fog sunrise (1 of 1)

Shooting in Groups | A New Experience

When I first starting shooting on somewhat of a regular basis, it was all done with my iPhone 4s and alone.  I was living in Paris at the time and would be walking around and see something that would catch my eye and I would quickly capture the moment.  The more I would photograph, the more I was determined to improve my skills and learn how to properly use a camera.

I did some research and decided to purchase a Canon 70D just last September.  I have used a Canon many years before but only used it in fully automatic mode. I had no real technical background or an understanding of photography whatsoever!  I would encounter difficult situations that I didn’t know how to perform and decided it was time to get a better grasp on the basics of photography.  I enrolled in few beginner courses to educate myself enough to become familiar with my camera and the basic tools necessary to achieve my desired vision.

Glasgow, Scotland | Shot with iPhone 4s | October 2012 | Taken by Alyssa Black |

I moved back to Toronto kicking and screaming, in the fall of 2013.  A friend of mine Marni who I grew up with since elementary school, reached out to me and asked me if I wanted to shoot together.  She saw images of mine posted on Facebook and Instagram and said she was looking for someone to go out and photograph with.  I said, “yes” without any hesitation.  I thought if anything, it would be a great way to reconnect with an old friend and hopefully have the opportunity to come closer to mastering the skills involved with photography.

Amsterdam | Taken with Leica point and shoot | March 2013 | Taken by Alyssa Black |

Marni and I would discuss shooting locations and find the optimal time for lighting.  We would get to our location, set up and begin shooting.  Occasionally we would glimpse at the other person’s camera screen to see what shots they were executing and then proceed to share each others settings.  If we liked the other persons shot better than our own, we would adjust our perspective and change our settings.  Fortunately for both of us we own the same camera so it becomes a lot easier assisting each other.

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Absolute Towers aka. Marilyn Monroe buildings | Mississauga | Canada | Taken by Alyssa Black |
MM buildings  (1 of 1) copy
Taken by Marni Luftspring – Belavin |

It was great being able to bounce ideas off of one another.  It was also advantageous to see Marni’s images post processing.  It is always fascinating to be shooting at the same location, during the same time of day and frequently produce very different finished photos.  We would always compare our images after and help choose our favourites.  As well as give constructive criticism when necessary.  Marni is very good at knowing which settings to have the camera set at depending on the light and subject we were shooting.  Whenever I get frustrated or stuck in a situation, Marni is always selfless and sweet enough to offer her assistance.  As a matter of fact, it was Marni who suggested the topic for my article this week.

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Toronto skyline | Hanlan’s Island |13 sec at f / 10, ISO 100 | Taken by Alyssa Black |
cityscape marni
Taken by Marni Luftspring – Belavin |
kalle city
Taken by Kally Minakakis |
Taken by Teresa Marie Linstead |

A few months ago I became acquainted with another female photographer by the name of Kally.   She was telling me how the photography industry is still male dominated and would love to start shooting with some girls.  We decided to meet up one night to photograph during sunset.  It was myself, Marni, Kally and another girl by the name of Teresa. Kally often shot with Teresa.  I figured that the worst that could happen was we would never see these girls again if we didn’t like shooting with them.  To Marni and my surprise, Kally and Teresa were using photography lingo we were not at all familiar with and felt completely lost.  I felt like a complete amateur.  We were shooting at sunset and they were discussing bracketing their shots so that the lights wouldn’t blow out and Marni and I looked at each other like they were speaking another language.   Kally and Teresa explained what they were doing and Marni and I decided it was too much to absorb at that time.

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Niagara Falls | Ontario, Canada | By Alyssa Black |
falls marni
Taken by Marni Luftspring – Belavin |
fireworks kally copy
Taken by Kally Minakakis |
tree falls
Taken by Teresa Marie Linstead |

Marni and I had planned a trip to Niagara Falls, Canada and extended an invitation to the others.  They excitedly accepted.  We thought it would be great to be able to bounce ideas off one another and make a little girls’ getaway out of it.  We were planning to shoot at several locations before sunset but the sky was washed out and decided to wait to shoot until the light was better.  We ended up splitting up.  Marni and Teresa went to shoot macro, which Kally and I have no interest or patience doing.  Kally and I went to look for some interesting architecture. We all got along really well and for a group of girls, surprisingly there has never been any drama and never felt like we were in a competitive environment.

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Humber Arch Bridge | Etobicoke | Ontario, Canada | 30 sec at f / 6.3, ISO 100 | Taken by Alyssa Black
Taken by Marni Luftspring – Belavin |
Taken by Teresa Marie Linstead |

We quickly learned that each of us had our own strengths. It works out tremendously since if one of us needs assistance in one area, another person could likely help and vice versa.

Marni has a foundation in post processing as I mentioned earlier.  She has an understanding of how to manipulate an image.  She has a firm grasp on which lens to use and when which lens allows her to create a mixture of effects.   Marni is very versatile with her subjects. She generally doesnt stick to shooting just one genre which allows here the potential to grow and develop much quicker.

Kally stepped into photography coming from a graphic design background.  Having a foundation of graphic design allows her to have strong post processing skills and an understanding of the basic principles in composition and perspective.  With an advanced understanding of Lightroom and Photoshop, her ability to post process is without a doubt her strong suit.  None of the areas I excel in.

Teresa strongest suit is her patience and determination to execute the perfect image she has envisioned.  If she doesn’t, she has been known to go back to the same location and get the perfect image she visually sought after.  Teresa also takes the time to research all the necessary information needed to achieve her goal.  She always arrives at the location with a vision and a plan.  Similar to Marni, Teresa is versatile in her subjects and is open to try new things.  She is very knowledgeable and always eager to learn and be able to approach things with a opened mind.

Lastly, my strength is perspective and creative vision.  I can envision a photo in my mind and then execute the shot.  I am able to stand in one spot and produce different versions of the same subject. I have an understanding of movement and constantly thinking about the speeds of objects and when and where to capture them whether it be completely still or in motion.  I am always looking at the scene ahead and then trying to capture that with my camera.

Although we are shooting at the same locations, we often find that the images we choose to share rather differ from one anothers.  Not just the choice of perspective but in the way we each choose to post process our images.

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Ferris Wheel | Canadian National Exhibition | 5.0 sec at f / 8.0, ISO 100 | Taken by Alyssa Black
Taken by Marni Luftspring – Belavin |
kally ferris wheel
Taken by Kally Minakakis |
CNE Ferris Wheel tree
Taken by Teresa Marie Linstead |

If you compare all our images to each other, you will likely see a pattern in each ones photographs.  I feel as I shoot more and more with these girls, I have the desire to want to learn new techniques and continue to grow as a photographer.

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Foggy sunrise over Lake Ontario | Toronto | 54 sec at f / 11, ISO 100 | Taken by Alyssa Black |
Taken by Marni Luftspring – Belavin
fog tree
Taken by Teresa Marie Linstead |

I tend to like incorporating some sort of adventure in my shoots and strive to find something different which often poses a problem when you are shooting in the same city day after day.  The other girls always have a suggestion or a new idea to try out so it is nice to be able to get out of my comfort zone and experiment with new areas that I wouldn’t have thought of.

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Abandoned waterpark | Ontario Place | Toronto | 90 sec at f / 8.0, ISO 100 | Taken by Alyssa Black |
ontario-place-slide copy
Taken by Kally Minakakis |
slides tree
Taken by Teresa Marie Linstead |

I would have never anticipated that working in a group would have so many positive attributes.  Even more to my surprise, I never thought that I would make such great friends.  In just about less than a year I am happy with my progression of shooting only on an iPhone to then shooting on my dslr solely in automatic mode, to where I am today.  I owe a large part of my growth to all the wonderful people I have shot with and especially to my old and new friends:  Marni, Kally and Teresa who have helped mold me into the photographer I am today.  I hope that I have had such a positive influence on their knowledge of photography as they have had on mine.

Happy shooting!

Until next time,



Marni Luftspring – Belavin

Kally Minakakis

Teresa Marie Linstead