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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Inside A High-End Workshop


In April 2009, we sent a photographer to Frans Lanting’s workshop to give OP readers a sense of what a multiday workshop with a top pro is like. There’s much more than just learning how to use your camera.

Labels: How-Toworkshops

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By 9:30 a.m., the sun is high in the sky—time to return to the studio to process our images and do our final edits for the presentation of our photo essays. One after another, the students project photo essays that demonstrate what a success these past few days of intense photographic immersion have been.

As the workshop participants say their good-byes, Lanting shares with me some thoughts about the previous four days. “These workshops are about a lot more than photography. Participants open themselves up creatively, but ultimately, it’s about who they are themselves. People make themselves vulnerable, and sometimes I get really choked up emotionally by what I see. I want to come up with a response that is nurturing, that is critical, that is positive.

“I like to teach people how to think visually, to take people away from a preoccupation with the hardware and software of photography and focus their minds and their hearts on what’s in front of them and how they’re connecting with that. We don’t ignore technical instruction. You have to know how to expose and how to deal with the picture after the initial digital capture. These things are essential, but it’s not what motivates people to get into photography. It’s a means to an end. They want to connect with the world in some way. Photography is a hybrid activity. It requires analytical and technical skills, but it also requires creativity, being able to think visually and metaphorically. They connect the two different halves of our brains. It requires the ability to go back and forth to make photographs that work creatively as well as technically. People come out of our workshop feeling empowered, refreshed, stimulated and with a full bag of new techniques and creative shortcuts. It’s very rewarding to see people grow.”

The workshop ended Sunday, but the lessons learned will last a lifetime, and some of the photographs taken during this inspiring five-day period, for eternity.

Workshops Closer To Home
By Rob Sheppard

A mind-blowing, weeklong workshop can be exactly what you need to boost your photography, but the cost might also be beyond your budget. Don’t despair! There are shorter, less expensive options that also can take your work to new levels.

One- or two-day, local or regional workshops have become popular all across the country. You can learn everything from working with a particular camera to using software and more.

Benefits to a short workshop or seminar go beyond lower cost. For example, they require less of a time commitment and they’re typically scheduled on weekends so you don’t lose work time. Because they’re designed for local areas, you often can attend with friends, and you don’t have travel or overnight expenses.

You’ll get excellent information that’s also usually locally applied. Plus, you’ll meet people from the area who have similar photographic interests to your own, and you can expand on the workshop by sharing favorite shooting locations, for example.
These are very real options that I know because I’ve participated in such classes and events. I can’t tell you all the places to look for such workshops, but based on my actual experience, I can give you an idea of what you can find. For example, this past year, I was involved with the NANPA Road Shows (from the North American Nature Photography Association) that featured three speakers over a weekend. These will continue with a whole new set of photographers in 2010, in locations across the country (www.nanpa.org).

In addition, many regional travel groups now offer photography classes at their special events, such as the Nature and Birding FotoFest in St. Augustine, Fla., each April (www.getaway4nature.com). Check with your local travel and area promotion bureau to learn more. Larger camera stores offer many programs to help support their customers. I’ve done classes for Paul’s Photo in Torrance, Calif., for example, because it’s close to my home. Many pros will do similar programs in their local areas. Check with your local camera stores to find out what they might be offering, and if they aren’t offering anything, challenge them to come up with weekend programs like Paul’s Photo (www.paulsphoto.com).

Camera clubs can be another resource. For example, the Georgia and Carolinas’ Nature Photographers Associations (www.gnpa.org and www.cnpa.org) both offer local and regional events of one to two days and bring in nationally known speakers to their yearly conferences. Many camera clubs also will work with local pros to create unique daylong programs on specific topics. You’ll often find that their workshops are posted at local camera clubs.

Finally, check out camera-equipment manufacturers for sponsored workshops in your area. Nikon has a long tradition of weekend instruction seminars with its Nikon School, which travels around the country, for example. Canon doesn’t have a specific school, but it sponsors top photographers at special events in many locations. Tamron offers a Road Series of classes in many cities around the U.S. Search the website of your favorite manufacturer and see what they may be offering.

To find the best workshop for you, check out the OP Travel and Workshops section on page 102 in this issue or go to the Travel and Workshops section of the OP website: www.outdoorphotographer.com/travelandworkshops.

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