Nicaragua Notes: Free Shoot

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Toward the end of the workshop week we had an afternoon staring back at us as wide open. Well, let me rephrase that. Those of us who were not responsible for the technical and production side of the workshop, meaning editing, sequencing, rating and producing films were staring at a few hours to kill. It felt odd due to the frenetic pace of the prior days. The kids were buzzing around like mosquitos, shooting around the lodge and trying to make pictures of each other. We decided to just walk, down the camino tierra leading from the lodge, downhill through farm properties and out into the jungle. Not really knowing what we would see, we just went.
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Remember, photography was still new. Still unexpected, unsuspecting and illuminating. I was amazed at how positive, how forward thinking and how excited they were to shoot anything and everything. There was a purity to their action that reminded me I need to keep things in perspective with my own work. After you do this photography thing long enough you suddenly have an agenda. Some people call it career, but either way it changes you. The kids reminded me about purity of thought and purity of action.
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No matter what we do the world moves along at the pace it chooses to move. Things happen and our job is to be there and witness. A small farm, the foreman with his radio and machete. Moving his cows down the road and suddenly there are a dozen kids in a full-court-press of photography, working the scene from every angle. Helping each other, pointing things out, making suggestion. “Make a color photograph in black and white,” I said. Suddenly they are shooting and rushing up to show the preview screen. Easy.
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Cows on a road might not be your cup of tea, might not be inspiring to you, but I am saying it should be. This little scene reminded me that I’ve taken far, far too much for granted. Star players don’t just play the final match and hold aloft the trophy. Star players grind it out through round after round. They might be the star but they are also part of the foundation. Just as everyday images are to us photographers. Being with these kids and watching them work made me realize the cows, and this road, were the most beautiful thing, and most beautiful place, in the world. What was I waiting for? A Yeti to appear? A dance troupe? Something exotic? No silly, the cows are exotic. The road, the landscape, the foreman, the kids and the MOMENT it all came together. Forget agenda, forget career, forget all that which means NOTHING in the long run, or even the now for that matter.
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Just shoot. Shoot what’s there. Enjoy. Record and reflect. Study. Admire and respect. It’s very, very simple if you get out of the way and just let it be.
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For those of you reading this post who are thinking I’m posting about photography you might be missing the point. This post isn’t about photography, certainly not good photography, so slow down and think about what I’m saying. Life is a seesaw battle, back and forth. Learn and unlearn. Learn and unlearn. I’ll admit, most of the good things that have happened to me in the last five years with a camera in my hand have all been from unlearning. Baggage. Leave it behind and just look. It sounds easy but it surely isn’t. I know this might sound like a sermon, but I keep seeing so many folks go down the road of being liked, being trendy, etc, and what it gets you is simply, at best, a short term gain. All you have to do is channel the feeling you had when you FIRST picked up a camera, like these kids, and use that to your advantage. It had nothing to do with success, a career, books, magazines, galleries, museums or anything else. It was about the hunt and the moment. Crediting what is in front of you and how fantastic that is, long before the idea of filtering it became a reality. Don’t filter, just enjoy. And realize you might not ever walk those same steps again.
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Since returning from this trip I’ve continued to unlearn the things that Nicaragua, and the kids, proved to me I no longer needed to know, or at least respond to. It’s liberating actually. I hope these posts have meaning to someone outside of the guy striking the keys. There is much to do in the photographic world. No time to waste. All we need to do is connect and forget.

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The first images are just whispers. By Friday the kids will have the ability to shout.

We rise and shine at the mercy of the task at hand. Voices carry though thin walls, feet cascade down stone stairs. There is excitement here, now. Yesterday was heavy with rain, the sound colliding with the tin roof, magnifying any amount of fluid to biblical proportion.
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The faces I see this morning show pride, relief and focus, even in those a few short hours before displayed a certain uncertainty. They are now familiar with each other, and even after the amount of information put before them, all had success in the field, not something to be overlooked when you consider the same information required me to endure multiple semesters of photography school.
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Soon things will get interesting as the mechanical bits become natural and the kids begin to realize they have a voice, one equal to anyone else in the world. Famous, infamous, known, unknown, soft or empowering. They will know they can and will be heard, if they chose to be.

I witness one shy boy dancing and talking to himself, a smile from side to side. I ask through the translator, “Are you excited?” The boy retreats into his shell but then looks up, smiles and nods his head.
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Last night, our first edit. Do you remember yours? I do not. What I do remember is destroying my first roll of film. So confident, standing in a room of my peers as the instructor explained the required procedure. In my anxiousness I rolled the film on top of itself. Palms sweating, eyes closed, concentrating on the sounds and people around me.

Here there is no need for the dark. Their faces are lit by the pixel and the glow of THEIR first ever images. When a photo slides by they are instructed to yell “Yes,” when something strikes their fancy. Each time a “Yes,” is exclaimed the return investment is a smile and slight squirm in their chair. First feedback. FIRST FEEDBACK. A permission slip of belonging.

Panning, selective focus, layering, lines, angles, backgrounds, portraits and shifting light…….and this is DAY ONE.

Blurb Australia: Birdseye View….

Want to know what it looks like to be INSIDE one of my workshops? Well, now you know. Was able to spend four hours with design students at University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. I love teaching students, working with students, etc, They have all the good stuff in front of them and it’s cool to be able to shine whatever light I can on being a photographer, being a professional(Whatever that means) and on life in general. On tap for this day was planning shoots and how to make a great portrait. As you can see from the middle image….we studied LIGHT. The college is located near the coast and the so beautiful ocean which I did glimpse from the car at one point. Thanks to the human hurricane that is Matt Haynes for putting it together.

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