Ruzdi Ekenheim scores the winning image from STC Santorini 2017

The photography seminars by Shoot the Centerfold Inc. (STC) are well-known for taking place in the most beautiful locations all around the world. But how does it feel to be a participant of these seminars and what can you learn?
Here is an excerpt of an interview by STC with Ruzdi Ekenheim, participant of the STC Santorini Seminar 2017:

STC: Congratulations for creating the best image from STC Santorini 2017 which will be featured in an ad campaign for Hensel Lighting Solutions.

Ruzdi: Thank you! This is just freaking awesome! And getting picked up as a winner by STC and Hensel, the kings of lighting sources and shapers! Am I lucky or was it carefully calculated photography? Either way, thanks, STC!

The winning image was chosen based on the following photographic elements:

  • Quality as it pertains to a level of commercialism and the mainstream industry standards
  • Display of a powerful feeling of sexuality without being offensive
  • Lighting balance which demonstrates a great separation between highlights and shadows
  • Balancing natural light and strobe light
  • Posing of the human form to demonstrate power, presence, and style
  • A mutual decision between the STC editors and Hensel Germany’s CEO and marketing department.

Equipment used

Hensel EH Mini P Head for Porty L
Hensel Porty L 1200 flash generator
Hensel Grand 120 Parabolic Softbox
One A-Stand
Canon EOS 5DS R with Canon 24-70mm

Instructors: Jarmo Pohjaniemi and Ales Bravnicar
Styling, Hair & Makeup: Mary Alejo


STC: We would like to believe that luck is on our side, but luck has very little to do with mastering photography and lighting.
Any thoughts about some of the key elements that made this picture come alive?

Ruzdi: To be very honest, I remember exactly how things worked out for me during this shoot. As I was looking thru the viewfinder I saw the clouds open up, and the sun rays came right though; the entire scene changed in front of my eyes, so I quickly repositioned myself, re-composed the frame so that pole was going straight into the light from the sun rays.

I quickly shot 12-15 frames and then the sun rays were gone. I was thinking, “It doesn’t get better than this,” so I stopped shooting all together at this set. What made it come together? Great location, model, sky, and the incredible flash unit we used. It just did its job, over and over again. You know the feeling when everything works out for you? It was pure magic, and I have the proof to show it.

STC: The camera settings used to create this shot surprised many STC Santorini attendees: 1/200 Sec @ f/18 ISO 100. Did it seem like an odd choice at first?

Ruzdi: Yes, I was surprised as well. But after understanding the lighting philosophy and how to overpower the ambient light and perfectly balancing the storm clouds and visible highlight-streaks, which created the powerful combination of magical cloud symphony, it made sense. What’s interesting to me is that we only used one Hensel EH Mini P flash head with a Porty L 1200 power pack and created such stellar results.

I had been discussing each set and settings with Jarmo previously, why this, why that and so on. But there’s logic to it.

It proves that you need to know your equipment and have a mindset about what you want to accomplish. We used one flash head the entire week! It was incredible, you know, Jarmo is famous for using 11 lights, so this was a great lesson in how to use single flash head and get a result like this.

STC: There we were on the cliff with one the most incredible viewpoints in Santorini. Would you return to Santorini one day and shoot some more images?

Ruzdi: Yes, without hesitation. There are lots of beautiful places to shoot around the globe. But Santorini scores high in its variety of shooting locations. I don’t think I have ever been in a place with so many shooting sites in the same city.

STC: This was your second STC rodeo. What have been some of the most valuable lessons that you’ve taken home?

Ruzdi: I think that the right mindset, pre-production and then the final execution which becomes easy when you ready yourself in advance and do your homework. Also, lighting and how important is to find the right lighting angle and balance. I cannot express enough about the importance of preparation, knowing your gear (read the freaking manual), walk the extra mile, get a makeup & hair artist and a stylist, and all of this will show its importance in the results. And honestly, this was what came through in both events.

STC: Would you consider another round of STC in the future? It seems that there is another boutique seminar of epic proportions announcing soon! Hint, hint!

Ruzdi: Of course. But having said that and the above on preparation and what made the picture work out, I must advise others to prepare themselves as well. Give it serious thought regarding what you, as a photographer, want to bring back home with you. It’s a significant event and not for everybody. To me, this is a serious investment in my photography business. I cannot go halfway around the world without a fruitful outcome, and I didn’t. I might have sounded way curious with a million questions, and I sure got back a million answers.

If I just want to shoot models for the sake of shooting models, well then I can join a Meetup group. The seriousness of STC was a huge draw for me.

STC: How was it to work with Ksenia Belousova, the model in the winning image? After all, she is not just your average model, but a top model from Guess campaigns and numerous other high profile modeling jobs.

Ruzdi: Let’s not fuss about it. Ksenia and all the other models were pros. I cannot expect anything else from STC. The models have to be top notch, and they expect us to be the same in behavior, etc. But the best thing is that they are kind to all the photographers, regardless of photography skill level and knowledge.

STC: What advice would you give photographers who are trying to make it in the industry?

Ruzdi: Be true to yourself. If you are still struggling with f-stops, ISO, shutter speed and the instruction manual for your gear, there might be a chance that photography is not for you. However, if you have passed the manual IQ test and are still on the bandwagon to make it, do not be afraid of revising what you are shooting.

Perhaps you will be more lucky with shooting weddings, families, headshots and so on. If you cannot interact with models, assistants, etc., try shooting products. There are a million things you can shoot with your camera, but first and foremost, be true to yourself. Your ambition and reality might not be compatible all the time.

Another bit of advice would be to strive to be the best possible you can on things that you can get on your hands, focus your efforts and practice every freaking day. If you have no models, practice on a small statue or a mannequin. There are no excuses for not practicing. Practice lighting on your sneakers, watch or anything that’s available to you. It’s not always about the subject. It’s about the light and shadows.

STC: What advice would you give photographers who are considering going to STC seminars?

Ruzdi: Never discount any situation big or small. The power of learning is wisdom that can take you to the next level. It worked well for me. Go to the local STC event first. See, watch, and network with STC and other participants. Sometimes there are just as many amateurs like you and me. Some are pros, and some are advanced professionals.

Make a plan and ask yourself what do you want to learn? Listen to the instructors. You are going to be learning because they obviously did not get to the point in their career by doing nothing.
Choose your seminar/workshops based on the track records of the instructors instead on sex-appeal and sales speeches! Do your homework!

STC: You now have stellar images from STC Santorini 2017 in your portfolio. And not just images, but a tear-sheet that will smile at you for rest of your life. Congratulations.

Ruzdi: Thank you. See you in Flores, Indonesia in November. I have more campaigns to shoot!


Name: Ruzdi Ekenheim
Location: Belgrade
Camera: Canon EOS 5DS R
Favorite lens: Canon 24-70mm and Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM
Favorite photography styles: Glamour, landscape, and wildlife.
Computer & editing software: MacBook Pro + 27” Mac monitor, LR/PS plus starting with C1


Use of text & photos with kind permission by Shoot the Centerfold Inc.
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