Special occasions merit special posts. And while Genesis doesn't really qualify as an occasion it definitely deserves a special post. {{Public Service Announcement: This is a very long post. Very. You have my permission to skip it and go straight to the photos. Really. But you'll miss a great read.}}

Genesis is an intense three day workshop geared towards wedding photographers. I went to the second one in Memphis, Tennessee. And boy did it live up to my expectations.

Here's how it went down:

I left from LAX sometime Sunday late afternoon, flew an hour past memphis (because for some reason it was cheaper), changed flights, turned around and arrived in Memphis somewhere around 8 Monday morning. I promptly bought a huge coffee, prayed and waited for Melanie to pick me up.

Melanie is an extremely talented photographer from South Carolina and she is the main force behind Genesis. She's also the sweetest thing around, so I was pretty excited to meet her. She wasn't really coming to pick me up, but since Sam was arriving an hour or so after me I decided to stick around and hitch a ride.

Sam is a preacher. He's also a ridiculously creative and successful photographer from the bay area. I was a bit nervous about meeting him. You know, me being star struck and all. So I find Sam and start chatting a bit. He's a actually quite down to earth. And hilarious to boot. My main goal now is not making a complete fool of myself. After a few minutes a large SUV pulls up and out bounces Melanie and Jeff (also known as Jeffy, though he really doesn't look like one). Followed by Tony.

Tony is tall. He also collects money from people he later shoots. He's also a remarkably savvy business person, runs a seamless operation and has wonderfully left brained approach to his creativity (more on that later). Then comes Amy.

Amy is Tony's human half. She's also a great photographer who speaks at normal decibel levels. So, feeling thoroughly outclassed, exhausted, and shaking from that huge coffee I chuck my bags into the back heave my 148 pounds into one of those yummy captain chairs. Sitting in the other is Ed.

Ed is another Bay Area photographer. Of all the instructors I'd say his is the most distinct style. He's a lighting freak and makes poepl look like they popped out of GQ magazine. Totally not my style, but it's quite amazing. As Tony slides the drivers chair all the way back (smashing Ed in the process), and sets the GPS to home base, and turns on the motor, I decide that I probably shouldn't leave may camera bag sitting prettily on the bench. So I launch out, grab my bag, sit down and pretend nothing happened. Well, it turns out that the instructors aren't too scary (besides Evan, but he wasn't there yet) and we had some nice conversations about odd names, primary school stories, and some other wonderful stuff about which I promptly forgot.

I was rooming with a dude who goes by the handle r.o.b. His name is actually Rob but I was looking for arobi. Dork. It turns out he is arriving later that afternoon, and the room is in his name so I'm stranded for a bit. Luckily for me the instructors are going on some prepping mission so they let me crash in their room (at this point I am feeling like a total VIP). On a side note Ed has a lot of batteries. And chargers.

I don't think I slept much, having a blood caffeine level that was off the charts. The hotel we were staying in was located right in the heart of downtown Memphis and the trees and cable-cars were beckoning.

Backing up a bit. There is a facebook group for all of us G2'ers (and Spencer) that was a great way for us to get to know each other before the main event ('twas also a great way for us to all chime in about what exactly we wanted to get out of the workshops so any last minute tweaks could me made (they were)). The group was abuzz with all the new arrivals announcing their arrival status and where in Memphis they were hanging out.

So I hopped out of bed and headed out into the gorgeous weather (it really was) and the eerily quiet streets. Snapped a few photos (that was the only chance I ended up getting to to actually take photos of Memphis. They worked us to the bone), bought an organic green apple, and found my way to a group of people I kinda recognized from Facebook. I sat down and nearly choked myself trying to remove my light meter and huge camera from my neck. While I'm untangling my self everyone introduces themselves and we start talking. And talking. Three day later...

Just kidding. I order a beer (whatever the darkest beer was), and a few minutes later the waiter tells me that since the keg finished before my cup was full (it was like 98% full) they'd give me another on the house. So now, exhausted, shaking from that huge coffee and a bit inebriated (which unfortunately is not very uncommon), I make my way back to the hotel to check in and get ready for the official meet and greet. But, as we find out there is another unofficial meet and greet going on a few blocks down. No beer for me this time, just a coffee. And as we get to talking I realize what a truly friendly and helpful group we got going. Many of the students are quite accomplished photographers and had no problem sharing tips and ideas about everything from networking to f/stops (though believe it or not we spent a very minute time actually talking tech).

Now that we met and gret it's onto the tram to go the official meet and greet. This one sporting drinks and desserts (and homemade cheese sandwiches for me). It was held at our homebase which was somewhere in the Art district of Memphis. I'm not sure who designated it the art district but it was kind of in an unpopulated and a bit run down area. In LA it would have been crime ridden and smelly, but crime doers don't seem to like Memphis. The actual building where we based the classes and workshops out of was quite intriguing. Funky wooden support beams, odd wall paintings, and brick walls. Not bad at all. After chatting a bit Evan walks in.

Evan is a very interesting character. I don't think I've ever met someone with so much self assurance yet so humble. He's also a lot taller than I expected. After watching him from the corner of my eye for a bit I mustered up the courage to go speak to him (now I know that the whole reason the instructors were there was to help us out but I still felt weird taking up their time. Especially Evan. For some reaosn I was quite intimidated by him. Maybe its the fact that he was Army Special Forces... I got over it pretty fast :)). Evan shoots mostly film so I wanted to talk to him a bit about that. Seeing I was interested he ran back to his car, brought his 4x5 kit out and spent the next 45 minutes showing me how it worked, telling me how he got into photography, how he exposes and develops his film, what films he uses and why... I was completely blown away. There was a whole room of photographers out the and he was able to give me his complete attention. And he was like that to everyone. Quite a man.

Midnight. Bed.

The next morning I woke up at 6:45, showered, prayed (my roommate was awesome, he totally let me do my thing and was very respectful) and ran to the tram at 7:45. We had a quick dividing up session (we were divided into 4 groups with whom we'd be with for the duration of the workshops), circle time (odd) and straight to the instructor shootout.

Honestly I didn't think this part was going to be that awesome. It was. More. Awesome. There three groups of models and each instructor took some time with each (all at the same time!!). It really was amazing to see how each of the instructors thought and shot. Tony's like "Oh here's a nice alley let's check it out", Sam is like "Oh here's a nice wall, let's go somewhere else", Ed was, I don't know what was going through Ed's head, he just makes up stuff, and the Mansfields were just making everyone look pretty. At this junctureI was in dire need for a coffee so I found a starbucks. Before I knew it there like 25 genepeeps all heading to Starbucks.

Lunch. Some sort of BBQ I think. I had a cheese sandwich. Homemade, whole wheat, freshly ground, sourdough bread with mustard, onions, and tomatoes.

Ed's rotation. Ed, as I mentioned earlier is a lighting genius. what's really amazing about what he does is that he sees what isn't there. He could set up multiple lights in his head, knowing almost exactly what setting to put them on, and take this amazing photo of something that isn't there! He makes day into night, night into day sidewalks into mirrors. Off camera lighting was probably my weakest point (not anymore!:)), so his rotation was really something I really looked forward to. He started off with a slideshow of what he does, how he does it and what he uses to do it. Then we all had turns setting up some lights, directing the models a bit and shooting away. I was shooting film so I mainly helped and watched. On the way back we stopped under a bridge for Ed to set up a shot. took him one minute and one flash and he came up with this. The guy is not normal.

Supper. Cheese Sandwich.

Evan's presentation. Evan has a very unique view on photography. There has to be a reason for everything in a photograph. Everything. His weddings are very photojournalistic, though he does fantastic portraits also. He mainly spoke about what is photojournalism, and how to do it. How to see moments before they happen and how to prepare for them. Why certain images work and others don't.

Brains all abuzz none of us went to sleep. Ed gave an impromptu session in the lobby and others went off for a drink to talk about all the guck we learned (learnt for those still under the Queen). I was obviously among the latter.

2:00 AM sleep.

7:45 roll out of bed, shower, pray, roll down the stairs, and wait for the tram. And I then had an epiphany. If I ran as fast as I can (which is quite fast) I should be able to get to Starbucks and grab a coffee.Big mistake. One I didn't know where it was and neither did anyone else I aksed. Two I didn't count on the sheer lack of speed the southern baristas have. Three I didn't think she'd give me my change all in nickels and that they'd all fall on the floor. So I missed the tram. But I had caffeine.

Onto Sam's rotation. I got there a few minutes late, but I heard the audio later and didn't miss much (mostly Sam talking how awesome Sam is. He is.). Of all the instructors I think sam is the most naturally creative. And he has a wonderful system of inducing creativity. Which he so gracefully shared with us. It really was an eye opener how he looks for certain elements and always finds them. W then all tried shooting a bit using what we learned, with a little guidance from Mr. Hassawsome. We walked around for twenty minutes in this grungy area and got some amazing images of the family we were working with. Photos that I would never have even thought of. Photos which I did not take so I cannot share... You must believe.

Lunch. Cheese Sandwich and chips (yay!).

Melanie and Jeff. Melanie makes people look look and feel good. She is the master at dealing with clients, not at manipulating but at really getting to know them and what they want. And they then deliver images that wow. Her presentation was A. Angles. How to make people look good. B. How to meet with clients and book. C. How to balance work and family. All were amazing but the third was so important and so eye opening that it would have been worth the price of admission on its own.

Supper. Cheese Sandwich. And a banana.

Tony Hoffer on branding. Tony is different in that he has planned out his brand from the beginning. What he wants his brand to say. Who he is branding to. And what he is going to do (and not do) to further his brand. Originally this was going to be an elective but people felt it was so important that they made it for everyone. And it was. It really made me think about my brand. What type of photography I really am good at and how to brand myself accordingly. He spoke about market research and even did an impromptu brand critique of one of the students (brave man). Also worth the price of admission :).

11:00 Sleep (yay early!).

By the way. Every night after the classes were done the instructors stayed around for a few more hours answering questions, chatting and critiquing. Totally awesome.

7:45 roll out of bed, shower, pray, roll down the stairs, and wait for the tram. This time Amy had promised that she'd have coffee ready at home base.

Amy lives in Memphis and she kind of played hostess. She arranged the hotels and home base, food (coffee), the models and more or less everything else. I also had a camera sent and lens (Nikon F4 ad 28mm f/2) sent to her so I would be able to use it at Genesis. And she's quite an awesome photographer with a very unique style (which I love).

With coffee in hand I made my way to Tony's rotation. He spoke about two main topic. Workflow (the guy is a genius). And creativity. The speed and consistency in which he can cull, edit and make an album is amazing. And he shared. He also has a very organized way in which he builds on his (or others') creativity. He showed us how to break down the elements of a photo and use them in other photos. And how o categorize the creative elements involved. We then went out on a shoot, he showed us some of the magic him and Amy do with lights, and then we went back for some editing. Which was the workflow part. Which actually came after the creativity part. Whatever. It's all good.

Lunch. Cheese sandwich. And coffee (I didn't really tell anyone else about the coffee, so I had as much as I needed :)).

Holy shnitzel this post is getting long.

Live reception! We all went to the other room and had music and dancing. Some rocked it out and most watched... I did both. Sam took photos. He set up four lights, gels and did his magic. Good times.

Question and Answer session with all the instructors. Question were asked and answered. And rebutted.

Critiquing: This. Was. Amazing. We each had time with each instructor going over our portfolio, our brand, our website or whatever we want critiqued. Each instructor has his strong points so I made sure to show different aspects of my photography and ask different questions. What's amazing is how much they all agreed and said similar things about my photography, my strong points and where I should be headed. We also were able to listen in on everyone else's critique (unless they minded, which I don't recall anyone doing). Melanie helped me choose what to show to each one (she's in love with my work with kids). Tony showed me a common thread in all my photography (which was odd, because I thought I was all over the place) but he was right. Evan sent a huge chunk of time critiquing ever single photo from a a certain shoot. Every photo he wanted to know why I made the decisions I did and how I could improve. I know I mentioned it earlier but it really is amazing how he gives his complete attention to anyone he is talking to. I got Sam last, and even though he already looked through some of my stuff he stayed extra to look through my weddings and tell me what he really thought. (And since he was really tired he did just that :)).

Goodbye party. 4:00 sleep. 6:30 taxi. Flight to Atlanta. Cheese sandwich.

Genesis didn't really end though. There is a wonderfully active Facebook group. A forum for more in depth questions and critiques. And sporadic live edits and other goodies from the instructors. The Genesis community is quite awesome and I'm sure I'll stay friends with many. My fingers are just about numb and I have a shoot tomorrow.

If you're interested there is one more Genesis. It's in Vegas in a few weeks. They may be sold out by now but if not. GO.

Spencer alone should be worth it.

I wasn't there to shoot, but here is the shooting that I did.


storyboard-46.jpg storyboard-47.jpg storyboard-48.jpg storyboard-49.jpg storyboard-50.jpg storyboard-51.jpg storyboard-52.jpg storyboard-54.jpg storyboard-55.jpg storyboard-56.jpg storyboard-57.jpg storyboard-58.jpg storyboard-59.jpg storyboard-60.jpg storyboard-61.jpg storyboard-62.jpg storyboard-63.jpg storyboard-64.jpg storyboard-65.jpg storyboard-66.jpg storyboard-67.jpg storyboard-68.jpg storyboard-113.jpg storyboard-114.jpg storyboard-115.jpg storyboard-116.jpg storyboard-117.jpg photo-1-3.jpg storyboard-118.jpg storyboard-119.jpg storyboard-120.jpg storyboard-121.jpg storyboard-122.jpg storyboard-123.jpg storyboard-124.jpg storyboard-125.jpg storyboard-126.jpg storyboard-127.jpg storyboard-128.jpg storyboard-129.jpg storyboard-130.jpg storyboard-131.jpg storyboard-132.jpg storyboard-133.jpg storyboard-134.jpg storyboard-135.jpg storyboard-136.jpg