Click – The California Photo Festival is an annual event sponsored by Light Photographic Workshops in San Luis Obispo, CA. I was able to attend 4 days of this 6 day event this year. This conference is unlike any others I have attended. Besides classroom workshops, there are a lot of hands-on workshops where the participants get the opportunity to go shoot with the instructors. Almost every day there would be a sunrise shoot, as well as a sunset shoot, with other opportunities through-out the day.

Here is a recap of my 4 days.


Shot with Lee Varis at the San Luis Obispo Mission de Tolosa, where he talked about the zone system.

Attended a talk by Playboy photographer David Mecey, where he discussed the various lighting and posing techniques used in his shots for Playboy

Kevin Ames gave a very technical talk about light meters and how 18% gray is used in today’s cameras, and software. I thought I knew this stuff, but was wrong. This deserves it’s own blog post.

Sunset shoot was Horses on the Beach with Rick Sammon.


The sunrise shoot was with Lee Varis at a local vineyard. It had rained most of the night and it was still sprinkling when we arrived so we didn’t get the gorgeous sunrise we had hoped for, but it was still good to be up and taking photos.

Followed up the shoot with a classroom session with Jane Conner-Ziser about Mastering the Wacom Tablet. Then listened to Rob Sheppard talk about having focus in your photographic work. This is something I’ve been struggling with for the past year, so it was interesting to get Rob’s insight.

I then attended a session with Lee Varis where he demonstrated how to take a classic Hollywood style B/W portrait. This session was much more interesting that I had anticipated and I learned quite a few lighting tricks to get the traditional look.

The evening shoot was at the San Luis Obispo Farmer’s Market with Bobbi Lane, where we worked on balancing ambient light with flash, and dragging the shutter with camera movement to get some interesting lighting effects.

I did a mid-morning photo shoot with Playboy photographer David Mecey at a local winery. It was harvest time and they were bringing in the grapes. We had two models and recreated the I Love Lucy episode where she stomps grapes. Dave setup the lights, and explained his thinking as he did so, we then put the models in the vat of grapes and starting snapping photos. It was a lot of fun for both us and the models.
Back in the classroom. Lee Varis showed his technique he calls Lighting in Layers which was much more interesting than I had anticipated. The technique involves using multiple exposures with different lighting and then combining them in Photoshop to get the desired lighting effect. I plan to experiment with this technique and will do a blog post with the results.
I’ve been using Nik’s Silver Effects Pro for about 6 months and have never felt very comfortable with it. I can do the basics but always felt I was missing a lot. So I took a workshop with Ron Sheppard about Black and White photography and learned a great deal about how to make better B&W photos.

For the sunset shoot we all headed to Pismo  Beach where I joined Jane Conner-Ziser’s group and shot silhouettes.

There was still 2 more days of the Festival but I had to head to LA to take another photography workshop which I will talk about in another blog post soon.

I enjoyed this Festival a lot more than I anticipated. I’ve gotten to a point in my photographic career where I’ve been exposed to and tried a large number of the photographic techniques that were taught in the classes and workshops. I now rarely learn anything major at a workshop, instead just picking up little tips and tricks along the way, but it was still beneficial to reiterate some of the things I habve learned in the past but haven’t tried in a while. I especially enjoyed the shooting workshops, having the opportunity to shoot horses on the beach, models stomping grapes, and getting up at sunrise to take pictures of a vineyard. Being at an event like this forces me to get out the and shoot which is the whole point to photography.

I highly recommend this Festival, it was well done, had great instructors and was a lot of fun. I plan to attend again next year.