Take note, that I am writing about workshop teachers, not tour guides.
I have my own opinion of what (at best) a workshop teacher should be. I believe their job is to teach you the basics of photography, A-Z, or as close as possible. How to expose and how to compose. They should effectively teach the participant, how to get the technical results they need, and be able to repeat that with a high degree of consistency. Secondarily, if time permits they should impart to you as much as possible, what they know about the color and direction of light, and expand on compositional tools and how to use them.
It is not the job of a workshop teacher to show you how to be an artist, however the best teachers with the most willing students, will be able to “free” you up to see both closer and farther away than what is your normal way of seeing. At best, they may be able to help you see a wider view of the world than you have previously seen, and a narrower view as well. On a good day, they will help you to see crisp and clear, but they will also help you to realize, that sometimes when you see things clear, you find the soft and dreamy parts that live inside.
When I taught multiple day workshops, and was having a good day(s), those thoughts above, were my goals. On a few occasions I was thrilled to have fulfilled those goals. No teacher, least of all me, is capable of that perfection every time out. I am not endorsing any of the workshops below. They are simply some of the “shops” that I discovered on the web. Sometimes great photographers make great teachers, and sometimes they don’t. The only real way to know, is to try them. Keep in mind, while I have taught many workshops, I have never taken one.
Dan Ballard. Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Iceland, France.
Horizon Workshops. Based in the eastern U.S. they have a variety of instructors. Most shops seem to be in their own region, but I noticed Ireland was also listed.
John Shaw Workshops. I have no personal knowledge of John’s workshops but he has been long recognized as one the world’s premier technical photographers. I can tell you that he is also an artist. He teaches all over the world.
Charle’s Glatzer’s Shoot The Light Workshops. Charles is a top wildlife photographer.
Michael Frye. I believe all of Michael’s shops are held in North America. I have heard good things about them, but once again, I have no personal knowledge.
Alan Blakely is a superb architectural photographer who holds workshops throughout North America. There are thousands of photographic workshop teachers available in every corner of the world. ============================================================ Just a few of my pix to close with. Abstract? Can a wildlife picture of a well know animal be considered an abstract? Even when the picture is reduced to shape, shadow and texture, I doubt most of us think in terms of abstraction when the subject is a Mute Swan. I know many would say, “too bad you couldn’t get a picture of the whole bird”! For those people I include the second photo. Sandhill Cranes are a joy for wildlife photographers. They are big (no need to get too close) and photogenic. They are always doing something interesting. Variety of images will ensue when you are in their presence. I think the most photographed subject (in these parts) by snapshot artists, is the Gray Tree Squirrel. It may however, be the least photographed subject by serious photographers. My personal philosophy has always been to photograph everything. How many different ways can you photograph a wildlife subject when they always pose the same way? I usually tried to look for a mixture of habitats, as well as a mixture of distant shots and close-ups. That distinct pose is of course a part of the camouflage of the American Bittern. For you flower photographers, your season will soon be over. For me it always meant that I got to photograph new (autumn) subjects, but by next spring, I hungered for flowers. They are among nature’s greatest photo subjects. I enjoy gulls when they are immature or in their alternate plumages. Identifying them can be an issue for me, especially since I no longer belong to any birding groups. It can be good sometimes to make your photography about your subject instead of just being about your photography. There’s nothing wrong with a “straight up” image of a bird. It’s a matter of perspective. This old medium format film image, relates back to even earlier days when I was doing architectural photography. This is a very old ruin of a Spanish Mission and as I learned with those earlier commercial jobs, any angle or point of view might be the one that sells., this image has as much to do with the smooth texture and cool color of the sky, meeting the rough texture and the warm color of the ruin, as it did making an image of a building. It is also easy to create negative space with a subject like a building and sky. Ultimately, this image has as much to do with the smooth texture and cool color of the sky, meeting the rough texture and the warm color of the ruin, as it did making an image of a building. It is also easy to create negative space with a subject like a building and sky. I love old buildings and they don’t have to be 100+ years to be great. I made this image in 2009 and I recalled the facts around it as best I could. This is in northeastern Wisconsin and it sits idle in a small county park. It is an old-fashioned pavilion and a fading sign (out of sight) on the building tells of the ice cream, popcorn and hot dogs that were once served there. It was built in the 1940s and used into the 1970s. It appears to not have been touched since its closing, and very little since its opening. I have memories of pavilions like this, and seeing one again was a treat. Photography can be about preserving memories but it can also be about retrieving them from days long gone.
Have a great day and God Bless, Wayne
Hi Wayne — This is one time when I’m going to have to disagree with you. I’m a workshop junkie (attending frequent workshops every year), and have (hopefully) grown above the A-Z basics that you’re mentioning here. People attend workshops for different reasons — technical, location, inspiration. There are instructors who can guide students to the next level — Sean Kernan, Keith Carter, Doug Beasley, Ian Plant, Guy Tal, David DuChemin, Freeman Paterson, George DeWolfe, to mention a few — by helping students go outside of the technical expertise to find their voice from within. If you work with the right teacher, it IS his/her job to guide the student towards being an artist. In Sean Kernan’s class, Creativity and Photography, for example, we did improv dancing, wrote stories, and did other creative activities to bring out the artist in each of us. The assignments were photographic, but the in-class work was designed to make the creative spirit bubble to the surface. My 2 cents…. Marcia Getto
I agree with most of what you have said Marcia. You have to understand why most people take workshops. They want to know HOW to make pictures. If it is the job of workshop teachers to show their students how to be an artist, then I guess I would need to re-write my definition of an artist. Now if you are saying, that there is ROOM for workshop teachers who specialize in releasing your creative juices, along with those teachers who do the work of teaching photography, which is what most students want, then I agree 100%. There is a difference in assisting someone in developing their art, and actually teaching them to be an artist. Experienced photographers like yourself, take workshops (I think) for grander reasons than for what a shutter is or what depth of field is.
I am totally in agreement that workshop teachers who know how to “free you up” to help you on your way to being an artist, are a good thing……for those who want that. I just as steadfastly stick to my stance that nobody can ever MAKE you an artist. Some things we just have to do (or not do) ourselves.
I should add that while I don’t comment much on your imagery, I consider you to be an artist. I love your work. If you can teach someone to be an artist, there is a good living to be made for you. If I were able, I would take that workshop.
Great comments Marcia, Wayne