What I learned from the Jesse Marlow & Aaron Berger Leica Workshop

This past week I was fortunate to spend 3 days in LA for the Jesse Marlow & Aaron Berger Leica workshop.

Two very different styles and approaches to street photography, Jesse’s work in color, shapes, visualization, and leading lines, while Aaron’s work with “people happening”, character driven, action in the streets approach was great to watch and learn as well. They also reiterated that there are no rules in street photography, which I thought was great to echoe because a lot of the students were new to this and it’s also great for me to hear because often times I put these barriers up that a photo should be this or look like that or have such and such…

Aaron Berger

Aaron is the slickest photographer I’ve ever seen work…he slitters like a snake, through and in-between people and no one ever does notice that he’s making a picture of them. He has it down like clockwork, it’s quite awesome to witness in person. We were out in the LA area for close to 10 hours of shooting. Aaron has a lot of energy and is relentless, his approach to shooting the streets is hitting it up everyday for hours and be on full offensive attack. I admire that of Aaron.

He also anticipates the shot coming from 30 feet away. While walking through a crowd down Hollywood Blvd, he’s not scanning through the crowd that’s five or ten feet from him, he’s looking at twenty five, thirty feet away and visualizing if there’s an opportunity to pair up couples or notice if there’s potentially anything interesting may come about. Learning about dead space and how heads sticking out of other people’s heads in a photo can make or break your images.

I think we all can learn from Aaron by pushing ourselves daily. Go out and make those opportunities happen. Don’t just sit around and expect things to come at you, go out and grab life by the throat. Find what works for you, what visually intrigues you, and get it.

Jesse Marlow

Jesse Marlow is great at recognizing a scene and shooting the scene until it dissolves or until he no longer cannot. I shot with Jesse for most of the day and learned a lot from him, about challenging yourself, finding your unique style and sticking with it, and not giving a shit what others think…if you like the photo, defend it, fight for it.

Jesse has more of a calculated approach I would say. Recognize a scene that’s simple and shoot many times of it, go low, go high, get close, take a step back…be patient, as some of the best photos just unfold itself right in front of you. Drop the f-stop to darken a particular area in the frame to isolate your subject. Look for vibrant color, shadows, leading lines and geometry and be creative with it. Avoid the cliche’s and instead think outside the box. Ultimately don’t worry about awards and prizes, remind yourself to shoot for yourself and because you enjoy doing it. Things will fall into place.

Even if your photo does have a story or drama within the frame, something within the image that doesn’t support the photo can turn it into a bad photo. If a shadow or a giant tree is in the frame and doesn’t add to the narrative then it really loses it soul. It’ll draws people attention away from the main focus.

Bring your camera everywhere. Jesse is the opposite of Aaron, he doesn’t allocate time each day and go out and shoot. Rather Jesse just brings his camera wherever with him. This allows more free time with his family and also doesn’t add any pressure or disappointments to photography. If he see’s something while he’s driving or on his way to the grocery, he’ll have his camera ready and loaded. But if he didn’t capture anything while on the road or on errands then no big deal. There’s no expectations and I think we all can learn from Jesse’s approach.

Conclusion

I highly recommend beginners or advance street photographers to learn from both Jesse and Aaron. Even if your style or what you’d like to be your style is opposite from either one of them, it’s great to learn and absorb new techniques and knowledge. Watch and hear what makes a photograph work out on the field and in the classroom.

I want to thank the class, Aaron, Jesse, Tom Smith of Leica Akadmie North America, my family for allowing me to go on this adventure, and the staff at Leica LA for an awesome experience.

What I learned from the Jesse Marlow & Aaron Berger Leica Workshop

This past week I fortunate to spend 3 days in LA for the Jesse Marlow & Aaron Berger Leica workshop.

Two very different styles and approaches to street photography, Jesse’s work in color, shapes, visualization, and leading lines, while Aaron’s work with “people happening”, character driven, action in the streets approach was great to watch and learn as well. They also reiterated that there are no rules in street photography, which I thought was great to echoe because a lot of the students were new to this and it’s also great for me to hear because often times I put these barriers up that a photo should be this or look like that or have such and such…

Aaron Berger

Aaron is the slickest photographer I’ve ever seen work…he slitters like a snack, through and in-between people and no one ever does notice that he’s making a picture of them. He has it down like clockwork, it’s quite awesome to witness in person. We were out in the LA area for close to 10 hours of shooting. Aaron has a lot of energy and is relentless, his approach to shooting the streets is hitting it up everyday for hours and be on full offensive attack. I admire that of Aaron.

He also anticipates the shot coming from 30 feet away. While walking through a crowd down Hollywood Blvd, he’s not scanning through the crowd that’s five or ten feet from him, he’s looking at twenty five, thirty feet away and visualizing if there’s an opportunity to pair up couples or notice if there’s potentially anything interesting may come about. Learning about dead space and how heads sticking out of other people’s heads in a photo can make or break your images.

I think we all can learn from Aaron by pushing ourselves daily. Go out and make those opportunities happen. Don’t just sit around and expect things to come at you, go out and grab life by the throat. Find what works for you, what visually intrigues you, and get it.

Jesse Marlow

Jesse Marlow is great at recognizing a scene and shooting the scene until it dissolves or until he no longer cannot. I shot with Jesse for most of the day and learned a lot from him, about challenging yourself, finding your unique style and sticking with it, and not giving a shit what others think…if you like the photo, defend it, fight for it.

Jesse has more of a calculated approach I would say. Recognize a scene that’s simple and shoot many times of it, go low, go high, get close, take a step back…be patient, as some of the best photos just unfold itself right in front of you. Drop the f-stop to darken a particular area in the frame to isolate your subject. Look for vibrant color, shadows, leading lines and geometry and be creative with it. Avoid the cliche’s and instead think outside the box. Ultimately don’t worry about awards and prizes, remind yourself to shoot for yourself and because you enjoy doing it. Things will fall into place.

Even the photo does have a story or drama within the frame, something within the image that doesn’t support the photo can turn it into a bad photo. If a shadow or a giant tree is in the frame and doesn’t add to the narrative then it really loses it soul. It’ll draws people attention away from the main focus.

Bring your camera everywhere. Jesse is the opposite of Aaron, he doesn’t allocate time each day and go out and shoot. Rather Jesse just brings his camera wherever with him. This allows more free time with his family and also doesn’t add any pressure or disappointments to photography. If he see’s something while he’s driving or on his way to the grocery, he’ll have his camera ready and loaded. But if he didn’t capture anything while on the road or on errands then no big deal. There’s no expectations and I think we all can learn from Jesse’s approach.

Conclusion

I highly recommend beginners or advance street photographers to learn from both Jesse and Aaron. Even if your style or what you’d like to be your style is opposite from either one of them, it’s great to learn and absorb new techniques and knowledge on street photography. Listen and see what makes a photograph work out on the field and in the classroom.

I want to thank the class, Aaron, Jesse, Tom Smith of Leica Akadmie North America, my family for allowing me to go on this adventure, and the staff at Leica LA for an awesome experience.

*** I also took a street photography workshop from Jack Simon in 2016, visit my succinct  review here What I learned during Jack Simon’s workshop.

Why I will never go back to a Canon or Sony Camera

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My first DSLR camera was a Canon 50D (2010). The camera produced great images, a lot of cool features, it was also built as a brick. I sold the camera because my wife bought me a Canon T2i because I was majoring in Film. Same specs for the most part compared to the 50D. Not as bulky but still would weigh on you after a carrying it around for a few hours.

A few years later, I upgraded my camera, looking for the best of both worlds in finding a camera that could produce high quality video as well as inphotos. So I bit the bullet and invested heavily into the Sony A7s (along with all the accessories, lenses, metabones adapter, movCam cage, etc). I really liked the camera and the features were a massive upgrade from my T2i (read my previous blog on “Less is More”).

Freelance video projects were slowing down and all I was working on was my street photography before I clocked into work. I told myself that spending $4,000 plus dollars to just take photos of strangers in public was not a smart financial move.

My friend recommended that I look into an Olympus camera. They’re much more afforable, the lenses are much cheaper as well. Their cameras are a lot lighter and compact, some of the cameras have a retro look (like the OMD-EM5ii, which I own). I sold all my Sony gear with the accessories to a friend, got in contact with someone on craigslist who was selling their olympus camera and a 25mm 1.8 lens (equivalent to 50mm) for just one fourth of my camera budget and I’ve been shooting with the same set up (sold the 25mm, only shoot with 17mm lens) for the past 2 years, and I love it.

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Liberation

First off, I don’t get paid by any camera company nor am I sponsored (maybe one day =]). I think any small compact camera makes it feel liberating when taking photos. Especially if its a point and shoot camera, no lenses to worry about. Less stress about focal length and don’t have to lug around different lenses and multiple camera bodies. The Olympus m5ii did just that for me, it allowed me to just focus on what’s important…and that is photographing what’s in front of you, catching the surreal, comical, interesting, strange moments without all the hassle of megapixels, lenses, and being Captain Obvious by letting everyone conspire that I’m part of the Hollywood paparazzi crew with my giant DSLR setup.

If you feel this way with your canon, Nikon, or any camera, I would recommend to try them all out before investing a good chunk of change into one system. I would prioritize the ergonomics of the camera and how it feels in your hand when you’re out shooting than putting specs and megapixels as the top priority. More pixels, more problems.

Plus now a days, you don’t need all those pixels unless you print your work. But if you just shoot and upload onto the internet, with most people viewing your photos on their smartphone, a full frame camera is overkill. Heck, an Iphone or Samsung is more than good enough.

Ask yourself, what am I going to do with this camera. How am I using this. Is it for work, for fun, for real estate shots, am I shooting sports, people in public settings, weddings…

I also love the color rendition that comes out of my Olympus M5ii than my previous camera bodies. It’s more richer and with more contrast which I prefer to have on my images.

More Pixels More Problems…

Cameras and other technology are very accessible now. you don’t need a high end camera to make good photos. In any subject of photography not just in street/candid photography, you’ll need to recognize and anticipate a moment. And that will come with time and experience. If you have a 20 megapixel camera and want to upgrade to a 42 megapixel camera, that won’t improve your eye or improve your instincts when you go out and shoot on the street, or in the field for a wedding or sporting event.

Recognize…Anticipate…Take the photo.

Thanks for reading. Keep shooting!

For more insights on digital cameras & DSLR’s visit the resources below!

Digital camera resource: https://www.reviews.com/digital-camera/
DSLR camera resource: https://www.reviews.com/digital-camera/dslr/