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We had a great first run of the Hudson River School photo workshop this week, and the weather truly cooperated with great light, dramatic clouds, and constantly changing conditions. I much prefer unpredictable weather over stable forecasts, especially on workshops even if it means there’s more risk of rain. It teaches students so much more about awareness of light, working in changing conditions, and dispels the myth that the only great light is at sunrise or sunset. I see so many photographers leave a location after the so called “golden light” time frame, and miss out on great opportunities to capture unique images.

In addition to shooting in some of my favorite locations in the Hudson Valley, much of the workshop was focused on the paintings of the Hudson River School, and how to look at and learn from their interpretations of the landscape. Their use of light and shadow is something we studied and discussed in-depth, and then applied in the field on later shoots. In addition to other compositional concepts, it was the drama and emotion the painters conveyed that really made an impression on students. A highlight was our tour of Olana, the home and studio of Frederic Church, one of the major painters of the movement. Seeing his original paintings in person was great, and definitely provided lots of fresh ideas to all the students.

Twilight in the Wilderness - Frederic Church
Twilight in the Wilderness – Frederic Church
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Jamaica Bay – Frederic Church

I thoroughly enjoyed exposing students to the many ways we can learn from painters, and they left the workshop with renewed interest to visit their local landscapes with a different perspective. That for me is really special, because it means we can indeed photograph great landscapes anywhere, not only at an iconic location. Ordinary and mundane subjects become interesting when our frame of mind is open rather than closed. Approaching photography with this way means there’s the potential of interpretation, and not merely capturing a vista. There’s room for the photographer to express his or her vision and way of seeing. When you’re intimately familiar with a landscape, you can connect so much better because it means so much more, like an old friend. That friend for me is the Hudson Valley, but it can be any place that makes you feel special on the inside.

That same connection is what made the painters of the Hudson River School unique. Their passion for the landscape motivated them to hike miles and miles, recording their emotional experiences to the new wilderness of America during the 1800s. We can do the same today. All it takes is commitment to your vision, and the patience to let nature show her true gifts. Taking a workshop where everyone is seeking the same meaning in their work also helps tremendously.

A big thank you to all the students who attended and made it a success. I’ll post some of their photos soon.

Look for an extended and more ambitious version of the workshop in 2015!

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My son Bryce getting an early start in landscape photography…and assisting his Dad.

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This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. I am excited to write a review of the Hudson River Valley Photography Workshop so that I can reflect upon the good feelings it elicited and the techniques I learned in the four day workshop. Overall, I highly recommend the workshop for those who want to learn and be in a amazing settings. For me, as a New Yorker, it has opened me up to the many Hudson Valley locations in which to photograph beautiful landscapes, whether it be at the base of the river or on top of a mountain. I was a little anxious about the climbing and hiking aspect of the trip given I have a desk job and exercise just a few days a week. I will say that with the least amount of equipment, and a little bit of drive, the one climb up was manageable and was the most rewarding part of my trip.

    Rob integrated the The Hudson River School of Painters into the workshop inspiring us via a visit to Olana, the estate of Frederich Church, as well a two lectures that focussed on the artists’ attention to light and composition. These, of course, are key ingredients to a strong photograph.

    While on location, Robert gave us individual attention enabling us to work on what we each needed to strengthen. For me, although I have been photographing nature for several years and have worked hard to develop my skills through reading, taking workshops and attending classes annually, there are a number of things Robert taught me that are going to enhance my photography and workflow. Robert reminded me how important it is to slow down, stay in the moment and compose your photograph in the viewfinder. This sounds obvious but I realized that I peek at the photo after every shot and lose focus about what I want to accomplish. I also learned to rely on the histogram when shooting in RAW to ensure I have captured enough information to “develop” the photograph later in Lightroom.

    Photography, for me, means more than taking pictures. It helps me connect to nature and thus spirit. That is what Robert is all about and we had some great conversations that further helped me put photography and life in perspective. I was inspired.

    All in all, I enjoyed every minute of the workshop and I take with me skills and reflections that are going to last a lifetime. Thank you Robert!!!

    1. Wow – really appreciate the Carolyn – it was a real pleasure to work with you and I am so grateful for your attendance and support. Thanks again.


  2. I really admire your work, is very inspiring. I love taking pictures of landscapes.. I think it is the perfect fusion of the love for nature and love for photography. I am fortunate to be able to visit the area of New York / New Jersey very often (once a year maybe) and I’ll do my best to enjoy some of your Workshops in the area. Your work shows us once again that the equipment used is not the most important thing to get a good picture, at least not as important as twenty inches behind the camera. Composition, perspective, color, texture.. all the perfect ingredients for a great image are always present in your photography regardless of the equipment used. And that is far more important. That is why your landscapes are so great (IMHO). Thank you for sharing your art.

    1. Thanks Juan, that is very generous of you – apologies for the delay, just returning from Europe and Photokina. I’m in the process of adding more workshops in the area, so hopefully you can join us. But if not let me know when you’re in the area anyway – perhaps we can meet for coffee!


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