What to Expect
Workshops typically start on the evening of the first day of the workshop, with introductions and orientation, and then we go into full swing the next morning. Workshops usually end after the morning shoot on the last day. This is just typical.
Except for strictly field workshops, I usually try to have two or three afternoon or evening critique/teaching sessions. These are often in a classroom situation, though if the group is small, we'll often do most of the teaching in the field and/or a hotel room. I've also got handouts to supplement teaching programs. I teach based on digital SLR and 35mm film cameras. I teach both film and digital techniques, including Photoshop and Lightroom. In the field I try to demo any techniques I've talked about in class, and I help participants practice those techniques.
As a workshop participant you should know a few basic things about your camera and photography in general. Here are a few things you should know how to do:
- How to get your camera into the different exposure modes, like Manual and Aperture Priority
- How to set aperture and shutter speed
- How aperture and shutter speed work together to make an exposure
- How to change your camera's ISO setting
- How to access your camera's histogram
You should be able to find most of these in your camera's manual. For more, check out my Back to Basics series or pick up a copy of John Shaw's Nature Photography Field Guide.
Make sure you're bringing what you need to the workshop. Here's a handy list to get you started.
A typical day starts with getting up early for a sunrise shoot (really, really early in late spring and summer) that usually lasts for a couple of hours or a long as the light lasts. Depending on the location we might go to a mid-morning shoot or break for breakfast/brunch/lunch.
Mid-day, when the light isn't at its best is reserved for classroom teaching and critiques or naps. Naps are good. Especially in mid-June when you're getting up at insane o'clock and going to bed at stupid o'clock.
Late afternoon we head out again for a late light location. Dinner is usually before or after, depending on the time of year and the location. Some people bring dinner with them. Meals are usually on your own though often the group will eat together.
Some locations are more conducive to mid-day shooting and some to early and late shooting and some to both. Weather can change plans and participants need to be flexible. The main point is that the schedule will be driven mainly by location conditions and weather.
Teaching sessions are driven by the needs of the participants. Subjects may include, but are not limited to
- Composition and seeing
- Photographing with digital processing in mind
- Focus stacking and exposure blending
- Using graduated neutral density filters
- Using the Depth of Field Preview button
- Hyperfocal technique for wide angle landscapes
- Using Live-view
- Close-up techniques
- Stupid Tripod Tricks
- Lightroom and Photoshop
Critiques are very laid back and informal, though the critiques are honest and we offer suggestions on how an image can be improved. More importantly, I offer things to think about for the next time you find yourself in a similar situation. After the group gets to know each other, critique sessions evolve (or devolve, depending on your viewpoint) into group discussions. It can be a lot of fun. Digital files are preferred for critiques. If you bring slides, please also bring a way to view them, like a small light table and loupe.
Speaking of critiques, it's a lot more valuable if you bring images that you have questions about or images that just didn't work for some reason. Bringing just your top notch images may get oohs and ahhs, but you may not learn anything from that.
In the field I'll sometimes set up shots to demonstrate different techniques, but usually I'm looking through your cameras and making suggestions or asking questions. I don't do much shooting during workshops unless it's to set something up to share with the group.
My goal in teaching is to help you improve your photography for a lifetime, not to get you a few pretty shots; pretty shots are easy to get if you have an instructor by your side. My aim is for you to get photographs you’ll always be proud of.