Saturday, February 13, 2016

Workshops take your outdoor photography to the next level

Posted By on Sat, Feb 13, 2016 at 9:06 AM

There are few places more photogenic than the Pikes Peak region, or the U.S. southwest. People from all over the world flock to the Garden of the Gods and take probably millions of pictures each year. National parks such as Arches and Canyonlands near Moab, Utah, or the Grand Canyon in Arizona, are also popular places for photographs.

It’s not hard to take a great photo of these places, but it is possible to take terrible photos. I’ve given tips on how to take outdoor photos in previous blogs:
Sunrise and Sunset photos
Bob's favorite photo locations
Winter landscape photos
Fall colors photography
Wildflower photography 

A lot of photographers are highly-trained, like Sean Cayton, who offers photography tips in his blog as well, but Many photographers are self-taught, picking up tips and techniques by watching other photographers and asking friends who are more accomplished, or by buying books or watching YouTube videos. But with photography, one-on-one instruction is invaluable — often yielding great results after just a few hours of instruction. And when it comes to nature and landscape photography, photo workshops in the field — many times in remote locations — are really popular.

My friends and photographers who’ve participated in these workshops almost invariably speak highly of the experience. They speak glowingly of the locations they visit and of the photos they’ve taken, and how much better their photography skills have become.

In most cases, this type of focused instruction doesn’t come cheap, so if you’re going to spend hundreds or thousands dollars of your hard-earned money, you’ll of course want to make sure you’re spending it well.

So, how do you find a good workshop? Magazines such as Outdoor Photographer, Popular Photography, and Arizona Highways have plenty of ads for photography workshops, and that will get you started, but you’ll have to dig further to find the right workshop for you.

I asked Simon Andrews of Colorado Photography School for what to look for when researching a photo workshop.  Andrews says first check to see who is actually teaching the class. While a “big name” photographer may have his name on the workshop, that might not be who is actually teaching it. The actual instructor may be perfectly capable, but you should know who your instructor will be. Also, look for reviews of the instructor. Not all great photographers are necessarily great teachers.

click to enlarge BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone


Find out if the class covers a topic you really want to spend the time and money to learn about. If you want to learn how to shoot nighttime Milky Way pictures, make sure there will be some night time classes. If you are going to want the instructor to spend a lot of time with you, giving you step-by-step guidance while taking pictures, make sure that is offered. Some workshops are intended for more advanced photographers, in which the instructor’s job is mostly to get you to a great location and give you some minor guidance before turning you loose to get your photos. 

Many photography classes offer a lot of post-processing instruction on how to make your photos even better. You’ll want to make sure you have the software that will be used in the class and that your laptop is up to the task. If not, you’ll lose out not only on valuable instruction, but also have wasted some hard-earned cash.

Take the time to see if the instructor is adequately insured and prepared in case something goes wrong while you’re out, and know exactly what expectations the instructor has of the students. If you’re expected to be very familiar with your camera, that may not be the class to take with a camera you bought the day before.

click to enlarge BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone


Some other tips I learned from talking to workshop participants include making sure you’re up to the task if the workshop involves hiking or other outdoor activity. Can you hike a few miles or more with all you photo gear? Do you have the right footwear, and clothing? Are you healthy enough to haul your equipment over what is frequently harsh terrain?  

This is the season that workshops start putting out their class schedules for the year.  If you want to get your photo skills to the next level a workshop may be the ticket for you.

Happy Trails!

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor and business owner who has lived in Colorado Springs for over 24 years. You can follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.

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