When I was starting my career as a photojournalist, I declared that I was a "natural light-ony" photographer. I held that idea up as a point of pride, rationalizing that if neither Henri Cartier-Bresson nor Robert Frank used flash lighting, nor would I. Even at a point in my life when the wisdom of the day encouraged me to work on the razor's edge of technology, I was a throwback, drawn to the black-and-white street photography of the 1930's and 1950's. The light emanating from a jukebox would suffice as far as I was concerned.
Photographers don't necessarily need to use flash. There is a valid argument for only using available light, whether daylight, a streetlight, the glow of neon, or any other artificial forms of light you can find. This attitude can take you far, but it does limit you a bit as well. In the mid-90's, before the advent of the ultra-high ISO-capable digital cameras like we have today, shooting with flash was a greater concern to photographers who by aesthetic choice or the needs of clients, had to provide well-lit, grain-free images. And when I landed at a New York City metropolitan-area newspaper in 1998, my "natural light-only" attitude didn't fly too well when I was I handed a location lighting kit with soft boxes, umbrellas, light stands, and other mysterious equipment and sent off to an assignment where the brief called for a well-lit environmental portrait. I broke out in a nervous sweat while trying to convince the subject I knew what I was doing with the gear. Light stands tipped over, the subject's face was overexposed and ghostly, and I couldn't figure out how to put the reflector back in its bag. When I showed my photo editor the pictures, the look on her face more than suggested that I had better learn how to use the lights.
I ran off to the nearest book store, and found what would become my lighting bible for the next eight years, "Secrets of Lighting on Location," by National Geographic photographer Bob Krist. I carried the book in my car, and would refer to it for explanations and inspiration before countless assignments that required lighting. It became dog-eared, and whenever my fellow photographers at the newspaper asked to borrow the book, that same nervous sweat threatened to break out again. One of the photographers eventually absconded with Bob's book, and I could never solve the case of my missing lighting bible. By that time, I had learned enough to light things on my own, with my own techniques and style. The instruction I received in that funny, beautiful, and clear book was some of the most valuable information in my education as a photographer.
Last year, I was having dinner here in San Miguel de Allende when I noticed a man across the restaurant. He looked familiar, yet I couldn't place from where I knew him. I thought it might be Bob Krist, and after a quick Google search on my phone, I confirmed it was him. As he and his wife Peggy were leaving the restaurant, I stood up to introduce myself and thank him for all the help he had unknowingly given me. He appeared a bit nervous, perhaps eager to escape from an adoring fan, and I had that old sensation from those times when I was fumbling to assemble a lighting scenario ten years before. We exchanged emails and agreed to meet soon for lunch.
When we met again, Bob revealed he had been worried when I stood up that I was going to confront him for admiring the looks of my dining companion. I hadn't noticed, as I was too busy trying to pretend I wasn't staring at him. We became friends, and photographed a few things together around the city. When he told me he and Peggy had bought a condo in San Miguel, I told him that one day, I would trick him out of semi-retirement to teach a workshop for SEEK. He assured me that his workshop teaching days were over. He was mostly shooting video around the world for different clients and occasionally working as the representative photographer on National Geographic Expeditions, where some prices for a 14-day trip by private jet start at $56,950 per person.
I couldn't have been happier when visiting with Bob a few months ago to hear him say that he wanted to teach video making for SEEK. The February 2018 workshop, aimed at still photographers who want to learn video and filmmaking, intends to enhance photographers' understanding of image-making to help them learn how to create cinematic video stories. Known for using the smallest and lightest equipment possible, Bob will unlock the mysteries of how to build a similar camera and audio kit. He'll also teach sound recording basics, how to get the most important shots and angles used in motion pictures, the essentials of video editing, and how to analyze your ideas for their potential as video stories. We'll conclude the workshop with a screening of everyone's short films at Bellas Artes in San Miguel.
At the risk of embarrassing Bob, it's been one of the most gratifying and fun experiences of my career to collaborate with him after so many years of having his book as a mentor by proxy. He's hilarious, kind, humble, smart, and accomplished. It's hard to put a value on what he gives to his students, but to me, he helped me succeed as a professional photographer.
For more information about Bob's workshop, to see some of his video work, and to sign up for this fun and valuable experience, visit the workshop listing here: http://www.seekworkshops.com/select-workshop/bob-krist-video