I just got back from Lake Powell where I participated in the Dynamic Nude Workshop held there by Joel Belmont. Joel does several workshops at Lake Powell and this one was for advanced photographers, meaning there was not going to be a lot of instruction, instead Joel would take us to various locations and we would plan our own shots. This was fine by me as I was mainly taking the workshop for access, and didn't really expect to learn something, but a funny thing happened as it does on all workshops.... I actually learned something and my photography improved as a result.
My Dad used to go to 3-day or 5-day golf workshops and always played better as a result. He pointed out to me that when you are focusing on learning and hitting 1000's of golf balls a day you can't help but get better. Rarely would you go out and hit that many golf balls in a day on your own. The same thing happens with photography workshops, from the time I wake up until the end of the day when I go to sleep I am concentrating on nothing but photography. We get up and shoot, come back edit photos, go shoot again in the afternoon, come back and edit photos, do a photo critique and go to bed. I call it "Marinating in Photography", because I am surrounded by nothing but the pursuit of photography all day. No distractions, just shoot, edit, repeat. I always find that my vision, my way of seeing, my editing skills all improve as a result of the non-stop pace of a good workshop.
The other photographers at a workshop are my people, they understand me and the issues that I face in photography, we can have deep meaningful conversations about photography and I always learn something about photography from my peers at workshops. During this recent workshop at Lake Powell one of the participants showed me his simple technique for making a nude image stand out in a black and white image and it blew my mind and made me a black and white convert. (I'll share the technique in an upcoming blog post. Subscribe so you don't miss it :) ).
During our editing sessions there was a constant sharing of techniques, approaches. Every photographer thinks about an image differently and I learned something from each and every one of the participants at the workshop. Many workshops we edit alone in our hotel rooms each night, but I found I got so much more out of the workshop by having these group editing sessions. I'm going to seek this out for future workshops.
I have often discussed the value of good critique, it is how I learned to be a photographer. I also see it through the growth of my apprentices in The Arcanum, every single one of them has grown as a result of the critique they receive from me. At workshops the critique sessions are extremely valuable and not for the reason you might think. Yes, you get feedback on your image, but for me the real value comes from seeing the work of others. Most of the time they are at the same location as I am, standing next to me, taking images of similar subjects and their images look nothing like mine! I learn to see in different ways. That is huge! We tend to get stuck in ruts and follow familiar patterns, seeing someone else's approach and how they look at the world helps me break out of my traditions and standard patterns and try new techniques.
I always come away from a workshop reinvigorated and full of creative ideas and shots I want to pursue. Our creativity and passion levels ebb and flow and it can often be a struggle to get back in the swing of things and get out there and take photos that are meaningful to me. Workshops are always the kick in the butt I need to get me going again.
I'm already looking for my next workshop to sign-up for. What is your favorite?
Cover photo courtesy of Ryan Fenix Sumner. Used with his permission.
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