Foto Expo – Moncton- Oct. 2010

It takes all kinds to make a professional photographer. Some work in studios and others are world adventurers who grab their passport and camera at moment’s notice and jump on a plane. There are those that track quietly through the wilderness waiting for a bear to appear in the woods and others that, just as patiently, capture special moments of domestic life like weddings and baby portraits.

Their one common characteristic is that they have “a good eye’ and can’t help but see life through the lens of their camera. That first quality might be innate, but the experience and technical mastery of their trade that they all share is learned from years of on-the job training.

If you want to learn some of the tricks of the trade from professional photographers from all over Canada, head to the second annual Foto Expo 2010 held at the Crowne Plaza in downtown Moncton from Friday October 29th to Sunday the 31st   for three days of presentations, workshops and seven gallery exhibits around Moncton.

Maurice Henri, a professional photographer based in Moncton and the organizer of the conference, says that he wants to highlight the skills and professionalism of his chosen career. He wants to bring the photographers out from behind the camera and focus on them.

Henri, who has been involved in building schools in Africa and believes that photography can give a voice to the less empowered, says that his ultimate goal for Foto Expo is, “To turn the whole city of Moncton into one huge photographic gallery”.

“That is the whole idea here”, says Henri, “To bring in some high end photographers and show their work on their merit as a photographer. I think that is good for the industry, to bring these people to the limelight so to speak”.

“Both amateurs and professionals attend the workshops”, says Henri, whose own personal “eye’ draws him to the poor and homeless in our society and whose photographs can be seen  at his exhibit, “Street Views”  at the Moncton City Hall Gallery.

Henri says that it is good for professional photographers to take themselves out of their comfort zone and attend another photographer’s workshop, adding that he would personally enjoy attending the award winning Saint John photographer Walt Malone’s workshop on lighting.

“I think that no matter how long you have been doing photography you can always learn something”, says Maurice, “the technique that (Malone) is doing with lighting, I learned this 25 years ago, I have been using it all through my career, but he has his personal style added to it so I can learn from him”.

Walt Malone, whose workshop is the last one on Sunday morning, says that the course he will give at the Expo would be the same course he would have given ten years ago before the popularity of digital photography. Malone argues that no matter how much the face of photography has evolved, with the obvious changes caused by digital photography and computer processing, the essence of good photography will always be about reading the light. Malone argues that a quality photograph is about pre-choice and pre-qualifying, saying that he can teach how to take a quality photograph with no cameras on hand.

“If you can teach people to recognize the direction of light”,  says Malone, “The intensity of light, the quality of light , the color of light,  all these different variables make up a quality photograph,  well before you push the button. And that is what I am hoping to demonstrate”.

Malone will teach tricks and tips that are ‘remedial’, such as how to adjust the lighting of the subject by the simple use of a reflector, simply described as a “an alternate light source”, which could be as handy as a newspaper or phone book.

Malone admires a fellow workshop instructor, David Corkum, who was named the Atlantic Commercial Photographer of the Year by the Association of Professional Photographers of Canada, saying that the studio photographer from Moncton, who is offering a workshop in his 3000 square foot drive-in studio, is “incredible about manipulating light and making the most of an opportunity, as well as a great teacher”.

Although digital photography has changed photography, taking photographers out of the dark room and onto their computers, the key elements of photography are the same. What may have changed is the new generation of photographers who lean towards taking 500 shots and hoping to get one good one, and rely on the magic of ‘photo shopping’ to improve the photos’ composition or lighting.

“Photography has changed drastically, even in the last five years”, says Malone, “So, there are a lot of young photographers that are looking at photography as more of a glory profession. We are inundated with the media showing paparazzi doing this and that, but in terms of qualified photography it is not a matter of standing there and shooting 4000 frames in the course of 10 minutes. To be a qualified photographer you have to select your choice of photograph, you have to pre-qualify that image so that you know what you are looking for before you push the button”. 

Both Malone and Henri agree that ‘Photoshop’ is a useful tool, Henri saying that he uses it the same way he once used a dark room, for “a little bit of dodging and burning and things like that, but  I won’t modify somebody’s face and I won’t add or delete something”. Malone agrees, saying that “you can give somebody a $100 hammer but it does not make them a carpenter”.

Darwin Wiggett and Samantha Chrysthanthou, are partners who share a love of photography, a studio and a lot of experience working as professional photographers. Unpretentious and fun loving, the two photographers have come from Alberta for the conference and are offering presentations and workshops on “Creative Lens Choice in the Field”, and “Creative Camera Controls in Field Work” which show how to use”camera controls to go beyond merely exposing an image”.   

Samantha, who made a dramatic career change from lawyer to freelance photographer, believes that many people are intimidated by photography and should not be, “ Oh sure”, Chrysthanthou says, “ It can be very technical, but there is lots of jargon that you really don’t need to know about”. Her partner and fellow photographer Darwin, an acclaimed nature photographer and published author of many books including “How to Photograph the Canadian Rockies”, says being a photographer is fun, “If you aren’t having fun being a photographer you might as well get another job.”

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