When there’s a burning in your heart
An endless yearning in your heart
Build it bigger than the sun
Let it grow, let it grow
When there’s a burning in your heart
Don’t be alarmed
– “You are a Tourist”, Death Cab for Cutie
Logo/Calligraphy by Fozzy Castro-Dayrit
Last weekend, I attended Firestarter, a two-day wedding photography seminar/workshop organized and led by husband and wife team, Jeff and Lisa Photography. Jeff and Lisa Llarena are two of the best Filipino photographers I look up to in the wedding industry for their talent and utmost sincerity. I had the privilege of witnessing them in action at my friend Chi’s wedding back in 2010, where I was one of the oversized flower girls at a no-kids-allowed affair. Though I never got to talk to them (I remember talking to Bryan Yap though, who was part of their team) I was surprised at how low-key they were, a rarity in an industry where the most sociable suppliers attract more clients. Chi later on sent a link to a blog post about their wedding. She couldn’t stress enough how happy she was about getting Jeff and Lisa as her photographers. I’ve been a quiet
stalker fan of Jeff and Lisa’s blog since, and lately, I’ve been following Lisa’s personal blog.
When I first saw the ad about Firestarter on Facebook, I wasn’t intent on joining. I’ve been focusing on kids’ events lately, so I didn’t find the need to invest in a wedding photography workshop. Besides, I had gone through intensive training for two years since 2009. Why bother to join a workshop now? Another thing, I’d be running my first 21K at Run United on the second day of the workshop. I didn’t know if I’d still be alive after. Hehe. Or at least, if I can make it in time. Lastly, and this was the main reason holding me back – I didn’t want to join because it will rekindle my love for wedding photography, and it would probably push me to give photography more time and effort than I currently give, or can give. With work and other adult responsibilities, I can’t afford to give photography my full attention now. Not yet, anyway.
I sought the advice of my friend Zeus, who was a participant at Firestarter 1. He only had great things to say about the workshop, and he even considered retaking it. If he was willing to take the workshop all over again, I figured it must be really good. I wasn’t sure if there were still slots, but I took my chance anyway and e-mailed Lisa to inquire. If I still had a slot, I was meant to be there. I received an e-mail from Lisa saying there are only two slots left. I immediately replied to confirm my attendance and I deposited the downpayment the following Monday. It was the best photography-related decision I’ve made so far this year 🙂
When I got to the Peninsula Manila, I found myself in a formal-looking conference room with a group of 12 participants. It was a very diverse group – some have been shooting for years, others have hardly started. We also came from different regions. I found out later on that two of the participants flew in from Cebu, and one went to Manila all the way from Baguio. As the workshop progressed, we became more at ease with each other. Each one revealed his/her story, and it took me back to the days when I was starting out and still so excited with photography. While photography still holds a big and very special place in my heart, I must admit I wasn’t able to sustain the same level of excitement I had before. The rational, practical side of me would always prevail and tell myself to keep my passion for photography at bay.
Jeff and Lisa initiated the talk – which was more of an open discussion – during the first day. I was impressed at how authentic they were and how passionate they are about what they do. They shared how they got into photography, which was interspersed with their love story. It’s hard to separate one from the other. The workshop hardly dwelled on the technical aspect of photography, but it prompted us to find our voice and to tell our own stories when shooting. Jeff and Lisa reminded us that photography is something personal, that as a photographer and artist, you have to put a lot of who you are in your photos. This is what would differentiate us from other photographers. They encouraged us to get to know ourselves better and to allow our images to reflect who we are.
We were also able to shoot a real-life couple, Paolo and Kat, during the first day of the workshop. We observed Jeff and Lisa as they directed our couple on how to properly pose.
On the second day, other big names in the wedding industry were invited to speak and share their stories and expertise – destination wedding photographer Nelwin Uy; founder of Weddings at Work, Benz Co-Rana, and videographer Jason Magbanua. Their talks were very informative and entertaining. They painted a very real picture of how the industry is now – the cutthroat competition, the cliques, the showbiz-like setting. I realized that the industry is a bit more complicated now as compared to when I first started. It’s definitely a challenge, but they gave us very good tips on how to excel.
I particularly liked Nelwin’s talk since I love to travel and destination photography interests me. Like Jeff and Lisa, he’s so humble and was candid enough to admit that public speaking freaks him out. Hehe. When I grow up, I want to be a destination photographer too. 😉 (Side note: he was at the same race I was in that morning)
Jeff and Lisa’s little man, Corwin, also came to visit:
At the end of the workshop, Jeff and Lisa invited everyone to have dinner with them (like we were their own children. Haha).
Thank you so much, Jeff and Lisa, for inspiring us to pour our heart into what we do and for reminding us that it is possible to make a living out of something you love. I seem to forget that sometimes, especially when I let cynicism get in the way. Thank you for sharing a major part of your life with us in your desire to see others grow in this career, and to go through the same rich experience you did. I didn’t even know I needed this jumpstart. The workshop got me so restless (in a good way) that for the past week, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time rethinking and praying about my photography track. I hope I can improve my game and someday, I can inspire others to chase after their dreams as well 🙂
PS: I like Radiohead too 😀
Allow me to share with you some photos I took from the workshop (with such gorgeous models and details 🙂 )