To say that this workshop experience in Santa Fe with the DLWS group has been a disappointment would be an understatement. I had some concerns going in...there were supposed to be 32 students...and that is what occurred. I rationalized that this would be OK because there were to be 4 lead instructors, 2 assistants and 1-2 photography oriented sponsors who would be there to help out with the students. As you will see - these folks only made the group size problem worse.
As it turned out, each of the staff actually planned to be shooting right along side all of the students rather than guiding them. They had professed that they would be glad to look through your viewfinder and give you suggestions - they left out the part about as long as you bring your viewfinder to where they were! Sometimes that was difficult to achieve when they were halfway up a goat trail taking pictures of a fabulous rock formation. My car mate (who was three months post-open heart surgery...and doing awesome!) and I nearly had a heart attack trying to get to "where all the staff was going to be" for that one. We figured our health was more important than any damned picture that we might take with them and we cut our trek short at a manageable level.
Then there was the planning. Theoretically there were to be 6 shooting sessions. When we got to the opening session to get our schedule, there were only 5 sessions identified, with one TBD. The weather started to turn, so there was understandably some concern, but we were assured that this group shot in all kinds of weather. That would not be the case.
Day 1 - Opening Shoot. they take us to the plaza in downtown Santa Fe and basically say "go take pictures". Any tourist can do that at any time...but this was the opening planned shoot? The clouds had moved in and there was no sunrise to speak of. I managed to get a few interesting shots, but no thanks to this group of intrepid photographers. The afternoon had to be better , right?
The afternoon was better, in some regards. They had arranged for us to go out to a movie set that had built on a ranch for the movie "The Cheyenne Social Club"/ It has been maintained and used continually as a movie set for other western movies since then. It is a great locale. The group had arranged for three western models and two horses to be brought in for this workshop shoot. Only thing is, I don't think that the models were expecting 40+ cameras coming at them! And then there was the weather. Intermittent sun shining through the clouds and snow showers that were being pushed across this open plateau by 30-40 MPH winds. The models were troopers, even though they were subjected to what can only be described as a series of paparazzi scrums. I managed to take a few photographs that I was happy with, but I tended to shy away from the mass shoots. It was not my style, and not what I was hoping for. This was brought home to me in spades when I did try and get in and get a shot or two with the models only to be pushed out of the way by a couple of the staff who had to get there shots first. At the end of this shoot, even though I had on three layers of outerwear to protect myself from the cold, I was so chilled that even a roaring fire in the fireplace could not bring back the warmth in my extremities. I opted out of the "brew with the crew" session in favor of some warm food and sleep. The second day would be better weather...surely they would take advantage of that , right?
Day 2 - Beautiful sunrise - but the sunrise shoot was scrubbed. They had a surprise for us later in the day, so they had to move the schedule of events around. The surprise turned out to be a visit to one of the galleries off of the Plaza. I believe it was more a matter of finding a way to kill an hour before we went to our afternoon shoot. The afternoon shoot was to be in the old New Mexico State Penitentiary, with models. The models were great, the location was great, and the staff tried to organize the group a little more and send the students off in groups that were slightly more manageable than the mayhem from the previous day. They actually did a fair amount of teaching in this session as well, so I have to concede that it was about the best day of the seminar. I got some decent stuff out of this shoot. By the end of the day we could see the bad weather blowing in that had been forecasted. Surprisingly though, the staff stuck to their plan of two very adventuresome outdoor shoots for the final day. After all, they were like the Postal Service - weather didn't bother them.
Day 3 - I am up at 4:30AM , getting my shower , and the phone rings. Ms. C , who arrived the evening before, had not been able to get to the phone in time. On a hunch, I looked out our windows to see that the 4-6 inches of snow that had been forecast had fallen as predicted. It was a beautiful winter wonderland outside our doors. The phone rang again and I answered - I was advised that the morning shoot had been scrubbed and that we were encouraged to trek around the property on foot ...on our own...and take pictures if we wanted. I built a fire for Ms. C instead. We had a morning session on how to print a fine art image that could have put anyone to sleep. Then we left for our afternoon shoot at the Ghost Ranch. It was an hour and a half drive to some beautiful country. When we arrive , our orientation was something along the lines of this: "There are two trails you can go down - the one to the right is a relatively flat and uninteresting trail. The one to the left is a three -four hour round trip hike up a mountain with two or three steep sections that aren't hard as long as you are a decathlete or a mountain goat. The staff is all going to be going down the trail on the left." I made my try at keeping up with the staff. A near heart attack, and the final ruination of my knees ensued. I got a few pictures, but nothing that was worth the anguish or pain. To add insult to injury, it began snowing on us while we were up on the ridge.
In fairness, I picked up a few post processing nuggets along the way that will be useful to me in my photography of the future. I spent a lot more time and energy trying to get everything "right" in the camera so that the post processing required is actually very minimal. Of the 50 or so images that I find to be "keepers" from this workshop, most require little or no post processing.
I am done with cattle call workshops. If I ever do a workshop in the future , it will have less than 10 students. I come to these thhings to learn and get some one-on-one instruction. There was very little of that this week. And I could have come to these locales ...for the most part...myself. I was hung up on the fact that we were going to get some special something by hanging around some "rock stars" from the photography world. Like so many others before me, I have learned that all that glitters is not gold.
Such is life...
Keep the faith.