Foundation First and inner struggle

Getting the moment takes patience.                                                  Photo by Melissa Suneson.



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Carlos and myself had been so inspired by photos of other great wedding photographers, that I knew since we started out that we needed to push ourselves to learn and get better. We attended several workshops with some of these photographers that inspired us, such as Daniel Aguilar, Mauricio Arias and Tyler Wirken, all of them different in their own style but amazing in wedding photography. The thing they did have in common was that they attended Foundation Workshops, so I always thought there must be something going on there that really helps you at getting better, but it seemed people going there were more “advanced” so I thought that to get more out of the workshop we should wait a bit more. This is when Huy Nguyen creator of Foundation Workshops announced a new workshop called Foundation First, aimed at people who had not been shooting that long.

We so wanted to go to Foundation and did not want to wait more that we just knew it was our chance of going and enrolled right away. We set up some days for a well deserved “vacation” while in DFW that ended exhaustingly in a crazy shopping spree for our next adventure (detail at the end), and then we were set for starting this adventure together!

What happened:

It was a long year from that day to the day of the workshop, and after that long wait I was finally there! Huy greeted us, gave a talk and joked around about this “baby foundation workshop” we were part of as the First Foundation First or FFF! As this is supposedly meant to be somewhat a milder version of the actual Foundation Workshop, I did not have huge expectations because of that and decided just to go with the flow. Day one was classroom day where the instructors talked about what makes a good picture and what to look for to try to make a good picture not just to take a picture, also about shooting from the heart, to feel the moment and by feeling the moments and the love it is how your pictures get the viewer to feel something. So with all that understood we were ready for next day to go out in the field and come back with some good pictures, after all we had just been told how to make them, right?

I made it to Foundation!                                                                                  Photo by Joe Appel

Well next day we go out to the Fort Worth Stock Show, we were assigned to different areas and I got to shoot where the cows were. I love animals and have been active in animal rescue for 15 years, never been in front of a cow, but I felt I would be comfortable as I see all animals with empathy and love, not even worried about all the cow poop around! But this was not about hanging out with those cows, it was about me getting pictures of the cows with their caretakers and to include in the photos a moment! A moment that should say something… That is when the task became hard for me, I felt as I was left out in left field seeing people groom their cows, bathing them, hanging around waiting their turn to show them, and so many things going on, but in that controlled “caos” I could not seem to find the moment I was supposed to find, never mind the composition or the light.

Working at a photo of a real cowboy!                                                            Photo by Joe Appel.

Half day on Tyler the chief of our group comes to check on me, sees my pictures and just hands my camera back saying “you got nothing…” And I am thinking: “I am sucking at this, half day is gone and I still need to get those darn moments!” My mentors Candice Cusic, Joe Appel and Jan Garcia were great coming to check on me but I was still struggling as I felt I was not getting the pictures I wanted. I kept working hard, I never wanted the day to end, even if I was struggling I was also embracing the experience and my wanting to keep on going with no end, I just felt like a Duracell rabbit!

Working to get that darn moment!                                                             Photo by Jan Garcia.

The day came to and end, exhausted not physically (even after shooting 9 hours straight in the cold) but mentally with so many things going on my head during all that time; when I was inside there was no light, so I had to work in other things, when I was outside there was great light but was not finding the other things, so all day I was trying to figure things out to make them work, but of course got that feeling nothing was working.

Next day we are in with our mentors and group chief to see all of our pictures and talk about what we miss, what we should have done, how we could have made an image better. It was a hard day but also very enlightening to all of us. Tyler has his own ways of going at the point with his critique but also in a very friendly way; now I will always remember when I am in back of my camera him asking “Who is riding the bus!?” Larry, Moe or Curly? Who would say I will be remembering one of my childhood tv shows to help me better my work!


What really happened:

At the end of the day we all met for “graduation” and we had to stand and talk about our experience, up to that moment many things had not sinked in as we were go, go, go since we arrived; so the one who talked first said she came thinking if she didn’t cry at Foundation just as she had seen in some videos that it would mean she failed, but suddenly after some words she starts crying… Hmmm… I also had seen those videos and had not seen my self crying at all during these days… I though I may be missing something about all this Foundation stuff and how it is hard, and makes you cry and what not… but this was supposed to be the “baby foundation” and not that hard on us right? After 3-4 students my turn to talk comes, and it was there when the magic of Foundation came to me, I start talking of who I am, about how I was struggling to get the pictures, and how in my life I try to control things to have things done as my Dad used to do, but I was not able to get a grip on being able to control the light, moment, composition during my assignment and that was frustrating! So if I can control so many other things in my life why could I not control that?!? It was a moment of tears and laughter joined by my group members and mentors, it seemed so silly what I was saying, but it is then when I understood what I need to work in and also a revelation about my own self. I need to take control of what I am doing and know what to look for, to be open and receptive, there are moments happening all the time, some may be ok, others can be great but it is up to me to have open eyes and an open heart for when the time is right and be there for them.

Foundation Magic!                                                                                  Photo by Candice Cusic.

You see, going to workshops does not turn you into a better photographer the next day, it is a path as everything in life, a continuos journey that never ends, photography is so awesome because you are able to create new images every single day, make new images better and better, and literally there are no limits and no end. The difference with Foundation was that it was an opportunity to get information, having time to apply that information but most importantly to take a journey with your own self unknowingly and then understanding what is going on inside you; that is where you find what is holding you back from creating good images and once you understand that, you can work on freeing yourself from them. It doesn’t matter what you shoot, I was shooting cows right? Not brides and grooms. It is learning what is inside you that matters, it is learning how you see things that matters, it is learning how you connect that matters… and when you understand all that you start getting it!

I know I am in the right path, I feel very grateful for the opportunity to assist to Foundation First, everybody is so caring mentors and staff, they are there for you to learn, to help you in the path of getting better and also in a way I still don’t really understand how it happens, but to experience the foundation magic was simply amazing.

Finally, there was this awesome moment when we got to see a slideshow with some of the pictures we had taken, I started to cry, other girls did too, it was so amazing, the pictures were really really great and I guess I just felt the struggles and the hard times we had creating them and then we saw them come to life in such a beautiful way. I was so proud of all of us, and hearing the “ohhhs” and “aaahhhhs” of students and mentors while seeing them felt amazing, we all had accomplished something we were VERY PROUD of. After those “oohhs” and “ahhhs” I will always have in mind to seek and feel that image that will bring out an emotion just as that night.

I wanted to cry next day as I was leaving the hotel, while I was at the airport, on the plane, even when I got home! Why? I don’t know, I was home but my thoughts and my heart were still at Foundation with all those awesome people I got to meet and share days with, thank you ALL of you for this wonderful experience! And Carlos, thank you for the great adventures we are having! I would not change a bit ever!

The First Foundation First Workshop Family!                                             Photo by Joe Appel.

My final thoughts:

I really want to thank Huy Nguyen for making this possible, I was thinking of him today and felt grateful, as he is making a difference in this world through all of us who have attended a Foundation Workshop not only to be better photographers but also better people, I could feel he really cares and puts all his heart into it, I respect him very much. This is not a workshop about technical stuff to learn, it is about who we are as people and how we can be better knowing our own weaknesses; and how overcoming them can make a difference in us as well as in those we come close to with our camera or just our daily life. He has indeed left a mark in me and how I see and feel things. I left Foundation First with a lot of inspiration, a lot of wants, a lot of thoughts on what to work in and on how to put together the pieces of the puzzle to make my images stronger, more meaningful. Emotions rule our world, we just need to embrace them fearlessly, know what we are doing, and then good things will happen and a connection with purpose will be made between the photographer, the subject and finally the viewer.

I am forever grateful and looking forward of being part of the “big” Foundation Workshop one day.

Melissa Suneson.

Will surely go back again! Thank you for everything Tyler!                        Photo by Joe Appel.

As for Carlos and myself our next adventure for this 2016 will be WPPI and getting married in Vegas!

Categories: Uncategorized

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