Monday, September 7, 2015


That's right! I'm offering a workshop! (But don't get your hopes up.)

This workshop will introduce you to my methods, which are not suitable for all possible subjects, and which may or may not work well for you. You won't make pictures that look like my pictures, at the end of it all. But you will know how my methods work.

You will need a digital camera, a portable computer to put pictures on for viewing, and a book or other mindless entertainment that has nothing to do with photography. If you don't know how to use your camera, you're not invited. If you don't have a clear idea of what various settings do, you're not invited. If you are still struggling with basic ideas of composition, ditto. Your instructor assumes that you're in control of your technique and that you can make a more or less appealing picture more or less on demand.

Day 1
8:30am Meet and Greet
9:00am-noon Photo Walking

On the photo walk we'll be rambling through Bellingham, slowly, taking in suburban, urban, and natural scenery. One of the great things about Bellingham is that all three are within one mile of my house. The goal here is to collect snaps. We'll not be looking for "good" photos here, simply recording things which strike our fancy. Look for "subjects" which interest you, where by "subject" I mean an object, a scene, a place, a theme. You might like a particular building, a park, a vista. You might like the discarded drink cans we'll come across from time to time. Snap these subjects pretty thoroughly, so you have a good record of what they look like.

A "subject" for our purposes is something that will be there tomorrow. The Saturday Farmer's Market is no good, since you won't be here next Saturday (although, if you're playing along at home, this might work out fine.) A specific person is no good. A type of person is fine.

By noon we'll try to have a few hundred shots of a handful of "subjects" and will return to base.

Noon-1pm Lunch (sandwiches) and a lecture on inspiration, which will be pretty much just this little essay.

Afternoon Seeking Inspiration.

We're going to load up the morning's pictures onto our laptops and flip through them. At the same time, your gracious host (me) will make available a collection of books of photographs. We'll be flipping through our pictures, and through the books of photos. The goals for the afternoon are:

  • One or two selected "subjects" (no more than two)
  • A written description of how we feel about our subject(s)
  • A written description of how we might express those feelings

The writing might be simply a list of adjectives, blank verse, a detailed essay, anything. It will be inadequate. The idea is simply to try, to begin to delineate and understand how we feel and how might shoot it. We might also write down photos from the sources being passed around, from which we wish to steal ideas.

Consider, lightly, issues of time of day, timing of the exposure, camera position, angle of view, various camera settings, and overall look of the picture. At least.

Done for the day. You will all be expected to stand me a pint at Nelson's Market, just down the alley from my home.

Day 2

10am Meet up (remember those pints?)
10am-11am Revisit yesterday's exercise after good night's sleep.

Briskly rework everything. The goal is to develop a shooting plan. Where do I put the camera, what lenses should I use, what moment(s) am I waiting for, what settings should I be using, do I need a tripod, etc. We're trying to convert our emotional reaction into specific technical procedures.

You may well find that you want to throw out everything from yesterday afternoon. Only do that if you have a better idea, though! Struggle with the ideas a bit, and take a walk if you get stuck. We've only got about an hour here, so pretty soon you're going to have to cut bait. The ideas don't have to be perfect, everything is just a starting point for the next thing. Any shooting plan is better than no plan.

11am-1pm Execute shooting plan, time of day permitting.
noon-1pm Lunch (sandwiches)

We will now split up as necessary. Some will leave to try to shoot their subjects, some will stare at their pictures and some picture books some more, trying to dig up or refine an inspiration. Read one of the books you brought if you're stuck, or take a nap. Remember how inspiration works, by the alternation of struggle, or trying specific ideas, and of resting and doing something else. By the end of the day, we're aiming to have taken a good solid stab at how we want to photograph our subjects.

Depending on what time constraints you have on when you need to shoot your subject, break out some time to look over the results. Compare with any photos that have inspired you, re-read your ideas about how you feel about your subject(s). By the end of the day you should be down to one subject that moves you, and some pictures that begin to express when we want to say. Not final pictures, but we do want some actual pictures with pretty clear ideas in them.

Again you will all be expected to stand me a pint. Possibly a half-pint, depending on how many students are signed up.

Day 3

This is a repeat of Day 2, but we're refining the ideas. We're shooting the same thing yet again. We're looking for multiple pictures that at least dance around what we're trying to express. We should be getting quite detailed about how we're shooting. Get up a little higher. Stop down a little more. Shoot it a little later for slightly longer shadows.

Our ideas about how we feel, how we react to the subject, have probably evolved a little, refined themselves, and perhaps expanded. Perhaps we have several aspects of our reaction to photograph, and we do that.

Lunch (sandwiches) will be made available whenever you're ready for it. Your ideas about when you need to be where are probably pretty strict by now, so lunch will work around your schedule.

This is the final day of the workshop. At the end of the workshop, you will ideally have a few hundred exposures of your subject that are worth flipping through. Within them, let us hope that a small portfolio can be found. Post-processing and "workflow" and all that horror await you when you return home, although you've probably been tinkering with the pictures as you go to see what's possible.

The price is $15,000 per student, and the class size is limited to 1000 students.

The attentive reader will notice that I am contributing nothing but sandwiches. If $5000/day for sandwiches seems a little rich for your blood, you can simply take this three day workshop at home, for free.


  1. Your workshop seems a bit too heavy on the sandwiches for lunch concept. perhaps it would be better if you were to write down some alternate lunch menu ideas, maybe some generalized ideas such as "seafood", or "Italian food," or "salad and soup buffet at local restaurant", and then think about those ideas for a couple days, then perhaps refine the ideas into specific menu items, such as "choice of deep-fried prawns,crab cocktails, or and deep-fried oysters" for the seafood lunch, just as one example. I just think your workshop needs a better-defined lunch concept.

    1. Your mastery of my methods is apparent. Would you like a franchise of my world famous workshop brand?

      You could branch out in to salmon based lunches or something.

  2. Sign me up, sign me up!
    I can't pay $15,000, so can I barter some vegetables (carrots and turnips) and an old Ansel Adams portfolio instead?
    Sandwiches for lunch are ideal, then we can drink lots of beer in the evening!
    What other delights does Bellingham have to commend it? When do you plan to hold the workshop? In Summer?

    1. Well, the workshop has to happen in summer because it is dark all winter here at 49N. The main delights of Bellingham are the attractive young college students who are, sadly, not here in summer. Perhaps spring or fall! I will be attentive to the seasons and try to plan for optimal sunlight to observe the athletic youths.

      I love turnips!

  3. Replies
    1. Of course! Just make sure you bring enough to share. With me. The other students can jolly well get their own.