I believe it’s not a coincidence that I ended up teaching. According to my mum, as a child, I used to spend most of my time pretending I was a teacher. I used to place my dolls (or my brother, when he agreed) in front of my chalkboard and teach them I don’t know what.
But what makes me think I was meant to be a teacher is that I love learning. When you devote yourself to education, you learn every single day. I was motivated to do a postgraduate degree after my bachelor (at a time when there were still career prospects after university in Spain) and I seized every training opportunity that came up at work.
Against this background, I think it’s going to be easier for you to understand why I took a photography course on the other side of the world in the middle of my holiday, instead of spending a day resting and going to the beach. Maybe you’ll even end up thinking it wasn’t such a crazy idea after all!
I discovered my passion for photography a few years ago and the little I know I’ve learnt filling in memory cards with pictures of dubious quality, self-teaching and taking a couple of online courses. The truth is that virtual learning saved me because it’s hard to attend any class when you work and have a family. However, it’s not always easy to understand certain concepts when you don’t have a teacher in front of you. That’s why I had been dreaming of attending a face-to-face course for a long time. By the way, that was my Christmas gift from my husband and I was waiting for the right moment to enjoy the present.
I knew Twyla Jones from her Instagram accounts and when my friend Bea (@camparinagreen) told me Twyla was about to launch an online breakout on emotional storytelling, I enrolled immediately. It was a short but sweet course on how to convey emotions through photography. I really liked it but didn’t make the most of it, I must say. As most online courses don’t include practical exercises, I don’t feel obliged to read through the material as much as if I had to put it into practice because someone is going to assess my work (I’m one of those persons who actually thinks homework is necessary). I glance over the syllabus hoping to find some free time to do things seriously (which never happens) but most of the time things stay untouched in my hard drive forever. That’s why I was so looking forward to trying a one-to-one and when I realized that Twyla lived two hours away from Miami and had a mentoring program, I didn’t think it twice.
Logistics were a challenge as I’m still breastfeeding. I had to take on board all the family so that Philippe could look after the kids while I was with Twyla and bring me Théo when he was hungry. But it was clearly worth it and I believe we all enjoyed the adventure. Twyla and her family live in Fort Pierce, a place with beautiful beaches located away from the touristy parts of Florida. A photography mentoring on paper became much more than that. Thanks to photography, we discovered a place we wouldn’t have been to on our own and we met a beautiful family who welcomed us in their house and with whom we could have been talking for hours.
The mentoring day with Twyla includes two photography sessions (one with harsh light and the other at sunset) tailored to the students’ needs or preferences. In my case, I told her I was mainly interested in family photography, so we agreed we would do the first session with my own family and the second one with a family she knew. Twyla is always happy to answer any questions you may have during the sessions. Once they’re over, you spend some time in front of the computer. That’s when Twyla can do a portfolio review and show you how she processed her pictures.
It was a one-to-one during which we didn’t cover any technical aspects of photography, but I could see first hand how she approaches sessions, how she started her journey through photography and, above all, I got inspired and gained self-confidence. This last point might seem silly but when you’re self-taught and you’ve learnt all you know online, you have doubts whether you’re doing things right. Being able to see how other photographers work makes you identify the points you need to improve and realize that what you do “is not that bad”.
On this post, I share some of the pictures I took during the family session we did at sunset. It took me a while to process them because I took sooo many photos that it was really hard to choose which ones to keep (despite that, I ended up with 250 pictures!). It was also very important for me to find my own editing style, taking on board Twyla’s recommendations and adapting them to my style, and to define what I wanted to show on my pictures.
I really hope you like them as much as I do. They make me smile every time I look through them because they bring back memories of that amazing beach with its special light and that beautiful and photogenic family. They also remind me how fortunate I was to get the chance to take pictures next to such a talented photographer.
I left Twyla’s home with my mind buzzing with new ideas and an even stronger desire to take the camera.