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Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Learning Together

Photo workshops connect you to world-class instructors and fellow photographers for hands-on experience that will invigorate your photography

Digital Exposure EssentialsNo matter which photographic workshop you attend, you’re going to learn a lot—from the group leader as well as from your fellow workshop attendees. But don’t expect the knowledge to come in a series of bite-sized chunks like the photo tips you might share over a diet soda with a fellow photographer. Sure, you’ll encounter the basic pointers, like when to use a polarizer and how to determine which white-balance setting to use. But overall, the experience is much deeper than that. Attending a top photographic workshop is a bit like attending cooking school—the education gives you a recipe for lifelong photographic enjoyment, not merely advice regarding what spices to use to kick up a dish.

Jacque Boehm Steedle is founder and president of the Strabo Photo Tour Collection. She named her company after the Greek geographer and historian who was born in 27 B.C. She explained that students benefit in ways too broad to be described as a "tip."

"Our photographers help people look at things differently," Steedle said. "They begin seeing things in a different way, photographing in a different way. Our professional encourages them, and the students begin looking at things other people don’t see. They develop a new vision by opening up their mind a little bit, looking at things from a different perspective."

"Sure, there are suggestions every instructor makes for different situations—regarding light balance, exposure, composition and so forth, but those are only suggestions to get people started," said Ron Rosenstock, a workshop leader for Strabo. He should know. He’s been leading photo workshops since 1967, possibly longer than anyone else in the business.

"Basic tips are especially helpful for beginners who are slightly intimidated by the new technology," Rosenstock continued. "It also gives more-advanced people something to think about and perhaps try it their way as well as mine and make the comparison and choice for themselves. My goal is to help people discover their own vision. I often start my groups with a quote from the 14th-century German theologian, Meister Eckhart: 'The artist is not a special kind of man, but every man is a special kind of an artist.'

Kathy Adams Clark, also a Strabo instructor and president-elect of NANPA (North American Nature Photography Association), says that students learn more from each other than they do from the instructors. "Get to know all of the people on the tour and talk to them," she told us. "Listen to them, and learn from them. Everyone there has an expertise in some aspect of photography."

She passes tips to her students. For example, she tells them that adding metadata to their important images will help them find specific shots years later. But Clark’s instruction is generally less concerned with technical things and more centered on the subjects’ behavior. As a world-class bird photographer, she teaches her students how to improve their images by studying the way the birds behave. That’s knowledge that will help them improve their photo techniques for years to come.

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