2014, Another Fabulous Year!
As Britain faced an onslaught of storms, photographers gathered in major airports for their annual pilgrimage to Photo Training Overseas. Destination: Fuerteventura. The volcanic island, so closely tied to Spain culturally and North Africa geographically promised sunshine and the expansive, often barren landscape. The name also references the strong winds that inevitably made themselves known as part of the system feeding into the UK.
Now in its 27th year, Photo Training Overseas, or PTO, continues to deliver a programme of tutors and seminars that is simply unmatched by any other course. Planned around all inclusive venues, delegates have the opportunity to completely clear their minds of mundane concerns, and can focus on the vast amount of information exchanged not only between delegates and tutors, but also between delegates themselves. The winning formula packs 8 tutors into four days, with optional master classes from tutors that wish to offer them on the otherwise clear final day. With a print competition and critique entered before departure, and PR & Photographic art competitions during the week, there’s a lot to challenge and excite the creative mind.
Although the sponsors are visible, they are never placed ahead of the educational and relaxing aspects of PTO. The Flash Centre/Elinchrom, Olympus and Fujifilm made equipment available for delegates, including the extensive range of XF mount cameras. Phil & Juliet Jones represented The Societies, on hand for advice and critique during the week, and One Vision provided prints for the finalists in the competition as well as prizes. Towergate Camerasure, ProSelect and Epson also support PTO with a similarly unintrusive approach.
A wide spread of talents formed 2014’s line up of tutors. Regular delegates will know Dave Wall, who blends an informal, friendly approach with sharp-edged and highly skilled Lightroom and Photoshop techniques. This year Dave took on two sessions, introducing tabletop product photography to the mix. Far from the expensive studio setups that many old-school commercial photographers envisage, or even the relatively inexpensive pop-up cove approach favoured by Etsy and eBay sellers with a mission, this was stripped to the bone, minimal expense product photography that focused on the photograph – and not the products allegedly needed to deliver the results.
With inexpensive, LED lighting and a few objects, the importance of preparation and imagination was impressed upon the delegates before a two-team, hands on approach got everyone feeling the pressure to turn around the subjects in the timescale that makes product photography profitable. Diverting into the potential value of objects as stock, Dave’s seminar encapsulated a lifetime’s experience in two hours brilliantly.
Martine Hamilton-Knight further expanded the photographic language of PTO, with a venture into the world of architectural photography and from a technical standpoint, the use of movements. Suiting the overwhelming majority of photographers’ choice of 35mm derived systems, Martine’s skills with modern affordable Perspective Control lenses such as the Canon TS-E, Nikon PC and Samyang were presented in a series of real-world scenarios.
Following a quick, entertaining AV that brought Martine’s career and images to life, an opportunity for the delegates to get hands on experience with optical corrections was further bolstered by a demonstration of the attention to detail, line and light that architectural photography and interiors demand.
Kevin Mullins made his PTO debut, though well known in the industry. After an evening seminar that energised delegates to take full advantage of social networking and improve their SEO, Kevin’s signature Documentary Weddings formed part of a discussion and presentation style seminar. His inspired, emotive and immersive photography truly conveyed the skill needed to master the genre; spray and pray with a telephoto lens was nowhere to be found as Kevin works intimately with his clients, close, quick and with unobtrusive equipment. Take all the information you want, but when the seminar was over Kevin’s vision stayed with us as the defining character of his images, and striving to be that good undoubtedly was on the mind of any social photographer.e a single event, location and price.
Few delegates needed the introduction to Damian McGillicuddy. The name behind countless courses, technical books and of course, the author of many award-winning photographs, Damian’s fashion and artistic portraiture encapsulated teamwork, direction, lighting and camera technique with model Zoe providing the essence of patience and beauty.
The compact Olympus OM-D system also proved a popular draw for many delegates as Damian’s team showed that professional does not necessarily mean big, cumbersome SLRs.
David P. MacDonald’s multiple Fellowships may make him intimidating for those who have yet to qualify, yet his warm communication and confident direction soon had all the delegates shooting and studying his approach to setting, light and posing. An area often neglected, revealing the secrets behind successfully guiding your models to the desired (and most flattering) positions may not hand you those distinctions on a plate but it gives the confidence to focus on creating the shape and light you want to express your vision.
Not afraid to get in front of the camera himself, David’s style suits PTO down to the ground and he proved an extremely popular tutor.
Liz and Kenneth Roberts
PTO regulars Liz and Kenneth Roberts are best known for distinctive baby photography and winning awards in the print competition; this year, Liz stepped in front of the audience to divulge some of the secrets of her stylish subjects whose age is measured in days, not years. A seminar which seemed to pass far faster than the allocated hours, the soothing tones and environment exemplified the considered way that Liz works with the babies to settle them and pose them before swiftly and confidently capturing those bold and much emulated images.
Wedding Fellowships are highly prized and judges are frequently highly skilled in the genre, making the distinction all the more relevant. Therefore, the recent Fellow, Louise Sumner, has faced the toughest critical challenge a professional photographer can, and her eye for the environment, composition and light is to be envied. Fast moving and painting scene after scene with wedding models Kirsty and Kyle indoors and outdoors.
George and Glenys Dawber
Working so hard behind the scenes. George and Glenys Dawber also hosted “An Evening with George Dawber” – an interview and presentation covering George’s varied and extensive career in the photographic industry. An unusual glimpse into the background of George’s influence and involvement in all aspects of photography, not just in Britain, it provided an opportunity for delegates new to photography to connect with their hosts, and also to see the changing face and fortunes of the business and creative aspects of photography as society and technology have evolved.
Shorter seminars – “Ten minute tantalisers” – form the midweek evening session. This year PTO regulars Garrett Hayes and Helen Spiegl covered photographic gadgets and equestrian photography with entertaining presentations and short Q&A sessions, whilst journalist Richard Kilpatrick covered some of the considerations when preparing and distributing press releases. Finally, Martine Hamilton-Knight’s husband Paul Mottram recounted years of working with the premier televisual news agency CBS, including some behind the scenes amusement from various celebrities. Once again, the powerful networking of PTO comes to the fore as Paul’s video business is shown; if nothing else, it underlines just how reasonably priced professional, artistic video work can be!
As the week winds down, and the end of seminars is marked by the glamour of the Awards dinner, there’s a chance for the delegates and tutors to let their hair down. This year Kirsty Rogers provided the entertainment, as a professional singer and X-Factor finalist demonstrating her multiple talents after modelling during the week.
PTO’s success continues, not just in the sense of bookings and return delegates – many of this years’ group registering for 2015 before catching the flight home. It’s hard to believe that just one week of the year can have such a significant effect on your view of your talents, your business and the environment in which you work, and yet it does. The creative environment is catching; PTO regular Michael Slyfield brought partner Caroline for the first time. It also marked her first experience of photography, with a DSLR given for Christmas. The inspirational environment, architecture and light helped Caroline produce a panel of images for the art competition – and for her own enjoyment – that show just how readily the inner artist can come out when suitably encouraged. Her striking compositions visually communicate the effect surrounding yourself with those eager to nurture and share can have.
In 2015 Photo Training Overseas will return to the Canary Islands, and the popular resort of Tenerife. Maintaining competitive costs, it makes sense to prioritise this unique experience over fragmented, disparate experiences throughout the year; if you have considered spending a couple of hundred here and there over the course of the year, disrupting your work and blocking out weekends in summer and autumn, PTO’s recipe of Winter scheduling, sunshine and unmatched access to industry heavyweights provides the ideal kickstart to the year, a lift during the darker seasons and the confidence to grow professionally and personally. Speakers for the next date include Frank Doorhof, covering high-end fashion portraiture, Julie Oswin with weddings, the return of Dave Wall with a look at stock photography, Gerry Coe – recently awarded a Fellowship for photography produced on the iPhone – teaching portraiture and Mark Seymour demonstrating his approach to documentary weddings. Glyn Dewis brings Photoshop skills to the fore, whilst Brian John McLernon joins us to bring talents in Seascapes and Landscapes. Further tutors and events are yet to be confirmed, and yet the line up already represents a value hard to find in a single year, let alone a single event, location and price.