Photography Workshops

I get many emails asking me if I offer photography workshops and the answer remains the same. No.

This September I was in Jasper National Park taking photos near the outlet of the Maligne River on Medicine Lake. I had been up before the sun and trying to get a morning shot of the kind of yellow foliage while the light was low on the sky.

After a couple of hours when the sun had risen too high for my liking, I headed back to the Rav. Just as I was climbing up the embankment to get to the highway, I could hear a vehicle stop. That was unusual because there wasn’t any roadside pullout where I was parked and the first thing that comes to mind is vandalism.

So, I rushed up hill and what should I see but three adults get out of a vehicle.¬† The two older people, it looked like a husband and wife had cameras. The youngest of the group, a bearded man in his early thirties, I am guessing was talking to them. I wasn’t paying attention to them as I got my breath back and loaded my gear into my vehicle.

The couple pointed their cameras through the trees towards Medicine Lake and snapped a few frames. Without exploring any further they got into their van and headed off.

Was this a photography workshop or tour? From the body language of the small group, it definitely didn’t seem like the people were friends. Things seemed a bit formal or quiet.

I didn’t give it much thought other than that if photography was the purpose of the couples trip and not sight seeing, they weren’t getting their moneys worth.

So I got to thinking, what would I want from a photography workshop? Depending experience, we all have different needs. What would I want in a workshop if I was new to photography?

I think I would want to see my instructor taking photos. Choosing lenses, angle, light, etc. and be explaining the whys and wherefores while I shot along with him or her.

You really can learn a lot by studying someones photos. Much more than you might imagine. There is also much more that you can learn and so much quicker by seeing the photographer work.

When I took a two year photography course back in the seventies, a part of the course was work experience. This was where we spent time with an established photographer for a little while. Classrooms and books teach can only teach so much theory. To see someone put that theory into practice is a perfect complement to the books. It fills in the blanks.

Unless the guide the couple I saw that September morning was a tour guide only, I would have been disappointed for the services being supplied. If he was only a tour guide, he was doing an average guide. Any one can drive alongside the highway and stop. Save yourselves a few hundred dollars on the guiding and get some prints made or something like that.

There is a very funny thread going on over at another landscape photography blog this week. A case of the pot calling the kettle black. It’s all to do with someone criticizing the photos from a photography workshop. The blog owner, also the teacher of the workshop was clever, err, kind¬† enough to post a link to the person critical of the photographs. It turns out that he too, offers photography workshops.

The posts that followed had me smiling. You know the old saw, those that live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones? It applies in this case. Too funny.

Although it’s a good idea to look at a photographers body of work before you sign up for a workshop, that is not always indicative of how good a teacher they will be. Some teachers a blessed with an innate skill to make the foggy, obvious. To make the difficult appear simple.

And it is also true of the opposite. I’d be inclined to look for someone who takes great photos and take my chances that I might have some of their technique rub off on me.

Is this an introduction to my photography workshops? No. With a full time job designing and shooting during my spare time, teaching is the last thing on my mind. When I retire? I’d seriously think about it.

When I shot fashion and still life, I mentored photographers from the local photo school and really liked it. It was great to share what I knew with others who were learning like I was only a few years earlier. I did find that by verbalizing what I was doing, it became clear to me why I did things a certain way. Before it was an automatic thing. Never stopping to wonder why a light was placed here or an object was placed there in my composition

It’s 7:00 am on a Saturday and I am out the door for my girls volleyball tournament this morning. Another sunrise lost but what does that matter when compared to watching your children grow up?

Happy shooting and just generally living,


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~ by Dan Jurak on November 7, 2009.

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