Have you ever wonder what does it take to create a great picture? Was it because of the gear? Was it because of the people inside the picture, their expression or their emotion? Or was it because of an x-factor? X-factor is a common term used in algebra (one of many branch of mathematics, from Arabic “al-jabr”, meaning “reunion of broken parts”), where “x’ usually refers to the unknown. All this while, I thought that this x-factor was something else, something beyond our current science or level of comprehension. Some photographer might call it the technical perfection. However, no matter how good your equipment is, regardless it is the recently released equipment or lenses or camera, without that x-factor, that picture will not become a great picture. So what was it?
That question kept on bugging me because like any other aspiring photographer, I always want to improve my photograpy skills. I want to become a good photographer. Various combination was tried, but it was always hit-or-miss, where sometimes I nail it in my shots, and sometimes I don’t. It was when I heard about Thorsten, reading his stories and reviews, and watching his video on Youtube that I started to get an idea of a good picture. In his word, the x-factor is “the Magic of Light”.
What is Magic of Light?
It is something that you can’t explain with words, where words doesn’t have the right equivalence to adequately explain it to you and make you understand the true meaning of magic of light. However, with proper choice and arrangement of words, we can arrive to the closest we can get to the actual definition of the Magic of Light. In my understanding, the magic of light is the condition where the lighting is as close as to the best light that makes everyone looks their best, regardsless of their age, height, skin colour facial expression, or combination of any physical features that one might posses externally. In simple, if you have that magic of light, you can make everyone looks awesome.
Finding The Magic of Light
I tried to look for Thorsten’s video or website to really understand the meaning of magic of light. However, it is not easy to truly grasp the meaning of magic of light when the originator is not face-to-face with you. Probably this has to do the internal connection that we possess as humans, where the interpersonal connection makes us bond better. That is why, when I saw that Thorsten’s workshop schedule is adjacent to my training schedule, I immediately e-mailed him to secure a seat for the training, and almost immediately, I get a positive reply from him. That’s the beginning of my career-defining journey with Thorsten.
I initially planned to bring my newly-acquired M10-P black version and APO-Summicron 50 as it is a much lighter setup compared to my M10-Noctilux combination. However, that morning when I pack up prior going to the airport, I had a brief moment of second thought, and immediately grabbed my M10-Noctilux and head to the airport. Before that, I e-mailed Thorsten, what is the lens that I should bring. His advise was to bring the lens that I used most, and he continue to expain that many Leica shooter usually use 35mm or 50mm lens as their primary lens, used 95% of the time. Since I am the one that is quite crazy, and used Noctilux all the time, regardsless fo the situation, from the wet race to the dry beaches, Noctilux is the answer – along with silver M10 of course, since the colour matches.
The program started at 10 am, but I went a bit early from Eckenstrasse to Leica Store Nuremberg just to avoid any hiccup that may come my way. As soon as I saw someone with the fancy and lively jacket, with Christian Louboutin’s shoe, even though I haven’t met him in person, I know exactly that person I am looking at is the man himself – Thorsten Overgaard. Once he saw me, he greeted me with his big Danish friendly, smile as he checked my name with his Mont Blanc Swan King’s pen while waiting for the other person to arrive. For the first workshop, we have a small team of 9, where we have a mix of peoples including Leica Nuremberg’s photographer, Michel Birnbacher (https://birnbacher.com/) joining the workshop. The others, Jan, Matthias, Nikolaus, John, Björn and Frank, also from neighbouring areas, except me who came from the place 12 hours away using flight.
After briefing by Thorsten, we go to the nearest Di Simo – Caffe E Vini, where we get our first dose of coffee. Served by Clara, every one seems to be happy with their coffee selection, or a dose of smile from Clara, or both. I ordered my first espresso in 2018. I can’t recall when I ordered my espresso, so far I don’t think there is any in my life. After that, e spent the first day was spend walking around Nuremberg, with occasional search for Frank as he was always lost himself in the midst of the crowd. In between the walk, which totaled up to 7 hours and almost 10,000 steps, Thorsten gave to us the guide and lots of inspiration, particularly about the light and its magic. The second day was the day we do the editing of the photos captured on the first day. During this session, it is amazing to know that even though we all have the same subject, we all have a different point of view. As usual, Thorsten’s photo stands out among the others, oozing with the magic of light. On the final day of the workshop, Thorsten brought us outside to look for the magic of light. We ended up at another coffee shop around the corner, where we did a lot of photoshoot outside the coffee shop. It is something that I did haven’t do before, and to triple the fun, you do it with fellow Leica photographers with guidancees from Thorsten. After the final coffee, some of the participants bid good bye and that’s all for the workshop days. As for the second part of the workshop, which is portrait workshop, a few more passionate group of people came to join us, i.e. Bertram, Martin and Urs.
The second part is more livelier than the first part, with Bert being the one that always generous with his smile. Martin always has his advise, and Urs is a great listener. Nikolaus stays on, and he is also constantly being asked to convert to Leica. Bert had his first taste of Noctilux and he loves it! Perhaps one day he will get his Noctilux? Who knows. But I do know that John is saving up to get his very own Leica. Bjorn, the man that always call me King of Malaysia, is a pleasant to work with, although he constantly tells us that he is not familiar with any kind of social media. Jan will always be remembered as the model of the day. Michel likes to look serious, although once in a while, he will always put on his big German smile on his face.
On to the man himself, Thorsten is a very positive guy. He does not let negativities affect his own internal positive energy. Even though he sees something as not right, he knows how to turn it the other way round. I particularly like how he interact with the subject during photoshoot. It is very important for a photographer to make the subject felt at ease, at least for his school of thought, as you want to capture the soul of the subject. Some established photographer might disagree, but I like this approach. You have to make someone feel at ease. It is not easy, as expressed by Martin, that he doesn’t know what is the right approach, particularly when you are dealing with someone from a background that is unknwon to you. In Martin’s case, he never spoke to anyone from Malaysia before, so he doesn’t know the sensitive or non-sensitive things to say. As a result, the session seems to be stiff, though he has some good shots in the end.
Before this course, I always thought I am good with my trade and thought that I can easily make a living from photography. However, after attending this course, I started to learn that there is always a big room for improvement everywhere. One thing that I particularly crave was the inspiration. Like any other content-creator and photographers, I love to be inspired. There is so much paradigm-shifting things that happened to me during the workshop, and to make it simple, you need to be your number one fan. You need to do the things that you love most. Thorsten shared about the story of a photographer that makes a living by becoming a wedding photographer, but he/she ended up in a situation that he/she feels unhappy about. They are stuck in an image as a wedding photographer, with no way out. That is why, it is very important to love what you are doing. Work on your skills, keep on publishing it via social media, blog, website so that you will get an audience. The last thing you need to think about is the money part. If you are good enough, people are willing to pay for your service as they trust you can make then look more beautiful, sexier, more handsome and younger. A good photographer will be able to shed off few years from your look just by using the right photography technique, without photorshop.
Another thing that I love throughout the course was the Leica inspiration. Anyone that follows Thorsten’s website knows his passion for Leica photography. He is the kind of guy that really knows what he is doing, and he can demonstrate it to you and make it happen to you. Being a Leica photographer is more than just buying a camera that has red dot (or none for -P version) made in Wetzlar, it is a calling. Do not underestimate what you can do, and keep on creating more images. Take this as a probability. If your chance to create a great photo is 0.0001% (for example only), then to create one great photo is by taking more photos, around 10,000. That relates back to Henri Cartier-Bresson’s immortal word – your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.
Life After Workshop:
After the big high-5 with Thorsten, I will return back to live my life as an engineer, but something that change is that I will always wear a camera. People might look at it as weird at first, but then they will get used to you. One thing that gave me a light-buld moment from Thorsten is that, if you can see what a someone else can’t see, that will be your niche. I am blessed with wonderful peoples of Pichin, Sarawak and Malaysia, so I will start there. Indeed, this is one of the most important journey that I took to improve myself, particularly in terms of making my life more meaningful. One thing for sure, we will leave this world, so in the meantime, create more memories. Note to self – Do not underestimate yourself and self-worth. There is always a group of people out there that really love your work art. All you need to do is to keep on advertising it and do not stop.
Q: Should you join this course?
A: Yes, this course is highly-recommended, if you want to improve your photography skills, particularly if you are a Leica shooter as Thorsten will generously share his wealth of experiences to make you a better photographer, particularly an M-shooter. Consider this as a life-time investment, and grab as much info as you can when you attend this course as if you paid enough attention, there is always some part of the course that will triggers your soul, makes you realised the true definition of magic of light.
Q: Now I am interested to join the course, so where I can find the training schedule?
A: You may refer to this webpage, http://www.overgaard.dk/thorsten-overgaard-seminar-calendar.html
Q: Can I join even though I do not have a Leica camera?
A: Yes, you can join even though you do not have a Leica camera, although usually 90% of the participants are Leica user.
Q: I have attended a workshop, can I join it again?
A: Yes, you are most welcomed.
Disclaimer: The words in this post belongs to Claudius Weson, and in no way or any circumstances he was paid to write this post. This is a reflection of a post-workshop, and in a way act as a note for future references for Claudius Weson.