The past month has been a very interesting time for me, photographically. I co-led an “on location” workshop in one of my favorite areas – Charleston, South Carolina and environs. We had a great group of participants, and in addition to a number of afternoon “educational” sessions, every day we were out shooting and working on various techniques to improve photographs. There are few locations that provide the variety of photographic opportunities like Charleston – from tree-lined drives of ancient oaks, to coastal scenes with skeleton trees in the surf, to 18th century cemeteries, to a modern bridge that stands in contrast to the beautiful and interesting historic downtown district.
A few weeks after the workshop, we had an evening get-together with the participants and reviewed photographs. One of the things I like most about teaching is that I always learn from the participants. Charleston was no exception. We saw wonderfully creative photographs made with DSLRs, iPhones and infrared-converted cameras, and even though shooting was from similar locations, the variety and quality of the photographs was extremely impressive. A huge thanks to the participants, Sarah, Chuck, Carol, Dawn, Willem, John N., John S., Silvia and Melissa and to my co-leader, Colleen.
Less than 24 hours after the Charleston workshop ended, I was on a plane to California to ATTEND a workshop led by two of the finest photographers and educators in the U.S., Charlie Cramer and John Sexton. It was an intense 5 days of images being critiqued, Charlie and John sharing their incredible wisdom, 2 sessions in the darkroom seeing how John, a true master of traditional printing, does his magic, and having John and Charlie each sharing dozens of their printed photographs. Being surrounded, day after day with some of the most beautiful photographs I’ve ever seen was inspirational and provided a constant reminder of what is possible. John was Ansel Adams’ photographic assistant and technical consultant from 1979-1984, and because of his long-standing relationship with the Adams family, we had the privilege to visit Ansel Adams’ home and darkroom and to be hosted by his daughter-in-law, Jeanne Adams. To be surrounded by Ansel Adams’ masterpieces and to see the actual equipment he used to translate his vision onto silver gelatin paper was something I will never forget. Talk about being inspired! The workshop I attended with John Sexton and Charlie Cramer was the highlight of the dozens of workshops I have attended in the last decade.
I try to attend 2-3 workshops a year because as a photographer, you can never stop learning. Have you ever heard of photography being compared to fruit? Like fruit, when photographers stop growing, they rot! Well folks, you heard it here! I carefully select the workshops I attend; first and foremost is based on who is the instructor. Then I consider what I think the main benefit of the workshop will be: 1)new techniques learned, 2)honing one’s artistic abilities 3)field shooting, 4)motivational. While many workshops have some degree of each of these characteristics, I’m looking for the main focus of the workshop and want an instructor(s) who is the absolute best for that particular focus.
To grow, we must constantly learn and challenge ourselves. Remember, photography is like fruit …