Here's a bunch of details about the greatest training I've ever had.
Tuesday, April 1 - the preparation
It was my first day in Charlotte. Sara - who is the producer and organizer of Ron's shooting, acquainted me with the shoot schedule for the next 3 days. We reserved this first day to regenerate after the long trip, and also show me everything we would be using for the shoots. They let me get acquainted with the studio, lighting and all the gear. Sara showed me the work-station they prepared for me: Dual-Core Intel Xeon Mac Pro, 2.66 GHz, 3 Gb RAM with two monitors (one 23" Apple Cinema HD Flat panel, and one palette monitor) plus all the software - cool, isn't it? :) I did my first photo using Ron's Hasselblad. Ron even suggested I use it over the next few days, but I decided to stay with Canon. I know my camera, and didn't want to experiment.
Wednesday, April 2 - first day of workshop
We were in the studio about 9:00 AM. We set up lights, prepared props, and discussed the shoot. At 9:30 AM, the first model came: middle age, blonde Caucasian - Constance.
We started shooting business and medical with her. Thirty minutes later, a second model joined us - Eric (about 30 yo Afro-American) and after another 30 min - a third - Angela.
Ron and I were both shooting- using different set-ups- with these three models, and finished at 12:30. The models were great! Far more professional than I am used to working with. We used hot lights and ring flash: both kind of lights were new for me.
After lunch we started preparing for the next shoot. At 2:30 PM, the first model arrived: Catherine. She was just fantastic!
I enjoyed working with her so much. As with the first shoot, the models were scheduled 30 minutes apart, to give us individual time with each model. Next, another model joined us: Kira (Afro-American) and then Michelle (Asian).
I mention the ethnicity because the diversity was also something new for me (I am used to working with Caucasian models only, because I live in very ethic-homogeneous country). Ron really took care to diversify my portfolio with ethnically-diverse models and ages. We shot different set-ups of these three models until 5:30 PM. After that, I uploaded all the photos to the Mac to have a quick review of the shooting results. We left the studio about 6:30 PM. Ron then took me to the dinner, so we would have time for some great conversation.
Thursday, April 3 - second day of workshop
On this day, we started an hour earlier (at 8:15 AM) because we were going to shoot on location. We had to pack all the gear in the truck and take it to the location, which was 4 blocks away. The location was a renovated old industrial mill building turned into exclusive urban housing. We started in the common area, which the tenants used for entertainment space. There was a bar area with high chairs, a billiards table, TV, comfortable chairs and lot of space. There was also a room with two classic arcade games, which we used in the shoot.
We started shooting with Brandi, a very nice model with delicate beauty. It was 10:00 AM. Sara had scheduled two female models and a male, but the man did not show. An hour after Brandi started, Angie, a very sexy Asian model joined us.
Ron and I shot the girls separately but also together, using all the interesting objects and walls in the location. We stayed there until about 1:00 PM, ate lunch and moved to the 'demo' apartment. This apartment was a fully-furnished two-level flat. Sara explained to me that the developer used this apartment to show potential buyers or renters. There was even fake coffee on the table, which I used in one of my photos.
We started shooting there at 2:30 PM. First came Jennifer, a nice model who I called 'an American girl'. We photographed her in the kitchen and also shot some portraits. Half an hour later, we were joined by Zak - a handsome young man perfect for a couples shoot with Jennifer.
We shot in the kitchen, on the sofa, plus individual portraits. We used strobe lights at the locaton + Arri hot lights to make it more warm and real. Ron explained me that strobe lights are better on location because they don't need as much power as hot lights. That's really smart, when you don't know how good or bad the electric wiring in the location is. We finished about 5:00 PM, packed everything and came back to the studio. After fast uploading and reviewing photos, Sara and Gray (Gray is a photographer who assisted on the shoots) took me out to sample hushpuppies, a local, Southern USA snack. :) I really enjoyed this evening - thanks Sara, thanks Gray!
Friday, April 4 - third day of workshop
We were in the studio at 8:15 AM. Sara had planned to shoot a family outside (parents and two children - 2.5yo girl and 10 months old boy). Unfortunately, the girl fell ill during the night and they couldn't came. We had to plan something different hastily. Sara showed me their models database and ask me to choose.
I pointed to a middle-aged man who was an actor. After Wednesday's shoot with Catherine (who was also an actress) I was sure that actors and actresses are the best models I can dream of. I was right! Mark was fantastic! We were both running around, with Ron real-time arranging the shoot. Normally, Sara did it but she had to go shoot a special assignment that day President Bill Clinton- Serious! :) But we breezed through it well. After the shoot, we went to a restaurant for dinner. During steak and a glass of wine, we had the last occasion to discuss things. That was the last day of my training.
Summing up all the experience: I had a really great time with Ron, Sara and Gray. Ron taught me so much. He showed me a few absolutely new things, and pointed out solutions for my future photo activity. Thanks to him, I realized that a lot of things aren't so hard to do. He emboldened me to venture out from the studio more, to broaden myself. Ron is a great man and the teacher. He allowed me to use all his gear, not just lenses as we planned. I used his cameras, lenses, computers (even took his MacBook to the hotel to write few words to you). He surrounded me with trust, care and built a gorgeous atmosphere. Working with Ron was excellent experience for me and changed me as a photographer.
I heartily thank the Dreamstime team (especially Serban and Ellen) and Ron for this great workshop. I hope they'll organize something like this once again, and let someone else experience this great training!
PS: If you haven't already seen "Behind the scenes" photos from our workshop I recommend to visit this pages:
First day, second day and sample light set-up from third day.