illuminate photography » crazy. beautiful.

seeing shannon leith :: the experience

Wow. I can’t believe it’s been 9 months. Talk about perfect timing for a rebirth…

Back in May I shared that I had won a seat in Shannon Leith‘s SEEING class in Los Angeles. For 9 months the dates just never worked out for me to attend. But now. Now it was time.

And so last weekend I flew out to L.A. and it happened. I got to meet a wonderful brand new old friend (you know those people you meet who you know hardly a thing about but they just feel like an old comfortable friend) and finally participate in… no experience Shannon’s class.

And check this out. How freaking creative is God to orchestrate this? I hop in my rental car Saturday morning and as I start to flip through the stations on the satellite radio, guess what comes on just as I’m about to pull up to Shannon’s little pink house? John Mellencamp’s Pink Houses. Shut up. Just shut up right now.

I love that this was my first hint of what was to come…

At the top of Shannon’s staircase…

Shannon’s whole place has this amazing quality of being antiquey in the most perfect and wonderful reminds-me-of-my-grandma’s-house way possible. Like with amazing glass doorknobs and original tile and mix-matched furniture and dishes, but without that pesky old person smell.

When I first walked in the door and saw Shannon for the first time it felt so surreal. For just a moment Shannon and I both just stared at each other like, “Woah. It’s you. In real life.”

After introductions and figuring out a little bit of what’s what and waiting for one more to arrive I announced that Shannon and the other girls were just going to have to excuse me because I decided from the beginning of my trip that I was just going to be touristy and take pictures of everything.

I didn’t notice this at the time that I took the picture, but I love that I took a picture of Shannon’s clock at “happy clock time”. If you didn’t know this fun little fact before, now you’ll notice it every time you look at an ad with a clock or watch in it… Most of the time you’ll see clocks set to either 10:10 or 2:50 because on the face of a clock it subtlety suggests happy. See the smile? So when I noticed it when I was looking through my images I thought this was just too perfect. Seeing was about to start. Happy time.

I also love that in this photo there’s a hint of the cool tape that Shannon uses to make labels and put on notes… like the one she sent me a while back with the print that I bought from her and the one holding the note on the front door.

One of our pre-class assignments was to bring an object that we simply enjoy. Katie brought her first edition copy of The Little Prince. I made a note to myself to read it again. The last time I read it was in high school French class and I am positive I had no comprehension of any layer of depth in the story at the time. I wonder if I still have that somewhere? After hearing Katie read an excerpt I can’t wait to find it!

Janna came as a returning student. I loved her and her smile. She was sweet sweet sweet. All of the girls were actually. I was so sad to leave them.

And here. Here is the beautiful and inspiring Shannon. I love you, girl.

She told us to make ourselves at home so…

Blythe’s favorite thing…

Homemade bread. We were all delighted that she shared!

It was so yummy and perfect for a rainy day.

Blythe and her sweet note from Shannon…

I just realized I never even took a picture of my object. It was a tiny little squirrel pencil topper. He sits on my desk and keeps me company while I work.

Our books for the class…

Such wisdom…

For lunch, Shannon took us to her favorite restaurant and we had yummy sandwiches and salads.

Shannon limited us to taking only 5 pictures during lunch. It was so funny, at first I almost panicked and got mad, but it really made me stop and think before just firing off shots. It was healthy for me I think. I needed that.

It might seem weird, but out of all of the shots I could have taken, I thought this feta was worth capturing. I mean I know I like cheese, but I never thought of it as potentially so beautiful until I showed Shannon this shot on the screen on the back of my camera and she gasped. One of the things I love most about Shannon is her appreciation of the beauty in the seemingly most ordinary things. Her view of the world really opened up my eyes to see such profound beauty everywhere I looked. In the most minute details. Even in crumbs on a table. It’s all about light, color, texture, detail. Beautiful.

Love what you love. Not everyone will get it. And that’s ok. It’s art. If it’s good and worth anything not everyone will get it.

Seriously love this girl.

I forgot to photograph my lunch before I ate it. Let me tell you. It was delicious. This is all that was left.

I just loved the light and the texture of this space on the wall across from us as we ate.

Seeds on a window ledge.

Self-portrait in a puddle.

Surface of a table in front of a cafe we passed walking back to the car.

Shannon reflecting in the window of a knitting shop.

I love that the auto-focus grabbed the tree across the street in the reflection. That combined with the colors of the giant yarn in the window makes this one of my favorite images.

We each got to do a mini photo shoot with Shannon. I can’t wait to see mine. It’s always so interesting being on the other side of the lens. I don’t do it nearly enough. And I should. It’s so good for me.

After our mini-sessions we paired off and photographed each other. I loved that Shannon pushed me to get out of my normal style. I normally don’t engage the way that Shannon does. She’s a great question asker. That’s one of my take-aways from the weekend. Be curious. Be a question-asker. Engage. Get to know your subject in order to get really real images of them. Also she gets close. Like really close. And it was good for me. She pushed me to stop clicking and really look at her. Up close. To really see her and look for what I liked before I started clicking. And also to go 360 because sometimes you’ll find an angle with the light or the background that might surprise you in a good way. I also realized this weekend that one of the scariest parts of photographing people for me is being seen. I have some heart work to do around that.

I asked Shannon about her orange sweater. It had a story. I never would have known if I hadn’t asked.

When we got back our next assignment was to lie on the floor while listening to 3 songs. To see the world from that point of view. And to let the songs influence our shots. Here’s what I saw…

Finally we headed outside for a short photowalk. With the post-rain light and some music in my ears I was completely drawn to and in love with the texture of the bark and these amazing colors.

There was sooo much more to this day that I’m not quite ready to put into words. But one of my most favorite things we did was actually putting down our cameras and just learning how to see. Shannon pointed out that in all the things we’re taught in life, no one ever teaches us how to see. One of the seemingly most basic things in life.

I also loved that one of the girls (Katie, I think) said that sometimes just experiencing moments, even if you forget them in a few weeks or years is sometimes better than capturing them, because even though you don’t remember them, when you’re truly present, they somehow become a part of you. That was such a huge take-away for me. It helped me to realize that I don’t need to remember and/or capture every moment of my life. Just live it and it will become a part of who I am if I let it. That little nugget will help me become more fully present… something I working on in 2012.

So there it is. The first look at some of the images taken with my new eyes. What do you think?

:: lisa ::

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