Santorini, where fantasy-like sunsets and breathtaking scenarios will cause life-long pleasurable memories, was the playground for Shoot The Centerfold’s Oct 03-13, 2015 seminar/workshop of a lifetime. And why do we call it, “the seminar of a lifetime”? To put it simply, we say it because it was just that. It was a ten day extravaganza with higher learning and the longest running seminar we have ever done. It’s perhaps the longest anywhere in its category. And Aegean sun gods looked over our shoulders and maybe even picked up a few tips and tricks about our lighting techniques themselves.
Santorini also was the perfect place to test photographers to find out who they are and whether or not they can handle ten days with strangers in their faces. “This was a perfect personality test to help editors learn about their possible future photographers,” says longtime Director of Photography Gary Cole.
New friends were made and old ones united. Lighting techniques, the photography business, publishing, marketing tools and endless Greek salads were some highlights in addition to photographing our lovely models Zienna Eve, Karolina Wozniak, Natasha Naneva and world-famous contortionist/dancer Irina Kazakova. This seminar was an eye-opener for the attendees.
I arrived in Santorini a few days before the actual seminar’s start date to scout new and previously known locations. These backdrops seem to be a weakness for my kind with their beautiful and traditional Santorini architecture. The goal was to mix the beauty of our models with the best architectural scenarios that make editors and clients want to see more. And it sure did. In advance, no less! Several had contacted us before the actual trip expressing their wishes for some visual treats for their contributions (sponsorship) while we rubbed shoulders with the Greek gods and enjoyed the best taste of Greek delicacies.
Not only did we photograph future publishing opportunities with our attendees, but an actual Playboy pictorial (still nude) with Playboy photographer Ales Bravničar. The attendees got to witness first-hand how to photograph a Playboy cover and the editorial requirements that the editor had assigned for the shoot.
There was so much visual delight that filled the ten day seminar. But let’s revisit some of the headlines and attendee actions instead of writing a novel since we certainly could.
Upon our arrival to Santorini, the pace of life completely changed. Our phones got no reception and we barely had an Internet that worked. Fresh breeze kissed our faces while we stared at the ocean from the porch wondering if we should ever return home. This place was truly captivating and it was a perfect scenario for any photographer who wanted to brush up on their visual skill set and experience a true slice of Heaven.
On the very first day of the seminar it was nothing short of Christmas. Our sponsor’s pallets had arrived and it was time to see all the goodies that Hensel, Chimera and Sunbounce had sent us. Not to mention the addition of three full Phase One camera systems that Dave Gallagher from Capture Integration had brought to Santorini for us to use. Dave Gallagher, the CEO of Capture Integration, proved to be an excellent digital tech for almost the entire length of the seminar. Capturing images from 40mb, 50mb and 80mb digital camera backs left us questioning our available credit card balances. Dave also made himself available by advising the attendees in any possible situation imaginable. Late night presentations about Capture One Pro software and digital work-flows with local wine and bubbly champagne added a great atmosphere for the evenings.
In the mornings, we all gathered to an outside porch in front of the house were we stayed (we actually had two houses). Morning photography business sessions by my colleague Ales Bravničar and me were followed by tasty lunches at the local restaurants which became an everyday habit since they had faster Internet connections.
On October 5th, attendee Steven Ruegnitz celebrated the results from his STC One-on-One session that had led to a dual Playboy Playmate release. One was published in Playboy Venezuela and the second one in Playboy Croatia’s edition. More champagne was necessary to cool down the double publishing whammy. That’s what we call awesome and evidence that hard/smart work pays off.
Our photography program in Santorini included photography/lighting exercises and philosophies of the desired outcomes that editors and clients live by. Pictorial assembling and image workflows were prepared by longtime Director of Photography Gary Cole. Shooting in controlled and less controlled environments gave the attendees a feel of what it’s like to be in a real-world situation while creating a pictorial. These types of exercises whittled away the insecurities among our attendees. Our locations varied from the best of Santorini to the paparazzi style picture story sequences and in-house photography settings.
During the second week of the seminar, we had videography exercises that got our attendees’ attention as they learned how to move a camera with their body movements while filming behind the scenes and tracking camera techniques. Many of our attendees got bit by the video bug by realizing the additional opportunities and doors videography can open in addition to only offering photography. Adding multimedia capabilities to their own productions has awakened their hidden passions.
Santorini panorama (5878 × 1191) – Download here
Photographing our beautiful models continued until the very last day of the seminar. World-famous dancer Irina Kazakova who had joined us for the seminar also gave performances and an opportunity for everyone to capture her truly unique and skilled moves as seen in the latest Sunbounce short movie “Dance”.
All in all, lighting was the single most important topic during this seminar followed by other key elements. We have been asked, “Why use strobe lighting in such a beautiful naturally lit location?” Well, that is what makes us different, and we do recognize and appreciate beautiful natural light but also when it’s necessary to add additional extra lighting.
What also made this specific seminar unique to all of us were the opportunities to get to know each person individually, their personalities and ways of performance and thinking. This gave us an opportunity to focus on everyone’s individual needs which was a tremendous advantage. Knowing each one’s skill level and knowledge base is the first milestone of success and how to build a solid foundation. Photography is a visual extension to your expression and a way of communication, a language that is often misunderstood. Our goal at STC was to ensure a pathway to success for those who seek it via our own experiences and achievements.
STC could not stage these wonderful events without the support of our sponsors who provided all the highest quality products supported by completely knowledgeable people. Please support our sponsors by visiting their websites.
STC Santorini Sponsors
Here are some personalized thoughts about our attendees:
Attendee Alan Chan flew all the way from Australia to harvest our techniques to boost his already successful fashion catalog shoots and to better understand the business of photography. Alan’s quiet personality was not able to hold back his curious mind. He was very much on point and asking the right questions even if he was not sure what kind of answer he might get. This quality is often buried in the fear of not knowing. Having seen him give himself an opportunity to open additional ways of conducting photography business will surely help him find what he was looking for.
Sultan Ghahtani, a Chicago based photographer with more talent Karl Lagerfeld and Coco Chanel combined, was searching for ways to package his talents while also shooting his own model Mia Gray. The romantic edgy duo demonstrated their unique workflow and took advantage of the beautiful visual delights of Santorini. There was no shortage of Sultan’s over-the-top style performance. Some birds are not meant to be kept in cages. I predict that his talent will be opening the doors to his dream future which likely will be coming much sooner than later.
Larry Johnson, a happy individual who’s seen it all, well, almost all since we were able to raise his eye-brows with our methods and teachings. I am also happy to announce that his camera bag made it back to the USA (with my cameras inside). Larry is a man who knows what he wants but is always open to new suggestions and those fire new energies that will never go to waste. Larry’s agenda also included the delivery of a personal model from the USA who kept him busy outside of his STC studies. Larry took more notes for later studies than any other STC attendee during our seminar sessions. No wonder he has been so successful during his career. We all could learn a thing or two from him.
Anthony Wallen, a.k.a. “Sponge”, also knew to ask the right questions. The talented videographer/photographer combined his experience by also exploring Athens as well as Santorini. His determination and knowledge got stronger by the day. He was not satisfied to only see the tip of the island so off he went only to reappear later. It was a size issue for Anthony and his Phase One camera system while photographing our beautiful models and the man knows the importance of quality over quantity! He also firmly stood by his beliefs but was curious like a cat when he needed to learn something new. We never ended up doing the daylight Playmate lighting that you so loved due to windy weather conditions. But, rest assured, that we have not forgotten about your personal tastes and wishes.
Hugo Navarro from Lima, Peru got the STC bug earlier this March at our Miami seminar. Hugo also arrived in Santorini a few days early and found me photographing the architectural elements of Santorini in the smallest alley ways of the island. Hugo, who has the eyes of an eagle, was able to spot me from behind from a block away and he required no zoom lens. He also has improved in his photography since his first STC seminar. His calm personality lets his images do the talking instead of his words and this will allow his voice to be heard in wide range of audiences. As they say, “Watch out for the silent ones. They make their moves when you least expect it.” Right after the Santorini STC seminar, Hugo was off to another seminar in Switzerland. Models and mountains, perhaps? Whatever it is, we have our bets on him!
Peter Urbanski, a man of adventure and good taste, found himself lost in the streets of Santorini the very first night, claiming they all look the same. After having possibly a few drinks, engaging with locals, eating something he cannot pronounce and riding on the back of an unknown motorcycle, he found himself somehow spending the first night on my couch. Being the artist he is, he never really cared about comfort as much as the adventure that was luring him left and right. He always finds a way to impress me. Even with the sleepless night, he was able to produce an image only powered by stars. I hope he lets me know where his next adventure will take him. I might join him.
Gerald Petrone who believed that jpegs instead of RAW files were the solution to save hard drive space, took us all by surprise with his ability to foresee his future as far as the photography business side is concerned. Gerald has Leica and galleries in sight and refuses to live in the past. I would advise Gerald to buy more disk space as he might need it if he gets Leica on his side. He should never take no for an answer and the future will greet him with a smile.
Juhani Väihkönen, our first attendee from Finland, turned out to be technically inclined and with almost everything. His tech passion has gotten Nokia and Microsoft to hire him for numerous tasks. His true passion has now resurfaced from underwater photography to glamorous model photography above the surface. Only time will tell if things are going to sink below the surface again. I predict that Nokia and Microsoft will take a dive instead, based on what I saw on his camera previews. Juhani is floating the idea of making photography a full time job starting March 2016. Way to go! Stubbornness made in Finland always prevails.
Keith Milligan was the only STC Santorini attendee to stay for only for the first week instead of the full stretch of 10 days. Keith has been an STC member since 2011 and we know that his loyalty will bring him back so he can catch up on the rest of the missed trip. His premature departure against his will must have been difficult. But he certainly remained with us in spirit and we all hope that his meeting on Monday was a success.
Michael Szelest, our STC protégée, has certainly climbed the photography ladder since we first met him at the STC seminar several years ago. Michael stands as an example for many others. His images have been seen in Playboy and other publishing outlets and the covers of fitness and glamour mags to mention a few. His photography studies have truly put a smile on our faces. During the seminar, Michael photographed our models as well his private model Aisha. He also scored 15 photography bookings while he was having fun with us in Santorini. Not so long ago he was wondering how to make a living with his camera and now he has more bookings then he can handle. Way to go, Michael!
Robert Ashby spends his time flying around the world as a pilot. He has one hand on the controls of an airliner and the other one holding a camera (I do now wonder about turbulence and what really goes down in the cockpit). In Santorini, we used Robert’s pictorial, that’s due to be released early 2016, as an example of a high-end production and how others can achieve similar results. Robert’s vision for Santorini was inspired by a classic Greek bow image that he translated to a modern version. Robert believes that flying above all the others is the key to his photography and future. Locations and models are at his fingertips just a wing-length away.
Russell Yeaman, also from Australia, was a slow burner at first while adapting to the new pace. But after a few local rounds and recipes, the Aussie was open like an accordion for more new suggestions. An almost strange mutual respect resulted in late night laughs. Russell knows what he is looking for and does it so gracefully. He has travelled the world from Australia, USA, Tahiti, Venice and many other wonderful places. Santorini will now be added to his travel list. Russell took time on his approach to lighting and the models. It seemed that concentration was the key before he chose to press the shutter. He looked, waited, and when the stars lined up, only then did he take the shot. This is a quality to be admired and, to be honest, it is rare. Russell appears to be a photographer who thinks first, instead of after the fact.
Kenneth Loudermilk is no stranger to STC seminars. But this time it was different. We walked the hills of Oia and the search was to find more than just knowledge. He was seeking a purpose, a reason for the visual act, that so many miss in a rush of excitement. Kenneth’s cool monotone personality is hard to read but his images speak for themselves. The message was clear that he is not going to stop. The quality that shined the brightest was that he was always hungry for more. I look forward seeing his best pics of Santorini and where this journey will take him.
Mary Alejo – Production Coordinator/everything else you can imagine
If there is someone in the Shoot The Centerfold project who deserves the ultimate applause, it would definitely be Mary Alejo. Mary basically wore every single hat; from stylist extraordinaire, to super model, makeup & hair artist to, most importantly, the pre-production that started over four months prior to the seminar. Airline tickets for a whole crew and anything else administrative you can think of, goes though Mary.
When everyone was having a blast in Santorini, enjoying the beautiful sunny days and photographing our gorgeous models, Mary was locked up in the production room making sure that all the models were ready for their shoots. Packing and unpacking endless wardrobe suitcases can be a pain in the butt but there isn’t anybody better for the task. This super successful seminar absolutely could not have been possible without Mary.
Ales Bravničar’s message to the attendees: “Back home after a journey of 1100 miles on funky roads and an 8-hour traverse across the calm Aegean Sea, it all seems as it happened yesterday. I am extremely proud for having been able to share my knowledge with all of you and having such fun times during the process. I have learned many things as well and we all worked together for that important common goal – becoming better photographers.
We were blessed with great models, perfect weather and amazing locations. I managed to finish what I started earlier on the trip and there will be a very pleasant surprise waiting for you in January. But in the meantime, take a good look at all the photos and videos you made and pick your crème de la crème. The individual work produced by each and every one of you under my and Jarmo’s supervision is of excellent quality and I am sure that it will serve you well in taking your photography skills to the next level (with a little help from STC, of course). Ladies and gentlemen, it has been a pleasure. I feel we will meet again very, very soon.”
~ Ales Bravnicar
Jarmo Pohjaniemi I cannot thank everyone enough who made all of this possible. Our attendees, models and sponsors are the reason why Shoot The Centerfold seminars have been so successful. They also give us tremendous will power to do more and determine how to better serve photographers hungry for knowledge in the future. We have learned as much from them as they have learned from us. And this is why we are the very best and keep doing what we do. Thank you.
~ Jarmo Pohjaniemi
For everlasting memories – Shoot The Centerfold Santorini 2015