Musings on photo workshops and classes (Shallow Thoughts)

Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing and Technology, Science, and Nature.

Sun, 04 Jul 2004

Musings on photo workshops and classes

Dan's party was last night, including an group which was giving an informal workshop on night photography.

The presentation was a little disappointing, just people showing slides of recent photographs. No discussion of techniques or interesting ideas for night photography, things to try out that night.

It was mildly fun for the couple of us who were Linux users to watch the Windows people fumble with their JASC slideshow program trying to get it to present photos at a reasonable size. Whenever I wonder why I bother to keep maintaining pho, I look at what Windows and Mac people have to go through to look at photos and am amazed all over again.

But strangely, before heading off to Marin yesterday, I did some searching for other linux image viewing programs, to see if they'd solved the window manager problems I've been wrestling with for pho. Amazingly, I couldn't find a single free program in Debian that did what pho does (namely, view a list of images serially, at full size or screen resolution). I had to search for xv source (not in Debian, probably licensing issues), which requires a couple of tweaks to get it to build on linux, and which has the same window management issues pho has. I guess I'll keep maintaining it after all!

After dark we trooped up the hill to photograph lights (Richmond and the Richmond-San Rafael bridge were visible, along with parts of Marin) and wait for moonrise. I took an SLR and the Minolta, and wish I'd taken the Olympus -- nearly everyone else had digital SLRs (Canon) and I wished for something with a decent zoom which would still give me exposure feedback. It's not as if bay area skies can support long star-trail exposures anyway. Moonrise was lovely, a sliver of moon emerging above a thick cloudbank centered over the San Rafael bridge, and growing into a full-sized moon. I hope some of the film photos (on old expired PJM multispeed film!) come out.

Most of the photographers there knew each other from previous classes (I wasn't clear how many are students versus instructors) and most of the group spent the hour before moonrise clustered together taking turns taking the same shot, a person silhouetted against the lights of Richmond while someone else fired a flash from behind the person, back toward the camera, giving an "aura" effect around the silhouette and lighting the nearby grass a bit. Not really knowing anyone, I hung back and instead worked on photos of the various photographers silhouetted against the sky (which may or may not come out; I was shooting from 10 sec to about 3 min, betting on the Marin sky being too bright for longer star trails, but we'll see. One of the other solo shooters was shooting 10 minute exposures and people kept walking into her frame.) Dave shot a few Canon digicam images before the sunset light was completely gone, then the wind got to him and he went back to the house and didn't wait for moonrise.

I'd wondered about maybe taking one of their regular workshops, but this outing was a bit like the couple of other photo workshops I've done: no real instruction or sharing of ideas, basically just a bunch of people wandering around taking photos. If you have specific questions or know the instructors already you might be able to get questions answered, but as a person new to the group, I felt like I'd probably do just as well just going somewhere on my own and taking a lot of photos.

It may be that their multi-day pay workshops involve more instruction, and more feedback the next day on images taken at the workshop. I'm curious about that; the few photo seminars and classes I've taken have also promised feedback afterward, but haven't had much, if any.

Sometimes I think that the ideal format for a photo workshop is an online class: give assignments, then people post their photos a few days or a week later, and everyone discusses them, then you go off to the next assignment with what you learned based on the feedback. The important parts are the discussion and the feedback, not being in the same physical place during the shooting (since not much instruction seems to take place then, for most participants, and if it does it seems to be of the type "everybody line up and take exactly the same photo"). It's hard to do feedback in a several-day workshop at a place like Death Valley when people are shooting film and you can't get it developed quickly enough; a digital camera might be a prerequisite to getting much out of that sort of workshop.

[ 11:00 Jul 04, 2004    More photo | permalink to this entry | ]

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