La Vida Leica!

Al Satterwhite Portrait to Print Workshop
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Author:  James Lehrer [ Thu Jan 31, 2019 2:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Al Satterwhite Portrait to Print Workshop

I enrolled in the upcoming "Portrait to Print" 3-day workshop with Al Satterwhite at the Leica Store & Gallery LA, February 8 - 10, 2019. It is limited to 12 participants. According to the Leica Akademie advertisement:
Al will teach how to move past the easy shot and look for the exceptional moment and evocative image. He will challenge you to find and capture the ‘essence’ of the subject. Working with available light, you will discover how to ‘read’ the light to use it to your advantage. It’s all about moving fast and sizing up the location you have available. Al will share the techniques that he has used to create timeless portraits of everyday people, news-makers, writers and some of the most recognizable faces for more then three decades.
It’s all about moving fast; learning to evaluate factors that can effect the final image, knowing what you want to get out of the session, and then positioning the subject and putting them at ease.

I'll report on the workshop and post some of my work.

Author:  James Lehrer [ Mon Feb 11, 2019 9:45 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Al Satterwhite Portrait to Print Workshop

The Al Satterwhite workshop was a success, despite the cold and rain that's been intermittently hitting southern California. These Leica Akademie workshops are usually limited to 12 participants; this time there were only 6, due to a couple of last-minute cancellations. While I outwardly root for the success of the business enterprise, I confess a certain sly glee at learning that the instructor's time will be divided among fewer students. ;) Philip Cuenco, the Leica Akademie Instructor/Producer for this venue, did his usual excellent job organizing the workshop, keeping up the pace and making sure each participant is enjoying themselves and getting the most out of the program. Since this workshop took the participants through the making of a black and white portrait from shoot to (inkjet) print, Philip's exceptional skills with the various post-processing software tools were central to the program's success.

Al Satterwhite is as approachable and friendly as can be, and the scope of his photographic experience is amazing. From his early professional years as a freelancer and then a staff photographer for the St. Petersburg Times, through his year as a political campaign photographer, his assignment work for Life, Newsweek, Time and Sports Illustrated as an agency shooter, his decade photographing automobiles and races, to his widely-seen images created for corporate advertising accounts and stock, Al has been known for his professionalism, and for his strong sense of design and his bold use of color as a design element. Our little group of workshop participants were lucky to have Al as an instructor for the 3-day program.

We gathered at the Leica Store & Gallery at 3:00 pm on a chilly and gloomy Friday afternoon. In the 3rd Floor classroom, Philip displayed the ten images each participant was asked to bring. Al commented on each image, and asked the participants to do the same. Although the participants described themselves as ranging from beginners to experienced at shooting portraits, the images revealed that everyone in the group had a good "eye," good command of the camera, and some level of discernment as to the quality of the images they brought. With Al and Philip's leads, a bond started to form among the group and the enthusiasm to "get out there and shoot" started to build. Al projected a digital "slide" presentation, with musical soundtrack, of some of his best black and white portrait work over the years. Subjects ran the gamut from rock, jazz and classical musicians to politicians, race car drivers, celebrities, death row prisoners and everyday people with faces that caught Al's interest. We had lots of questions, and Al answered with fascinating anecdotes mixed in with abundant practical advice. We wrapped up at 6:00 pm looking forward to meeting the two models we would be working with and getting started shooting.

As usual, one didn't have to own a Leica to participate, and Leica Akademie made various recent model cameras available to sign-out for those interested in trying an M, SL or Q. Lenses of various focal lengths were also available for loan.

We regrouped at 10:00 am on Saturday, our cameras and extra batteries and memory cards supplemented by umbrellas. The decision was made to spend the first half of the day shooting inside. The modern architecture and interior design, and ample space of the Leica building allowed the two models to pose in different interior environments and under different lighting conditions. All shooting was with available light. Participants moved back and forth from model to model (one male, the other female), while Al and Philip moved through the activity providing advice and encouragement. The building has a beautiful glassed-in, open roof porch on the gallery (2nd) floor, and a cool staircase with translucent, back-lit risers from the store (ground floor) to the gallery. These provided inspiring shooting locations.

Fortunately the rain held back, and there was even some sun as we moved outside to the neighborhood around Beverly Blvd and Robertson. A very long covered sidewalk scaffold along a construction site, an alley with reflecting puddles of water, a big wall painted vivid chartreuse (sadly, not of much use in monochrome!), and a well-worn brick wall with faded patches of paint served as shooting sets and backgrounds. Again, Al and Philip "MC'd" the shooting action as we broke into two teams of three, and rotated working with each model. The models had brought business attire for the morning session; for the afternoon they changed to casual/leather. Interestingly, the models were not the only photographic subjects: the participants enjoyed photographing each other! The day's work ended at about 5:00 pm. I shot 420 images, another participant shot over 1000.

Al gave us a "homework" assignment for that night: to edit our own images down to the best ten. If we wanted to post-process them to printable monochrome, fine; if not we could leave that to Philip and Al (and the group) on Sunday. We were to bring the images in on a memory card or flash drive.

Sunday at 10:00 am we were back in the classroom. Over the day, (broken by lunch at Lemonade restaurant, hosted by Leica) we leisurely viewed each participant's self-selected ten best images. Whether or not a participant had post-processed their images, Al offered ideas for alternative or additional cropping, toning, clean-up and other post-processing for the two images they decided they wanted to print, while the images were displayed on a large flat-screen monitor in the darkened classroom. He invited participants to defend their choices, and invited other participants to chime in with their suggestions. Everyone was impressed with the quality of the images captured during the workshop, and there were were occasions where participants changed their minds about image selection and post-processing based on the discussion, and also on seeing some of the post-processing applied with Philip at the Mac and Al providing guidance. They worked well as a team, so the final photo selections were processed to everyone's satisfaction. At that point, Michael Baker of the Leica Store (also one of the workshop participants) undertook the task of printing the images on high-quality Hahnemühle papers. Each participant had two images printed on 14 x 17 Baryta, and one of the images printed on 14 x 17 matte for comparison. The western sales representative from Hahnemühle sat in with the group during the afternoon with media samplers and brochures for the participants, answering technical questions about the products used in the workshop and otherwise available.

The workshop concluded with each participant receiving a tote bag containing a recent issue of LFI, and Leica-branded key ring and water bottle. For me, it was three days well-spent: entertaining, informative and satisfying. I met new friends and enjoyed seeing old ones. And I gained a large measure of inspiration with Al's images and guidance.

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