• Patrick Stoll

Sharpen Your Skills And Give Your Creativity And Motivation A Boost With A Photography Workshop

Updated: Jun 14, 2019

I firmly believe that one of the best ways to improve your photography skills and boost your motivation is to take a photography workshop. Over the years, I have attending numerous workshops and, with one possible exception, learned something valuable from each one.


If you are looking for a week-long, totally immersive photography experience, I highly recommend the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops or the Maine Photographic Workshops. If you are interested in learning more about Adobe Lightroom, you can't go wrong with the workshops conducted by Jerry Courvoisier.


One of the first of the many Santa Fe Photographic Workshops I attended was a stock photography workshop taught by Craig Aurness, the owner of Westlight Stock Photography (once the largest stock agency west of the Mississippi, later acquired by Bill Gates and re-branded as Corbis). The workshop focused on the creation of "concept" photographs. One of the workshop assignments involved making a photograph that would clearly convey a concept.


I chose to create a photograph that would convey the concept of Santa Fe, New Mexico. To that end, I decided that my image would need to incorporate the feel of Georgia O'Keeffe's paintings.


This was in the 1990's, well before I had come anywhere near a digital camera. Up to that point, all my work was with film (primarily slide film). I had a medium format Pentax 6x7 and a couple of Nikon F2s. The finished product would need to be a 35 mm slide that would be projected and shared in class (the Workshop had arrangements with a local lab to process the slides overnight). The only way I could create the photo I had in mind was with a double exposure. But to do that, I would need some props.


During a workshop I had attended a couple of years earlier, the entire class had visited the nearby Jackalope Mercado, a home decor store packed to the rafters with items that shouted "New Mexico" (that assignment involved making photographs at the Mercado). As I started working on the concept photo, I remembered that Jackalope had a wide range of animal skulls as part of their inventory. I drove out to the Mercado late in the afternoon and rented a large cow skull (putting down a sizable deposit). On the way back to the downtown area, a stopped at a Target store and purchased a large sheet of black poster board. With all my props in hand, I drove to a park (Hillside Park) overlooking Santa Fe's downtown area. As the sun was setting, I made a number of double exposures.


Each double exposure involved making an initial exposure of the town spread out below me. I would then need to cock the shutter for the next exposure without advancing the film. For the second exposure, I made an image of the skull sitting on the black poster board on the ground next to me. I probably made about a half dozen double exposures, using different exposure settings.


I must admit I had a hard time sleeping that night. I kept thinking about all the things that could have gone wrong with my technique or the lab processing. The next morning, when the mounted slides were delivered to our classroom, I couldn't wait to spread the slides out on the light table. To my relief, there were at least two usable images.



At the risk of sounding like a braggart, the image was a hit. During a regular week, there are a number of workshops taking place concurrently. At week's end, on Friday, all the students and instructors would get together for a dinner and a slide show presenting examples of images from all of that week's workshops. My Santa Fe image was among them. The director of the Workshops asked to use my image in the Workshop brochure for the upcoming year. Craig Aurness, the instructor for my workshop and the owner of Westlight Stock Photography, offered to represent my work.

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