Ashley,
I promised you some feedback…..
I enjoyed the weekend and thought it was a good investment of time and money. Here are some bullet points of observations/learning for me.
  • M&P have a very focused but unhurried style and give the impression of having all the time in the world to spend on whatever topic was important. Before the course we completed a questionnaire which Paula had clearly taken the time to read and absorb. This was impressive.
  • They are clearly dedicated to a certain technique which they are investing a lot of personal time and money in to preserve for themselves and other photographers. Everyone on the course left with a lot of respect for them in this regard
  • The most valuable element for me was the group print critique of student photos. We were asked to bring 30-40 prints from which a sample was reviewed on Friday night followed by a detailed critique on Sunday. They were very straight with everybody and said what they meant using an encouraging and coaching style.
  • Saturday morning was taken up with a printing demonstration by Michael using Azo and Amidol with student negatives. I picked up some useful tips on print evaluation such as getting a sufficient distance away to assess the overall tonal values and separation rather than spending all the time with your nose up to the print. The metronome timing method for print exposure was interesting. I’m not sure it’s for me although I might try a combination of timer and metronome for dogging and burning purposes enabling more precise control and repeatability and continued focus on the print rather than the timer.
  • Saturday afternoon was spent under the darkcloth with Paula, looking at the ground glass of an 8x10 with a reasonably long focal length. This was primarily a demonstration about developing/inspiring vision by using the lens as an independent set of eyes. It was a process of discovery as opposed to the execution of a pre-determined idea. I was a bit uncomfortable with this approach initially because it seemed to be “cheating” somehow – using this dumb box to find things rather than my superior intelligence! It was fascinating how patterns and compositions appeared on the ground glass that I could not see without the benefit of magnification and enclosure in a frame. I guess we all do this to a much smaller extent when deciding on the final composition of a subject we have seen or chosen. But, the idea of plonking the tripod in a random spot and going on a 360 degree journey around the environment was quite revealing.
  • I also picked up a few pointers in matting, framing, mounting and spotting which they also covered on Saturday night and Sunday morning.
  • It also helps to have the culinary talents and great hospitality of Bob and Mary Kersey which augment any course taken at Black Mountain!

Finally, the lasting value was probably the insights into “how to be a photographer” in a holistic sense. There are many ways to be a photographer but it was great to spend a weekend observing and listening to two people “with no secrets and nothing to hide” who have been successful in their particular field. Please feel free to PM me if you have any further questions.