Being the Leprechaun: A Weekend Photography Workshop with Eddie Soloway

This weekend, I gave myself an early birthday present and attended a workshop led by photographer Eddie Soloway, whose exquisite photo work in nature is spiritual, painterly, impressionistic and deeply moving.

Through a series of exercises, Eddie got us (me and about 17 other photographers) to think more creatively and see things in ways I hadn’t since I was a child — using our eyes and ears (and a little card on a stick, called a shadowcatcher, to capture new umbral views) and crouching down lower and reaching higher for different and surprising angles on otherwise ordinary things. In one of my favorite of Eddie’s frames — a toadstool, isolated in the forest — he said he wanted to view a mushroom not as it would appear in a field guide to fungi, but as it would to a leprechaun stumbling across it in the forest. I learned I can hang with the leprechauns.

For an assignment yesterday, Eddie asked us to focus on Millennium Park — where I’ve been hanging out a lot this summer, attending concerts at the Grant Park Festival in the soaring Frank Gehry-designed Pritzker Pavilion. He asked us to apply the creative ways of thinking we had discussed and learned earlier that day. Here are the six frames I submitted for review in the class this morning (plus the two that are larger in this post – I can’t figure out in WordPress how to get them to not go in the automated slideshow).

I did long exposures on lilies, discovered a reflection of the city in a polished titanium column, and played in the water of the Crown Fountain, a water, light and video projection installation designed by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa.

Today, in the parking lot at the workshop venue, we were given another assignment. I was given a strip of paper with the following phrase: “While running near the water, everything suddenly became a blur.” Luckily, a storm had passed through a half hour before, so there were puddles and reflections in the mid-day sun. I asked my workshop buddy Kevin to leap across one of the puddles while I composed a shot through my eyeglasses.

Eddie gives a great deal of thought to his photos, testing ideas and planning — even for a few minutes — his approach to an image. “Playfulness brings you to an idea,” he said in one of his final sessions today, “thoughtfulness lets you perfect it.”

I feel energized, with lots to think about next time I put lenses (on cameras or in horn-rimmed frames) in front of my eyes.

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