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Sunday, June 1, 2008

The World Is Your Classroom

Photographic tours and workshops offer hands-on learning experiences with professional photographers in incredible and iconic locations

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Attending a top photographic workshop is more than a mere vacation, it's an opportunity to immerse yourself in a new location and learn skills that will pay off again and again. Photo workshops go beyond basics like how to use your histogram, getting the right exposure or the benefits of shooting on a tripod. A workshop is a way to hone your skills through hands-on learning in some of the best locations in the world for nature photography.

Rick Vanselow is the general manager of Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, a company that organizes photo safaris to some of the most exotic areas of the world. He describes what they do as photo tours with a professional photographer on call as a resource for the participants.

c“We offer a variety of types of tours. We have what we call our standard photo safaris, which go to places like China and Japan, and in winter to places like Glacier National Park, as well as other U.S. destinations. We also offer photo cruises. For the cruises, we sometimes go to some more remote and wild locations—Antarctica or Spitsbergen in Arctic Norway—and we also have one in the Galápagos Islands on a smaller scale.

c“They're really more photo tours, and the participants have the resource of a professional photographer who, in most cases, has been to the area and really knows it. The pro with the group is up on wildlife and the natural history of an area as well and can answer a lot of questions regarding species and behavior and things like that.”

The professional photographers who work with Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris help the photographers on the tour to take better photographs, as well as help them to be better in tune with the place and the animals they're photographing.

A company with a slightly different approach is Palm Beach Photographic Centre. Says Executive Director Fatima NeJame, “We're out shooting all day long every day from sunrise to sunset, and we don't just stay in one city. If we're in India, we go to five or six different cities altogether. So we're out traveling all day long during the day, taking pictures; and in the evening, we sit down and talk about photography and look at images. But even when we're in our bus driving around, if we have a long drive or something like that, we're also always talking about photography. We touch on anything the students want to know, whether it's composition or exposure or better ways of shooting.”

Jacque Boehm Steedle is founder and president of Strabo Photo Tour Collection, a company that leads workshops mainly to international locations such as Tuscany and Ireland, as well as the African Sahara. Strabo's workshops have a maximum of 12 participants, and the trips run from 10 days to two weeks.

Steedle describes how the group dynamic and learning level is dictated by the participants: “Some groups want a lot of instruction, some don't want that much, so we'll do as much or as little as we get requests for as far as instruction or lectures in the evening. During the daytime, participants are pretty much just out shooting, and the photography leader is out there to help them if they need help, and then during the evening, the instructor instructs and talks about different topics.”

Lindblad Expeditions offers what they call Expeditions, or exotic photo trips, each with 60 to 150 participants sailing away on one of their seven ships to places like the Arctic, Antarctica, Baja or the west coast of South America. The trips aren't seen as workshops, but more of ample opportunities to photograph various wildlife and landscapes while being accompanied by National Geographic's finest photographers.

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Ralph Lee Hopkins, the director of photo expeditions and a National Geographic photographer, says, “We try to get people beyond the technical and start out with the basics to get everyone up to speed, but then it's about learning about your subject. When teaching them to photograph wildlife, photographing dolphins is different than photographing flying birds. We try to compartmentalize the teaching to the different situations, and the beautiful thing about doing these on ships is that, every day, we're waking up in a different place, maybe with different subjects and different challenges.”

Nature's Image Photography Workshops focus workshops in the eastern part of the United States in places like West Virginia, Chesapeake Bay in Virginia and several other states.


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