I’m finally back home after a week of leading the Acadia Adventure Workshop in Maine. Overall I am extremely happy with the way it turned out, from the good weather we had, to the tremendous enthusiasm of the students. It was a great group that enjoyed learning, sharing, and working together, and the meals after our location shoots were lots of fun as well!
I knew the students were serious when I opened the door to my motel room at 5:15am the first morning and found 7 cars running and ready to head out into the twilight of Acadia National Park. I always say an open mind is as important as the proper camera gear (often more important), and we all had a chance to apply this idea that I practice in my own photography. Several times we expected less than favorable weather only to be surprised by great light, which I explained over and over again was the key ingredient to a successful image. Once you are open to the possibilities, creativity flows much easier without the filters of our own judgments getting in the way.
Mastering the art and craft of photography is an ongoing passion for me, and helping others understand how everything comes together is something I deeply enjoy. Often I witnessed students totally immersed in making an image, and it felt good to know I had offered a tip or a suggestion that opened their eyes and mind to the moment in front of them. Perhaps my most memorable moment occurred as I walked along the edge of Jordan Pond just after sunrise. The light was working its magic on a group of trees displaying their vibrant autumn colors, while the mountains in the background remained deep in shadow. As I worked with a student on camera technique and composition, I reminded him that his feelings about the scene were what mattered most, the only way to create an image that would speak not only to him but to to others as well.
As I wandered off on my own to give him the same solitude I enjoy so much in nature, I stopped and took in the amazing beauty around me through all of my senses, and realized the moment was perfect, and I was exactly where I wanted to be…what more could I ask for. This was the reason I had become a photographer and a teacher, so that I could share these moments with others. It’s this passion and enthusiasm that really motivates me, and we should all strive to find that which makes us give our best. Short of that, we’re just going through the motions.
My approach to photography, and teaching it, is rather holistic in nature. All of the different components must work together in order to express your vision and your particular style. Certainly technology plays a huge role, and I enjoy using all of the latest tools and software to help get me closer to the image in my mind. But ultimately, it is how you feel about what you do, and what you think and feel about what you’re photographing that makes the real difference. Asking “why do I photograph” is really the essence of creative photography. This is what I try to teach in my workshops, together with how the camera becomes an extension of your personal vision. It’s hard, for both teacher and student, and on workshops I become both at the same time. In my experience, there is no better way to grow.
I will be returning to Acadia to lead another workshop in 2011, and I am working on a few new locations that should offer many wonderful opportunities to enjoy and photograph the beauty of nature. A big thank you to all of the students who really made my job very enjoyable. One student in particular, Chris Cina has written about the experience on her blog here.