“We all have monsters. If you ignore them, they get bigger. You have to tame them and make them your bitches.”
– Sara Lando
The very first blog post I ever posted was about GPP2014, and it’s crazy to think that it’s been a year already. So much has happened in that one year. Some good, some bad, but I’m grateful for all of it. If you’ve never heard of Gulf Photo Plus, check out their website or read my GPP2014 blog post. They’re incredible.
The event started with PhotoFriday – a day full of ninety minute seminars, and you get to choose four out of sixteen. It’s always so hard to choose only four because I always wanted to go to ALL the seminars!
I’m the narcissist taking a selfie.
The first session I attended was called Thriving In Today’s Photography Marketplace with Joel Grimes. Joel talked a lot about marketing, which I really needed. The only thing I’m still unsure of is how to apply his strategies into my work since I don’t do any commercial work. It’ll be a fun challenge.
The second session I attended was called The Mood of Light with Zack Arias. Zack is hilarious and so awesome. It was an inspiring talk, he also discussed lighting and photography gear.
The third session I attended was Less Is More: The Quick and Simple Portrait with Drew Gurian. The whole time I was there I was thinking “can I just have your life?!” Drew got to photograph people I love, such as Marcus Mumford of Mumford and Sons, and the band State Radio. Oh, and a few of the main cast of The Hunger Games. Let that sink in…
But that wasn’t what his talk was about, the title explains it well. He talked about how you can do so much with so little. He takes pictures in the most random locations and they turn out amazing, I wish I had an eye for great locations.
The fourth session I attended was Posing 101 with Lindsay Adler. I love Lindsay, she’s so awesome and fun to be around. Here’s a very short clip from the talk:
It’s always helpful to learn new poses and Lindsay talked about the variations of basic poses that people can do. So you don’t need to learn a gajillion poses, just know the basics and mix things up!
Workshops began on Saturday. The first class I attended was Self-Portraits with Sara Lando.
I don’t know if I have the right words to describe how amazing Sara is.
She started out by talking about why we should shoot self-portraits, then went on to talk about the technical aspects of it, like getting the focus right and making sure you’re in frame. And then to demonstrate, she painted herself white.. yup.
I often mention TJ here in my blog because he sends me cloud pictures to use in my work every now and then, and also critiques some of my work when I’m unsure of it before I publish it online. We met last year during GPP2014 but he moved back to the US last summer, and was able to make it back for GPP2015, yay! (But now he’s gone. Boo.)
So after Sara was done shooting, it was our turn to go out and shoot some self-portraits. I had NO idea what to do, I didn’t have any of my props and we weren’t exactly in a great location. And I couldn’t drive anywhere cause that would’ve taken forever. I started walking around with Conel, a lovely girl I met last year at GPP’s Day and Night community exhibition, and tried to brainstorm some ideas. I started thinking that I want to shoot something and only have my eyes showing but wasn’t sure how. Until I saw a bush, and decided to jump into it. Because why not?
A silly outtake – you can see I had no idea what I was doing, but it was fun to play around. I took a bunch of shots from that angle but when I got out of the bush, I realized I didn’t like the framing so much so I jumped right back in.
This is when I really started liking the framing, but it took forever to get the focus right. I kept experimenting and ended up with two shots I liked:
I decided to go with the second one. Then we only had around 20 minutes to edit our pictures. Sara surprised us by saying that we each have to get up on stage and talk about our images and explain why we did what we did. For those who don’t know, I’m terrified of public speaking so I was really nervous about that. This was my final image:
There’s a lot I would have done differently if I had more time to edit it that day (like darken that bright area on the leaves and clone out my thumb), but Sara really liked it and that made me happy.
It was so much fun to see what others did in the few hours we had to shoot (I think we had two hours, I can’t remember). I also got to spend some time with a friend I made last year at GPP2014 during Brooke Shaden’s workshop, who came all the way from Germany and was in Sara’s class with me. Fun! I love that about GPP, always bringing people together.
Also, I jumped into a fountain.
Then the next day, I had another workshop with Sara, but this one was a two day workshop called Portraiture Intense and Hands On. And yes, it was intense. I’m not sure if you guys know this but I’ve never used studio lights and I’m terrified of them. I knew we’d be using lights during that workshop so I was really nervous. The workshop started out with a short presentation and then we went off to shoot in a gorgeous location that wasn’t too far away. On the first day, Sara showed us how she would work with models (and also threatened to kill us if we mistreated them or were rude to them) and explained her thought process and all. She got some amazing pictures!
Then she did something that turned out so awesome – she got the second model to get up on a ladder and used a huge piece of fabric to make her look super tall. This is one of those things that I see and die a little inside because I wish it was my picture (but not really, I just really really love it).
Make sure you check out Sara’s blog post about this workshop to see her final images.
So after Sara was done shooting, she said that she’s pairing up students so that the next day, we’d be divided in a way that would allow all the students to shoot the models. Also, whoever isn’t shooting gets to assist the photographer and then they switch. I ended up with a lovely woman called Linda Brodow Taylor from the US. Oh, and each one of us was assigned a keyword to use while shooting the models. I got “peaceful”. On day two, we were asked to shoot a portrait of our partner, then when it’s our turn with the models, shoot them using the keyword. And what’s awesome is that we got to shoot indoors with the models, then we went to the same location and got to shoot there too.
In the morning I was walking around with Linda and got to ask her lots of personal questions (thankfully, she didn’t mind that!) because I really wanted to create something meaningful. Unfortunately, due to the terrible weather that day, I couldn’t get the image I wanted. It was SO sunny and I didn’t have an ND filter. So I decided to try again later on in the day. Then it was our turn to shoot the model indoor with studio lights. I had an idea of what I wanted to do but I failed miserably. It was my first time ever using lights and I had no idea what to do. The model didn’t seem to be in a good mood, my props just didn’t look right, and the lighting was awful. I keep going back to the pictures to see if there’s anything that’s even just OK for me to post, but nope.
Anyway, then we got to the location and Linda and I got to shoot with a great model called Raluca. We had the option of shooting with studio lights but after my failed attempt earlier in the day, I decided to go with natural light.
I was so in love with Raluca’s dress! And she made it herself for her engagement party, how cool is that?!
I took a bunch of pictures of her and was planning on doing a composite, but I didn’t get a chance to do that because like last time, we only had about 30 minutes to edit. I had this (silly?) idea of having her look all peaceful, then have her hair and dress flow in all directions and look kinda crazy.
Then I shot that image, lying down on the floor and getting all messy. This too was going to be a composite but now that I see it again I don’t think my idea would’ve worked. I didn’t think about it enough, the image was slightly out of focus, and I cut out her feet. Whoops XD
Then I got to assist Linda on her shoot and once we were done, we were free to walk around and shoot each other if we wanted to. Earlier in the day, Linda told me that she has problems with her eyes and that she’s slowly starting to lose her eyesight. I can’t even begin to imagine what she’s going through, especially being a photographer. So I really wanted to create something based on that. If I had more time I would’ve planned it out properly, but I had my Lensbaby and decided to play around with that.
I initially wanted to do something dark and creepy with long exposure and lots of blur, but Linda had a beautiful smile and I wanted to capture that.
Sara told us about something called Esprit d’Escalier, which is french for the spirit of the stairway. And it’s basically when you think of something you should’ve done or said long after the opportunity’s passed. Like when someone insults you and you can’t think of a comeback and as soon as you leave you think of the perfect response. Yeah, that happened to me a lot. I have so many should have’s right now, about things I would’ve done differently had I just thought things through. I think I wanted to experiment with everything while I could because I remembered Brooke Shaden’s retreat in Hawaii and how I would spend forever just sitting there and thinking, which is good cause I got to brainstorm ideas, but at the same time I felt like I wasn’t taking advantage of the time I had.
After I shot that image, I went around shooting the rest of the students because the day was almost over and that made me a little sad.
I walked up to TJ and Sara to take a picture of them talking and said “pretend I’m not here”… clearly, that didn’t work. My ninja skills failed me.
I just really want to move to Italy and live with Sara you know?
I mean, who wouldn’t?
So after that, I had one more workshop with Sara. I’m surprised she didn’t get sick of my face.
The third and last workshop I attended was Portraits, Props and Beauty Techniques. This was SO much fun. Sara divided us into groups of three and we were a total of four groups. Each group was assigned a season and had to create a prop based on that. My group had fall – I was hoping I’d get winter.
But before we started working, Sara did a couple of shoots to show us how she works with props and how she’d build up on stuff slowly, instead of dumping a bunch of random stuff into the pictures.
She took some beautiful pictures of this model, Sam, then decided to create a massive headpiece on photoshop so she asked one of the students to hold up a bunch of flowers and keep moving them around. Sara posted the final image here.
Then she had another model come in – Natalia, who’s a total badass and an incredibly fascinating human being. Sara started shooting her in the clothes she was wearing and slowly started adding stuff, like fabric and headbands. She also experimented with a mask, which was super cool. Then, drum roll, she asked Natalia to cover her entire face with baby powder (or was it flour?), but it was worth it. The pictures turned out beautiful (they’re on Sara’s blog). Here’s a short clip of Sara shooting:
Once Sara was done, we start working on our props. The girls in my group and I tried to think of a way to make our props somewhat coherent because Sara asked us to create something that could work as a collection of some sort. But fall meant different things to each one of us. The girls wanted to create something colourful, with lots of oranges and reds, but I had a completely different idea. I wanted to make something that would represent decay and death. So Sara then told us we could do whatever we wanted. I decided to create a headpiece – I used brown felt to cover a plastic headband and used brown pipe cleaners to make something that would look like twigs. Then I glued some petals into the twigs and I was done. Sounds easy now, but it did take some time.
So the next day, it was shooting time! I knew we were using lights again but I wasn’t going to let that discourage me. I did some research before going and saved some reference pictures to show Sara what I had in mind, then she suggested a few things. I started out with a normal portrait without my headpiece just to test out the lighting
Then when I was happy with the lighting, I added my headpiece. We were only allowed to use one light, which kinda scared me because I thought I might need more, but then when I watched Sara work I realized that there’s SO much you can do with just one light. I used a strip box for this, and put it not too far away from the model, to her left. I also had beautiful natural light coming in from the sides of the curtain behind her.
And that’s the final image I used and retouched. Sara showed us some awesome retouching techniques, and even though I don’t normally do any skin retouching (aside from desaturating skin) in my pictures, it’s pretty awesome to learn some new tricks.
I was really happy with how this picture turned out and it made me decide that lighting is something I really want to start incorporating into my work. I had an amazing talk with Sara and she’s just so wonderful, she said she believes that learning lighting would make a huge difference in my work. She also said that she believes in me and that I’m going to do amazing things. GAH. Bring on the tears.
Saying goodbye is always hard. The end of GPP is a roller coaster of emotions. On one hand, I’m happy I got to spend so much time with Sara and learn a lot from her. On the other hand, I hate that I have to wait a whole year to see her and everyone else again.
I didn’t mention the GPP Shootout or the free events I got to attend because if I did, this blog post would never end! But you guys have to check out Sara’s blog post on the ShootOut, and hopefully GPP’s going to be posting a video of it soon.
So much love for the GPP crew for putting together such an incredible event once again. Until next year! ❤
2014-2017 Events Thoughts amani alshaali Drew Gurian dubai fine art photographer fine art photography gpp GPP2015 gulf photo plus inspiration joel grimes new friends photography photography festival photography workshop photoshop sara lando Self portraits self portraiture tj nuckolls workshop zack arias
Lovely, Amani! Sara is right! But for me, you already do amazing things. 🙂 keep going, my dear.
Thank you so much for your kind words. You did amazing things over the course of such a little time and it was exciting to watch you create and grow. That last photo of Anna is nothing short of amazing.
Aw, I miss you so much already!
I knew about all the workshops taking place but I could not attend any of them as I could not take any day off from work, But thanks a billion times to you, I got to know a detailed experience of GPP.
I didn’t know much about Sara Lando before…I looked at her up and goodness she is amazing, each shot of hers has a deep story to unfold. I love her layer series.
I am glad you had a good time, Can’t wait to see you use the new skills in your up coming composites ❤