Sunday, May 28, 2017

Photography Conference

Alley in Southbridge, MA

The last time I attended a photography conference/workshop my daughter was a senior in high school. To put that in perspective, she has been out of college for two years now.

At that time I worked part-time in retail, I shot in automatic mode, had no inkling that I would soon begin this photography journey, and had no idea what a blog was. Still, I agreed to join a friend who did know something about photography for a workshop in a place I love - Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. I was hopeful that I would learn a few things, and that my friend would pull me aside and clue me in on all the things I didn't understand. It was a great workshop, early fall in northern Michigan, the weather was perfect and the light...that was where I began my love affair with light. But...I felt like I was underwater, the instructors were talking, I could see the bubbles coming out of their mouths, but the words were garbled, a language I could not understand.

Over the years I have taken MANY on-line courses on every aspect of photography. Slowly the language began to make sense, and what I didn't understand I watched video after video on, until I did understand. Still, I continued to stay away from in-person workshops and conferences, remembering that underwater feeling.

Kelli and me

That all changed early this spring when Kelli DeWaal of posted in a Facebook group that we are both a part of about a Creative Photography Conference she was going to be teaching at in May. The conference was being organized by Hazel Meredith of Meredith Images whose webinars I have watched on Topaz Lab products and love her style. I also knew this was a direction I wanted to take my photography, continuing to build on the painterly style I have started to develop. One little glitch, the conference was in Massachusetts, I live in Michigan, no small trip. I set about convincing my husband that we should take a vacation to the east coast in May. We would vacation for a week first and then I would attend the conference while he relaxed and read his book for a couple of days. It wasn't an easy sales pitch, but in the end I wore him down.

We had a great vacation prior to the conference, full of adventures and stories. It was the time alone we needed for our marriage, even after thirty years you still need this kind of alone time. I will share in future blog posts more from our vacation, but I thought I would start with the conference since it is fresh in my mind.

The conference was May 20-21, 2017 in Southbridge, MA at the Southbridge Hotel and Conference Center, a beautiful hotel that is set inside an historic eye glass factory. Spacious rooms, and great conference facilities.

I went with some expectations of what I wanted to learn, mostly to learn more about painterly processing using Topaz Labs and other software plug-in programs that work with Lightroom and Photoshop. I take pretty good pictures now, no longer operating in automatic mode. I understand the f/stop, shutter speed, ISO language, but the creative post-processing in Photoshop is still is a little garbled to me.

The first day of the conference all seven of the instructors presented for an hour. They are all extremely talented, and there was a nice variety of styles amongst them. It was like being at a buffet of fine restaurants, seeing every delicious morsel and then choosing the ones that smelled the most enticing.

The surprising thing to me was that the painterly post-processing in Photoshop with Topaz Labs wasn't the most delicious morsel at the buffet for me. Instead it was Kelli's presentation on the iPad Pro with Apple Pencil, as she showed us the different apps she uses to create her image blended masterpieces. It was Michael & Suz Karchmer's presentation on iPhoneography, I loved this couple, they remind me of my husband and myself.  Gerri Jones' presentation was the closest to what I expected I wanted to learn, but it was her work with dog photographs and textures that made my heart flutter. I was expecting to learn textures and landscapes.

Photo Credit: Susan Karchmer - original before Snapseed
Susan Karchmer's edited photo in Snapseed with listing of steps

Day two of the conference we were able to select hour-long workshops with the individual instructors. I chose Kelli's Encaustic Wax class, she demonstrated her process and let us have a hand at applying the wax on a wood cradle board. I am going to need some practice. Then it was off to Gerri's Lensbaby Lens workshop, love my Lensbaby even more after that. Finishing with Michael & Suz's iPhone and Creative Apps class, an hour was too short. They demonstrated the Snapseed app for the hour, even though I use Snapseed on every iPhone photo I process, I still learned so much more, and it renewed my love of Snapseed.

Susan Karchmer's finished iPhone edited masterpiece

My edited version of Susan's photo from class - Snapseed and Stackables

I made a couple of new friends at the conference - Roberta and Dawn - if you two read this, please email me so we can stay in touch. I wish I had had my picture taken with them too.

The conference inspired me in so many ways: new ideas, renewed loves, new friends, surprises about where my creative heart really lies, at least at the moment.

The best part of the conference though, was that I am no longer underwater, I understood every word perfectly. I will not let seven years pass before I attend my next one. Actually it will only be a month. I have coerced my husband into joining me for a iPhone Photography workshop in Indiana at the end of June, and by join I mean he is taking it with me.

**A heartfelt thank you to Suz Karchmer for granting me permission to use her photographs in this post.



  1. Sounds like the trip East and the photography conference
    was everything you hoped for . . . Wonderful!
    "Underwater" to understand process though, for me . . .
    Point and shoot will be all I probably will ever do . . .
    I love reading, sensing, seeing what you learn . . .
    I found each snapseed, edited photo exceptional . . .
    Enjoy the Indiana Class!
    Loved your alley photo . . .

  2. What a wonderful conference this turned out to be! I would love to learn more about Snapseed!

  3. First, I love the new photo of you. Thank you for sharing your photography conference. This is so inspiring, makes me want to pursue photography with even a greater zest. There's lots for me to learn, like what does it mean "processing in Photoshop with Topaz Labs" I have Snapseed, but haven't learned how to use it. Thank you.

  4. How wonderful to learn new things in photography that you really enjoy doing to obtain the effects that you love the most! Well done for going on that holiday with your husband prior to the workshop!
    I haven't even learnt the basics of Lightroom or Photoshop, but I hope to be doing a beginner's class in Lightroom this year! Do you know of any online classes that you could recommend, Sarah?

  5. It sounds like both the vacation and the conference lived up to your hopes and expectations. I'm so glad, and I'm looking forward to hearing more about both! I loved your analogy of that long-ago workshop, when the instructors seemed to be speaking underwater. Yes, you've come a long way, baby!

  6. Attending a conference like this must be so interesting, and you are such a good photographer that I think you will take so much from this. I love how different your processing of the photo is from Susan's - it's fascinating to see this. Two very different moods, and I like both of them very much.
    How lovely that your husband is joining a photography workshop with you. I could see that with my husband as well - I would love it, actually.

  7. Your conference sounds fantastic - it's wonderful you made some new friends and learned so much. It's amazing the different feel of each of the photos after different processing! I'm not at all surprised that you no longer feel under water at a conference, you must feel great looking back at all you've learned over the last few years!

  8. Oh yeah - and I absolutely love your new profile pic! :-)

  9. Sounds like the perfect vacation. Looking forward to reading more.

  10. Oh, Sarah, the conference sounds wonderful.
    Wish I would have know about it.
    I spend quite a bit of time in Boston, and would definitely have gone out to Southbridge.
    I am so glad you enjoyed it.
    Have a wonderful weekend!

  11. Oh wow! Love that photo of the bench near the narrow walkway. Interesting how she edited the other small bench that was further out in the distance out of the image altogether. I've always wanted to learn photography... I'm jealous of a couple of friends who seem to have oodles of lenses to play with. Although, with the new advances in phones and tablets etc, it seems maybe lenses aren't such a necessary thing anymore??

  12. What an amazing workshop you attended! Somehow I missed this post, so I'm catching up!!

  13. So happy you were able to make it to the conference Sarah and that you enjoyed my workshops. It really was a great collection of Creative Speakers. I am already looking forward to next year's conference and thinking about what I will present. It was a pleasure to meet you finally after all these years. I wish we could have spent more time visiting. I am confident that we will stay more in touch and that we will meet again someday! :)


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