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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

Learning Together
"Take the first shot that you see and then draw an imaginary five-foot box around where you are standing," she explained. "From [within] that box—or you can move out of the box if you have to—take many more photographs (a roll of film, 50 digital images—whatever). Explore the scene. Consider it from many different angles and viewpoints. Try different lenses, different depth-of-field settings, different filters, white-balance settings—and try many different compositions. Ask yourself, what do I really want to say about this subject? What do I want to express? The more time we spend getting to know our subject and understanding what we want to capture, the more likely we’ll achieve success with our camera."

Tom and Pat Cory, instructors for Strabo Photo Tour Collection, emphasize the importance of learning to be flexible. "People going on a workshop are often going because they have seen beautiful images of a location in magazines, coffee-table books and so forth," Pat told us. "They often want to make their own photograph of that scene. But the weather or lighting will most certainly be different. And this may be a once-in-a-lifetime visit to this location. So the trick is not to go away discouraged, but to see if there’s another way to make the image or to look around to see if the current conditions favor some other subject."

Sometimes this leads to even bigger and better things. "For example," she continued, "we’ve had clients who had never photographed in the rain before. They are sometimes amazed that the flowers at their feet, covered in raindrops, may be just as magical and beautiful as the mountain that they came to photograph. Looking around to see what else is there and what new opportunities are presenting themselves can be a 'wow‚’ experience and expand one’s vision, creativity and appreciation for the beauty and variety of our world."

If you attend a workshop led by Roger Devore, who is cofounder (along with Lonnie Brock) of The Nature Workshops, you’ll spend some time in the classroom learning about the technical side of photography. For example, Brock told us that he teaches his students about histograms, file formats and various other digital topics. However, more time is spent examining composition and other creative aspects. In fact, Devore encourages his students to use a tripod so that he can review their composition on their camera’s LCD monitor.

Jeff Kida leads tours for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops and has been a regular contributor to Arizona Highways magazine for 20 years. We asked him to recount the single most exceptional photo tip a person can learn by attending his workshop.

"A person learns how they can make their images more effective and powerful by refining composition," he said. And he explained in detail how he uses constructive critiques to help photographers improve. It’s a polishing process, and he does it very conscientiously.

"Personally, I don’t like to be too overbearing as to how to compose and shoot," he said. "I’d rather take my cues from someone’s natural inclination and work with it. I rarely pick the strongest images to discuss. I’ll point them out initially during my editing process but then move on to the near successes. Using a laptop, a digital projector and Photoshop, I can immediately address lens selection, camera angle and cropping. With Photoshop, the changes that are made are immediate. These often are fairly subtle modifications. Get lower, move one way or the other, pay attention to how the different elements in a shot impact each other. During the critiques, I also try to emphasize the process of making a photograph as much as the final images. To me, the fun and my fondest memories have always come from the act [of taking the picture] itself. And successful photographs are a reminder of those wonderful times."

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