Why Not Photoshop World?

By Mark

Usually about this time of the year Roger and I start beating the drum for people to go and attend Photoshop World.  I’ve been 11 straight years and Roger for 10.  This year, we made the difficult decision not to go.  Enrollment is open, and if you haven’t been before and really want to pack a lot of learning into a few days, it is a good place to begin.   We have watched it change over the last few years and this year are going to do something different.  We have watched with concern as the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP) transformed into Kelby Media Group and then into Kelby One.  Scott is a fantastic instructor and author, but the organization really started to shift and be all about Scott, and not about the training.  

This spring, they made a radical shift and terminated all of the Photoshop Guys, who really carried the creative load.  RC Concepcion, Pete Collins, Brad Moore, and Corey Barker, all were let go on the same sad day.   The Original crew of Matt Kloskowski and Dave Cross had already departed.   Some of the best instructors had also stopped attending or announced they were choosing to not come this year.

o what are we going to do instead?   Well one of the things both Roger and I loved about PSW is the chance to get out and shoot things you normally don’t have access to.  Events such as the live model shoot, put on by Westcott, the Precon photo shoots with heroes like Moose Peterson and Joe McNally were the highlights of the week.

Last year, in Vegas we even went out a day early in order to visit the Neon Graveyard museum, just to force ourselves to take the camera out and use it. 

We knew that Bill Fortney, another renowned photographer was holding a seminar in the Great Smoky Mountains in the fall.  What we didn’t know was just how fast it would sell out—our mistake.  Well he leads photographers out into the woods and they shoot at both the dawn’s early light and at twilight’s last gleaming.  They process and critique photos during the day and then start over the next day.  We figured, heck we can do that ourselves.   We are going to head off into the fall woods and try to capture the magic of the changing colors.   

We also are going to do some people photography, but haven’t quite figured out where yet.   For us, it is a matter of just spending a few days concentrating on making better pictures.  After all this time learning Lightroom and Photoshop, what we have discovered over and over again, is that you have to dedicate time to practicing what you have learned or it goes away. 

Where Neon Dreams Go to Die

We headed out to Vegas for PSW15, a day early, last week, specifically to visit a place I’ve heard of for years—The Las Vegas Neon Museum and Boneyard.  Vegas is not known as a sentimental place.  Lots of Casinos and hotels have come and gone, but pieces of their histories have been saved.  

A few times a month, the museum allows small groups of photographers access to the more than two acres of old signs and rusted reminders of glory days gone by.

The lobby is carpet salvaged from an old casino and starts to set the atmosphere.  While we were waiting, we got to witness a legendary Vegas tradition.  A young bride and groom and their properly lubricated wedding party pulled up, and the over the top wedding coordinator came in.  Vegas Elvis was there to meet them and have a quiet word with the two before leading the group out into the neon for a ceremony.

Later, after our tour, we noticed that the security guard looked vaguely familiar…nah, it couldn’t be. Finally, our time rolled around, and we were allowed out onto the property.  Rules were pretty straightforward, don’t touch anything and don’t cross over the rocks.   Many of the old neon lights and regular bulbs are broken.

Some contain mercury.  You start finding some of the old big name signs which have been torn down for the new “improved” glitzy casinos; places like the Sahara, or the Stardust are just memories preserved here.

Now this is definitely my type of photography.  I love the abstract shapes and details you can find around every corner.   I like how the rust and glass combine for very unique textures. 

Tucked in back I found the sign for the now failed Liberace museum.  They have restored it to working order to keep that pink glow alive. 

For Roger though, this is definitely not his scene.  He is a people person, but got some really interesting shots.  

The yellow arrow shot is one that I happily admit, I wish I had seen and shot. That is one of the things we enjoy in working together, the chance to push the other and expand our comfort zones. 

One of my very favorite neon “things” was the exceptionally creepy giant Neon duck.  I don’t know from where he came, but he photographed really well.  I think the details are as interesting as the whole. 

The museum is not exactly easy to get to as it is way, way north of the strip; North of Fremont street as well.  The surrounding building had vibrant art as well.  

This geisha face turned out to be my favorite picture of the entire trip.   

It was pretty warm, even though it was sunset, and the beers, when we finally got back to the hotel, were very cold and refreshing.   I can highly recommend a side trip to this quirky place the next time you wind up in Las Vegas. 

Wrap-Up: Photoshop World

By Roger (16 August 2015)

Mark and I just finished Photoshop World, and I’m still on the road. This will be a short one.  I’ve left Las Vegas for the east coast and Newport, Rhode Island. The only photos I have with me are from this week’s PSW, so I thought I’d interrupt the learning resources series with a quick wrap-up of the week in Las Vegas.

A couple of weeks ago, in the Conferences and Workshops blog, I may have mentioned PSW, a time or two, but we didn’t do our normal “You-Should-Go” blogs this year because we’ve done them so much in the past. But can I give you the bottom-line, up-front summation of this conference? You should go.

Aside from the craziness of going to the desert in August, we had a great week. Start planning and saving now for next year’s conference, 9-11 August, again, in Las Vegas.

We always try to these events early to explore on our own. This year, that exploration took us to the Neon Sign Museum (link). Mark will have that blog, later. This kind of shoot is Mark’s territory; abstracts have always been tough for me. I’m much more comfortable with people. So, although I made some attempts that were acceptable, one of my favorites was this old sign. It isn’t an abstract, but it definitely caught my eye.

Neon Sign Museum

Neon Sign Museum

Our second “adventure” was spontaneous. While we were having a fine dinner in the Ri Ra Irish Pub (link), we admired the décor. We asked the manager for permission to make some photographs around the bar. He wanted a license to use them for the business and a promise we wouldn’t interfere with the flow of the pub. Easy enough. 

We showed up at 8 a.m., before most folks would be in for breakfast. I only photographed a couple of places in the bar, for a total of 40 photos. It was another opportunity to shoot something I don’t normally shoot.

Ri Ra Bar

Ri Ra Bar

I know some photographers don’t feel comfortable asking for things like this, but think about the worst case scenario: the manager could have refused our request, and we would have continued to eat our dinner. Look for opportunities and try to make them happen.

For me, the model shoots are always the highlight of the conference. Westcott (link) did their usual bang up job, bringing models and sets to demonstrate their fine products. I own many of their products and will, undoubtedly, buy some more, Since they are advertising on the expo floor, there is no fee for this. As you can probably imagine, fees for models, make-up artists, and sets can add up quickly. Here is your chance to try something like that, without spending any money.

Westcott Model Shoot

Westcott Model Shoot

In addition, the PSW folks set up several available-light-only sets, with models and still life subjects. Naturally, I went for the models.

B&W bride

I especially enjoyed the one in the wedding chapel. We had a large window and several light panels around the chapel. No reflectors, no flash. Restrictions can force you to try new things to compensate. Several of the PSW instructors would wander in and offer assistance and critique.

Looking for his bride

Looking for his bride

We’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: Talk to your models. These models were surrounded by multiple photographers. Too many weren’t saying anything. When there are 30 photographers surrounding them, clicking, without a word spoken, the situation turns awkward. Awkward situations do not usually make for good photographs. Talk to the models; direct them to what you want. I’ll climb off the soapbox.

The conference was loads of fun, and, to tie this blog to the previous two, I talked to many of the authors. Yes, I bought more books.

Time to head out and take some photos of Newport and enjoy the grandchildren.  See you next week.

Models at Photoshop World

By Roger (13 May 2014)

One of my favorite booths at Photoshop World is operated by the FJ Westcott Lighting folks. I stop by there, every day of the conference. Their fiendish scheme to draw me in and sell me their products has worked – I own several of their lighting tools. Their gear is top-notch. You can find additional information about their products on this link.

Westcott brings in a couple models; lights them; and provides an expert to demonstrate the products and provide shooting advice. The background setting, props, costumes, and themes are different every day. This keeps you coming back, if only to see their latest set-up.

Each Photoshop World has its own theme, and, this year, it was pirates. Naturally, there was a model dressed appropriately.

I've seen this pirate costume somewhere before

I've seen this pirate costume somewhere before

You can see the background stand on the left. They do a pretty good job with background, but there are always so many photographers gathered around that putting yourself in the ideal position is not always possible. I would love to stay and shoot the models all day, but isn't what I paid for. I'll get rid of the stand in the final image when I get the chance.

Here is another model photo I'll have to work on if I want to make it a bit more realistic.

The point is lighting, not realism.

The point is lighting, not realism.

The set-up is to demonstrate Westcott lighting, not to create portfolio pieces. Even if you get an absolute stunner, you wouldn't put one of these photos in your portfolio because hundreds of other photographers have the same shot. Not to mention, the set-up isn't your design, and the lighting is done by the Westcott crew. You can't really claim it as your own. But they make great photos for you to practice with. So, this evening, I threw the canoe rider into a quick composite on the river. (It needs more work, but I didn't prepare the photos until tonight. Excuses, excuses....)

Sometimes, the sets can get pretty extensive. They brought in a pick-up truck for one of the days. The models work for about four hours with cameras clicking every way they turn.  ("Play Freebird!")

Besides the inherent fun of shooting people instead of things, I really enjoy some of the more eclectic sets and costume designs. The makeup artists come up with some pretty wild stuff.  Most of the people I photograph are in a “normal” background and wearing casual clothing. They don't wear tutus, tiaras and red contact lenses.

The black swan

The black swan

Apparently, this model had the right hair for a tiara because, the next day, they decked her out as a socialite from the 40s, with a cigarette holder and another tiara.

The crowds are really thick at times, and the models can't move much, or they will move out of the lighting set-up. I'm sure it makes for a long day.

I was surprised by how few of the photographers were talking to the model. This is a basic skill you shouldn't need to be told about. Models are taking their cue from you when you're behind the camera. You talk to them to get them to adjust to the lighting; change expression and stance; and, really, just to be polite.

Imagine standing on the other side of the camera, and your photographer doesn't communicate. How will you know what the photographer is trying to make? Now, imagine being in front of 50 photographers in the middle of a convention center floor! Not me.

If you ever find yourself in this kind of pack, always talk to your model. First, the model will look at you – much better than trying to catch them as they desperately scan the pack for a friendly face. You'll get more natural expressions, and you'll both enjoy the session much more.