someone else’s creativity.

There’s so much more to tell you about the way this conference affected me.  Some of that will roll out through the remainder of this year.  At this moment, though, I am minutes from boarding a red-eye to get home to my babies.  I cannot wait to hold them back in Texas!

Below are some images from the models that helped us at the conference.  I think these  shoots were my favorite part!  Not because I felt super successful but because, for the first time, I allowed myself to simply be a learner, regardless of the outcome.  I’ve also posted a few more on the forum-under photography exercises.

You may recognize these two hot mamas above :)  my friends and SOAR! gals-Linda Baylis and Lindsay Baumgartner in action

I hope wherever you are, that you are well!  I hope you are seeing the tools you have in front of you as assets, as the fuel to whatever fires you need to burn.  The most powerful thing we did this weekend was communicate about the tools, about the fires.  I hope you do so here or on the forum.  We’re all interested and want to be a part!

Much love to you from Texas-via Seattle!!

Let’s do this y’all,

Jen

Three Qualities that Make a Good Photographer: 2 Come Easy, 1 is in Progress

This weekend I had the honor of joining the SEATTLE CONFIDENCE women, including Jennifer and Lindsay. Not only did we get to attend this amazing workshop, we also got to spend one-on-one time with Me Ra and Brian, meet the beautiful Blaze and Pascaline, look back on our SOAR! journey so far and learn about what was ahead. As a special surprise, we also got to spend time in the studio with Julie Watts – an inspiring and talented photographer who is committed to supporting us ALL through this SOAR year and our photography journey. There will be more about this visit from Lindsay on Thursday’s blog.

Soar Baby

One of my favorite images from the Baby Shoot during the workshop.
ISO 100, f 1.8, 1/640

I feel so privileged and lucky to have had the opportunity to form friendships and bonds with this group of unique and amazing women.  I felt supported and encouraged as I faced the many challenges I found myself dealing with over the weekend. It amazes me how different we can be in so many ways, yet regardless of the stage we are at in our photographic journey, as women we all seem to be struggling with the same fears and self-limiting doubts that can hold us back. Perhaps it should come as no surprise to me that it would be these self-limiting issues of doubt that would confront me rather than my photography skills?

I had such high expectations of leaving the workshop and being able to prove myself worthy of the SOAR scholarship, but it turned out to be something else I took with me. I left with a better understanding of myself and the conditions I need to succeed.

So here’s how I see it. Becoming a good photographer is about three different things. The technical skills and knowledge to produce a well exposed image. The creative skills of composition, framing and storytelling, and finally the ability to interact and relate with your subjects in order to capture real emotion and definitive moments that make an image powerful. To me it seems that the art of pulling this all together in challenging situations is what it’s all about. And for me I realized there is a big piece of this  puzzle that is missing.

Soar Baby2

The surprising thing is… it’s not my technical knowledge. I actually get it. This workshop confirmed it and filled in all my gaps. I understand the relationship between aperture, shutter speed and ISO. I understand how my camera meters. I understand what makes a composition work. I understand I can’t expect to be immediately great or demand perfection. I understand I just need to experiment, to try yet to let myself fail. I understand it all, but putting it in to practice is another matter altogether.  When it came down to our opportunity to learn by directing and shooting the models in small groups, I let my fears, my lack of confidence, and my lack of self worth take control. This brought me to tears.

I am the kind of person who ‘blends’ in a crowd. I seldom speak up despite my convictions because I am more afraid of what other people think of me. I am someone who takes direction well but is not always good at taking control. And my big guilty secret that Brian helped me realize is I’m actually a bit of an introvert. This doesn’t mean I don’t like people, or I don’t have people skills. It simply means I need to find different ways and techniques to recharge and find time for myself.  It’s something I need to work on and  I ♥  you Brian for helping me see this and I ♥ all of you ladies for your hugs and support.

I left this workshop feeling drained. And yet, I felt ready to refuel.  This weekend was a turning point I will never forget. I came away feeling much more aware of my strengths and weaknesses and feel like I know what I need to accept and what I need to improve.  Next Saturday I will shoot my first ‘real’ family, and I will not let me fears get in the way. I am so excited to see how many of you are joining me in the photo session challenge and can’t wait to see what we achieve together. I promise more photos from the workshop on the forum soon, but for now…

It’s good to be back home with my babies!
Linda
xx