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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Workshop Diary

A global photographer gives us a feel for the agenda and flow of a high-end workshop when he treks to China with Art Wolfe

This Article Features Photo Zoom

A child in a field between Guilin and Yangshuo.
After a final day exploring the Guilin area, topped off by a photo session with cormorant fishermen, we head back to the hotel, where Wolfe critiques our top selections from the entire trip. Group critiques not only give workshop participants valuable feedback from Wolfe, but also a chance to see how different imagery can be from the unique perspectives of the other students. Jay Goodrich follows Wolfe with a presentation on how to get the most out of our images using Photoshop Lightroom.

Wolfe avoids the downside of workshop participants vying for the same shot by limiting the maximum amount of students. When it comes to a photography workshop, size matters. The smaller, the better, is the rule. A good workshop gives students the room to work on their own, without all of them encircling the same subject matter.

When one has the opportunity to share the road with master photographers such as Wolfe, who are so willing to share their knowledge, acute eye and experiences, it's vital to take them up on their suggestions.

Galen Rowell told me a story that demonstrates that while showing up is half the battle, you need to take advantage of opportunities when they arrive. In Tibet, after leading his workshop students on a long day of trekking, Rowell and his group witnessed a perfect rainbow arching down from the heavens. He asked, "Does everyone want to chase rainbows?" Too exhausted, none of his students joined him. He took off on foot down a road to line up one end of the rainbow with Lhasa's Potala Palace, where he captured one of his most memorable shots. The obvious lesson: While a master photographer can lead a group toward great opportunities, it's still the student who must take the drink from this fountain of knowledge.

We worked hard over those two weeks, and while the early wake-up calls were seldom appreciated, the photographic opportunities were. For many, the most important thing to take away from a workshop is to understand how thoroughly Wolfe, like other photographers at the top of their game, work a subject—how hard they push themselves, physically and mentally—and to see how they see what a lesser-trained or lesser-disciplined eye might miss.

A Chinese saying goes, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step." For those seeking to improve their photography, joining a workshop with a top pro can be a great leap forward.

To learn more about Art Wolfe's workshops, visit www.artwolfe.com

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