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Photography Workshops: Learning Vacations

Learning vacations. Sounds like an oxymoron, doesn't it? Learning often involves hard work and failure, while vacations are supposed to be refreshing and exhilarating. Think a little longer about the term, and include a subject in which you are fascinated--such as photography--and the term "learning vacation" takes on new meaning.

Imagine gorgeous scenery, interesting and talented companions with similar interests, total immersion in your creative interest, professional instruction, and a well-meaning critique of your work, and you have a photography workshop.

A photography workshop is something you've probably considered participating in, because you've long had a desire to further develop that artistic skill you believe you have. However, time and expense considerations and that supposed "embarrassing lack of skill and talent" are convenient excuses for not taking action. However, none of these excuses are valid, and I'll explain why.

Great Smoky MountainsFirst of all, if you plan a vacation at all, you have the time. And if you are like most people, you MAKE the time for those things you really want to do. Secondly, the cost associated with a photography workshop--or any type workshop for that matter--is relatively small for what you get. For example, the workshop developer will already have arranged for reduced-rate accommodations for the group. Furthermore, some meals are included in the package cost. Finally, if you plan carefully, you can arrange participation with a group that generally has the same skill level as you. However, workshop professionals generally tailor their instruction and expectations to the level of the individual participant.

Workshops are invariably designed around a particularly appealing location--the Great Smoky Mountains, Colorado's Rocky Mountains, Maine's coastal ports, and the desert lands of Sante Fe, New Mexico to name a few. There is a location, time of year, and climate for every taste.

Workshops are an opportunity to meet new and interesting people with similar interests. You can bring your spouse or meet your future spouse. The environment is uplifting because you are among people doing exciting and creative things in a place that they really want to be--ideal circumstances to get motivated and start the creative juices flowing.

You have the opportunity to get totally immersed in the creative process. Sessions can begin early in the morning to capture that golden sunrise, the dew-laced flowers, and those frosty surfaces. Mornings and afternoons offer opportunites to capture images of wildlife. Afternoon sun can flatter any landscape. Evenings can include classroom sessions and even processing your own film--especially black and white negatives and prints. Often, slides are sent out for processing and returned during the average 3-6 day workshop to ensure the opportunity for professional critique and peer enjoyment in evening slide shows.

A workshop is conducted by a talented professional who usually limits group size to a dozen or so individuals to Cades Cove Church in Fallfacilitate adequate one-on-one instruction tailored to each individual's level of experience and need. The professional will generally present a slide show of his or her work to supplement instruction, present ideas for your own images, and demonstrate how well-planned exposures can result in extraordinary images. Programs vary, but most are planned to spend maximum time in the field. The hours are usually long, the day tiring, and the mood ebullient.

The time will fly, new-found friends must part, and you'll return home energized and with artistic skills honed. And it's almost guaranteed that you will have captured the entire experience on film, including a few portraits of new friends.


The resources and links included below will help you investigate the type, duration, location, and cost of learning vacation opportunities available. Just do it! is the web site for ShawGuides' database of approximately 300 photography workshops and schools, including:

Photo WorkshopCory Nature Photography, based in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Their newletter will soon be hosted within the pages of Rod's Guide, and class offerings for Oct/Nov can be found here now.

Tom and Pat Cory's 3rd Edition of "Notes From the Field" is reviewed in this issue of Rod's Guide.

Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts at 576 Parkway, Gatlinburg TN 37738 (865) 436-4604 and locations in Blowing Rock, NC and Asheville NC or The Arrowmont school has a variety of workshops and its sister organization, Arrowcraft, resides next door in Gatlinburg and features the arts and crafts of local artisans.

Papworth Photographic is in the Arts & Crafts Community at 1065 Glades Road of Gatlinburg, TN 37738 (865) 436-0677 - Brian and Pam Papworth have a photography gallery and photographic supplies. where Philip Greenspun has turned his knowledge and accomplishment into arguably the best photography site on the web--hundreds of pages of narrative and thousands of images are resident on his server.


We're interested in other points of view, tips, and experiences. This is the forum to share them:

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