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James Egbert 

Instructor, Rocky Mountain Reflections Photography

Want to combine the Zen of seeing with the natural splendors of nature? Rocky Mountain Reflections offers hands-on, user-friendly, in-the-field workshops in nature and outdoor photography. Instruction includes beginner's classes (usually in April and May), along with weekend, three-day and four-day workshops in such breathtaking locales as Ouray, Buena Vista, Crested Butte, Rocky Mountain National Park, Moab, Utah and the Grand Tetons of Wyoming. The three-man staff of Andy Cook, Richard Norman and James Egbert will do a free slide show presentation on photographing summer flowers at 7 p.m. on June 15 at REI Outfitters.

Do you guys teach to a particular philosophy or orientation? We bring differing styles and backgrounds to our work, but we all teach the same techniques in accordance with the KISS philosophy: Keep It Simple, Stupid! We deliberately go easy on the technical stuff, putting the emphasis on just getting out there and having fun with photography. We teach about things like composition, metering, exposure, filters, lighting, film and shutter speed, of course, but we seriously doubt you care a whole lot about Brewster's Angle or the phase shift occurring in circular polarizers. We keep to a student/teacher ratio of 5:1 so that everyone gets individual attention and has ample opportunity to talk about photography and ask questions.

What's the difference between nature and outdoor photography? Basically, nature photography means anything in the outdoors devoid of anything man-made. If the photograph includes anything man-made -- a log fence, say, a building, a car or a ghost town -- that's outdoor photography, which is marketable in areas like tourist and visitor brochures.

What's the key difference between photography and "taking pictures?" The photographer thinks in terms of composing, not just recording the physical presence of subject matter. The photographer writes in light. He or she really "looks" and thinks about the quality, drama and direction of light, the balance between space and subject. The photographer communicates, and great photographs are thought-provoking. They are created by asking questions, thinking about time, distance, angles, arrangements of objects. It can get almost spiritual.

Are beginners in over their heads in these workshops? Not at all. We teach you how to become familiar with a camera, why it works the way it does, how film works. On the one hand, I recently had a professional photographer in my class. He was used to a studio environment and wanted to start from the ground level in outdoor photography. On the other hand, a number of beginners leave the class thinking they own the world. You begin to see that photography is a lot easier than you think.

How did your school come about? The school is the brainchild of Andy Cook, who was the student of Richard Norman at the Great American Photography Weekend. Richard has also taught at the Rocky Mountain School of Photography, and done work for National Geographic. I come from a broader range of photography, having experience in photo journalism and modeling -- you name it, I've done it, as long as it's ethical and legal.

We've always admired each other's work and bounced ideas off each other. We learned so much from each other over the years that we decided it would be neat to combine our backgrounds, perspectives and styles to teach others. We get 500 hits a month on our website -- www.rockymtnrefl.com -- and 50-100 e-mails per month asking questions about photography. We welcome e-mail questions at acook@rockymtnrefl.com. We also offer a "feature seminar" that we change every few months. I teach the current seminar, "Six Steps to Better Winter Photography."

  • Meet James Egbert, nature photog and backcountry enthusiast.

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