Spring Workshop Roundup

by Harrison Jacobs

Bobbi Lane

February 06, 2013

Winter can be a cold time for photographers; summer’s rush of weddings gives way to long days huddled over computer screens, fastidiously editing proofs, meeting with potential clients, and—for some—brushing up on skills. In short: time to reload and welcome spring, a season of rebirth. To get you the edge you need for the new year, Rangefinder has combed the photo community for workshops that will sharpen your skills or give you new ones to help you stand out from the pack. We love wedding workshops and all of the other classes WPPI provides (see wppionline.com for a full listing), but if you are looking to delve into some other photographic genres later in the year, these courses will also jolt your creativity and give you a fresh perspective on what it means to be a photographer.

Creating an Online Presence
Maine Media Workshops—Rockport, ME
Instructor: Juan Pons
March 31 to April 6
All Levels


In today’s world, it’s nearly impossible to run an effective photography business without having a dynamic and robust understanding of the Internet. That’s why nature and wildlife photographer Juan Pons decided to leverage his deep computer science experience to offer the sort of comprehensive primer on the Internet that he feels all photographers need. Pons’ workshop is all about building a presence online through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr. In the week-long class, students will learn how to create a following online, set up digital galleries, cross-post across platforms, and build websites and blogs. By the end, students emerge with the foundation for building a savvy Web presence.

The Art of Photographing Children
Maine Media Workshops—Rockport, ME
Instructor: Patrisha McLean
May 25 to 26
All Levels

For those looking to expand their portrait business to include or focus on children, there’s no better instructor than photographer Patrisha McLean. McLean has been producing fine-art portraits of children for the last 20 years; her workshop will show you how to make them. She shoots black-and-white film, has studied with the masters (Keith Carter, Eugene Richards, etc.), and has had her portraits of children exhibited in museums and galleries in Maine, New York and Pennsylvania. “No flash, no fake smiles and (almost) no props is the way I work, and what I teach in ‘The Art of Photographing Children,’” says McLean. She works with natural light, teaching students how to engage children and keep parents diplomatically out of the way. The workshop is a combination of critique and hands-on shooting, as McLean brings in children from the community for three separate photography sessions. McLean caters the workshop to the skill levels of the students, upping the difficulty for professionals or working on the basics for beginners. At the end of the workshop, McLean meets with students privately to discuss their work and help them figure out the next step in their careers.

Small Strobes, Big Results
Santa Fe Workshops—Santa Fe, NM
Instructor: David X. Tejada
March 13 to 16
Amateurs and Advanced Amateurs (though Tejada says that he’s proud to gets professionals all the time who can’t believe he does all his work on speedlights)

David Tejada has spent over 25 years producing on-location photography for the commercial world. Tejada knew from the start that the ability to create perfect artificial light was the cornerstone to a long career in photography, and he has spent those years perfecting his techniques. Though most of Tejada’s shoots were on-location, he lit and shot his photos using heavy studio power packs because largely nothing else compared. However, eight years ago, Tejada got rid of the power packs and began shooting exclusively with Nikon speedlights. According to him, not only have speedlights been able to reproduce the same light as the old power packs, their small size and versatility has been “creatively liberating.” In “Small Strobes, Big Results,” Tejada reveals his techniques to give students a crash course in producing high-quality artificial light using only speedlights. Tejada’s workshop doubles as a primer on general photography lighting, helping students “understand light, modify light,” and demonstrate how to use light. “This is not the place to get a lighting scheme,” warns Tejada. “It’s more about understanding the reasons why you choose a certain lighting technique as opposed to saying, ‘This is a clever combination and you should do it this way.’” The workshop is hands-on, with students learning how to create “artificial sunlight, soft light, and…a high-quality bounce technique.”

Editorial Portraiture
Santa Fe Workshops—Santa Fe, NM
Instructor: Peter Yang
March 20 to 23
Advanced Amateurs, Professionals

Peter Yang’s day job is producing editorial portraits. His work has appeared on the covers of Rolling Stone, GQ and Marie Claire, and he has photographed everyone from President Barack Obama to Lil’ Wayne. In short, you listen when he speaks. Yang’s workshop is a one-stop shop; he teaches students how to conceptualize portraits during pre-production, how to create expressive natural lighting through strobes and ambient light, and how to navigate the sometimes-tricky world of editorial business (contracts, invoices and syndication). The workshop is a mix of photographic explorations in the studio or on-location in Santa Fe, and daily critiques. Yang’s production manager, Trisha Barkman, gives the best pitch: “Get the inside scoop on the lighting, location and all-important concept decisions that produce unexpected portraits.”

Creative iPhone Photography  
Santa Fe Workshops—Santa Fe, NM
Instructor: Karen Divine
March 6-9
All Levels

Taking out your iPhone and snapping pictures at every memorable moment of life has become second nature for most iPhone users. The camera—at least on the newer versions—rivals the quality of many point-and-shoots, and the ease with which it connects to social networks is enough for many to use it as a secondary, or even primary device. However, can the iPhone be used for more than just snapshots? What about true artistic expression? Photographer Karen Divine believes that not only is the iPhone capable of that, it excels at it. Using a variety of apps and techniques, Divine teaches students how to create “stunning composite images” that reveal their inner visions. In the course of taking spontaneous photos, students learn, according to Divine, to see both the pictures that present themselves to students, and those that emerge when they combine several seemingly insignificant images. While the workshop focuses on using the iPhone, Divine’s passion is in helping students tap into their “creative spirit,” silence their “inner critics” and follow their own “vision.” “The techniques and apps we learn are not difficult and isn’t what will make a meaningful image,” explains Divine. “It’s your ability and desire to tap into your creative spirit and set it free.”

Portraits: Natural and Flash  
Santa Fe Workshops­—Santa Fe, NM
Instructor: Bobbi Lane
March 20 to 23
Advanced Amateurs

If understanding light is crucial to good photography, then understanding when to use what light is essential to effective portraiture. Different lighting techniques convey different messages about subjects, and knowing how and when to employ those techniques separates professionals from amateurs. In Bobbi Lane’s workshop, she takes students through what she calls, “The Big Three: Direction, Quality and Depth of Light.” Lane starts by having students work with window light and reflectors to modify the shadows before taking the class outside to demonstrate backlight, bouncing with reflectors, “porch lighting” and more. While Lane’s workshop may seem basic, one must remember that it’s all about building the proper foundation for what is to come later. “The students come away with better techniques and also a deeper understanding of working the concept of the portrait first, then matching the light to achieve the effect they want,” says Lane.
The Fine Art Black-and-White Digital Print
Julia Dean Workshops—Los Angeles, CA
Instructor: Jean Miele
March 4 to 8
Advanced Amateurs, Professionals

Jean Miele’s workshop is about learning to “think” in black and white. According to Miele, he wants to make students aware of the way they approach photography—how each aspect complements the central idea the photographer is trying to convey. For that reason, he describes the workshop as a “why-to” instead of a “how-to.” Why to use certain techniques in camera, in Photoshop or Lightroom, and in presentation. The length of the workshop (five days) leaves plenty of time for attacking all aspects of black-and-white photography, from hands-on in the digital lab to field trips with Miele to produce new images. Miele likens photography to cooking: everything needs to be perfect, from the raw ingredients to the final presentation. For that reason, he teaches students to be hyper-aware of producing a strong focal point in camera with emotional resonance and great light, and then how to process color raw files into black-and-white in a way that complements the original image. “Real success comes from ‘listening’ to your pictures—asking them what they need, and letting that guide your ‘darkroom’ work,” explains Miele.
Mastering HDR Photography & Light Painting
Light Photographic Workshops—Los Osos, CA
Instructor: Ben Willmore
March 11 to 15
Advanced Amateurs, Professionals (students should be familiar enough with Photoshop to be able use layers and masks)

Ben Willmore is something of a Photoshop guru; he’s spent his career writing books on the program, giving seminars, and speaking at conferences all over the world. His website, digitalmastery.com, is a treasure trove of how-tos and techniques for all things digital photography. So when Willmore offers a seminar on two of the most sophisticated and popular techniques in the digital photography world—HDR Photography & Lightpainting—you can be sure you’ll be getting your money’s worth. For the uninitiated, Lightpainting is a process in which one “starts with a pitch black scene and then, during a long exposure, the photographer walks through the scene selectively lighting it using a flashlight.” Willmore’s workshop teaches students how to properly execute the technique, creating an effect that is both dynamic and interesting. For those looking to master HDR, Willmore’s workshop could be the practice they need. The course teaches students how to troubleshoot common HDR problems (such as subject motion, scenes with extreme dynamic range, and images that feature people) so that by the end of it, you’ll be shooting, according to Willmore, “under the midday sun while retaining full detail in both the shadows and the highlights.”

The Jay Maisel Workshop
New York, NY
Instructor: Jay Maisel
April 22 to 26 or May 13 to 17
All Levels (though students should have a strong grasp of the camera)

A certain mystique has cropped up around famous color photographer Jay Maisel’s workshops. Former students speak glowingly of Maisel and the workshops, though when pressed, few seem to have a strong grasp of exactly its content or the format. One thing is for certain: Maisel’s workshops change the way you look through the viewfinder. A few testimonials: “My first reaction is ‘Wow…I will never look through the viewfinder the same way again,’” and “Jay does not teach you how to take a ‘Jay Maisel Picture,’ he teaches you to appreciate the world around you so that you can take your own pictures.” So what exactly does that mystique translate to? The Jay Maisel Workshop consists of five days of shooting, discussing, critiquing and living photography with Maisel at his home, the historic former Germania Bank building in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The structure of the workshop is fluid and changes with the needs and desires of the enrolled students. According to Maisel, students are sent on assignments, critiques are frequent (both of students’ and his work), and intense photography discussions over dinner happen every night. “You will be overwhelmed,” promises Maisel. For those looking to aggressively improve their images, not necessarily by technique, but by vision and awareness, Maisel’s workshop promises to push you to the next level.


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