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Monthly Archives // August 2009

student testimonial video

post written on 28 Aug 09 in What to expect

Roots Workshop student testimonials 2009 from emilie sommer on Vimeo.

A huge thanks to Roots Workshop photographer Eric Laurits and emilie inc. multimedia producer Morgan Kirkham for putting together this testimonial video from a few of this year’s student interviews.

And also, without further ado, please mark your calendars for September 15th at 9a, and pass the word that Roots ’10 registration will be open to accept students for next summer! That’s right, Roots returns to the Cape July 18-23rd for our third year!! Visit the newly redesigned workshop website for more information and please email me with any questions! Can’t wait!

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Roots student portfolio: Christina Wnek

post written on 19 Aug 09 in Student portfolios

Even if she had to be pulled out, emilie inc. designer Christina Wnek literally jumped right in to the Roots Workshop. With a background in graphic design, fine art photography and some weddings, Christina was the student with the least experience but the most to gain.

Christina was assigned to cover the Barnstable County’s Sheriff Youth Academy program, a summer school of sorts with a military slant for troubled and not so troubled youth. The first day was spent at the Fire Academy learning fire safety, and the second, at a ropes course. Having two different locations proved challenging, as unlike the other students, Christina was not able to return to the first day’s spot with a fresh perspective and suggestions from the critiques the night before. Christina rolled with it, like she does everything with such carefree flexibility, and impressed us all with her take.

Christina’s thoughts:
Upon returning from Roots I was speechless, unable to find the words to describe what an amazing experience it was for me and unable to describe what made Roots so special. Yet, I managed to talk more than ever about every little detail, the knowledge, all the people and the friendships I gained. Somehow, I think I managed to show my family and friends what a life changing experience I had without even trying. It was more than the place, the people, the education and the experience. Whoever said “this place is magical” could not have said it better. Roots left me with such a feeling of fullness and a hunger to learn that it was difficult to leave.

The best part of Roots was not only the one on one attention from the team leaders and mentors, but for me, being the least experienced photographer of the group, it was the patience and willingness to teach me even the most basic of concepts that I felt made the experience so unique and special. I often felt like I did not know as much as the other students, but I never felt that this was a problem, nor did I feel like I was looked down upon because of this. Instead, each team leader and mentor took extra time to help me understand, and the assignments were refocused to fit my needs.

Still I managed to take in and learn from what the more experienced photographers were being taught. The group critiques were key in making this happen. I was not prepared for the harsh reality of handing over my images in their entirety to the team leader. Going through each image in front of the whole group was intimidating, but it was during these critiques, both my own and the other student’s critiques, that I learned the most. These critiques were one of the hardest, but also one of the best parts of Roots. It was the things said late at night while we all desperately tried to stay awake and soak in all that was said, that will stay with me. Tyler’s voice still rings in my head when my camera is in hand…”snap to grid.”

I am so thankful that I was able to participate in Roots. I feel fortunate to have been taught and mentored by such talented and accomplished photographers and people. I would recommend this experience to anyone.

What an awesome recap from someone I truly adore and admire. I’ve loved Christina since the moment she stepped foot in my studio more than a year ago and have no idea how emilie inc functioned without her previously! I am so happy I had the chance to introduce her to the Roots staff, my core of industry friends who also receive the adoration status. Very proud of you, Christina!!

View her slideshow below and again, special thanks to sponsor Triple Scoop Music for the tune.

Roots Workshop: Christina Wnek at Barnstable County Youth Academy from emilie sommer on Vimeo.

And that wraps the student portfolio recaps! Many thanks again to the staff and students for sharing their thoughts and giving of themselves to such a rich, heartfelt learning experience. Christina said, Can we just stay there all year?! I so wish!

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Roots student portfolio: Roxanne Bedard

post written on 14 Aug 09 in Student portfolios

Roxanne Bedard has been photographing weddings in Maine for 15 years (!) and the Roots Workshop was the first bit of formal instruction she’s ever received. That’s right, she’s a 100% self-taught photographer. She’s obviously been doing plenty right to sustain all these years, but feeling ‘stuck’ Roxanne decided to put herself out on a limb and see how the instructors at Roots might push her a step above. This takes serious cajones, folks, as Roxanne put the “teach an old dog new tricks” theory to the test (not calling Roxanne ‘old’ or a ‘dog,’ of course). I can’t imagine undoing 15 years of anything, let alone the one thing she knows best. But she came with an open mind and an amazing attitude, and soaked up every last bit of the week’s lessons like a thirsty sponge.

Roxanne was assigned to cover Cape Cod’s Monomoy Theatre, one of the country’s oldest summer theatres. Rehearsing and performing two separate plays each day, the actors are college students from Ohio University on summer break who take up residence at this historic Chatham playhouse. Given free reign to roam the grounds, Roxanne captured the daily life of this busy place and its challenging lighting situations.

How was the week for Roxanne? Her thoughts, in her own words:

Processing so much about the week…technically, emotionally, perceptively, personally…but all good…very good. Scary, but good… The mixture of personalities, the house, the levels of experience, the curiosity and bottom line, the souls of all those involved, are what made it such a magical place. I am forever thankful for my new friends, wonderful amazing people, and for this place and time that have left a major mark in my life. In fact it was not only a place I began a new journey in my professional life and photojournalism skills, but one where I began a new personal journey in my life..it is a place of new beginnings for me. I had been through a major personal tragedy just weeks before going to Roots. I decided to still go as I had signed up before the incident…and it was a major part of my process of healing. From the bottom of my heart, I want you to know how much I appreciate all of the effort you have made to make this happen. I am forever changed for this experience, as a person, as well as a photographer. If I can come again next year, I just might… :)

So proud of Roxanne’s progress and her strength. We all fell in love with Roxanne’s courage and I will never forget her proclaiming her new “Roxanne 2.0″ status at our Thursday night celebration slideshows. You rocked it, Rox!

Roots Workshop: Roxanne Bedard at Monomoy Theatre from emilie sommer on Vimeo.

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Roots student portfolio: Ned Jackson

post written on 12 Aug 09 in Student portfolios

Boston wedding photographer Ned Jackson initially heard about Roots Workshop through J when he got his liveBooks website, and then a blog through J’s side biz Blog Branded. He had signed up for the workshop before WPPI last March, so joined 2008 Roots alumni for reunion drinks one night out in Vegas. Not knowing the inside jokes or loud personalities of those around him, Ned hung in there and told us how excited he was for July…

… At Roots alumni drinks in Vegas this year, I can guarantee one thing: The inside story that will be most told from Roots ’09 belongs to Ned. Without going into too much detail, use your imagination and send your sympathies to Ned who was assigned to Cape Cod lobsterman Ben Bergquist on one of the more rockier days at sea of late. Add to the rocking boat the stench of dead fish, and poor Ned got very familiar with a particular bucket on board, let’s just say, from both ends.

Despite it all, he produced a fantastic picture story and learned a lot in the process. Somuchso that I am going to let him tell you his thoughts, in his own words:

For me there were really three things that made the workshop so powerful. First, the quality of the relationships that you make throughout the week are worth their weight in gold – both with the mentors and with the other students. I selected the Roots Workshop because the mentor to student ratio was so low. To be surrounded by, and living with some of the top professionals in the industry allowed for relationships that quickly moved past formal pleasantries. People tend to be more honest with you when they feel they know you better. As a result, the quality of the feedback was so much more powerful than what you experience in other workshops. Not to mention, my one-on-one mentoring session at the end of the week was the most personalized and poignant feedback that I’ve ever received in my career. I’m not really certain that you can place a dollar amount on that.

Two, the overall quality of the assignment forced me to challenge myself as a photographer. I felt that the mentors (including you Emilie!) really put a lot of thought into the assignments that each student received and catered them to the needs of each student. To find myself on a small boat, 21 miles out at sea with about 10 square feet of working room was a completely new challenge. It taught me how to really think out the shots that I wanted to get, prepare for them and execute. It also challenged me as a storyteller. To try to tell the story, in a way that was visually powerful, of something that could be very routine and I’m sure at times monotonous, was a real challenge (especially after being so sick the first day!). In the end, it helped me to think differently about why and when I take pictures.

And last, but certainly not least: To have someone go through your full shoot from each day, unedited, and on the big screen – was a powerful exercise. It allowed the mentors to literally see you work through a situation and make suggestions as to how you could have approached the situation differently. It also helped me to edit more quickly because I learned to be more selective about what makes the final cut.

Photography aside, Ned is one of the easiest people to talk to, relate to, and spend time with. One of my most favorite experiences of the week was listening to him, and watching his eyes wide with pride, as he talked about his 6 month old son Nate. Very excited to learn that Ned is already considering returning for Roots ’10 (that’s right, details to come next week)!!

Take a peek at Ned’s story (and thanks again to sponsor Triple Scoop Music).

Roots Workshop: Ned Jackson with lobsterman Ben Bergquist from emilie sommer on Vimeo.

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Roots student portfolio: Earl Christie

post written on 10 Aug 09 in Student portfolios

A month before Roots Workshop, I sent an email to all the students asking one simple question: Why did you sign up for this workshop?

Boston wedding photographer Earl Christie’s reply?
I need my ass kicked in regards to my photography. I feel that I’m not finding the shots the environment is presenting me, and I need to sharpen my thought process and hone my eye.

Like most of the workshop students, Earl is an already-established wedding photographer with a loyal clientele and solid portfolio. He enthusiastically signed on for this self-pushing process and learned a lot about his shooting style and his people skills, too. Earl was assigned to the Cape Cod Baseball League, easily one of the favorite assignments of the week. Unfortunately, it was also the only assignment arranged that had the potential to be canceled should it rain. See where this is headed?

So when the afternoon skies opened up on Tuesday and the scheduled evening ball game was postponed, I worked quickly to line up another assignment for Earl. Cool and calm, he actually returned to the fair which the group had attended together earlier in the week to focus on the demolition derby. Uncharacteristic of the typical Cape Cod prep reputation permeating the island, this event was raw- and muddy! On the first day of shooting he recalls being a bit stand-offish and feeling a little out of place. Day two? He went early to hang with the drivers, asked questions (genuine curiosity = earned trust!) and was in there with his hat backwards shooting close.

Post-workshop verdict?
For me, the best part of the the Roots Workshop was getting repeated one-on-one feedback, critique and support from experienced photographers whose work I greatly admire. In other workshops I’ve had the ability to get feedback on my existing work, but Roots was unique in that it gave me the chance to implement my mentor’s and team leader’s suggestions while shooting the next day, and get immediate feedback both in the field and when I returned.

Also, I really got the sense that the Roots mentors, team leaders, and staff felt tremendously invested in the student’s growth. It almost seemed that they were conspiring to give each student the specific experience and tools they’d need to go out and shoot more compelling stories in their wedding work.

And Earl’s opinion of the workshop house?
The workshop site couldn’t be better. It felt like going to summer camp. The main house and outlying buildings all had classic Cape Cod character, and nearly every room breathed a warm nostalgia for the generations of summertime enjoyment it had witnessed.

I couldn’t say it better myself. Thanks, Earl! It was so great spending time with you, and watching you SOAR!

Earl’s slideshow, with music courtesy of Triple Scoop Music.

Roots Workshop: Earl Christie at the Barnstable County Fair from emilie sommer on Vimeo.

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Roots student portfolio: Andree Kehn

post written on 04 Aug 09 in Student portfolios

I met Maine wedding photographer Andree Kehn several years ago during one of the local women wedding photographers networking luncheons I host. She has crazy fun energy. She attended Roots Workshop hoping to harness this energy and channel it into being a more thoughtfully focused photographer.

Paired with team leader Greg Gibson, Andree was assigned to cover Woodsong Farm, a beautiful horse stable that runs a daily camp for kids during the summer. Greg and mentor Rachel Niesen encouraged Andree to slow down and “work a scene” (a popular workshop mantra, altered to “Wirk a scene,” mimicking team leader Tyler Wirken’s last name).

Watching Andree describe the week’s process and progress at our final night slideshow presentation was evidence of a transformation in itself. She stood before all of us, fidgeting and moving her body about as she explained why she came to Roots and what she hoped to learn. As she continued, and talked of the experience at the farm, she literally slowed her body’s movement and pace to a calm, soothing stance. It was very cool. Her images? Peaceful, and graphically pondered and captured. Success!

Andree’s awesome feedback:
I thank you again, deeply. This experience has really been more than I expected. I am really making some headway, and still churning over a lot of the words spoken that week.

Take a peek for yourself below:

Roots Workshop: Andree Kehn at Woodsong Farm from emilie sommer on Vimeo.

Andree was the lucky recipient of our Facebook fan page contest, receiving $500 off her tuition thanks to workshop sponsors News Wedding Photographers, an online directory of wedding photojournalists, and 6 months free of Shoot Q, a fantastic online studio booking and management software system. Congrats!!

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Roots student portfolio: Rob Brown

post written on 03 Aug 09 in Student portfolios

British Rob, as he is known via Twitter (@britishrob), is in limbo (and no, not like the game we actually played on our Thursday night Roots celebration party) considering a move from part-time to full-time photographer. He wrote me a few weeks before Roots Workshop expressing uncertainty for a future in wedding photography feeling a pinch from a saturated market in Boston.

His post-workshop outlook:
I was feeling very dismayed by the meat-factory nature of the wedding industry, especially here in Boston, but this workshop really made me think again. Having an incredibly talented pool of tutors and mentors right there with us throughout the week was definitely the clinching factor for me. So many other workshops only have one or two staff, but the hands-on nature of this workshop with so many tutors was certainly the clincher for me. They were there when you needed them, provided honest, solid (and no-holds-barred) feedback, provided good humour, and their passion for what they do was infectious. I went in wanting to learn as much as possible and tried to drop as many habits as I could. I’ve come away with a huge amount of knowledge, skills and much better focus on how to tell a visual story.

Rob is a Boston transplant from across the pond. Love brought him to the States a few years ago, and he and his wife are now eagerly expecting their first child. He learned about the workshop through fellow Boston Roots alums Shyla and Eric. All of our correspondence was done over email and I thoroughly enjoyed receiving messages like “The cheque is in the post,” and other fantastic British phrases that brought me back to my college days studying in London. So imagine the fun we all had to be in Rob’s presence. It didn’t really matter what he was saying, we were listening.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention Rob’s love for technology. Rob is very much a gear-head in the most respectable sense of the term. He was an instrumental resource in my recent computer upgrades, and at the workshop he graciously helped students clean sensors, calibrate laptops and projectors and talk shop without ever being asked.

The staff chose to send Rob to a YMCA camp for his assignment to photograph the daily goings-on of an active summer camp. You know, typical camp swimming, sports, and general chaos. The challenge here was to quiet the noise at a very busy place and tell a simple story. Rob listened to his mentors and excelled brilliantly.

Take a peek (and thanks again to sponsor Triple Scoop Music for the song):

Roots Workshop: Rob Brown at YMCA Camp Lyndon from emilie sommer on Vimeo.

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