I’ve got 1 space left for my January Hokkaido tour. I’m a bit surprised that no one wants to come. I realise that most folks don’t check my workshop schedule these days as they assume it’s always full. But I do have a space for Hokkaido this January 7th to 17th.
Lone trees & minimalism, the quintessential Japanese landscape
This post originally offered a space on my September portfolio skills workshop.
It has now been filled.
You may have noticed that I'm offering more 'skills development' style workshops over the coming year. Going on location is great, and shooting is fun and that is mostly why I have tours. Workshops on the other hand should be just that - a space where you learn and develop your skills.
Shooting is just one part of our workflow. There is also the question of editing, which in my view, is as much of a skill and art as shooting is.
I personally feel I've learned more about my photography and my 'style' during the editing stage than the shooting stage, and would also suggest that the things you learn about your images whilst editing, often bleed back in to your visual skills whilst out in the field. Shooting and editing become symbiotic: one informs the other.
It's one of the reasons why I detest the phrase 'post-process'. Words can influence our attitudes and I believe this phrase just encourages us to think that editing is something we do as an afterthought. As if it is unrelated.
Further, I think the word 'process' encourages us to think of editing as some kind of activity that has no art to it. It's an incredibly creative part of the birth of one's images and I find it a hugely inspiring space to work in..
Well, further to this is the skill of developing one's own style. I believe that most of us don't know if we have one, and I think this is because we aren't really given tools with which to look for it.
One of the best ways to figure out who you are as a photographer, and how best to move forward with your art - is by looking at your work from a 'project' or 'portfolio' basis. Working towards building stronger portfolio's of your work can only lead you to be a stronger photographer.
That is why I've put together the workshop you see listed here. I'm really keen to show others how to recognise themes in their work and build cohesive portfolios, with the aim of helping them become clearer about where they are with their photography and how to make it stronger.
Before I begin this post today, I wish to make a distinction between workshops and tours. For me, workshops are teaching environments where the primary focus is on giving feedback and teaching people. Making great photos is of secondary importance.
Tours are on the other hand, all about getting participants to great locations, and less about teaching. Although you may learn on tours, this is not the primary objective. They are about getting you round a landscape and taking you to the best places for the best light.
I make this diasctintion, because I feel that many 'tours' masquerade as 'workshops', when in fact they are tours.
Today I was asked by a participant if they should bring along copies of their previous work for review during one of my mentoring workshops here in Scotland.
Over the years that I have been teaching in a mentoring situation, I've found very little merit in looking over what someone did before spending time with me. Instead, what I find more valuable is to spend time with the participants on the workshop. I'm able to get a clearer picture of where they are technically and artistically, and more importantly who they are.
I would like to go into in detail today on this post for my reasons why I feel reviews of past work aren't of much value. I know this may go against the grain for some of you - particularly with USA clients as I hear bringing along portfolios for review is a common component of many workshops in the states. But if you can bear with me, I'd like to spell out my views on the value of critiquing work created *during* a workshop, rather than relying on work created elsewhere.
In general, I don't find looking over past work to have much value for the following reasons:
There is no audit trail
When I mean 'no audit trail', I mean that it is very hard to get an understanding of what limitations and conditions the images were made under. Why did the participant choose a certain composition and what obstacles did they encounter at the time? If something clashes in the landscape, I do not know if this was noticed at the time of capture but was chosen because it was the only way to make the shot, or if it was chosen because the participant did not notice the error at the time of capture.
Further to this, in the case of edited (post-processed) work, it is doubly difficult to give advice because the original unedited raw material is not available for comparison. It's important to see the journey the image made from capture to final edit and if the unedited work is available I can see what choices were made, or how different the final edit is from the original capture. But this is rarely provided.
Past images show no indication of current abilities
Indeed, it is often hard when looking at the finished work to get a sense of what the participants abilities were at the time of capture, and more importantly, where they are presently. It is not uncommon for me to be shown images that were made a year or several years previously.
It is however, possible for me to draw up a rudimentary idea of the participants current ability. But only to a point. It is very easy to see if the work is accomplished, but other than that, I am left with a lot of unanswered questions, such as:
1) Was the participant shown the composition or did they choose it themselves?
2) Did they understand the value of the quality of light they shot in, or again, were they shown it?
3) Are these images the best they've made over the past few years? and do they truly represent their current ability? What a participant may think of as important work to show me may not be. I am often surprised to find out that participants have shown me work I have very little to contribute towards, only to find out later there was other work they did not show me which may have provided more value as a critique session.
4) Have these images been reviewed and edited several times before by other workshop leaders? Is what I am seeing now, an amalgamation of other people's ideas? or is this an accurate view of the participants own ideas?
I really have no idea.
So I believe that looking at previous work is of little value. I don't know what choices were made and why they were made. Which leads me on to my next point;
I was not there, I do not know the limitations the participant was under
Giving composition advice of 'if you stood two feel to the left', is invalid because I wasn't there. There may have been a pool of alligators to the left, or something distracting that the participant managed to remove. I do not understand what limitations were placed upon the participant at the time of capture.
Which is vital to know, as I can gauge what they did and why they did it if I had been there to observe. And observing is a key ingredient of a good workshop leader.
Workshop leaders should be observers
My own view of my job is this:
1) To be able to watch and study my participants and notice how they approach their work
2) To understand how they react to failure
3) To understand how open they are to working with what they are given
4) to understand what their current level of ability is
Point 4 is perhaps the most important because I've had many people downrate themselves only for me to find out they are more competent than they let on. They have talents beyond the scope of any work they may show me from previous outings. On the more negative side, I've had some people talk up what they do and before they begin I'm given a very false idea that they are more accomplished than they turn out to be.
Ultimately, reviews really require an understanding of what motivated the participant, and this can only be drawn upon if I spend time with them in the landscape. Because during this time, I'm able to observe them and notice habits, limitations and aspects of their character that either lend or detract from them making great images.
The value of critiquing present work
Which leads me to why I think turning up at a workshop with a 'clean slate', and getting critiqued on the images you shoot during the workshop is of much better value:
The audit trail exists!
I get to see first-hand what you shot. I get to see the raw data on your memory card. I get a really good picture of what your level of ability is. All this is possible by looking at the images you shoot each day.
Images shot during the workshop show current abilities
I also get to see the most up-to-date impression of your current ability.
I'm able to observe participants and work with them on location
Being there allows me to walk through the process of setting up a shot with the participants, or by stepping in at the last point to see what it is they've set up and to give guidance on what I think can be improved or to point out problems or distractions that they may not have been aware of.
But most importantly, being on location with participants allows me to get more of a direct hands-on feel for what motivates them, and to discuss potential problems at the point of capture, rather than afterwards during the critique sessions when it may be too late.
I was there and I knew the limitations participants were under
Which is kind of similar to the previous point. Simply being there and understanding the weather conditions and physical limitations of a landscape can help me get a better understanding of what was driving the participant to make the images they made.
I know the person behind the camera
This is perhaps the most important aspect of on-site critiques of current work: during the week I get to know the person behind the camera.
I am able to see how they approach failure, understand their process or notice their good/bad habits. I also get a really good understanding of how much they actually 'see' and what their visual awareness ability is like . Being able to notice these kinds of things about my participants is a skill I believe that all workshop teachers should have.
Being a workshop leader is really about tuning into what each participant is trying to do. There's a fair degree of anticipation involved in trying to work out what each participant is doing and understanding their limitations. It's also about encouraging the participant and trying to be as objective about their work while remaining encouraging.
This can only happen if I am on-site with them, as I get to see them working in the field. It does not happen by reviewing images that were created elsewhere, under circumstances that I am not aware of, or motivations that are now long forgotten or past.
Over the years I've been running workshops, I've met some really great people. One of them - Peter Boehi is having an exhibition of his work this week coming in Switzerland.
Peter's exhibition will be at the famous Aescher mountain hut (pictured above) from Friday 26th of July. He is having an open event on the Friday, so if you fancy a hike to one of the most unusual exhibition spaces in the world, and wish to spend time with one particularly enthusiastic and highly enjoyable person, then please do visit Peter's exhibition.
I'd just like to wish Peter all the very best with this. It's always a very exciting time to do your very first exhibition :-)
Dear all, I'm traveling in Bolivia right now. I've been on the altiplano for about a week, and my Hasselblad cameras have been behaving really well since I got them serviced :-)
I just thought I would write today about a recent cancellation I've received for my Iceland trip this September. This means there is now 1 space free for anyone who has been wanting to come this September. The dates are September the 23rd to October the 1st. If you wish to find out more, or even book, you can do so here.
I hope to write more over the next few days about my trip's progress in Bolivia. Speak soon, Bruce
Just a quick notice to let you all know that there is now a space free for this September's Icelandic photographic adventure.
This is a very popular trip, and usually sells out in a few days. If you'd like to come in September, and experience some autumn colours, and maybe the Aurora too, then you can find out more here.
For a while now, I've been wishing to teach photographers more about how to 'interpret' their images during the post processing stage of their image creation. Like Ansel Adams, I do not believe that the creation of an image stops at the moment the shutter was fired. Learning to 'see' whilst out making images shouldn't just stop at the point of capture. Learning to 'see' is an extremely valuable asset in assessing images for post editing. What do we do with our work, how we manipulate it, should come from a strong sense of vision. We should be able to see themes, patterns, relationships within our images and know that these are the essential building blocks of our editing sessions. To do that, we must understand what is going on in our images so we can bring about our message.
Digital Darkroom Workshop Announcement
Starting this November, I am introducing some Digital Darkroom workshops, with the primary focus on learning to 'interpret' what is there, and how best to apply your tools of your choice to suit the nature of each image. The emphasis is on learning to look at your own images and know how best to approach them during the editing stage.
I must stress that these workshops are not about learning Photoshop / Lightroom or Aperture. Instead, they are about teaching you to interpret and understand what is going on in your images, and how best to approach them in the editing stage.
These digital darkroom 'image interpretation' workshops will be based at my office, situated in Edinburgh, Scotland. The workshops are weekend affairs, starting on the Saturday morning at 9am and finishing on Sunday at 5:30pm.
To find out more, click here.
Last year, I conducted my first photographic tour of the Bolivian altiplano. We made our way from San Pedro de Atacama in Chile across the southern side of Bolivia to the capital La Paz over nine days. It was quite a tour.
I'd originally shot the altiplano in 2009, and the images from that particular shoot were at that time, an epiphany for me: I saw the start of my journey towards more simplified compositions.
Returning back in 2012, I wasn't so sure I could add anything new to what I'd shot back then, so it was a surprise to me to note that my compositional style has become more reduced and more simplified in the intervening years.
One could argue that shooting a square aspect ratio camera helped me achieve that look of simplification. I would indeed agree, that square offers the opportunity to be more abstract with compositional elements than any rectangular aspect ratio can. I also feel that rectangles are more traditional, whereas square has no deep roots in art history: rafael did not paint his images on square canvases.
One could also argue that I've had a chance to become more familiar with the altiplano. This is also true. I do believe that we often need two visits to a location: the first to understand it - to know what works and what doesn't work, the second visit to do the work with a more refined viewpoint.
I'll be heading back to Bolivia in two months from now, and I'm really looking forward to seeing what new material may transpire from the tour we will be doing there.
By looking back at my previous work, I'm often able to see that there has been a shift, a subtle change in direction. I feel all photographers should do this as a matter of course. Consider, reflect, open up an inner dialog, ask yourself some questions about your development. Other times, I feel the changes are less apparent, but usually something comes along to show us just how far we've come.
Note: I'm returning to the Bolivian altiplano in June to conduct a photographic tour with six participants. If you'd like to come along, I'm pleased to say there are two spaces left. The tour was originally full, but there's been a couple of cancellations due to health issues and other commitments. If you would like to find out more about this trip, you can read all about it here.
Dear all, I'm just taking some time-out at the moment, after a rather busy schedule this year. So I do hope to be back on this very blog with more thoughts about photography soon!
In the meantime, I have had one cancellation for Bolivia next year, due to a graduation, so I thought I would let you all know about this space as the trip was extremely popular and sold out in a matter of hours this year.
My Bolivia photographic-safari for 2013, now has one space free on it, due to a cancellation. This trip was extremely popular this year and had sold out before I'd even gotten round to mentioning it on my monthly newsletter!
If you'd like to know more about this trip, then you can find the details here. I expect this space to go very quickly, but rather than just let you find out by going to the workshop pages on this site, felt I should really just tell you all about it.
I hope you are all out there making nice images!
Last March I spent an enjoyable week with a small group on the isle of Skye doing a photography workshop, and Duncan Fawkes, one of the participants has written a review of the week.
I'm pleased that Duncan has given himself a bit of distance between the actual workshop and the writing of his review. As he points out, he has found that it's taken him a while for things to simmer, bubble away in his subconscious.....
His review, I feel - is a good guide to what you should be looking for in a workshop.... for instance, I would agree that you shouldn't go to a workshop looking to come home with killer images (although it's a nice bonus if you do).
I'm pleased to say that most of the things that Duncan says he got out of the workshop, are really what I strive for, and he covers most of them in his review. Thanks Duncan for letting me know about this. I'm also glad you didn't mention too much about the rubber chicken and the gloves ;-P
My good friend Duncan MacArthur, is running a workshop this September (8th to 13th) in the French Hautes-Alpes. He's told me today there is only one space left. It's a beautiful part of the world, and I hope some day to get down there to see Duncan on his home territory. Here are some photos of the region by Duncan. If you'd like to find out more, follow this workshop link.
I have one freed up space for my Eigg workshop this September (10th to 15th). This is an extremely popular trip and it's full every year, so if you had your eye on coming this September, but noticed that it had been fully sold out since earlier this year, now is your chance to grab the last space :-) You can find out more about the trip, and also book here.
I also have another cancellation for my Arran trip this August (13th to 18th). Perhaps if the Eigg trip doesn't fit your schedule, you can maybe look at the Arran trip instead. More details can be found here too.Signing off from sunny Bolivia, where I am currently enjoying the sun, waiting for the 2nd part of my South American Safaris to begin in a few days time. We will be heading over the Bolivian Altiplano in two Land Cruisers, guide, cook and two drivers. I have six participants with me where three of them came with me from Patagonia to Bolivia. We've been discussing how different the landscape is up here. We've gone from winter and inclement weather to dry desert and blue skies. Looking forward to returning back to the Altiplano. It is my first trip here since first venturing here in 2009.
Wishing you were here,
Today I'm heading off for about a month. During the coming time away I will be heading off to Easter Island, Patagonia and Bolivia. It looks all set to be an interesting month ahead for me doing some personal photography on Easter Island, and then running photographic safaris in Patagonia and the Bolivian Altiplano.
It's been a while since I was back in Torres del Paine national park in Chile. It is without doubt one of my favourite places on Earth. I've been busy packing for the trip for about a week now - I always seem to forget something, so in a vain attempt to not leave home without something important, I start to pile up a small mountain of equipment to take on the trip.
I've got two camera bags to take with me. I love the ThinkTank Airport International and Take-Off bags - you can see the content of my bag here:
I've got my Mamiya 7II plus three lenses, and a Hasselblad kit too in this bag, along with all the Lee filters and light meter that I use. This bag is purely used to get me through the airport-circus and around most of the heavy traveling I'll be doing.
Once on location, I prefer to go out shooting with a smaller bag and one outfit only - doing this makes me more focussed on working on the landscape and less on thinking of which system to use. I use a small shoulder bag for the outfit I use on location, because quite frankly - I detest backpacks - if I can get away without using them - I will. Backpacks mean I have to stop, take the bag off my back and lay it on the ground. I prefer a bag that I can access things from the top without everything spilling out everywhere and a smaller bag means I take less, and if I take less, I'm more mobile, and less burdened down by the weight and choice of what to use once I've found my spot.
I'll try to post some things on the blog over the coming month, but I'm not so sure I'll be able to do that, as we will be in remote regions with little or no communication.
I loved the simplicity of these little ferns in the bay of Ytterpollen. It's normally full of reflections of the background mountains, but when we got here in February, the entire bay was frozen over. While the group were eating their packed lunch out of the boot of the car, I made this shot at the roadside on my Hasselblad.
I love shooting shallow depth of field at the moment. Being able to see through the lens is a luxury for me, after spending so many years working with a rangefinder (which i still love very much).
Anyway, I'm looking forward to going back to Lofoten in 2013. I published dates for two consecutive safaris in February this morning, and all the spaces were sold out within four hours.
I'll be back with more images from my trips, as the days progress. But right now, I'm off to watch some telly and enjoy some time at home. Enjoy your weekend!
Last week I was on the isle of Skye, at my usual fantastic haunt - the Glenview hotel. The group I had were excellent, despite the really rough weather we had.
I thought I'd share a photo of everyone, including Kirsty and Simon (and their children) who own the hotel. Simon is by far the best cook I've experienced on any trip, and it's always a delight for me to see participants get very enthusiastic about the food.
Anyway, I had a slight mishap at the hotel last week, which involved the near-use of the fire-extinguisher you see Simon holding in the photo. Needless to say, I'm the one holding the rubber chicken (don't ask - but Gerallt - my first Welsh participant deemed that I should hold his rubber chicken).
Here is a contact sheet of the groups efforts. We had some pretty terrible weather, but I'm always surprised that we end up getting something over the week. I've never had a trip happen where we couldn't produce some excellent work.
I've just published dates for the 2013 workshop on Skye. This year's trip proved to be very popular, despite several cancellations, the trip filled up very quickly, so I'm expecting a similar demand for next year's trip.
I have two spaces free for the Isle of Harris workshop, due to two last minute cancellations. So if you've been wanting to come to Harris this May, and spend time on one of the most beautiful islands in the outer hebrides, then please do drop me a line, or book online.
This is a very special workshop, because we spend our entire time outside of the UK mainland, on a very special island. Harris has a lot of very stunning beaches, and it has a timeless quality to it. We will be heading onto Lewis as part of the trip to photograph the Calanish standing stones too.
South Iceland - Icebergs, black sand beaches and waterfalls 9-day photographic safari, Sept 24 - 2nd Oct
£1,995 per participant
On Friday I published news about this new photographic safari via my monthly newsletter. I will be going to Iceland this September to spend 9 days photographing the south coast with a group of 8 participants.
I decided that if I were to run a trip in Iceland, it would have to allow some concentrated time in some great locations, rather than be a flat out, snatch a few hours tour round the entire country. This I feel, is impossible, because there is just far too much to cover, and not enough time.
This trip has been put together to give everyone several days in a few choice locations. My favourite place being Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon where we will have two whole days there to shoot sunrises and sunsets, and also explore the black sand coast line where you will find many icebergs of varying shapes, texture, size and colour.
For more details about the trip, and the locations we will be visiting, please go here.
Please note: this is not a workshop in the detailed sense that my workshops are in Scotland. We will be moving every couple of days, and as such, our time will be limited to on-location shooting. So it's really a 9 day trip to get as much as you can out of the locations we will be visiting, and of course, you will get guidance from myself, be able to share ideas and thoughts with a group of like minded souls and immerse yourself in photography for a concentrated time.
I always let folks know about new trips through my newsletter first. The trip is now mostly sold out - six of the spaces have been filled and I only have two spaces left. If you want to know about new trips, and get first chance at booking onto them, then it's a good idea to subscribe to my newsletter! :-)
If you'd like to come, the two remaining spaces can be booked here.
UPDATE: This trip is now SOLD OUT. I've had a last minute cancellation for my Eigg workshop this April (dates are April 23rd to the 28th).
This is an extremely popular trip, so if you had wanted to come, you'll have noticed it was sold out for some time. Well, now's your chance to take up the cancelled space :-)
You can book the last space here.