Is a BIG photography conference worth my time and money?

"Bec does Georgia O'Keeffe" (c) Rebecca LaChance, 2015. Somewhere over the continental U.S.  I love to take pictures of the clouds whenever I fly.  It reminds me of Georgia O'Keefe's painting "Above the Clouds". I read, a very long time ago, that a sight such as this was the creative spark for her cloud series.

"Bec does Georgia O'Keeffe" (c) Rebecca LaChance, 2015. Somewhere over the continental U.S.  I love to take pictures of the clouds whenever I fly.  It reminds me of Georgia O'Keefe's painting "Above the Clouds". I read, a very long time ago, that a sight such as this was the creative spark for her cloud series.

Last week, The Hubster and I flew to San Antonio for the Click Away Photography Conference, sponsored by Clickin' Moms. The conference was followed by a road trip to College Station, TX to see grandbabies. Be prepared for travel images!

"Classical Technology" (c) Rebecca LaChance, 2015. Houston Hobby Airport.  There was just something striking about a string quartet (Divisigns) playing "Shake it off" in a classical mode with the "sheet" music on IPads.  This group was PHENOMENAL.  If they had a CD, I would have bought it on the spot!

"Classical Technology" (c) Rebecca LaChance, 2015. Houston Hobby Airport.  There was just something striking about a string quartet (Divisigns) playing "Shake it off" in a classical mode with the "sheet" music on IPads.  This group was PHENOMENAL.  If they had a CD, I would have bought it on the spot!

I packed one camera and one lens. My intention was to work that one lens in every way possible; to take it to the extremes of its creative potential.  (And, if I'm really honest, then I would have room to bring home a new camera or lens. It probably doesn't mean too much that I had made a list of the lowest prices available - to compare against the vendor prices - does it?)

Have you tried this?  Take only one camera body and one lens for an extended period and then work 'em.

Push that lens through every single aperture.  Work that camera through every single mode and program. It can be scary to only work with one lens. What if I want the long shot?  How am I going to make it work without a zoom lens? 

Calling creative thinking...please show up!

The Conference

Does this ever happen to you when you travel?  The first, and the last, women that I met were both from the same state as me!  The first lady lives less than thirty miles from me. 

How does that happen?

Can you imagine what it must be like to plan a conference with at least 1200 attendees, numerous speakers, road trips for advanced practices, hiring models and a bevy of vendors?  Wow, I hope those planners are consuming vast quantities of celebratory wine because they did a GREAT job!

The only downside, for me, was that I had selected my sessions way back in the earliest days of registration.  What interested me six months ago, no longer held interest for me. During those six months, I have refined who I am as an art & photography business owner. My tastes and needs are much different now.

I was intrigued by the photographer who demonstrated how she takes studio photos in the dark. Yes, the only light was on the subject.  All the other lights in the room had been turned off.  At first, I was stunned by this...but in retrospect, I realized our methods were really not much different.  She shoots in a darkened studio; I shoot under a darkened sky.

Best of all, I took a "Romancing the Light" session led by the talented FPA member, Cat Hepple. She worked magic with the model-couple in different aspects of the setting sun. 

The "best of the best" part of the conference was that four of us from the Female Photographer Association got to meet in person.  If you've ever wondered if anyone could recognize you by your thumbnail photo on Facebook - yes!  What an amazing feeling to step off an escalator and hear your name called.  It was as if we were all friends "from way back".

"Romance in the Light" (c) Rebecca LaChance, 2015. Mission San Jose, San Antonio, TX.  Heck yeah, I can take romantic images!  It wasn't always easy to get a good angle of the couple because there were about 50 other photographers in this group! This was a very popular breakout session. I suspect many were engagement/wedding photographers, or wanted to be wedding photographers, and really needed to get portfolio images.  

"Romance in the Light" (c) Rebecca LaChance, 2015. Mission San Jose, San Antonio, TX.  Heck yeah, I can take romantic images!  It wasn't always easy to get a good angle of the couple because there were about 50 other photographers in this group! This was a very popular breakout session. I suspect many were engagement/wedding photographers, or wanted to be wedding photographers, and really needed to get portfolio images.

 

The Turn Around

I'm a firm believer in "the turn around".  When fifty other photographers are all shooting at the same thing, turn around.  Because you just might catch something like the image below.

"The Girl in the Dream" (c) Rebecca LaChance, 2015. Mission San Jose, San Antonio, TX. This is the result of my "turn-around" from the direction all the other photographers were shooting. An interesting dichotomy evolved around this image. Photographers all said, "Oh, how beautiful".  Anyone who was NOT a photographer said, "Oh..."   (Insert giant belly laugh here)

"The Girl in the Dream" (c) Rebecca LaChance, 2015. Mission San Jose, San Antonio, TX. This is the result of my "turn-around" from the direction all the other photographers were shooting. An interesting dichotomy evolved around this image. Photographers all said, "Oh, how beautiful".  Anyone who was NOT a photographer said, "Oh..."   (Insert giant belly laugh here)

This shot...

Multiple camera companies were represented at the conference. Each one provided the opportunity to test out different camera bodies and lenses. 

(Be still my heart because if I touch the camera and it does good things, YOU KNOW it's going home with me.)

"Star Lights" (c) Rebecca LaChance, 2015, San Antonio, TX.  Shot with the NIkon d750 full frame camera and my Lensbaby 56mm Velvet lens.

"Star Lights" (c) Rebecca LaChance, 2015, San Antonio, TX.  Shot with the NIkon d750 full frame camera and my Lensbaby 56mm Velvet lens.

This is the shot that did it...this is the shot that made my heart leap and my credit card gently weep!

The lighting is very low, heavily shadowed and very orange'ish in this particular area.  I deliberately chose this area to take test shots because - obviously - I take the majority of my photographs in low light.  Did I say, I'm in love with the d750? 

Yeah...ah...anybody want to buy a really good, used Nikon d7100?

(Seriously! Send your inquiries here.)

San Antonio and the Riverwalk

A photographer's dream is to see new things, to take new images.  A colorful place like the Riverwalk only makes that dream more vibrant, more stimulating to the photographer's eye.

"Riverwalk Cat" (c) Rebecca LaChance, 2015, San Antonio, TX.  I think this cat is probably very famous this week, because at least 1200 women took its photo. The cat is probably showing up on blogs and social media all over the country! It stayed right outside the hotel door, making it a very convenient model.

"Riverwalk Cat" (c) Rebecca LaChance, 2015, San Antonio, TX.  I think this cat is probably very famous this week, because at least 1200 women took its photo. The cat is probably showing up on blogs and social media all over the country! It stayed right outside the hotel door, making it a very convenient model.

Let me save you some embarrassment if you got to San Antonio and stay in the Marriott on the Riverwalk.  There are two Marriott hotels - right next to each other; the Marriott River Center and the Marriott River Walk.  After a night of strolling along the Riverwalk, we headed back to our hotel only to find that our room had disappeared!

Yes, we were in the wrong hotel.  Fortunately, the lady who assisted us was very kind and actually walked us over to the correct hotel. (Is that great customer service or what?)

So, make sure you know which of the two Marriott's you're registered!

"Guitarist under the bridge" (c) Rebecca LaChance, 2015. San Antonio, TX.  What can I say...that light...that placement.  I love it.

"Guitarist under the bridge" (c) Rebecca LaChance, 2015. San Antonio, TX.  What can I say...that light...that placement.  I love it.

So, we've covered the fun stuff...

It's time to do the evaluations/cost-benefit analysis of a BIG photography conference.

The costs

  1. The monetary costs of traveling to this BIG photography conference could have covered the costs of a Caribbean cruise for the two of us...with cash left over. (Damn, why didn't I calculate that before?)
  2. Costs of lost opportunities - since my preselected sessions were no longer of interest, I lost time/opportunities of any other sessions that may have been of more benefit to me.
  3. On a personal level, this conference was not a good fit for me.  Mainly, because I "don't do" crowds well.  It's a massive assault to my nervous system. (Did I mention the two accidents I witnessed?  Women with their faces glued to their mobile phones tripping over roller bags of camera gear being drug around behind other women in a crowd of 1200 people. Make your own conclusions.)      
  4. On the professional level, this conference was not a good fit for me. Them = Clickin' Moms; Me = Twilight Landscape Photographic Artist.  "Nuff" said....  
"Bec does Edward Hopper" (c) Rebecca LaChance, 2015. San Antonio, TX.  Inspired by Edward Hopper's "Night Hawk" series.  And you know...I had to go out at 3:00 a.m.  This was the "jack that ISO as high as you can and see what you get" shot. We ate several breakfasts at this Denny's. They had free wifi...the hotel did not.

"Bec does Edward Hopper" (c) Rebecca LaChance, 2015. San Antonio, TX.  Inspired by Edward Hopper's "Night Hawk" series.  And you know...I had to go out at 3:00 a.m.  This was the "jack that ISO as high as you can and see what you get" shot. We ate several breakfasts at this Denny's. They had free wifi...the hotel did not.

The benefits

  1. We took the opportunity to visit daughters and grandchildren.  When your kids are scattered all across the U.S. you take every opportunity that presents itself to visit them.
  2. I got to meet some of my FPA colleagues, who are totally delightful and talented women.
  3. I achieved clarity about my skill level as a photographer and business owner.  And consequently, I prioritized what steps I will now take to reach the next level of my artistic and business goals.
"It's a unicorn!" (c) Rebecca LaChance, 2015, San Antonio, TX.  No kidding, that light you see at the horse's forehead?  It just happened to be the street light above the crystal wand attached to the headpiece of the tack. (I really don't know anything about horse gear, so I could be totally wrong about what that's called.)  It really was magic to capture that light!

"It's a unicorn!" (c) Rebecca LaChance, 2015, San Antonio, TX.  No kidding, that light you see at the horse's forehead?  It just happened to be the street light above the crystal wand attached to the headpiece of the tack. (I really don't know anything about horse gear, so I could be totally wrong about what that's called.)  It really was magic to capture that light!

The intangible...

In the end, this item is probably a benefit, but it started out as a major disappointment.

Canon did a free 13 x 19 print for every person who submitted a file.  Okay...first of all, I rankle at someone telling me the EXACT size my print has to be. (That's one of the many reasons I value "The Paper Whisperer".  He prints to my composition.)

But the major disappointment was the color output in the print.  My beautiful backlit, dark brown horse with the aged red barn behind him was a mass of "squirrel grey-brown". 

I wanted to cry!

However, the disappointment spurred me to schedule a tutorial session with "The Paper Whisperer".  (I paid him for his time and it was worth every single dollar.) He helped me understand what had happened.  Together, we have worked out a plan to guarantee that - between the two of us working together - all of my prints will be the deep, saturated colors that I love.

Definitely, a benefit...

What's the verdict?

Let me very clear, the Click Away Conference was run very well, very organized and a wee-bit crowded.  The Clickin' Moms group does a great job of educating its population - which is mostly Moms learning photography technical skills. 

Would I attend Click Away again?  As a participant, no.  As a speaker, yes.

My future continuing education monies will be reserved for small workshops (6 to 10 participants) with carefully vetted Master Photographers/Artists. I will base my selections on specific areas I want to improve.  (My nervous system thanks me for this.)

Now, about that decision to take only a single lens....

I am glad I forced myself to use only this one lens for the entire time.  I learned the creative possibilities and I learned its limitations.  This was a good decision...although I still have this twinge of "I could have used a zoom lens."

Wrapping it up....

I leave you with some points of consideration when choosing workshops/conferences.

  • Does the purpose of the organization fit with your style of art/photography?
  • Are the sessions geared above your skill level?  You definitely want to reach those higher skill levels.
  • Is the TOTAL (this includes travel, car, food, hotel, etc.) monetary cost of the conference/workshop a good use of your funds compared to other ventures?
  • Will there be thousands of people or less than 10?  Which format will better suit your personality and learning needs?
  • Are there other benefits for you that can't be quantified (i.e., seeing grandchildren)?

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Until next week...Expect the best. Anything else is an adventure!

Rebecca