"There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die,is a process of education." Jidda Krishnamurti
Not too long ago I finished a private critique session that was offered by one of my mentors, Tony Sweet, and I was given another insight into the fact that my learning process just keeps on rolling along. In this session I would submit 20 images each month for three months. In my case we kind of sped things up since he's coming into his workshop season, which was not a problem for me. Most of the work I submitted was from the last year and I would "dropbox" the work to him and in a few days he would "dropbox" a video of at least an hour in length for those 20 images back to me. I did this same process a couple of years ago and it was an enlightening experience.
If you've been a regular visitor to my blog you are probably aware that I have also been a participant in two of Tony's location workshops, one in the Badlands of South Dakota and one in the Smoky Mountain National Park area of Tennessee. Those workshops allowed me to get to know Tony and his style of teaching as every afternoon of the five day workshop was spent in his critiquing the participants work from the last outings. I found that both he and his life partner Susan Milestone had a comfortable style of teaching and relating to the students as well as both having a unique thoughtful creative vision.
What I learned mostly from this last critique session is that I had slipped into some "sloppy" habits, one of which was the editing process called cropping. Tony doesn't limit cropping to the camera viewfinder and its restrictive ratio. He is aggressive and continued to tell me in each video to "...isolate and simplify the subject." While I'm not a slow learner I do know that my bad habits die hard. My habit of printing 18" x 12" prints resulted from wanting to keep my costs of framing and matting to the minimum by being able to reuse frames and mats cut for that proportion. It worked as I had hoped in that I could pop out a photo from a mat and put in a different photo and have it back into a gallery in a short time with little added expense. It didn't work because I slid into the habit that allowed main subjects of scenes being lost among other items in the scene.
Along with that he spent a great deal of time discussing the attributes of making "selections" in Photoshop which is a way of making adjustments to areas of an image that will not effect other areas surrounding the selection. I was aware of how to do selections, but I didn't really make an effort to use the process more. Being able to watch Tony do these different selection processes on the return video critiques impressed upon me the value of selections in the creative process of photography.
The blog image is both an example of the cropping and selection process with some work I shot in the past. The selection process helped to give the subject a "glow" as well as better separation of parts of the subject. All of the adjustments and cropping help to keep the viewers eye in the game and not aimlessly wandering about in the picture frame.
I've always been a fan of critique sessions by reputable people (I never give family praise much stock) and through my art classes in college my work was continuously being critiqued and graded. The really good thing about classroom or workshop type of critique sessions is that everyone benefits from the learning of others. In fact, the most astounding thing I learned is seeing how people interpret subjects differently from what I might be thinking or seeing.
While I only pointed out a couple of things I learned from this process with Tony there was a lot of other learning that was going on whether it was the use of differing editing tools, using textures or visual concepts. It was well worth the money as well as the time that we both put in to making the process an educational one. Check out his site tonysweet.com . His work is beautiful, his workshops are incredible and he is sensitive instructor.
Arts On Grand, Spencer, Iowa http://www.artsongrand.org/
Lanesboro Art Center, Lanesboro, Minnesota www.lanesboroarts.org
Summer Wind Gallery, Arnolds Park, Iowa http://www.summerwindgallery.com