Mark Twain is attributed to saying, “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”
Thanks to a wonderful friend, I was encouraged to sign up for a photography class taught by world-renowned camera artist Randy Jay Braun. The class took place in the beginning of August, was taught here on Maui and consisted of five consecutive days of six-hour sessions. The price was beyond reasonable and the curriculum was something I felt I could handle, even in my limited physical capacity at the time.
Day one began with the twelve of us (including Randy) describing ourselves and explaining why we signed up for the class. We had an interesting collection of veteran photographers, some mid-level amateurs and a few beginners. The class had a few visitors from the mainland, as well as those of us who call Maui home. Randy explained his passion for photography and I know we all had the desire to learn more, so the give and take was perfect.
Helping Randy in the classroom was a talented photographer in his own right, David Schoonover. David was not only the Canon guru of the class, he also was Johnny-on-the-spot with regards to technical and editing software questions. The two fed off each other well and both major camera brands were covered, so it was a win/win for the students.
After learning about each other we began by learning what some unfamiliar settings on our cameras were used for, then we immediately stepped outside of the classroom for our first official photo shoot. We had a wonderful model named Anna B., who was also in the class to learn, for our first shoot. Randy grabbed his camera, posed Anna and began shooting. As he shot, he explained what he was looking for, what caught his eye, and most importantly, what settings he was adjusting on his camera to obtain the best results. We all followed his lead and began shooting, adjusting, shooting again, adjusting again and so on and so forth.
Day two began with us meeting in the laid back town of Paia. To say an entire town is laid back, especially on Maui, says quite a bit about the attitude you will be immersed in. Our assignment for the day was to walk around and capture the “funkiness” that makes up Paia. This was the toughest day for me, not physically, but because I have not yet made that transition of approaching strangers and asking them if they would mind if I take their picture.
After walking in Paia, we went to Hookipa Beach and had a photo shoot with Anna in the sand and surf. After that, we took the convoy up Baldwin Avenue and stopped at the Makawao Union Church to learn how to shoot multiple consecutive shots, while adjusting the exposure levels for each group of pictures. This technique, known as bracketing, is extremely useful when shooting High Dynamic Range, or HDR photography.
We eventually made it back up to Seabury Hall and downloaded our pictures form our cameras onto our computers.
Day three took place near a familiar location for me, the beautiful beaches of Wailea and Makena. We spent the morning shooting Miss Aloha Hula 2011, Tori Canha at two different beach locations. There was a costume change in-between photo shoots and it was an honor to watch Miss Canha perform for us. Her movements were so fluid and beautiful, I found myself getting stuck watching the hula and forgetting to take pictures.
After the hula performance, we travelled to Polo beach in Wailea and walked the beach walkway from the Fairmont Kea Lani to the Grand Wailea Resort. By the time we walked the 1.5 miles to the Grand Wailea, I was physically beat and needed a rest. The seaside wedding chapel was not being used so a few of us slipped into the air conditioned church and rested for a few moments. We walked the grounds of the Grand, made it back to our cars and went our separate ways. Some of the class called it quits for the day, while others of us went back up to Seabury Hall to download our pictures and edit them, after which we were told we would have a special guest for a brief afternoon photo shoot.
Our special guest ended up being world renown recording artist and kumu hula Keali’i Reichel. For those not familiar with the term kumu hula it means that they are found by other teachers (kumu) of hula to posses the knowledge and the ability to teach the traditions and techniques of the dance. Keali’i Reichel was kind enough to give us students a few minutes of his time after he finished with a blessing ceremony at Seabury Hall. It was a brief shoot, but a very cool thing for both teachers to do for the students.
Day four began early at the Iao (EE-ow) Valley state park. Iao Valley is a tourist attraction due to the Iao needle, a rock formation that gives the illusion of being a free-standing phallic landmark. Iao stream runs along the parks basin and has a storied past, but I’ll save that for another blog. One of our goals in Iao Valley was to learn to make moving water blurry and wispy. It was a great exercise in using a tripod, a shutter release cable, wireless remote or a self timer.
After we learned how to make the water wispy, Anna and Ben Booth (a male model) scampered among the slick rocks and got comfortable among the waterfalls in order to give us all some great subjects to shoot. The idea was to have the water misty and cloudy around them, but to keep them in sharp focus. This was one photo shoot I could not participate in. The climb down into the stream was just too much for me to handle and I was still using a crutch at the time. I was extremely frustrated that I could not get the right angle for a nice shot, but I had fun watching the rest of the class standing in knee-deep water with their tripods firing away.
After Iao stream we traveled just down the road to Kepaniwai Park and shot some of the architecture and flora in the park. We had an impromptu model shoot with Ben and Anna, got lunch and travelled back up to the campus of Seabury Hall.
The final day was spent entirely in the classroom. We had the option to try a still life photo shoot, but we were all so excited to edit and share our photographs, the entire class vetoed the idea. Randy made each student select no more than 10 of their pictures from the past four days and submit them to be judged by the class. I spent the better part of the day going through the 1000+ images I had taken, selecting what I felt were the strongest and editing them until I had, what I thought were winners.
The final day was a tough and fun exercise in editing, but I walked away amazed by the talent that was assembled in that room. Every one of us not only learned so much in the four days of being out in the field, but our confidence was beginning to show up in our work.
I enjoyed my experience so much that I just signed up for Randy’s class again in the beginning of June. His passion and love for what he does is something that cannot be taught and it is infectious. I see how he gets excited to try something new behind the lens and it inspires me to want to learn more and take stronger pictures.