Post-Roadshow Report Card

Washbag - Report Card
My washbag, finally unpacked after nearly 4 months.

So that’s it – the Nikon/Calumet/Photosmudger roadshow is done for another year. Coincidentally it brings to an end almost 4 months of being on the road, shooting as well as lecturing. By my estimation I’ve not spent 7 consecutive nights in my own bed since the start of August – hence my ritual unpacking of my toilet bag on Friday night – how very rock n’ roll! Let’s see how everyone did, with a quick report card.

A few quick figures to sum up this year’s tour:

  • Total number of students attending the morning lecture – 700+
  • Total number of students taking up the afternoon challenge – 225+
  • Total mileage travelled – 4400 + miles. Ouch. Very grateful I didn’t drive for all of them.

And now in a bit more depth….

The usual bullet point list here folks – I’m such a lazy writer! You may also want to check out my feedback from last year’s tour, as there are more than a few similarities!

Dave listening to his camera - Report Card
Dave, intently listening to his camera during a flash demo. I wonder what it was saying?

Good Things about the Tour:

  • Everyone who accepted the afternoon challenge. As mentioned above, that’s more than 225 people. I totally understand that it’s quite daunting being given a brief, then only 3 hours to shoot and edit it in. Add to this the requirements of an invoice, and the pressure of a group critique and you’ve got a potential nightmare. I’d have shat myself if this happened to me at college! We saw some very impressive results in this year’s challenge, right from the first venue.
  • Keen people who ask questions. I love it when people have a whole list of stuff they want to ask me after the talk (yes, this means you, Arek). It implies they’re thinking a great deal about what they’re going to do next, and want to milk me for all the information they can.
  • Overall very good invoices and paperwork to accompany the afternoon challenge pictures. Bonus points go to the 3 people who handed in their own invoices, as well as the tiny handful of people who had clearly read the blog beforehand and knew proper industry terms like “below the line”. I’m not writing all this for a laugh you know…..
  • Much better technical quality of work than last year. I spent far less time tearing apart people’s work from a basic technical standpoint than I did in 2008, and that’s very encouraging. Still a few technical errors (including some whoppers) here and there, but most definitely progress.
  • Just like last year, I’m consistently impressed with the facilities available at colleges. I know no students will believe me, but you really have got it good. Every single place we visited was much better equipped than where I studied in the mid-90’s, so there’s no excuse for not making maximum use of said facilities.
  • The Flash demo. We started it as a bit of a filler at Glasgow Met, to give us something to do between setting the challenge and doing the critique, and it rapidly became very popular. There still seems to be a big “fear” of flash out there, and yet learning to light properly is probably the biggest single thing you can do to separate yourself from the keen amateur. Flashguns are probably the most versatile, and cheapest way into this, and we had a lot of very interested folks who seemed slightly amazed that I shot beauty shots, action shots, and magazine covers, all with humble flashguns.
  • The food at Sheffield Hallam and Newcastle. Awesome, if only we’d been able to stay longer and settle into the coffees, cigars and brandies!
Extreme Close-ups at Glasgow Met
Extreme Close-ups at Glasgow Met.

Not so good things about the tour:

  • To mirror what I’ve said above – I was very disappointed by those who didn’t do the afternoon challenge. Above all those who took the brief at midday, then never showed up for the critique. I’m not that scary. My main reason for disappointment lies in the fact that, as I’ve stressed many times on Photosmudger, and during the talk – this is not the sort of industry where things are handed to you on a plate, you’re going to have to get out there yourself and show lots of initiative if you want to make a career out of it. Not even attempting a project like this doesn’t bode well.
  • On the same topic, there was a general level of “can’t be arsed” about some places and students. I realise I’m not to everyone’s cup of tea, and that I’m not a big name, but the sort of things I’m talking about (business, organising shoots, how to get work and so on) are relevant whether you choose to follow a path like mine, or shoot weddings, or travel the world shooting for stock libraries and so on. Whether this lack of interest manifests itself in signing up for something, then not showing, or sitting stunned after the talk with an empty head and no questions, it demonstrates what I’ve just mentioned above – a lack of initiative and drive that doesn’t promise well for a future career!
  • A bit of a gripe here, but I can’t let it slip. It was very easy working in Derby, Edinburgh Stevenson, Reid Kerr, UWE, and Sheffield Norton as we DIDN’T HAVE TO MOVE ANY OF OUR GEAR ALL DAY LONG! Sorry, that just slipped out. I realise that organising facilities at colleges can be like getting blood out of a stone, and on the whole lecturers have gone to great lengths to accommodate us, but as a request, if we do this again, we’d all be much happier in one room all day long! Even if it’s small, or not perfect for all purposes – I know I’d rather talk to a crowded but cramped classroom full of people, rather than an empty lecture hall. I also realise that the original requests from Calumet may have been different to this – apologies if we’re not all singing from the same hymn sheet.
Lecturing at Reid Kerr
Lecturing at Reid Kerr, sadly without spooky audio from next door.

And on a lighter note, some of the more amusing incidents along the way:

  • Watching Duncan peel off through heavy traffic in a Newcastle rush hour and head over the Tyne towards Gateshead, whilst following behind but taking the correct turn. He was on speaker phone the entire time, and he can swear like a true Scotsman!
  • On a related car note – playing “hide and seek” with the cars in Preston. It wasn’t actually that funny, just a pain in the proverbial.
  • Being told off for turning on a projector without asking for help at Reid Kerr. What was I thinking?
  • Having no Nikon bags on the first day. Makes us look very professional.
  • Getting lost, not once but several times, at several places, whilst looking for the gents. It’s my age, or something.
  • Dennis’ sales talk for the D3s at UEL. He just couldn’t help himself, and launched into full Nikon-spiel mode.
  • Some of the more “amusing” interpretations of the brief. I won’t embarrass them by naming them, but when the subject matter is “The Hat” I expect to see a hat somewhere in the shot – even if it’s only a shadow or something. Likewise, despite explaining it pretty clearly “usage” refers to the usage the images will be put to, rather than what the subject matter is used for. Funnily enough, I already know what sports shoes can be used for…..
  • Putting together the goodie bags whilst singing Right Said Fred, American Pie and Hello Dolly. Not one of us can sing, but that didn’t stop us trying.
  • Speaking of singing, it was very spooky giving the lecture at Reid Kerr whilst there was some kind of kindergarten singing school going on in the next room. Every few minutes snatches of “hot cross buns” and “baa baa black sheep” came filtering through the adjoining door. Very surreal indeed.
  • Getting snapped for the local paper up in Aberdeen. Ah, that took me back a few years I can tell you…

And now, I’d like to hear what everyone else thought, and above all if anyone has any suggestions (constructive only please) for improvements. Next year is by no means confirmed, but it doesn’t hurt to ask! Add your thoughts in the comments please.

I’ve still got a couple of things to add to the blog yet, but that’s it for the “roadshow” side of things.

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