Just a quick entry to comment on a recent 1-day workshop I attended hosted by Leica Akademie. The topic was "Working with available light." The instructor was Tom Smith (real name), manager of Leica Akademie Events and Education. The workshop was held in South Beach, Miami, so it was a quick drive for me to get over there and check it out.
In a word, the workshop was fantastic. Tom was knowledgable, informative and very engaging. There were participatns of all skill levels and he managed to find ways and levels of discussion to involve everyone.
The main focus of the day was learning how to better manage the light you're working with while really zeroing in on making the most of your camera's metering to enhance your exposure... not just getting a good exposure but truly getting it "right." While there was plenty of discussion about quality of light, the real emphasis was using the light you have to better compose your picture and to tell your story... all the while using the proper exposuring techniques to make sure your blacks are black and your whites are white. Not as easy as it sounds.
Of course, being a Leica hosted event, participants were given the opportunity to try out a wide array of Leica equipment. Seriously, these guys had about $250,000 of gear being passed around. And while there was a Leica S2 sitting on the table continuously whispering my name throughout the day (at one point I'm sure it was winking at me), I chose to stay focused and faithul to the gear in my bag... though I might have been persuaded to part with a couple of grand to upgrade my M9 to the M9P. The M9P's understated "no branding" aesthetics has to be the most amazing counter use of an anti-designer label "status symbol" statement I've ever seen. (Translation: "I'm so cool that I don't need you to know I'm shooting with the hippest camera on the planet... so much so, I'll pay extra just so you don't know.") Yeah... I really want one. It is absolutely gorgeous!
We participated in several excersises throughout the day shooting low key with black backgrounds, high key white "hot" backgrounds, low light, bright light and even a little night light. This included a 1-2 hour walk around South Beach... itself a pretty outrageous experience in walk-around photography.
All-in-all I'd recommend attending this workshop to anyone serious about getting better. I don't care what level of this game you play at, the shared experience and information will always gleen out a nugget or two that, if nothing else, will get you thinking differently. And after all, this is a thinking man's (or woman's) game. If you're not thinking before you push the shutter, then all the more reason these workshops are for you.
Thanks again to Tom Smith and the Leica Akademie