Denise's thoughts on Mystic Seminars


This was my first experience going to the Mystic Seminars so I didn't know what to expect, really.  I knew it was an annual four day seminar for wedding photographers held in (not quite Mystic) Groton, Connecticut.  I had heard people recommend it, including Emilie, so was excited to attend as a newbie with Whitney.

We started off the first day at a lighting workshop with legendary photojournalist Joe McNally (he's shot for LIFE Magazine, Time, National Geographic, you get the idea).  He can light just about anything under the sun with big lights, small lights, you name it.  He specializes in location lighting with portable flash units, which is what we here at the studio bring with us to weddings.  After some discussion, we split into groups and each had a model to work with to practice lighting with different setups.  What the other guests at the hotel must have thought with all us photographers setting up mini studios in the lobby, hallways, wherever we found a little inspiration!  This was my first time working with professional models (thanks Julia and Erin!) and they made it easy for us to just concentrate on the lighting because they were so adept at posing and being patient with us.  Also, Joe's wife, Annie, who works for Adorama, walked me through exactly what I need to order for the kind of setup I'd like going into next season.  I truly enjoyed learning with Joe, who is amazingly knowledgeable and has contributed so many stunning images that have informed us as a society.  I don't think I'll ever lose that awe of what an image can teach us, which is why I became a photojournalist in the first place.  I will treasure the book I had signed by Joe for a long time to come.

The rest of the week consisted of many presentations by photographers, each of whom brought something different to the table.  A few stand out in my mind, including Sue Bryce, who hails from New Zealand and is truly passionate about posing women in a way that makes them feel their most beautiful.  Roberto Valenzuela brought a great energy and emphasized the importance of practice.  He showed us very basic images that he made in his apartment using a light stand and a teddy bear while practicing a lighting technique.  Then he showed us the beautiful images he made in the field using the same method.

Parker Pfister also talked about practice in his presentation and how he sets up "play days" where he just shoots whatever he might be intrigued with at the moment.  It could be a new camera, a different lens, a person, anything really.  He really makes sense of his world through the lens of a camera and it shows in his passion for photography.  He was the most inspirational speaker of the seminars for me and I was transfixed throughout his presentation.  I got a chance to catch up with him after at the bar (it's sort of the place to be at Mystic) and talk about what I got out of hearing him speak.

This kind of connection with photographers is what I really loved about Mystic.  You can watch someone on stage and then go actually have a good conversation with them later.  Staying at the Marriott in Groton is a bit like being in a vaccuum because you have to drive a few minutes into Mystic.  So if you don't have a car, or choose to stay around to soak up the experience as we did (except going to Mystic Pizza one afternoon, that was obligatory), then all there is to do is attend the presentations and then head to the bar or restaurant.  It is a fantastic way to get your creative juices flowing, meet great people, and get inspired to come home and use what you've learned.  I'll be at Mystic Seminars 2014 I'm sure!

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