I've had the most extraordinary opportunity to travel to Mongolia with some of my photographer friends for two weeks of time in the country for a master class on off-camera flash in late April of 2018.
While this was an amazing trip, it was very different from my previous trips to India. Mongolia is a country of approximately 3 million with almost 1.2 million living in the capital city of Ulan Bator. Which leaves the rest to be spread out across the amazing landscape of mountains, plains, and desert. We had arranged for time with two families in two very different areas of the country. Our first week was in the far western part of the country near Ulgii which lies under the Altai Mountain range. We were hosted by a local family of eagle hunters. Think in terms of the sport of falconry. This family uses eagles to hunt and for sports competitions. We were essentially camping with very little in terms of modern facilities but were very comfortable in our Mongolian Gers (Yurts). We enjoyed quite a few days with our hosts modeling for us with their eagles who were very tolerant of our flash gear. Probably my favorite evening of the entire two weeks was the feast they provided for us on our last night with them. They slaughtered a goat in the afternoon and prepared a feast of broiled goat and vegetables similar to a stew. After dinner, we shared a few glasses of vodka and were entertained by singing from our support staff and a few surprises from our photographer friends.
What I found so different from India is the sparsity of people and the general reservedness of them. They weren't initially very interested in us foreigners, but quickly warmed up when they discovered that we were so interested in their country and history. Once, we exposed our love for the country, they were incredibly warm and welcoming. So, not as gregarious as the people in India, but every bit as welcoming and warm. Another big difference is that the everyday dress in Mongolia isn't that much different from what you'd see anyplace in America. While in India, the everyday dress could be incredibly different and colorful. Fortunately, our Mongolian hosts obliged our photographic desires by sharing their traditional dress used in celebrations and during cultural events.
Our second week was spent with a nomadic family in the central plains Southwest of Ulan Bator where we experienced life on their ranch with their goats raised for cashmere and the rest of their animals, camels, cows, and horses. We spent a bit of time in the nearby sand dunes photographing the camels and were thrilled with the horse riding skills of the sons.
You can explore many of my photos of this trip here at www.gneill.net/mongolia.
I am always looking at the photos of others to do what I can to learn what tells a good story and captures the moment well. One of the ways I do this is by sharing my photos on sites for photographers to vote and critique my own photos.
One of these I like is YouPic. I've gotten some good responses, feedback, and encouragement from photographers around the world. They also offer short online courses on a variety of topics related to improving photography.
Recently, I found another site that touts itself as a 'Game' for photographers is GuruShots. They offer frequent 'challenges' for a specific category of shots and folks vote on the submitted photos. The challenges are created by 'Gurus' who have obtained that status by receiving votes and various awards for their photos. Photographers start out at the 'Newbie' level and progress up through a series of levels until you become a Guru.
Within each challenge, there are also levels assigned to photos based on the number of votes received, from Skilled to All-Star. One recent, and currently open challenge, is called Photographers in Action. Basically, it's photos of photographers doing what they do. I entered this challenge a little over a week ago with some photos I shot of my friends on my two photo workshops to India over the last few years. Lo and behold, apparently, others are liking my photos as I've moved up into the All-Star group at 16 of nearly 4,000 photographers! This link will take you to the four photos entered in this challenge. I also want to acknowledge the wonderful photographers who were my models.
This kind of recognition is, of course, very cool, but also very encouraging for me to continue to work on my photography.
A friend of mine kind of tricked me into shooting her daughter's wedding. I had never shot a wedding and the couple was young and had limited resources. After an awkward phone conversation with the bride, we agreed that we were both willing to take a chance on each other. When I mentioned to my wife that I'd committed to shooting a wedding, her response was 'you did what!' and 'would you like an artistic director?'. I, of course, said yes. My wife is in marketing and has national catalog photography experience. I welcomed her as my 'second' shooter.
I scoped out the location, a barn, and field, around the same time of day to get a sense of the lighting expectations. And, to explore photo opportunities. This visit, along with several conversations with the couple regarding the tone of images they desired, gave me a sense of what I needed to do. Having been at quite a few weddings and watching the photographer intently, along with exploring their results. I had an idea of where to be at what time to capture the various moments of the day. So, I laid out a timeline for the day and reviewed it with the couple to ensure we were on the same page with what could be accomplished with the given time. And, I could not have asked for a better bride! She was so totally on top of the logistics of the day and able to both coordinate others and enjoy the moment. She was incredible!
And, in the end, she was very happy with the results. As was I. I still much to learn, but all in all, it was a very good day.
Now, I'm scheduling my second wedding and looking forward to it!
Here are a few shots from my first wedding. http://www.gneill.net/p657852640?customize=3
I live in La Crosse, WI. A beautiful and vibrant small city situated between bluffs and the Mississippi River. For a small city, there is a lot going on. But, as a new photographer, I'm still dealing with my inhibitions and insecurity with walking around with a camera around my neck. Yes, I've explored on a few days, but it's an exception rather than a rule.
Given my hesitancy and relative 'success' in India, I felt the need for some more education. And, there are, unfortunately, very few opportunities for photography education in my small city. So, I reached out to my friend and photo mentor, Matt Brandon, for a long weekend of one-on-one photo education. I met him and his lovely wife in Texas where they were temporarily residing, to get some education and hopefully a chance at shooting a newborn infant as I was about to become a Grandfather and wanted to be prepared to capture photos worthy of the moment.
Matt didn't disappoint. We spent some time going over the basics of lighting, perspective, and composition. And, I was lucky that one of his friends had scheduled a shoot of their kids with him. I was able to tag along and captured some fun shots.
And, we were both lucky to discover that his call for an infant would be met with an opportunity from the brother of a friend. We were able to shoot photos of a beautiful little girl just a week old. What wonderful preparation for my upcoming grandchild!
Additionally, his friend's daughter also sat in for a few shots. What a beautiful young lady!
All in all, I believe it was a very successful weekend of shooting And, a great learning experience. Thank you, Matt!
A coworker reached out to me about shooting an emergency shoot for her niece. She'd missed her appointment and needed to find someone willing to work with her schedule and location desires. Being one looking for opportunities, I leapt at the possibility.
Wanting to provide the best experience, I explored La Crosse for some sites that might provide the kind of shots she'd indicated she wanted.
I found that the International Garden, Riverside Park, Public Library, and Granddad's Bluff offered all of the options she wanted.
Specifically, she wanted a shot with her in between the trunks of a tree.
This along with a few other photos made the day work for her!
FYI, she was wearing summer clothes in 30-degree temperatures! What a trooper!