No two workshops are ever the same. Each one seems to come with its own set of rules, dynamics and chaos. Each one has different challenges and other highlights. When one thing works for one workshop by no means does it mean it will work for the next one. One sells out within days the other takes weeks. I have not yet figured out all the math or the algorithm of how this works and I probably never will. But one thing is for sure planning the workshop keeps me and my partners always on our toes.
It never gets boring that is for sure. There are situations when one wants to bang the head against the wall then there are times when things just fall all perfectly into place and it works. The Helsinki workshop was one of the more challenging ones to organize behind the scenes. My co-partners however, were just as strong, dedicated and diligent as me. Mari, Simone and I have been planning this workshop since last year September. It was at the Amsterdam workshop, where Mari was a participant and straight away she invited us to host one of the workshops in Finland. I have always been eager to hold a workshop in the Nordic countries and was thrilled at the opportunity.
While we had our challenging moments with the workshop I have to say we had a lot of fun working together and somehow the last few weeks things just began falling into place. Many emails back and forth later Simone and I were landing in Helsinki airport just minutes apart from one another and it was absolutely awesome to see her after so many months.
I am always nervous before the workshop – even if I have gone through the processes several times before. Stage fright I guess you can call it. The final tasks and checks, the last preparations and plans – if it all does not work as expected, well it can throw us back into chaos. That is why I always like to do a kind of team meeting and final check through everything on the day before the actual workshop begins. This time in particular as we were doing an all new session on artificial light using flashes, strobes and lamps. Luckily we do such checks because this time we had issues with the flashes creating a bit of panic in all three of us for different reasons. Simone – because there was no way we could do the session with part of the lighting equipment, Mari because she was unsure of where else to get the equipment on a Friday evening and me because I was keeping an eye on all our finances and was particular not to go overboard with the budget. But – sometimes the stars are aligned well and we managed to get it all organized where each of us was happy with the final situation.
The first meeting with participants is also something that makes me anxious and I am always hoping that the group works well together, have the energy, motivation and inspiration not only to push themselves forward but to create the dynamics that the entire group harmonizes well with each other. I did not have to worry about this group as I soon found out.
We all met at breakfast on the Saturday morning and after the first introductions were over I think the giggling began right there. As we made our way to the venue for the first day it was such a delight to hear everyone in bubbly chatter so early in the morning. Our group was a set of amazing ladies that made their way from Dubai, USA, Finland, Sweden, Germany and Norway each one with diverse backgrounds and interesting personal stories. This workshop however held a few highlights for me and one of them was finally meeting up with my longtime blogging friend Alanna who came all the way from St. Louis. I have known Alanna since I started my blog and she was the first person to ever comment on this blog. Another highlight was having lovely Minna from Dubai attend one of the workshops in Europe. Minna has been to every single workshop I have given in Dubai and she once told me that if I ever gave one in her home town she promise she would come. She certainly kept her word. Thank you!
We chose the venue for the first day with the exercises based on the main theme for the workshop and on the first day it was all about artificial lights. The wine cellar, 18m below ground level offered the perfect conditions for this. The group was energetic and full of spirit and the theory sessions were filled with many discussions. As the group had a diverse range of abilities and levels each one contributed their experience and know-how making us all a very efficient workgroup when it came to doing the practical exercises. The energy was then unleashed and the entire group burst into motion realizing their ideas. Heads huddled together discussing their set-ups, lighting situation, styling options. As instructors it is just awesome to bathe in this energy and allow them the room to unfold their creativity.
The best part is that each member provides an valuable aspect to the final group work and outcome. As an instructor it is important for us to fortify their strengths at the same time channeling fears or weaknesses into positive spirit. Working with the ladies in Team Helsinki was like a breath of fresh air they empowered their talent with such fervor it was impressive watching their ideas unravel. What accompanied us throughout the 2 days together was – laughter!
There was a level of continuous laughter regardless where we were or what we were doing. I seriously have to say that I cannot remember when I laughed so hard, so long and with so many tears in my eyes. The group was very relaxed with each other, which allowed for little restraints when it came to joking around with each other.
The artificial lights session was a revelation to the group. Not all of us have access to such equipment so each one could actually work hands-on extensively to produce images with their set-up. The session with the Ikea lamps came down well with all of us as it was an eye-opener to see what results can be achieved with such a simple not to mention inexpensive lighting set-up. If Ikea experience a slight increase in their sales of a particular type of lamp the next few weeks … well that was us!
The amazing Toca restaurant was our destination for dinner on the first evening. Toca is where Italian Chef Gennaro and Finnish Chef Jouko prepare their signature dishes, bringing Italian and Finnish flavours to our plates. It was a small unpretentious restaurant with exquisite dishes. 12 bloggers were spoilt and pampered with good food and great wine. We spent several hours together talking loudly, laughing and of course taking lots of pictures of our food much to the amazement of the other guests.
The sun in Helsinki hardly sets and as we walked back to the hotel we were rewarded with an amazing play of light as the skies turned pink, orange and purple. The stunning Helsinki cathedral glowed a different color each time.
The following day the focus was on natural light. Up in Helsinki the summer provides for long days filled with a wonderful kind of light, very similar to what I experienced in Norway. So we were showcasing this lovely light with a picnic in the park. After we talked the participants through a post-processing session using Lightroom, discussing also workflow, archiving and tagging we headed for the park to capture the light. We were however greeted by a rain shower, which had us scrambling to get the enticing dishes Mari had carefully prepared safe and dry under the umbrellas and the trees. Luckily it was a short shower that did get us a bit wet but it did not dampen our spirit one bit. The laughter erupted to its usual zeal and the enthusiasm to continue with the assignments for the day was not muted but rather encouraged by the droplets on the fruit, glasses and props. To look at the world with a photographers eyes!
Fiskars our main sponsor were an essential part of our assignment day in the park. We were provided with their state of the art knives from their Functional Form series, which not only look pretty as props but with a cutting edge sharpness they efficiently cut through cakes, bread and fruit. I loved their innovative chopping boards. How can chopping boards be innovative? They are made of sturdy thick wood and on one side have a thin plastic board which can be detached from the board. This makes mis-en-place easy as you can simply take the plastic part off to the pan/bowl and deposit the ingredients there. I love working with wooden boards in my kitchen as they are not only robust but also hygienic however such boards can be heavy to carry around. Fiskars has created the perfect solution for this! They also provided Mari with casseroles to create the meals for the 2 days and generously provided each of our participants with an entire set of knives, knife block and sharpener.
The participants captured their motives for each of their assignments and it is my favourite part of the 2 days. Watching them in deep thought or discussion – angles, composition, camera settings they eagerly apply everything we discussed. The sound of laughter accompanied us constantly!
The final session of the day is probably the most important as the participants put together their images for their own presentations according to the guidelines we gave them. Back at the wine cellar there was an unusual serenity within our group. The laughter was replaced by a quiet hum of whispers as ideas flowed between them. As they put together their presentation the suspense in me increases. I am so eager to see what each group has put together, what story they have created and how they present it to the rest of us. It blows me away each time to see the impressive development each one makes in a short span of 2 days. Insecurities from the first hours have been banished and the participants present with a confidence that simply makes me proud as an instructor.
I have displayed some of the work produced by some of our participants below. The results for a 2 day session is simply fantastic!
When a group fuses so fantastically as we did – the goodbyes are a little harder. Mari brought the last glasses of prosecco by Winestate, which we were drinking throughout the day, raising our glasses part of the group separated and left, while others got together for another long evening together in Helsinki (I will write more about our last 2 days in a separate post – stay tuned for that).
My first thank you goes out to Simone, my co-instructor and Mari my co-organizer. Both of you have been rocks for me over the past few months. Mari, with you I have found someone not only to match my visions for such events and with a similar resource of endless energy but also a very dear friend. A massive hug to Samueli for his incredible support and to lovely Lulu for her cuteness! Simone, you are special and working with you is always not only fun but I learn something new from you each time. Thank you for being a part of this.
I also want to thank the 9 lovely ladies to came to Helsinki to be a part of this event. Denisa, Minna, Nancy, Sari, Kaisaa, Bente, Alanna, Marissa and Marja-Ritta you were the funniest group of ladies I have encountered in a long time and I will remember your passion and fun for a long time. I miss you ladies!
Finally, to our awesome sponsors, who support us in so many ways and without them the workshop would be a tad flat. Each sponsor went out of their way to provide us with items for the workshop and for the heavy goodie bag. The beautiful knives and cutting equipment from Fiskars, bread from Sunspelt and Uudenmaan Herkku Oy delicious procecco from Winestate , coffee and juices from Rauch and Illy Coffee and breakfast mixes from Cocovi.
Thank you to the awesome Scandic Paasi hotel for taking such good care of all of us during our stay in Helsinki. The friendly staff were always around with a helping hand and giving us the biggest and best breakfast in town!
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