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|| News Item: Posted 2008-04-01

Workshop-Mania: Nineteen Years Between Workshop Experiences
By Paul Morse

Photo by Paul Morse

Photo by Paul Morse

Photographer and instructor Greg Heisler demonstrates the use of a quartz light fixture on studio manager Mike Sakas at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops.
Photons are photons...what you do with them is key - Greg Heisler

Looking for direction and inspiration I attended a course at the Santa Fe Workshops called Choice and Vision taught by New York based portrait photographer Greg Heisler. This was only the second photo workshop I have attended. Way back in 1989 Greg was my group leader at the Eddie Adams Workshop and his philosophy toward environmental portraits, work ethic and intelligent way of using light had a big influence on me. Heading out to New Mexico I was psyched to study with a photographer I have admired for my whole career.

Our class was made up of professional photographers working in various fields of photography around the country and overseas. Each of us had years of experience and took a week out of our busy lives to learn new ways of creating and seeing light.

With out the pressure of creating an image to get paid or to win a contest I was able to experiment with some new light tools and lighting concepts. After recently entering the freelance world I needed to redefine my way of seeing light beyond softboxes. The experience was truly inspiring.

Our assignments consisted of shooting portraits with three types of light: existing, cool and hot lights, and strobe and combinations of all three. For the existing light we used white and black foam core to fill and subtract light to and from the subject. Our main cool lights were fluorescent light fixtures.

Rather than using expensive band name fluorescent lights, the studio managers at the workshop built our lights from Home Depot! Other cool light sources included battery powered fluorescent strip lights and ring light shaped fluorescent fixtures. Never thought such beautiful light could be so simple and affordable.

Photo by Paul Morse

Photo by Paul Morse

Photographer Ralph Alswang is the subject of a portrait assignment using strobe light at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops.
The hot lights were small quartz lights. Through demonstrations and assignments the effects of using the foam core and hot and cool lights were so tangible and immediate. The workshop provided Profoto battery powered strobes.

In photographing our assignments the class would break up into groups of three people so we each could be the photographer, assistant and model. The concept was fun and revealing because we all would love to shoot models or celebrities in reality most of us photograph ordinary looking folks like ourselves.

Also the grouping gave us photographers an understanding of what we put our subjects though and how to communicate what we are looking for from them.

Our locations included the workshop campus, a Masonic Temple, and a closed prison. Each was overwhelming with the multitude of good backgrounds.

Throughout the week Greg talked to us about the frustrations and in the editorial, corporate and advertising photography business he has been apart of for the past 30 years and new opportunities and markets. As the week went by found myself questioning my own goals and approach to the business but also excited by how I could incorporate what I had learned into my future work.

(Paul Morse formerly worked at the White House as a staff photographer. Prior to that, he worked as a staff photographer at the Pasadena Star and the Los Angeles Times. He is currently freelancing in the Washington D.C. area. You can see his work on his Sports Shooter member page: and on his personal website: .)

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