Jul 27 2011

Steve Huff Meet Up in Seattle

Category: UncategorizedRandall Kelley @ 19:05

I have just finished two days of shooting followed by a day of editing (plus and extra afternoon) and now have the photos posted and ready to go. I have been writing little snippets as I think of them, trying to put a post together to describe this event. I was really in a quandary to find something brief that felt like it conveyed the kind of group this was. Then last night I had a dream (true story) and I think it sums up my feelings.

I was camping (in my dream) on a dock near a body of water, next to an African park with lots of lions in it (I just got back from Africa but we saw no lions). A bunch of the meet up group were there, around a nice fire. I headed off to bed in a tent and soon after laying down, I am pounced on by a medium sized lion (news reports recently covered a cat attack in India that was away from normally dangerous areas). I manage to get my arm crammed into his mouth so he cant just rip me apart. I have my other hand grabbing the back of his neck like a large house cat, but of course, he’s too big to control and I realize as soon as he gets away from my grip he will tear me apart.

I start screaming, “Lion! Lion! Somebody shoot it! Shoot it!” But I realize no guns are going off so I decide to try and jump into the water with it, hoping to either drown it or at least scare it off. As I plunge off the edge of the dock I look up and I see three of the meet up guys with their Noctiluxes pointed at me and the cat.

Then I hit the water and I wake up. So… I’m walking to the bathroom in the dark, and I’m thinking to myself, “Man. Those are going to be some great shots.”

What can I say, we’re Leica guys, we’re fricking crazy.

Leica Quiz: 1) Pick out the lone M9. 2) find the Noctilux. #2 is a trick Question, all three lenses are Noctiluxes.

So I spent Saturday and Sunday doing pretty much what I like to do on nice weekend days… shooting pictures and going to restaurants. Big difference was I don’t normally hang out with 18 to 20 other Leica shooters all doing the same area and sharing tips, tricks, equipment advice and even occasionally sharing the equipment itself. This weekend was the Steve Huff Workshop in Seattle. You might call it a workshop, as there were some pros who gave presentations, but to me, it was really more like a Fiesta. What’s the German word for Fiesta? Das Party? Oh well, one of my new found friends from the group is German, He’ll know.

I loved the different attitudes and comparing different perspectives with all these guys.

Side story: Ouch, now I’m stuck in politically correct dilemma land. There was one female present (until Rita joined in the second afternoon, then two) but as I said guys in the last sentence, I’d have to say “and gal” to keep continuity, but then I might get jumped for sexism. Sorry. I have always use “guys” generically, as when my daughters were young and I’d ask, “You guys settle for pizza?”. Later, when work got very serious about sexual discrimination, I was told I couldn’t call a female operator a “guy” but when I changed it to “gal” they really flipped out. Now I still forget, but it’s always once it’s out of my mouth. I shouldn’t bother to correct myself in this case, as I got the impression this whole bunch were pretty easy going about that type of thing. But I will…

I loved the different attitudes and comparing different perspectives with all these people.

No, that really doesn’t do it, Sorry Amy, but this really covers you as well. Heck, you were one of the most fun guys there!

I loved the different attitudes and comparing different perspectives with all these guys. I’ll have to get the contact sheet back from Ashwin before I get all the names right, meeting that many people at once is difficult for me. A couple who’s names I heard often enough stuck, but for the rest I need a playbill.

When I say “differences of perspective” let me give an example of that. One reply to the proposal that “Sometimes things shouldn’t be exactly lined up with the horizon line.” was met with, “I’m German. That just won’t do. Things MUST be either horizontal or vertical. Or sometimes at an exact 45 degree angle… but you need special permission for that.”

Did I mention there was a lot of good humor mixed in? Well, when you actually start seeing pictures of the people in attendance you will see from the expressions and actions that there was. This was really way too fun to be considered a workshop. I’m sure Steve will do fine calling it that, but if he keeps getting this many like minded people together for these things it’ll be more like a club.

So, with that, I’ll start with the “club photo”. Someone suggested a group shot, and as Rita was an extra just along for the shooting on the second day, and as she was the only one NOT shooting a Leica, we asked her to shoot it. One of the guys was driving part of the group around in a giant Suburban nicknamed “the Beast” and he volunteered to let us pile on top of it to fit us all in. The irony of us having our group shot NOT on a Leica doesn’t escape me, but we wanted all the cameras in the shot as well. There are several other versions of this shot in the shots of the participants. As with any group shot, there is one compromise “best of the lot” and several where one person or the other is better but someone else is not. So I included all of them in there so that various attendees might pick one they like best. Here is the group shot that Rita took for us on Sunday afternoon at the parking lot of Discovery Park.

This is my favorite, because by this shot EVERYONE had their camera in hand.

On Saturday we began with a presentation by a pro and introductions of all us participants. Then we headed off to Pikes Place Market downtown for some street shooting. Then we did lunch at Ivar’s Salmon House on Lake Union. Much nicer than I was expecting for an “included” meal. Thanks, Steve! After that we headed up to Upper Queen Anne to shoot Seattle skylines and (of course) people in Kerry Park, and a little further down Highland Drive at another small park that overlooks the Interbay area and has a great view of the Olympic Mountains. After that we headed to dinner at the Crow restaurant back down the hill by the Seattle Center.

Since dinner was “on us” I had asked if Rita could join up with us Saturday night for Dinner. Then, while planning her itinerary for Sunday, I was wanting to drive her to yoga. I figured the timing was close enough that if I dropped her then went to the Fremont Warbux instead of my local and did my usual slow start, caffeine and yogurt, breakfast thing there I’d be right about on time for the Sunday morning start at Ashwin’s place.

Then looking at the agenda I had the idea… Steve was going to pay those of us driving people around something for our efforts, so I asked if I could swap him that for Rita tagging along for the shooting sessions and lunch. He was very gracious in allowing this and so Rita walked up to join us just after the morning presentations and discussions to head out for the photo shoots. Turned out to be a great plus, as it enabled us to get that great club photo I started with.

Sunday we started with the Seattle Center and then later in the afternoon we went out to Discovery Park. As Rita came along, and got to know some of the gang (hey, THAT’S never been sexist. Right?) at least as well as I did I wanted to post hers photos here as well, even though she was not an official participant in the event. Normally, I never segregate her work from mine, but for the sake of those at the event who might not want to have to check image information to see which camera was being used on a shot I am for this event calling hers out into separate galleries from my own shots.

There are galleries for attendees divided by day one and two, and then separate galleries for each of the areas we were shooting. Pikes Place Market I actually did two separate ones as the street performer shots are quite different than my normal street stuff. For Rita’s I have split them up in the same way, but as she shoots a LOT, and as a lot of her shots on Sunday were pretty decent, I am actually dividing hers up into a couple of extra groups in addition to those other groups (which were essentially just the time of day). That way the sets are smaller and being more specific, those not interested in that type of photography can save yourselves the trouble and not look. But you shouldn’t skip them, as some are quite good. The categories I added for hers are an “elements” set and a “plants and flowers” set.

I hope you find time to look through the various galleries and that you enjoy them. They can be found POSTED HERE.

Here are a few sample shots and thoughts about the process.

What I learned from our first outing at the Market was, 1) Too many people and I’m WAY out of my comfort zone. 2) Street performers get more attention than regular street people. And 3) If you have a bushy beard and funny glasses, you are just a bit different, but if you can play one guitar while balancing another on you chin AND do this while playing harmonica and twirling not one but TWO hula hoops, your eccentricity might make you some money.

Oh yes, 4) While everybody shoots their rangefinder a bit differently, and their photo styles may be hugely different, EVERYONE makes “rangefinder face” when they shoot one.

Our first afternoon editing our pictures from the morning session started with a goal of “Your one best shot” and evolved into “Your three best shots” and this was another very difficult thing for me. First, I don’t edit this fast. I realized I have a very specific process, and while it’s fast for the amount I do, part of it is NOT reducing it to that limited a number. This was probably a VERY good exercise for anyone thinking of going pro. You WILL have to limit yourself much more if a client says they are going to publish 10 photos, but I usually don’t have that need. For my show I put up I did, but that was developed over months working with the images to decide on which ones were the finalist, not a hour or so to “get ‘er done”! It also makes you think about how much freedom to enjoy the process you have as an amateur.

I was happy our assignment on day two evolved from the original story telling idea to the assignment of asking people to take their picture. It was a great confidence building exercise, and it really allowed you to see the difference in results from “stealth” to “posed”. However, the main reason I had been dreading the storytelling assignment vanished on the first afternoon when we went shooting on upper Queen Anne. Perhaps I subconsciously had the next days assignment in my head, or maybe I just noticed it in my results because of it, but I had two separate sets where I had a pretty good story to tell in those results. Both of them were three shot sets, but at least one could tell the same story in two. I prefer three as I like it to be more like film where you see transition as well as beginning and end. Look for those in that set. One is of one of the gang, and it’s really quite funny.

3 shots to tell a story here, the the 4th just for the picture itself.

As I mentioned, when we went out on day two to the Seattle Center our assignment had become approaching a total stranger to ask and take their picture. This was a really difficult thing for me and again I was being pushed outside of my comfort zone. It helped that the place was less crowded and that I was more relaxed because of that. I started with an easy one, by asking a person shooting a building with his camera on a tripod if I could shoot him working. I figured it would be a lot harder for him to say no than some random passerby. Then I approached a woman who’s child (or grandchild) was outside at the fountain furiously working away on an iPad. My desire was her and him, but after she said yes she removed herself from proximity, and I didn’t really want to push her to be in it if she didn’t really want to. The shot was not what I wanted and not as good as a result. Then I met a man in Warbux who asked me if the coin he had was “a five cents” and when I realized at a glance I did not know, because they have changed them since I last looked for one. A short conversation ensued and I found out he was from Switzerland, recently moved here (days earlier) and was to be here for two years. Then when we went to wait for the drinks I was looking at the lights inside the food court behind him and thought it would be a great spot for a wide open portrait type shot. That turned out to be by assignment photo for the day.

This was my final assignment shot, and the one I used for the

The other thing I learned on day two was to give a lens a chance and let it do what it is good at instead of trying to make it do what you want. I had been seeing other people’s pictures with the 35mm f/2 and REALLY liking what I saw. I had picked it up thinking it could replace my 28mm f/2.8 for street stuff and yet give me a lens where I could see the frame lines on both sides with my glasses on when I wanted to compose a shot instead of guestimating and cropping when off like I do with the 28. It failed that task easily, as it is not easy to zone focus and shoot from the hip. But I was seeing all these great wide open shots, so I decided to shoot all day Sunday with just it.

I had hoped someone had a 39mm ND filter along I could borrow, as it was another non typical sunny day in Seattle. But even without that I was able to get into the wider apertures a lot and I have to say I had a great day and now have a big appreciation of this little lens. It’s still no 50mm f/1.4, the bokeh on my portrait was harsher and the big blob of light from where someone moved at the last moment would have been much softer and less distracting on that lens. But the combination of lots of blur with the wider angle is a very unique look. Never try to make a lens fit you. Find the lenses home and go there, you’ll enjoy that lens a lot more. Down side is it’s one less thing to eBay so paying for the new M9-P just got more onerous.

Well, that’s all I can think of for now. If I think of anything else later I’ll do a separate post. Now I have to get back to editing our Africa shots, and that’s a HUGE job. My best to all, and my thanks to EVERYONE at this weekends event as I got so much from all of you it was indeed a privilege to be with you. Again, for those interested, the galleries can be found POSTED HERE. And a tip for anyone new to looking at Smugmug galleries, if you click on the “O” for file size in the slideshow viewing, you can see the full size file, and all mine are posted full size with no reduction in resolution.

3 Responses to “Steve Huff Meet Up in Seattle”

  1. Cindy says:

    I enjoyed reading your blog and sharing your pictures. Sounds like you had a great time.

  2. Markus says:

    Hi Randy,
    Great write-up… I enjoyed reading this nearly as much as the workshop itself!
    It was a pleasure meeting you and Rita and I hope to see you soon on the next photo stroll. Many thanks again for driving while four tired guys in the back of your car were snoozing away… ;-)

  3. Wee says:

    Great trip…Hope that I had a chance to join the workshop someday…