Cliff Mautner’s Lighting & Skillset Bootcamp for Photographers: Reviewed

This post, like pretty much all of the posts on my blog, is a little over-due. But it’s been on my to-do list as one of my “Top 5 Priorities” because I think it’s really necessary. Let me explain…

In October, I had the exceptionally awesome opportunity to travel from Connecticut to New Jersey/Philly, to attend Cliff Mautner’sLighting and Skillset Bootcamp.

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Fellow photographers should recognize the name pretty much instantly. For the rest of you, I’ll make it easy to understand just exactly who Cliff is (taken from his website bio):

“Over the years I’ve been honored by the photography industry receiving recognition from the most prestigious organizations in the world. In addition to being named one of the Top Ten Wedding Photographers in the world by American Photo Magazine, I was named International Photographer of the Year by Wedding and Portrait Photographers International (WPPI). I’ve also received the International Photographic Council Leadership Award at the United Nations and I’m a Nikon Ambassador (National Spokesperson). I was also awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from WPPI in 2014.”

So, yeah. He’s a pretty big deal to lots of photographers, in lots of places. He’s best-known for his use of shadow and light, to create texture and convey emotion in his photographs. His is a style that can definitely be picked out of a crowd.

In addition to being an extremely gifted artist, Cliff also happens to be a FANTASTIC (and enthusiastic) teacher. It’s a rare combination to find – a talented artist who THRIVES on sharing what he’s learned over the years, essentially letting his students in on his “secrets to success”.

I’ve been following Cliff since about 2011. I don’t remember how I stumbled upon his work, but once I did, I never forgot it. Then I realized that he was actively involved in teaching, sharing his game-changing photography tips and methods via online videos. I watched everything of his that I could get my hands on. I made pages and pages of notes that I still refer to, to this day. I practiced his techniques and saw an immediate improvement in my own work.

Fast-forward to 2015. I knew that Cliff offered in-person workshops…and I always had it in the back of mind that I’d hopefully be able to attend one of those workshops at some point in my career. One day I came across an online post by an individual who had been lucky enough to attend. He raved and raved and raved. Soon, others began replying to the post, sharing their equally remarkable experiences. Phrases like “life changing” and “best decision EVER” were being thrown around. I decided on the spot that I couldn’t wait any longer. I knew I had to call. As was the case with most of the attendees, I was blown away when Cliff actually answered the phone himself. I thought to myself, “Surely, this is just some kind of ‘I’m a relatable guy’ act. Somebody at his level of success wouldn’t be answering the office phone.” Boy, was I wrong…but more on that later. So wouldn’t you know it – there just happened to be a few spots left in the October workshop. I signed up immediately.

Right from the start, it was clear to me that this wasn’t some hastily thrown together, hey-let’s-meet-up-and-see-what-happens kind of event. Cliff and his (fantastic) office manager, Heather, had a plan – a clear, detailed, precision-executed plan. I was given a concise agenda of workshop events, a list of the gear I should bring, what I should expect to get out of the workshop, even suggestions (and discounts!) for lodging. Of course, this wasn’t my first photography workshop. I’d heard a lot of this stuff before. And, as sad as it is to say, I’ve too often found that the things about those other workshops that sounded too good to be true were, in fact, just that. So, poor Cliff didn’t know it, but I began that first day of the workshop with a good degree of skepticism.

Boy, was I in for a surprise.

I won’t go over every detail of the 2 ½ days we all spent together. It will suffice to simply list the very important highlights, the things that any photographer looks for when making the decision on how best to spend their hard-earned money in order to further their learning:

  • We stuck to the outlined schedule nearly 90% of the time. If we strayed, it was only because Cliff was so caught up in sharing yet another nugget of wisdom from his years of experience that he simply couldn’t stop until the story was done.
  • Cliff really is a 100% “relatable guy”…it’s no act. He treated every attendee like we were all his equals, truly as friends. He didn’t sugar-coat anything, pretending that the life of a photographer at his level is all rainbows and unicorns. He told us about mistakes he’s made, stupid things he’s done, regrets he has. He was honest and open about those things because he sincerely wanted only the best for all of us. I felt that and I believe that. (Well, with one small exception – in the event that I’m ever in danger of missing a wedding because I’m on the verge of death, Cliff said if I called him and asked him to cover for me, that he’d gladly do it. I tried to get him to admit that he was exaggerating, but he wouldn’t budge. Man, if that ever happens, that will be one LUCKY bride and groom!)
  • Cliff delivered on every promise he made – from the timing and content of our meals each day, to the number of models that we’d have on-hand to practice with (it was a CRAZY number of models – you NEVER see that at workshops. And it really makes a huge difference in how much you’re able to absorb).
  • Every single detail of the 2 ½ days was thoughtfully planned and executed. We traveled via chartered shuttles for our location shoots, so no worrying about who was driving where and possibly getting lost. Breakfast was waiting for us every day. Lunch was organized and ordered early, and delivered right on time. Cliff had an outline of what he planned to teach us and he stuck to it.
  • And most importantly…Cliff was absolutely an open-book. No question was off-limits, every single one answered fully. He was present and engaged, going from student to student, offering guidance and encouragement while we were shooting on location. His feedback was constructive and helpful – not fluffy and cookie-cutter.

I’ll speak for every student at that workshop and say that every single one of us came away from the experience with powerful additions to our ever-evolving, ever-growing arsenal of technical and creative photography tools.

If you’re reading this post because you’re considering signing up for the Cliff Mautner Lighting and Skillset Bootcamp, I encourage you to do it. NOW. Unless you’re not interested in taking your photography knowledge, skills and creativity up several notches.

If you’ve read this far, I’m guessing that’s unlikely :)

I’ll leave you with a few of my photos from the workshop. We didn’t have the light that Cliff wanted, but I think we still did ok.

 

Cliff Mautner photography workshop model, by Connecticut Wedding photographer

Stunning model Sarah from the Cliff Mautner Lighting & Skillset Bootcamp. She was a natural.

Cliff Mautner photography workshop model, by Connecticut Wedding photographer

Cliff Mautner photography workshop model, by Connecticut Wedding photographer

Shooting at Philadelphia City Hall, using the exceptional, directional light.

Cliff Mautner photography workshop model, by Connecticut Wedding photographer

Cliff Mautner photography workshop model, by Connecticut Wedding photographer

More gorgeous use of shadow and light, to create a timeless portrait.

Dramatic, natural light photograph of wedding model by Connecticut Wedding photographer

Dramatic, natural light photograph of wedding model

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Silhouette with Philadelphia in the background.

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Oh, and one more shout-out before I go…
This is Chloe. She belongs to Cliff and his wife, Susan Stripling (you might want to look her up, too). Chloe was my good friend and I miss her.

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And you can always see more of my work by clicking here or following the links above :)

Posted in Personal, Photography, Portraits, Weddings Tagged , , , , , , |

Oxford Connecticut Wedding Photographs| Nicole & Brandon

It’s high time we shared these Oxford Connecticut wedding photographs. We’ve photographed a few weddings in Oxford now, and every time, we’re blown away by how beautiful it is there. Nicole & Brandon’s wedding couldn’t have been against a more picturesque backdrop. The wedding ceremony and reception took place at a private residence that also happens to be a horse farm. From the rolling green meadows to the charming foot bridge over the pond, every aspect of the farm was begging to be photographed. And lucky for everyone, the light was stunning that day which made the bride and groom portraits a breeze.

We knew that we were the perfect wedding photographers for Nicole & Brandon from the moment we learned about Moose, their (at the time) new German Shepherd puppy. It wasn’t difficult to convince the couple to bring Moose along for their engagement session last autumn. To be honest, it was difficult to stay focused on shooting – I just wanted to play with that sweet little puppy! As much as they love him, it’s no surprise that he was also a part of their wedding day.

Surrounded by family and friends (and Moose!), Nicole & Brandon exchanged vows on a little island, overlooking the pond. The ceremony was laid-back and beautiful and reflected the couple’s personalities perfectly. We took some awesome portraits afterwards, capturing the crazy, fun bridesmaids and groomsmen. A huge white tent served as the reception location, where dinner was served, toasts were made and dancing began…and they danced, and danced, and DANCED :)

Nicole & Brandon, it was an honor for us to be a part of your special day. We had a BLAST photographing your engagement session and your wedding. Wishing you many, many, MANY years of happiness together!!

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Oxford Connecticut Wedding Bride Getting Ready Photograph

More photos of Nicole & Brandon’s Oxford Connecticut Wedding

Posted in Photography, Portraits, Weddings Tagged , , , , , , , |

Connecticut River Museum Wedding | Kate & David

June 13th was an absolutely perfect day for a Connecticut River Museum wedding, in Essex, Connecticut. The sun filled the sky and the breeze off of the Connecticut River added just enough coolness to keep things comfortable. Kate was simply stunning in her a-line wedding dress and classic up-do. Her groom, looking rather dashing himself, wore an ear-to-ear grin for most of the day. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

We started the day at Kate’s parents’ house, where she and her family got ready. Instead of the chaos that often fills the air during the hustle-and-bustle of all the wedding preparations, Kate’s family home was peaceful and serene. As soon as everyone was finished dressing, we headed outside to get some family portraits, along with some solo shots of Kate (did I mention that she looked stunning?). We found the perfect spot, in some open shade in the front yard.

Next, it was on to the river for the ceremony and reception. The Connecticut River made for a beautiful backdrop – sparkling water that reflected the blueness of the sky, all manner of boats passing slowly by. The venue staff had every little detail planned and executed to perfection. Family and friends alike gathered to witness the joyous event. Many faces were familiar to us, as we’d also had the honor of covering Kate’s cousin’s wedding in the fall of 2013.

After a touching and heart-felt ceremony, it was time for the festivities to really get under way. The whole party moved under a huge white tent, where dinner was served (delightful, by the way) and dancing inevitably broke out. It was difficult to resist the dance floor, once The Rubber Band starting rocking through their set. Before the partying got into full swing, I kidnapped the happy couple and brought them down to the dock, for some beautiful silhouette portraits against the fading light of sunset.

Kate and David, we can’t thank you enough for including us in your special day. We are especially grateful and flattered that you made a point of remembering us after that first encounter in 2013. We wish you all the best in your new lives together…may your days be filled with love, laughter and happiness.

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More photos of Kate & David

Posted in Photography, Portraits, Weddings Tagged , , , , , , |

Carousel Museum Wedding | Shea & Jay

This past October, we photographed a Carousel Museum wedding.

Wait…a what?

Well, first I should tell you that Bristol, Connecticut is home to The New England Carousel Museum. Here’s a bit more about the museum:

The New England Carousel Museum is dedicated to the acquisition, restoration, and preservation of operating carousels and carousel memorabilia and the creation of new carousel material, for the education and pleasure of the general public. The main mission of the New England Carousel Museum, a non-profit organization, is to preserve and protect antique wooden carousels and carousel pieces. We believe that the way to accomplish this task is through education. We are in the business of educating the children, who are the next generation of carousel lovers.

We didn’t really know what to expect, but any couple that chooses to have their wedding in a carousel museum surely must be awesome, right? And Shea and Jay were, indeed, AWESOME. There was nothing “ordinary” about the day – from Shea’s beautiful, pale lavender wedding dress, to the giant bunch of balloons that were released over the couple, right after saying their vows. Oh, and the vintage board game-themed reception – every detail spoke to exactly who Shea and Jay are – unique, fun-loving, laid-back and genuinely wonderful people.

Family and friends surrounded the couple, sharing in the joy of the day. I’m still blown away when I think about Jay and his siblings, because there are – are you ready? – EIGHT OF THEM! And every one of them, including Mom and Dad, were ear-to-ear smiles for the whole day. Shea’s brothers and parents also shared in the happiness of the day, along with Shea’s son and daughter (such awesome, adorable, well-behaved kids).

Shea and Jay, we can’t thank you enough for allowing us to be a part of your day. It was an honor to be able to capture your unique wedding, in photographs that we hope you’ll treasure for years and years to come. Our very best wishes to all of you!!

Bride & Groom at New England Carousel Museum wedding

More photos of Shea & Jay

Posted in Photography, Weddings

Window Light Portrait

Admittedly, I don’t have as many chances to get behind my camera in the winter months. But every now and then, I’m able to coerce my daughter into modeling for me. On this day, I decided we’d try for a window light portrait. I even flat-ironed and curled Jill’s naturally (very) curly hair for the session. She cooperated for a good 10 minutes (a LIFETIME for her) and I got a few nice shots. Being the daughter of a photographer is never easy :)

After yet another snow storm today, I’m hoping spring is just around the corner, to get me back outside and behind this fantastic new camera of mine. And away from my poor, camera-weary daughter.

Jill by window light

Posted in Personal, Photography, Portraits

Windsor Connecticut Wedding | Cara & Andrew

Cara & Andrew were married this past September, in our very first Windsor Connecticut wedding. The ceremony and reception took place in the backyard of Cara’s family home. As soon as we arrived, I knew we’d have limitless opportunities for beautiful photographs, because every aspect of the house and yard had been transformed into the most intimate, romantic, detail-rich setting for a wedding. It was clear that an incredible amount of effort had gone into planning and decorating – and the results were stunning. Add to the mix the fact that the day itself was picture-perfect – sunny and bright, the air not too hot, and yet not crisp enough to be considered autumn. This wonderful couple couldn’t have asked for a better day, in so many ways.

As you’ll quickly discover from the pictures below, Cara & Andrew were blessed to begin their lives together while surrounded by the warmth and love of close family and friends. It was a true joy for us to capture it in photographs. And Cara’s mom even invited us back to sit on their magnificent, wrap-around porch anytime we wished, though she’d only just met us that very day – and she really, really meant it. That same inviting, generous and warm spirit filled the air that day, everywhere you turned.

Cara & Andrew, we wish you the best on your journey together. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of it all.

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More photos of Cara & Andrew

Posted in Photography, Weddings

Derby Connecticut Wedding | Victoria & Randy

It’s time to start sharing all the weddings I’ve been a part of this past season. Victoria and Randy were married in Derby, Connecticut this past October. I could tell right from our first contact that photography was very important to Victoria. She imagined beautiful outdoor couple portraits, against the backdrop of the farm that she and Randy share. She wanted fun and frolicking pictures with their wedding party – nothing posed or forced – just friends and family having fun. So she was careful to plan a good, long stretch of portrait time, between the ceremony and the reception. But, as much as we’d all hoped for a beautifully perfect day, Mother Nature had other plans. That day in October turned out to be one of the rainiest days we’ve seen in quite some time. QUITE. SOME. TIME.

It didn’t matter, though. Victoria and Randy just took it all in stride. Extra care had to be taken with Victoria’s beautiful gown, umbrellas were always close-at-hand, and puddles had to be avoided. But nobody seemed bothered or stressed out by the damp, dreary day – the focus remained on making the day as magical as possible for this sweet couple. Victoria was more than happy to incorporate the umbrella into their portraits…”It rained on our wedding day; that’s what our pictures should show”, was roughly the quote by Victoria. This is probably a good time to mention that Victoria is one of my favorite. brides. EVER :)

The ceremony was beautiful, held at St. Mary’s church in the afternoon. Then it was on to the farm, for portraits. We just moved the portraits into the barn and it turned out just fine. The rain even let up for about five minutes, allowing us to capture some great photos of the couple next to the spectacular Bentley they hired for the day. By the time we headed over to Cobb’s Mill Inn for the reception, the rain had stopped entirely.

I won’t have to try and convince you about what a blast the reception was…the proof is in the images. The venue is simply lovely, with the rustic wood decor and twinkle lights all around. It was the perfect place to celebrate the ending to an already magical, love-filled day. Victoria and Randy, I wish you all the best now and in the many, many, MANY years you have to look forward to together. It was truly a pleasure and an honor to capture your special day for you.

Derby CT Wedding by New England Photographer

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More photos of Victoria & Randy

Posted in Photography, Portraits, Weddings

Engagement Portraits|Nicole & Brandon

I knew we would hit it off as soon as they mentioned their new German Shepherd puppy, Moose. Nicole and Brandon brought him to our first meeting, to discuss having us photograph their September 2015 wedding. It was difficult to focus on the business of wedding photography with such an adorable puppy right at my feet…but we managed!

Soon after sorting out all of the wedding day details (including a private wedding venue that is simply BREATH-TAKING and will no doubt make for some incredible portraits), Nicole and Brandon decided they wanted to schedule an engagement portrait session. I usually do all of my portrait sessions at Northwest Park in Windsor – there’s nothing more spectacular than NWP in the autumn, with the beautiful foliage in the background. So we met up in late October to make these oh-so-sweet portraits. And bonus for me, they brought Moose again! He wasn’t thrilled about holding still for portraits, but he was a good boy, nonetheless.

Nicole is bubbly and friendly and excited about every aspect of their “big day”. Brandon just seemed happy to make sure that his bride was happy :) I can’t wait to spend the day with these two, while photographing their wedding next year.

Just look at the colors of those leaves…it was a perfect day. And love was definitely in the air :)

Engagement portraits in autumn

Engagement portraits in Connecticut

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Posted in Engagements, Photography, Portraits

Warwick Rhode Island Wedding | Susan + AJ

This post is way overdue. I mean – WAY overdue. Susan & AJ were married in Warwick, Rhode Island last fall. Yup, last fall. But here they are, finally.

We started the day at Susan’s childhood home, where she calmly prepared for the days events. She radiated elegance and beauty – from her gorgeous hair to her fitted dress – simply lovely. As she was getting ready, I roamed the house and the yard, looking to capture details for Susan to cherish. You see, Susan’s father passed away just months before the wedding – his presence in the home was as strong as if he were still there with us, though. Much of the day was planned around honoring his memory and I’m happy that I was able to add to that, through my photography (I’ve not shared those photos here – it just felt right to keep those things with Susan only).

After the church ceremony, we headed to the University of Rhode Island to get some portraits. Susan & AJ are both graduates of URI, so the campus held special meaning for them (oh, and also, it was beautiful there). Susan, a former model, was a natural in front of the camera…and AJ was happy to let her shine.

The reception followed at Eleven Forty Nine Restaurant. Friends and family gathered to enjoy good food, fancy drinks and EXCELLENT dance music!

At the end of the night, the couple made their way through a line of sparkler-wielding guests, on the way to the car that would whisk them away, to start their honeymoon.

Susan & AJ, thank you so much for allowing us to be a part of your special day. It was truly an honor. We wish you all the best in the years to come!

P.S. It has recently come to my attention that Susan is soon to be the mother of little twin babies!! Just more evidence of just how over-due this post is :)

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Posted in Photography, Weddings

Winsted Wedding | Connecticut Photographer

As a wedding photographer, I have the honor of being a part of some pretty memorable events. I have to say, though, that Rick & Emily’s wedding was one of THE most memorable to date. I knew immediately upon meeting the two of them that the day was going to be less about rehearsed moments and tight schedules, and more about just “being together” with friends and family. And boy, was I right!

Rather than the usual “ceremony-reception-go home”, Rick & Emily turned their wedding into an all-weekend affair, described here, in their own words:

THE BASICS: The wedding will be held at Camp Greenwood Trails in Winsted, CT at 4:00pm on Saturday, May 17, with a reception at 5:30pm at Crystal Peak in Winchester, CT.

THE EXTRAS: Of course, we will be happy just to see you Saturday evening for the wedding, but thanks to the generosity of our parents, we have rented Camp Greenwood Trails for the whole weekend, and we would be delighted if you would join us for a camp weekend Friday – Sunday! We are planning for a weekend full of fun and spending time with our family and friends. There will be sports, singing, eating, sleeping, campfires with s’mores, and even camp counselors to keep us all informed of schedules and on time! Also, we know summer camp isn’t for everyone; there are plenty other accommodation options in the area if you would like to join the weekend’s activities, but sleep in a climate-controlled room.

Can’t wait to see you!

Love,

Emily & Rick

As far as I can tell, the entire affair turned out exactly as they planned 😉 I’ll let the photographs speak for themselves.

Rick & Emily – I can’t thank you enough for allowing us to be a part of your special weekend. It was an honor to spend time with you and all of your family and friends. We wish you the best, now and always!

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More photos of Emily & Rick

Posted in Photography, Weddings
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