Understanding workshops

model: Ryan Leigh

As a photographer, I have certain goals that I am trying to reach.  Some deal with levels of technical skill I am trying to reach, others are more abstract aiming to improve on emotional impact, creative ingenuity, or connective communication. When it comes to improving oneself as a photographer many people turn to workshop participation. I am no exception.  This past weekend I attended  a workshop intended to aid and train photographers who wish to gain some experience with beach photography. Now as many of you know, I HATE beach photography. In case you didn’t know, I really, really, HATE beach photography.  Why? Well beach photography, like any other niche photography is by definition nothing more than a portrait taken using niche item or location. Sounds simple right? However if you look at the average beach portrait it normally amounts the one of two types of images. One, a family dressed like they should be at a family picnic siting on the beach looking very proper or two, people on the beach living out their Sport Illustrated Bathing Suit issue fantasies and failing   miserably.  It’s not that their aren’t people out there who go beyond and do something different, it’s that when people think about beach photography unless they are really into landscapes this is what they think of. This is what is shared, this is what is taught, and for many photographers that is what is REPLICATED.  Please don’t misunderstand, the only part I honestly take issue with is the replication part and only because most photographers don’t take their work past that point. I feel that the loss of vision is a stagnating force that moves back and forth from photographers to the viewers of their work and back again in some sickening cycle.  Previously, when this conversion had come up, regardless of whether or not they agreed with me, I would always get asked the same question; If you don’t like the workshops, why go? For me the answer is simple, I will not reject an educational experience based on my idea of what they may be teaching. Education is education and in most cases this education is free. That means for the cost of the time and gas needed for the travel I have the opportunity to expand my current knowledge of anything. That is worth much more to me than the annoyance of teaching models to do something that doesn’t revolve around rolling on the beach and reliving famous magazine cover looks or mermaid fantasies. Besides all that, I do love meeting the people. I love talking with the photographers and models, learning about them and then using that knowledge to enhance myself and my own vision. I feel that regardless of my own skill level or theirs, the day I stop taking the time to learn and grow from life experiences is the day I die. So, when I go to these events, I go hoping it won’t be more of the same. I know that in some capacity it will be but I try not to let it bother me. Instead, I use those opportunities to revisit old ideas and refine them. Every once in a while I’ll even be surprised by the chance to break out and do something closer to my aesthetic. This past weekend I got to have a little bit of both.  The image above is reflective of what I try to stay away from. The model was doing as she was asked while working with at least 8-10 other photographers. I was standing at her side and in a quick glance to me I captured this image. At that moment I was the only photographer at this angle but it didn’t take long before people remembered that they should shift and my spot quickly got monopolized. It was no big deal for me though. I waited until others were done and then I shot something slightly different with her, but those images are intended for other posts.

Until then,