Want to know what it looks like to be INSIDE one of my workshops? Well, now you know. Was able to spend four hours with design students at University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. I love teaching students, working with students, etc, They have all the good stuff in front of them and it’s cool to be able to shine whatever light I can on being a photographer, being a professional(Whatever that means) and on life in general. On tap for this day was planning shoots and how to make a great portrait. As you can see from the middle image….we studied LIGHT. The college is located near the coast and the so beautiful ocean which I did glimpse from the car at one point. Thanks to the human hurricane that is Matt Haynes for putting it together.
I’m still buzzing after returning from Peru and the “Peru in Book Form” workshop, and now I am happy to announce the upcoming “Beyond the Snapshot” workshop in Santa Fe, New Mexico July 18-24th.
There are literally hundreds of workshops to choose from these days, and in the coming years, due to the current economic situation, my guess is there will be hundreds more, but Santa Fe is the real deal when it comes to the workshop experience.
I know this because I have personally taken two workshops in Santa Fe, and have personally taught two more. I also live part time in Santa Fe, and I know what the surrounding area has to offer in terms of subject matter, landscape and the best light of anywhere I have been in the entire world. It is THAT good.
Like a movie location that becomes a character in the film, WHERE you take a workshop can be incredibly important depending on what your goal is. I currently have a long-term project underway in New Mexico, something I have been working on for a year and have only begun to scratch the surface of what this place is really all about.
Being here, phone off(encouraged), email off(encouraged) and fully involved in your subject matter of choice is a wonderful way to shed the distractions of your natural habitat and actually learn to be a better photographer.
Much can happen in a full week of concentration.
My workshop experience in Santa Fe came during my time working at Eastman Kodak. Kodak, at that time, sponsored the workshop, in part, and were given a few free slots for employees. One day, out of the blue, I got an email saying, “By the way, anyone wanting to take a workshop in Santa fe, go ahead and sign up.” I thought it was a joke, but luckily for me, it wasn’t.
My first workshop was with Chris Rainer, a black and white documentary photographer who was a printer for Ansel Adams. We looked at tons of work, studied prints, talked about the thought process behind making great pictures, and spent much time in the field.
My second workshop experience was with Robb Kendrick, a Texas-based photographer who spends much of his time working for The National Geographic. Not only did we learn about making long-term projects, but we also got much one on one time with Robb(invaluable) and also picked up his favorite recipe for margaritas, which helps any long-term project reach maximum velocity. Robb and I remain friends, and still talk on a regular basis.
I am also still friends with several fellow students who are now working full-time as photographers.
So when I was asked to teach at the workshops, I came into the situation knowing full well what was required, but also what was possible during a week in Santa Fe.
“Beyond the Snapshot” came about for several reasons. First, modern photography is filled with complicated machinery, the cameras, and complicated post-production, the software. I noticed that many of my students were somewhat lost in the creative process because they were spending far too much time on everything except actually making great images.
Sometimes, based on the “ease” we can now make images, we are fooled into thinking that just because an image is made with the latest, greatest camera, and processed with the latest, greatest software, that our images are all the latest and the greatest.
Great images, for the most part, do not happen by accident, and have little to nothing to do with camera or software. Great images come from the right light, timing and composition, and from putting yourself in the position to make them. Doing this requires, thought, planning, vision and the ability to lose yourself in your work.
THIS is what “Beyond the Snapshot” is all about.
Like I said, I taught this class last year, so I have a track record with what I think we can accomplish, but also what I want to do differently. This year, my plan is to have the students dive into ONE project for the entire week. Last year, as many workshops do, we bounced from place to place, topic to topic, in a more random pattern. Doing this provides a certain type of image, and is a great learning experience because as a photographer you are thrown into new situations on a daily basis and forced to make images. This experience was similar to my first getting a job at a newspaper and being given a range of assignments on a daily basis, all different. I learned a TON in a short time. Trial by fire if you will.
But, much of the work that was lasting in my life came from returning to the same people, place or story, again and again, and building a more in-depth body of work.
Often times, when I’m showing work, I get questions about making certain images. How I got into a certain place, or how I got someone to let me into their life at a very personal level. Well, it comes from trust and from spending the time. There is no substitute for time and access.
So this year, in Santa Fe, students will be given the chance to find something they relate to and spend the entire week getting to know the story. Personally, I can’t wait.
So as an example of what you can expect, I thought I would include a few images I made during last year’s take on “Beyond the Snapshot.” We stumbled upon this man, James, and he was kind enough to allow myself, and several workshop students, to photograph him.
James is a well driller and sometimes uses equipment from the 1950’s. Mud, water, noise, drill bits, a little dog and a daring guy makes for great images.
All of these images were made within about a thirty minute shoot, perhaps less. So imagine what you can do, as a student, with an entire week to dive into a project.
But Dan, what am I going to shoot? Well, funny you should ask. Both times I took workshops in Santa Fe I had researched the area prior to coming, and had a story ready to go once I hit town. This was a HUGE advantage when it came to producing work. The way I viewed it was that I had near private access to a major photographer for an entire week, so the more work I could produce, the more work I could show this photographer, and the class, and get as much feedback as possible.
So I have a list of ideas for this area, but I highly encourage students to do their own research. One bit of advice I got early on in my career was, “Focus on stories you are interested in.” Sounds simple, makes a huge difference.
So, you know more about you than I do, so if you can make some inquires, study the area and find a few possible stories, I think you will be ahead of the game. And remember, a story does not have to be as specific as one person. A story can be broad, such as color as mood, or as narrow as you want to be, such as the intersection of two country roads, or a local painter.
This workshop is designed to challenge you, and to help you find your voice, your vision and your style. The idea is to explore and expand your mind and your photography skill, all the while having fun, eating chili and looking down the dirt roads of the unknown.