Every year, I commit to advance my photography skill and knowledge by attending several on-line seminars or an on-location photography workshop (which I must add is the more expensive route.) I just returned from a Lighting and Skill Set Boot Camp instructed by one of the most well recognized wedding photographers, Cliff Mautner, in Haddonfield, New Jersey.
I have been following Cliff Mautner’s beautiful and dramatic imagery for the past several years and was aware that he offered an intense lighting/skill workshop but honestly shied away from taking it because I felt my skill level could not possible measure up to any of his masterful standards. Earlier this year, I again happened across that he was going to be holding a new lighting and skill set boot camp (which he offers only limited times a year and is not formally advertised) in May. Something inside pushed me to make a call and inquire more about this workshop. To my surprise when I called, expecting to speak with a staff person, Cliff in fact answered – which completely threw me for a loop. We spoke for about twenty minutes and, it felt like I was simply talking to a friend! Needless to say, I signed up within minutes of hanging up and, it was the best decision I have made for my photography business!
With bags in hand and a bundle of nerves standing at attention, I arrived at Cliff’s studio on Monday evening to his welcome reception and was immediately greeted with his warm smile and genuine happiness that I was there. I sat among 19 other professional photographers – all with a common goals – learning to see light in a new dramatic way – as well as honing off camera flash skills. What I did not expect to encounter was Cliff’s passion to not only sincerely teach but also to deeply learn about everyone attending. I have never experienced a workshop where the instructor truly wants to share in depth knowledge and experience so that we may infuse it into our path and journey.
Over the next two and half days, Cliff opened his business like a book for us to read – answered questions on every level, shared his own personal trials and tribulations, and joked with us every minute. Our days were jammed packed started at 9:00 a.m. and always going past the 9:00 p.m. ending point to ensure nothing was missed. Cliff’s instruction was meticulous on how to see good light when “technically” it is the worst light. We were taught how to create beautiful images from locations that I would not readily feel I could see a beautiful and dramatic image. On both days, there was time set aside to put our “classroom” skills to work and set out with more than enough models – which usually there are never enough models for the number of students. Our “working” groups were small and never did a battle or struggle over time to instruct or pose the models come into play. Cliff would turn us loose yet was always floating equally around making sure that we were seeing situations or light in a different way - affording his critique of any image - without a sugar coating of course!
We ended our time with Cliff doing a formal critique of our images – he asked for a couple of prior images and a couple take during the boot camp. As you can imagine, all 20 of us sat in intense anticipation of whether we would receive what Cliff referred to as a “@#IT Sandwich.” Once again, he sat and commented with such sincere care and afforded honest direction as to improvement. If we nailed with the technical tasks that we came there to achieve, he proudly pointed it out. My heart beamed when he told me I nailed it! I worked hard, I listened hard, and I have never been so excited about creating images as a result of this workshop!