Jay Maisel

I first posted this as an addition to the About Me page on the website but decided readers would better access the information if I put it in my blog.

This photo of Jay (on the right) and me was taken by Jamie Smith, Jay’s Workshop Producer.

After thoughts, some random, some not: Who is Jay Maisel? A video produced by Kelby Training, A Day With Jay Maisel, was a good intro and enough to perk my curiosity. Shortly thereafter, my wife and I made reservations for the workshop. As the time approached, I felt like a kid a few days before Christmas, and my anticipation turned out to be well-founded. Following Jay’s advise in his videos (the first mentioned above, the second one, Another Day With Jay Maisel) and to my wife’s dismay, I purchased black shirts, black pants, and comfortable black shoes – this outfit helps make you invisible when shooting on the street, a Jay true-ism. My wife is not used to seeing me in Zorro-black.

So much information was crammed into 5 short days that flew by. No reason to reinvent the wheel, my latest lens is the 28-300 mm Nikon – this was the only lens I took to the workshop and the one Jay uses most frequently. Another “Jay-ism” is the more lenses you take, the less you shoot. Right again. By the way, Jay is a self-proclaimed Nikon junkie, but we had several users of the “other brand” in the class.  The equipment bag I recently took to the Egypt workshop weighed about 40 pounds and was a back-breaker. One body and one lens is the thing dreams are made of when preparing for a shoot. Also, no filters, with rare exception, and no lens hoods. “Use your damn hand above the end of the lens if you need shade.” Jay has had to replace a few lenses over the years but does not like the distortion created by filters – the lens hood makes the lens more intimidating on the street. At the bottom of the recommended equipment list for the workshop is a tripod, “if you want.” When I return for Jay’s Alumni Workshop, the tripod stays at home. Obviously I do use a tripod when needed and polarizing and neutral density filters when appropriate.

You cannot take a photo if you do not have a camera (Jay tru-ism). Some interesting photos have even come from the water closet.  Keep the camera with you! Some of the newer digital cameras give amazing photos in low light, hand held using ISO’s of 1600 and above. Prior to the workshop, I would rarely go above 800, and was usually shooting 200 or 400.

Jay has two buttons, tough guy and pussy cat. Being of the female persuasion is a definite advantage when the second button is needed, and his daughter is obviously the queen of second-button clan. Seriously, he is a wonderful human being with a gift for photography and more importantly in my opinion, teaching the art. Regarding the workshop, I cannot tell you how important his assistants Jamie and John were in making the it successful – highly, no very highly, knowledgeable about cameras and computers and software, and, and, and.

Light, gesture, and color – and you are responsible for every square millimeter of your photograph – yes, when you take it, not after you have altered the photo with “some fancy-dancy software.”  If it does not add anything to the picture, do not include it; no unintended distractions.

Jay was a very gracious host, sharing his magnificent home, extensive photographs, phenomenal “things collections,” knowledge of the craft and art, and most importantly himself. The workshop participants were expected to by on the streets of Manhattan, shooting by 6:30 AM. Have I mentioned food? After early AM shooting, the day started with a light breakfast at his home and continued with lunch and dinner at favorite neighborhood  restaurants, all really good, and several in the excellent category. Back from a temporary diversion, there are many aspects to a photograph, light and color, but most importantly gesture. If there is no gesture, the photo is not worth taking, and certainly not worth looking at or asking anyone else to spend their time. The ultimate source for explanation of gesture is Jay Maisel. Jay Maisel I am not, but he certainly contributed to who I will ultimately be as a photographer and a human being. I now have an awareness, not there before my week in Manhattan. We all have people in our lives who have made an impact, our parents, a close friend, a teacher, maybe even someone famous – no question that Jay is on many lists.