This spring I revisited my first passion of photography by attending the Art Wolfe Workshop on the beautiful Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.
The three day workshop was spent on exploring our creative sides. We based out of Port Angeles and spent the mornings in a seminar and the afternoons out shooting at Sol Duc Falls, Hoh Rain Forest and Rialto Beach.
It rained all three days we were there and just like news photography you go out in all types of weather. The weather was actually perfect for the subject matter – A study on a West Coast Rainforest. Although I could have brought better footwear like gum boots or Gore-tex runners.
First thing I learned about nature / fine art photography was they love tripods and as a news photographer I barely used mine in my 7 year career. Aside from the fireworks on Canada Day and the Northern Lights I shot during my time in the arctic. (They also never use monopods) But I guess they don’t shoot a lot of sports.
So my first lesson was how to shoot quick and fast with a tripod… I finally realized why the Gitzo tripods all have a twist and grip system for their tripods and ball heads for the camera mount. You can get really fast at setting up your camera for maximum adjustability and ease of use. It was so much faster than my old school silver Manfrotto was. (Yes I know they are owned by the same parent company)
Instead of just touring us to different locations Art’s morning lectures really focused us on how he creates the masterpieces he does. What he looks for and what your eye does when it looks at a photo. He really encourages you to explore you environment and really engages you to make your photo look as good as possible before shooting it. The textures patterns and framing are really everything that goes into a great photograph. Out in the field he certainly challenged me to keep shooting… keep finding a new angle.
“My goal is no less than to change the way you see.” ~ Art Wolfe
Unlike my news photography career where it’s a fast pace environment and getting your images back to the newsroom is key to everything. Nature photography is much slower and gives you opportunity to find beauty in the abstract and slow down the creative process. Unlike editorial photography you are creating art and those hard and fast rules of creating the image need not apply here.
My DLSR equipment was ancient and falling apart. It was a used D100 that barely functioned and the lenses had all seen better days. So I left all that old heavy outdated gear at home and stuck with my Fuji X10 Range finder. Without the interchangeable lenses of a SLR I had work with the boundaries of what the camera could do. It was a fascinating exercise as I only had a 28 – 110 mm lens ISO of 100 and a closed down aperture of only f11.
What the camera did have was an awesome macro lens that could get me inches away from the subject matter.
Out in the field Art and his Workshop Staff really helped you to find that great shot. I actually needed some help setting up my tripod in a middle of a hollow tree as it was a little cramped. But I knew the shot I was looking for I just couldn’t get it just right. Art was there ready to help this old news photog out.
We carpooled out to the different shooting locals and randomly I found Larry Calof in need of someone to ride shot gun. I could not have picked a better travelling buddy. As a Semi-retired Lawyer in Silicon Valley we had plenty to talk about. But I also found out we both love the Dave Mathews Band amongst other things in common we had great conversations while we drove all over the peninsula.
While at Rialto Beach I was able to capture this awesome photo of Larry at work. The pipe really made the shot. I stopped what I was doing grabbed the camera off the tripod and grabbed a couple frames before he finished his pipe. We all have our processes and this was Larry’s. For me the old adage is true: You can take the boy out of the news… But you can’t take news out of the boy.
In conclusion if you have a passion for photography and want to spend a vacation shooting. I highly recommend taking one of Art Wolfe’s workshops, it fed my soul and let me see part of the West Coast I had never been too
ps. no vampires or werewolfes were harmed in the making of this workshop.