Thursday, May 13, 2010

February 2010 - Colorado Xplore Column

Cabin fever must be striking the photography community in Ft Collins. In the past month I’ve received several emails asking for my thoughts on locations, classes and workshops. Apparently I must not be the only one filling out dates for the months ahead. For the most part, I go solo on trips as I find wildlife photography harder to do well in large numbers. However, I really enjoy and look forward to attending a couple of photo workshops each year. It’s a relaxing activity shared with others who have a similar passion.

From my experience workshops break down into a couple of categories:
Skill workshops focus on a specific skill or technique. Some workshops are categorized by level (i.e. basic, intermediate, etc.). Others offer instruction in a specific technique. For example sunrise, sunsets, people, or macro photography. These workshops are great if you’re looking to build base knowledge or a go deeper with a specific technique.

Location workshops are my favorite. These are opportunities to visit a great location with an instructor or leader that is intimately familiar with photographing the location. There is usually a classroom session where topics and techniques for that location are covered. The rest of the time is spent in the best spots shooting during the best light. If you’ve ever wanted to visit a location, but were hesitant due to logistics and options, a location workshop is a great choice.
Workshops will shorten your learning curve with new techniques or locations. Working in a small group gives you the opportunity to share ideas and results with others. In most situations the instructor sets aside time to review your work. As a result, you get lots of feedback and you can then apply your learnings to the next day when you go back out.

So how do you find a photo workshop? There are lots to choose from. A Google search the will return thousands of results. You can start there and narrow it down to an area that is of interest. Another great resource is photography associations. Many of these organizations have forums where members post upcoming events. Rocky Mountain Nature Association ( in Estes Park offers dozens of courses that begin in May and run throughout the summer.
Making sure it’s top notch takes a little more work:

• Start by asking to speak with someone who’s attended the workshop. Get clarification on the instructor's experience and style of teaching.
• Confirm what the workshop includes, and what it doesn’t. Lodging, meals and transportation are key considerations, especially if your location is remote or if you have particular needs.
• Ask for an equipment list ahead of time. Don’t worry if you don’t have everything they recommend. Many local camera retailers have a rental department.
• Practice before you go. Re-acquaint yourself with your camera, the settings, the manual and your accessories. In the darkness of morning, on location, is not the time to find out a filter is missing or that you can't remember the menu choice to bracket a shot.
• Pack the right clothing. Weather offers mood to a photograph and often the best images come during the most uncomfortable weather.

Feel free to send me an email if you are looking for additional information. Remember that the best cure for cabin fever is planning for Spring outings and Spring is right around the corner!

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