It’s only been a couple days since I was was forced to come back to reality after spending a weekend at camp. Shutter Sisters Camp is an annual retreat for women photographers looking to connect with other women who are also interested in photography as their primary creative expression medium. The 70 campers came from from all over the country and beyond, including Canada and the UK. We gathered on the foggy shore of Pacific Grove in a “refuge by the sea” called Asilomar.
Where is Asilomar?
Asilomar known for its beach dunes and communal style dining sits tucked along the coats of Pacific Grove on the south side of Monterey Bay. For me its a 400 mile drive north through miles of flat farming community. The 3 day event held at the beachfront conference grounds that hold a rich history of providing a haven for women to gather since its construction in 1913. My mom chimed in and said she too has been to conference there in the late 70s.
Upon arrival Sunday afternoon there was almost and immediate sense of closeness and kindred spirit. Some of us already knew one another or at least felt they did in the virtual space we call Flickr and Instagram. It was funny because some people only knew others through handles and avatars and the smart ladies of camp shutter sisters made sure that only your real names appeared on your name tag. This trip was about being seen for who you are not your moniker. So long modchik.
As we clutched cameras and cocktails we realized that this was no ordinary group of women, we somewhat knew each other virtually through the various channels like the Mortal Muses, Picture Inspiration and Flickr. Feeling comfortable from the start it was clear that this would be a weekend of crafting beautiful pictures and friendships. It’s quite freeing to know that you have total permission to drone on and on about all things aperture and shutter speeds. No judging here.
The freedom to just be, that was what I was looking forward to most.
Every camper had fresh flowers and a care package waiting on their bed. The photo box itself from Paper Coterie was perfect for collecting treasures during our stay. Inside the box, a custom journal complete with frames to place you photos, prompts and in summer camp style, an autograph page.
Our hosts Jen, Myriam and Tracey welcome everyone to camp and assure us that no one shall leave without feeling uplifted, empowered and inspired. I can’t stop smiling at this point I look around at all these new faces, we have been waiting for this time to arrive for over six months and its finally here, its almost surreal.
I didn’t know what to do first, get to know everyone or grab a beer and explore the grounds? the latter was sounding good but I really wanted to extend out of my comfort zone and meet new people. I know I surprised a couple campers as I assumed the quiet observer role.
It’s early, I’m up for a Starbucks run. I was one of those HAVE TO HAVE my latte kinda campers. Come to find out, I was not alone and there was a Peet’s on conference grounds. PTL.
Time for an early morning self portrait. I catch the sunrise before I go out, the only golden hour I will see this trip. I’m feeling rested and calm, two feelings I’m not familiar with at all. I decide to try to capture what that feeling looks like.
Heading for class I spy my road trip partner and probably our youngest camper Chelsea (heartsandscars). This girl is wise beyond her years, if I only had half her talent at her age, I tell ya. Her and I spent 14 hours in the car together last week and I don’t think we had any more than 5 minutes of silence the ENTIRE trip.
Breakfast at Crocker Hall where everyone eats together and I mean EVERYONE as in the entire conference ground. You all file in get your grub find your group and gather around tables with wagon wheel sized lazy susans in the center. I’ll admit with a car at my disposal, Greeblemonkey and I did manage to venture out for a smoked gouda and artichoke heart sammy.
First up for this camper, Polaroid class with Alessandra Cave. I sat there with 3 of my vintage cameras wondering if any of them were going to cooperate. The one thing I took away from this class was to remember to slow down. You really do need to quiet yourself when you are shooting with Polaroids, you get one shot, you don’t have the luxury of deleting undesirable results unless you want to throw your money away on film.
I tried Impossible Film PX 600 Silver Shade with my 600 camera for the first time and was a happy camper. Here is the first shot out of the camera, bright picture window helped achieve the contrast I was looking for. The rest of my Polaroids are in my Camp Flickr set. I also played with expired Polaroid film in my SX-70 the results were … er interesting. What do you think? Pretty funky. The red is where the developer did not spread to, pretty common in old film.
I had more fun following around Meghan (meghandavidson.com) around to watch her work, she is all sorts of amazing in her colors and gentle spirit. Meghan did an impromptu show and tell about how to achieve double exposure with your Spectra (models with a timer) and I can’t wait to try.
After our communal lunch we headed to afternoon classes, I sat in on Kim Klassen’s Rad Lab tour. Kim is a great teacher, I have taken her PhotoShop e-class in the past, no one makes it more understandable than Kim, plus she’s just fun to hang out with.
I bonded with my new friends over dinner followed by a second dinner instigated by rogue campers with a car (me) who wanted something other than white fish #sorrynotsorry for which later we got scolded for. They told us during the invocation that “whatever my intention was, I could have it.” Our little masked friends sure enjoyed it.
The next morning its a bit of the same breakfast followed by a briefing and then we are off on our own with a list of classes to choose from. I decide to take the self portrait class from shutter sister Meredith Winn (aka camerashymommy on instagram). I love her work and I thoroughly enjoyed curling up in a chair and just listening to how she overcame the awkwardness of looking directly into the lens of a camera. I know that feeling, I would rather look away too.
We retreat for lunch and I opt for something warm before heading to light class with Xanthe and Kristin. Oh these two ladies are a FIND I tell you, so nice and friendly and full of tips on how to capture beautiful flare (those pretty rainbow circles you get when you point your camera into the sun) – first tip to achieve flare: remove the UV filter if you have one on.
I decided to break out my trusted and true instant cameras Instax 210 and Polaroid Mio, both use readily available Fuji film and produce beautiful photos. I highly recommend them if you are looking for some a bit more predictable.
Beautiful tones. I was so happy to capture the pathway on a grey day.
Our last night they threw a big finale party, complete with giveaways (Epiphanie bags!!) and our own print studio courtesy of HP and the fabulous Jason who helped us upload, export and even air print direct from our iPhones into our books.
I’ll be honest I was a wee bit overwhelmed at seeing what everyone had shot the past few days probably so much so that I retreated a little bit. I get creatively overwhelmed when given endless resources, my ADD kicks in all of the sudden I feel all over the place and not happy with ANY of my photos. Definitely a sign that I need to just back away and enjoy the company and not worry about finishing my book, the book can wait. I just quietly gathered my prints and tucked them away.
According to everyone’s facebook status we are all having a hard time re-entering post-camp life. The 365-day-countdown until the next one has already begun for some. I have decided that as long as my schedule and pocketbook permits I will be making the annual trek. I look forward to reflecting back on what happens between today and the first day of camp next year.