2019 Varanasi Lighting Master Class


India in general and Varanasi, in particular, have always been looked upon as a photographer’s paradise. But even the best locations and most interesting subjects are not enough to create amazing portraits. There are other factors that come into play and the biggest of them all is lighting.

Master Class Dates: March 17th to March 24th, 2019

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In this Location Portraiture and Lighting Masterclass, we will spend a large amount of time working with available light, sculpted light and the combination of both. This workshop will help you overcome any fears for artificial light you might have and will let you use it as another exciting tool in your photographic toolbox.

Don’t think this Masterclass is only about artificial (flash) light or posed portraits. We use available light and street photography techniques just as well. In fact, it’s the mix of these two approaches to travel portraiture that makes this workshop unique. To us, the difference between available light and flash is an academic one: we simply use the light that is most suitable for the image we have in mind.

Above are some examples of the types of images you can expect to be adding to your portfolio over the course of this seven-day Masterclass, which will be held from March 17th to March 24th in Varanasi, India.

The 2019 Location Lighting and Portraiture Masterclass: planned itinerary*

Day 01, March 17: Arrival in Varanasi, meet and greet, afternoon walk around the hotel

As this is an international group, participants will be arriving from everywhere in the world, typically around noon. You’ll be picked up at the airport and be taken to our hotel. As the hotel is on the shores of the Ganges, you’ll enter the city by boat, an unforgettable experience and the first of quite a number of exciting boat rides on this workshop. Depending on the arrival times of the group’s members, on this first day, we will either schedule some introductory class time or an afternoon walk in the hotel area. If we’re not too jetlagged, we might even do both!

Day 02, March 18

After a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, we will continue our exploration of the Ganges shoreline, which is where you’ll meet the most amazing characters. We might photograph children jumping into the river or getting a haircut by one of the many mobile barbers. If you’re feeling adventurous, you might treat yourself to the latest hairstyle, too! We will also get our first (and definitely not our last) chance to photograph some sadhus with their colourful and highly photogenic faces and clothes. Prior to that, we’ll schedule some formal class time on off-camera flash so that you get familiar with the gear and techniques we’ll use throughout this workshop.

Day 03, March 19

It’s time for one of the – many – highlights of this Masterclass: you will get up really early for a sadhu boat shoot on the Ganges. This is the perfect occasion to learn to mix flash and available light, as the balance between them will change as the sun rises. After that, we get back to the hotel for a well-deserved breakfast. In the early afternoon, Matt will share his course on image composition with those who are interested. After that, it’s back on track for a model shoot at a quiet Hindu temple. We might even come across a snake charmer…

Day 04, March 20

Today, we’ll leave the hustle and bustle of Varanasi behind us – at least for a while – and we’ll explore a nearby fishing village and a dhobi ghat (public clothes washing place). Very few tourists, if any, come here and as such there are great portraits to be made. The fishing village will also give us a chance to practice our street photography skills and our Instax printers will probably make over time!

Day 05, March 21

In the morning, we’ll visit Varanasi’s bustling flower market, another colourful experience. Plenty of opportunity for street-style and lit portraits or even long exposure shots transforming the business into a beautiful blur. In the afternoon we take it easier. Because you will have been shooting rather frantically for the past days, we know that by now, you might want some downtime, either to rest or to simply download your cards and process some images. Obviously, Matt and I are available to review images or give you some postprocessing ideas. And if you can’t get enough, you can obviously continue to explore the city by yourself. Feel free to use our lighting gear and our fixer will happily join you.

Day 06, March 22

Today is another early riser! But one with tremendous photographic opportunities as we’ll visit one of Varanasi’s mud wrestling schools, followed by an exploration of a huge vegetable market. Both are visual feasts: one is a harmonious and subtle game of different shades of brown, while the vegetable market is simply an explosion of colours, unless, like me, you prefer to desaturate your images a little in postproduction. It’s all a matter of personal preference, really.

Day 07, March 23

Varanasi’s fish and chicken market are a feast for a photographer’s eyes, although maybe less for the other senses! In the afternoon, depending on the group’s interest, we’ll either explore Varanasi’s Muslim area, with the sari weaving district, or we might head out to another nearby village.

Day 08, March 24 – Last day in Varanasi – Outbound flights

Alas, it’s time to go… but depending on your connections, there is still some time to shoot some more portraits or hunt for souvenirs for those of you who cannot return home empty-handed. After all, you would like your significant other back home to allow you to participate in future workshops, right? The official workshop program ends in Varanasi at noon on March 24th (or earlier that day, depending on your return flight). You will be brought back to Varanasi Airport and then it’s back home with a suitcase full of memories and a camera bag full of memory cards!

* Throughout our trip, you might hear us say ‘T.I.I.’ on occasion. This is short for ‘This Is India’, which means things don’t always go as planned. Therefore, the above itinerary is an approximation and is subject to change, both in terms of places or people visited and the days we do so. However, you will see there is no shortage of scenes and subjects!

Practicalities & Pricing & Early-bird discount

While most travel photography workshops have an 8:1 or even a 10:1 guest: instructor ratio, we have purposely limited the number of participants on this trip to only eight. With two instructors, this makes for an incredible 4:1 guest: instructor ratio. We, therefore, expect this Masterclass to sell out quickly. In fact, the February 2017 edition sold out within the hour. We regret that we cannot hold spaces: all eight spots will be allotted on a first come, first served basis.

This workshop is open to all levels of photographers using mirrorless or DSLR-style cameras who know the basics about operating their cameras. We’ve called this a ‘Masterclass’ because that’s what we want you to be by the time you return back home: a master of lighting, both available light and flash, and any mix in between.

The price for this portfolio-altering experience is $4,500. When you sign up and pay the deposit before September 1st, you receive a $250 discount, paying only $4.250.

What's Included?

What’s included: Just about everything.

  • Your stay in a shared double room. You can opt for a single room on the registration page (subject to availability).
  • The single room supplement is $975.
  • All meals and water during the tour
  • Airport transfer to and from Varanasi Airport
  • Services of English speaking local guides for sightseeing as per the program
  • Bicycle & Auto Rickshaw rides in Varanasi
  • Boat rides in Varanasi as per the program
  • Bottled water
  • Tuition by Matt and Piet
  • Model and fixer fees
  • Use of lighting gear during the workshop: although you can bring your own lighting equipment, you’re welcome to use ours.

What’s NOT included:

  • Any expenses of personal nature like tips, souvenirs, laundry, all beverages (except water), telephone calls, etc…
  • Any expenses caused by factors beyond our control like flight cancellation, roadblocks, vehicle malfunction etc…
  • Any travel, medical or evacuation insurance. We’ll require you to have travel and cancellation insurance and provide
  • Proof of that before the start of the workshop
  • Your international flight to and from Varanasi
  • Booking and payment policy

Workshop Leaders

Matt Brandon

Matt Brandon is a Malaysia based humanitarian and travel photographer, who collaborates with NGOs to tell their stories and to train their field staff to do the same. Well known as a photographer and international workshop instructor, Matt’s images have been used by clients and publications such as National Geographic Magazine, National Geographic Traveller, Asian Geographic, the BBC, Honda Motor Corporation, and Bombadier Transport Corporation, KLM Airlines and others. His photographic pursuits have taken him to the countries of Egypt, Tibet, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Maldives, Philippines, Malaysia to name a few. Matt is a Fujifilm X-Photographer for Malaysia. For more information on Matt, read his complete profile at PhotoShelter.

Piet Van den Eynde

Piet Van den Eynde (pronounced “Pete”) is a Belgian freelance photographer specializing in travel portraiture. As an Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Certified Expert, he has written five Dutch print books on Adobe Lightroom. He also wrote a comprehensive ebook on using flash on location: ‘Light It Up! Techniques for Dramatic Off-Camera Flash’. When he’s not travelling or writing, he’s recording video courses such as his six-hour ‘Photoshop for photographers’ course. He contributes articles to photography magazines and offers photographic training worldwide. In 2009, Piet threw his camera, a flash and an umbrella in his bicycle panniers and cycled 5000 miles through Turkey, Iran, India, and Indonesia. Piet will be teaching off-camera lighting skills as well as some Lightroom post processing throughout this workshop. Visit his website: morethanwords.be

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