Photo workshops connect you to world-class instructors and fellow photographers for hands-on experience that will invigorate your photography
By Jon Sienkiewicz
Rosenstock agrees. He says, "I want to get people over the technical hang-up of feeling that because they don’t know everything that their camera can do, that they are held back. Keep it simple! Depth of feeling is far more important than depth of field."
Fatima NeJame is executive director of the Palm Beach Photographic Centre, an organization that produces approximately 150 workshops per year. They have a loyal following of students, and many of them return every year. NeJame believes that the number-one thing people learn at photographic workshops is how much more they need to learn—in a positive way. She explained that because there are so many photographic possibilities, no one will ever run out of new things to learn.
"A workshop is the only place where people can freely exchange knowledge with peers who have a similar interest," NeJame told us. "It’s not about one instructor; it’s about all of the people who attend. Friendships are created that last forever. People spend five to seven days together, and it’s such a positive experience that can be found nowhere else."
"The number-one thing that a photographer learns by participating in a Lindblad/National Geographic workshop is what makes a good photograph in the first place," said Ralph Lee Hopkins, director of Photo Expeditions for Lindblad Expeditions. Lindblad was founded by Sven-Ol of Lindblad in 1979. About three years ago, they formed a strategic alliance with the National Geographic Society to create an enhanced educational platform.
"A good travel or nature photograph has impact if it records a special or unique moment in time," Hopkins continued. "Sometimes these moments are rare gifts that present themselves—like a rainbow or a breaching whale. Or they can be more subtle, as simple as a smile or an interesting interaction between people."
Technique matters, he told us, and it’s important to know how the equipment operates, but success usually stems from hard work and practice. "Capturing the moment comes from developing a knack for being in the right place at the right time," Hopkins explained, "along with the patience to see a photo opportunity through."
Sometimes the lessons you’ll learn at a workshop sound more like life lessons, and indeed they should. Joe Englander, founder of Joe Englander Photography Workshops & Tours, specializes in small groups of six or fewer people. He conducts about a dozen excursions a year, mostly to India, China and Japan. His favorite destination is Bhutan, a place he’s been visiting for 17 years. According to Englander, photographers must conquer themselves before they can conquer their subject. "Slow down and look until you can see," he said profoundly. "The most important thing is to slow down and look. Cameras can take pictures, but it takes a photographer to make a photograph."
We asked Eddie Soloway, an instructor for the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops, to reveal the one big tip a student might learn at his workshop. He confirmed that workshops are less about hardware and more about "headware." He replied, "I would expect that, upon chatting with your neighbor, you might say something like, 'Before I took the workshop, I was overwhelmed by all the stuff—the cameras, the computers, the software—it’s all everyone seems to talk about. But now I feel confident that it is my eye that matters. That’s what photography is really about: seeing."
Elizabeth Stone, a workshop leader for the Rocky Mountain School of Photography, is someone you want to meet. She offers a practical, universally useable photo tip based on what she tells her workshop students. Too many of us grab a shot and wander away, content that we have captured the best of the subject—but in too many instances, we didn’t. There’s a lot more meat on the bone, and Stone teaches her students how to render it. She calls it "working the scene." Once you have identified a suitable subject, Stone asks you to engage it—to the fullest extent.