Thursday, September 20, 2012

Postmortem: Gary Parker & Ron Martinsen Photographing People Workshop in Seattle - May 26th, 2012

Photo by student Mike Wiebe

This past Memorial Day weekend I conducted my annual photography workshop with the  legendary commercial portrait photographer, Gary Parker.  The Seattle Workshop Was A Blast, but I hadn’t got around to posting some of the fun photos that the students took during our workshop.

Great Students + Great Enthusiasm = Great Results

We had a small turnout due to the poor timing of this being on the Memorial Day weekend when most people had plans, but the small group of 4 students made for a nice comfortable ratio with two instructors and an assistant.

In the sections below I provide a few samples from each student, but you can click their name to see more of their images from the workshop.

Student 1 – Mike Wiebe – The Talented Intermediate

Students were skeptical about shooting a crowded park, but Mike nailed
the skill of getting a good shot without drawing attention to the background

Mike is a solid intermediate photographer who was looking for assistance on 80% composition and 20% technical. Here’s his thoughts of the workshop in his own words:

What a great experience to have! Aside from the all the great workshop-style teaching moments, the entire day felt a lot more like I was just walking around with 2 pros shooting whatever happened to catch our eye. That type of one-on-one "freestyle" interaction is one that very few aspiring shooters are ever lucky enough to get. It was also inspiring to see someone who has been shooting as long as Gary has to still get completely lost in those moments of taking pictures - something I hope I can still experience when I have as many years shooting under my belt as he does.

One of Mike’s first shots of the day was about paying attention to the colors of the
environment like getting the colorful balloons and color from the sun on the grass

Here’s some additional points Mike wanted to share with future workshop students:

  • Very well organized and very good pre and post workshop communication.
  • Loved that the group was so small - I know that sucked financially for you, but it was a real bonus for those of us that attended.
  • You were amazingly generous with your gear. I wish I would have taken you up on your offer to try a few more things, but I almost felt guilty.
  • It was really cool of you to offer to drive everyone.
  • Loved how conversational the entire thing was.
  • The price wasn't cheap, but it was still well within the range of affordable (some workshops are crazy expensive).
  • Loved all the detailed feedback on the images - I have never had that before at any workshop, I was always lucky to get the pro looking at the back of my camera for 2 minutes.
Behind the Scenes by Mike Wiebe

Mike was not only enjoying taking shots of the models, but he managed to take a nice collection of photographs of all of us while we were engaged in the workshop. I’ve scatted some throughout the article, but I’ve also included a couple more of my favorites here.

Joanna enjoys a break from shooting people to get some gum wall shots

Ron takes a photo of our assistant Luc to demonstrate to demonstrate
the impact of different flash head angles and positions on the lighting
of the subject

Student #2 – Joanna – The Joe McNally Workshop Veteran

Ron (left), & Joanna (right) discuss flash techniques
Photo by student Mike Wiebe

Joanna was our lone Nikon shooter who came with lots of spunk and enthusiasm. She was a veteran of a handful of Joe McNally classes, so I was a bit concerned that I might not be able to teach her much. However, my 1-on-1 approach to teaching and her discussions with Gary helped her to see the world a bit differently. The result of that were some breakthroughs that led to some fun shots.

I helped Joanna explore light at the Pike Place market to get this shot

Joanna was so excited after the class that she immediately sent this email via her iPad (which is why its casually formatted) to Joe McNally and copied me on it:

I checked into their class, just as you recommended on twitter or fb or your blog or something.  Here's what happened:

Workshop announcement and access: well articulated, easy to find and process, retrievable first time every time; website works quite well.

Registration: easy access, paypal payment, no muss no fuss; boom.

Day of: as advertised, well organized, well executed, definitely a plan in place that came off with no discernible cock ups. No Surprises Service.

Content: all there as promised, 1001 ways to knock out a spectacular portrait; these two are no joke.

Teaching ability and style:  exceptional, positive, collaborative, professional, mature, authentic, intimate; boom boom.

Value: 5/5 really really valuable experience and follow up; McNally comes through.

If I was writing their Yelp review, I would be remiss not to mention that Ron takes my first edited shot and begins his email with, "Since you said you want to learn more about editing {(instead of repeating what I said which was I don't know jackshit about Photoshop)}, I edited this image taking about 7 minutes and you can find the result here. " I follow a you tube link where he videos his edit of my image onscreen literally walking me through it as if I were at his elbow. kid you not. guy is a brutal genius and exceptionally intuitive about people for his skill set. Can I say it again?  Ron Martinsen is no joke.

She also attached the shot in question from one of her first shots of the day:

Joanna quickly took to working with our great model Raia and
I gave her some pointers on how to add some oomph to her shots

Here’s a more casual shot where I felt Joanna did a great job of capturing the moment:

Joanna picked up concepts quickly,
so in no time she was finding interesting subjects on her own.

Student # 3 - Sheri – Frustrated Beginner / Contest Winner

Gary and Ron switch roles and become the models at the end of the day,
and Sheri managed to nail one of the more fun shots from that exercise

I’m pretty sure that Sheri has been shooting digital for at least as long as me, and her experience has won her some photo contests on the web. However, she was frustrated with the lack of progress she was making to improve her skills in certain areas of photography. By the end of the day she was all smiles with what she had learned, and even went outside of her comfort zone to shoot our model Raia!

Sheri snapped one of Raia’s favorite shots of the day (below), and overall did an excellent job of capturing emotion. Her big takeaway was learning how to use flash exposure compensation and fill light.

Student # 4 – Dana – The Stealth-like Intermediate

Dana doesn’t fear mid-day sun during this workshop

Dana was our quiet intermediate photographer in this session who was here to learn how to improve his composition skills. He managed to put himself at the right place at the right time to capture some fun shots. He tended to be the fly on the wall that absorbed what we said but he went out and applied it to get some great shots. Here’s a good example of his shot from the reflector fill light exercise:

Dana picks up a tip from Gary on how to use fill light and make shots fun

Based on some of my recommendations, Dana tried out some new software and experimented with ditching the color to bring more attention to the subject.

Dana experiments with black and white to further enhance
the focus on the subject

Thanks to Awesome Assistant – Luc

Photo by student Mike Wiebe

Instructors are important but not nothing is more valuable during a shoot than a good assistant. As far as those go, Luc is one of the best because he goes the extra mile to make sure everyone’s gear is safe and sound. He also shares his mental notes with everyone to help become another valuable member of the student instruction team.

Gary’s Tips

Gary decided to share a few photos with tips on how to get better shots. Here’s those tips in Gary’s own words:

Gary's Workshop Weekend Shots

As an instructor it’s hard to find time to actually shoot, but Gary managed to pull off some nice shots while teaching. He also had a few from his weekend that have ben included from his workshop gallery here or by clicking on the thumbnails below:


Balloon Man by Ron Martinsen

It was a blast teaching this workshop with Gary and all of the students seemed to be super happy with what they learned. If you think you’d like to join me for a workshop your next chance is at my Times Square Workshop on October 25th, 2012. I’m also available for private instruction and via my portfolio review service.

Gary is also available for private instruction and more at as well as

Thanks to all of the students who attended! If you’d like to attend next year, be sure to contact me at

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The opinions provided are of Ron Martinsen alone and do not reflect the view of any other entity

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