Sunday, October 26, 2008

Bear Lake Regional Photography Seminar

My wife and I just got back from a photography seminar put on by the local photography club up in Montpelier, Idaho. This was the first time either of us had gone to an informal seminar like this and were not quite sure what to expect. We had a great time meeting people and hearing the presenters. It was held in the Oregon Trail Center with a little over 50 attendees and 3 presenters. The organizers had been a little apprehensive since this was their first event of this type and didn't know what type of response to expect. They were very pleased with the turn out. Montpelier is in the south-eastern corner of Idaho, 25 miles from Utah and 15 miles from Montana. Given this location, most people were from the southern Idaho, north-western Montana and north-eastern Utah. My wife and I and one other attendee were from the Salt Lake City area. And there were two attendees, friends of the organizer, from California.

Sliding HannahFriday night was registration where we checked in, met the organizer Ross Walker and submitted a framed image each for the photo competition. I rarely make prints of my images and was moderately pleased with the way mine turned out. I thought Diane's was stunning. As can be seen above, it was a brightly lit yellow, orange and red flower on an almost black background. After we checked in to both the seminar and the hotel, we met up with Ann Torrence and went to the recommended spot for dinner. The food was acceptable and the company was superb.

Saturday was spent all day in three lecture sessions with a break for lunch. The first presenter was Roger Boe, a retired pediatrician who now does overseas medial missionary work. In conjunction with his charitable work, he takes the opportunity to enjoy his passion of photography in the context of other cultures. He talked about travel photography and how he believes the feel of the location is best captured when people are included in the image. He displayed and discussed a number of his own images. After that, photos submitted by the audience were displayed on the screen and we critiqued them as a group. This was an interesting exercise as there was a variety of opinion at times about what was "good" and "bad" with an image. There were times certain features some thought should be reduced and/or eliminated whereas others thought that same feature was what made the image. Just another demonstration that much of what we call beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

After lunch, the second presenter was Alan Stauffer, the owner of Alan's Photo Store in Afton, Wyoming. He presented two topics. The first was about a recent self-assigned project to get closer to his portrait subjects and presented a number of images from this work, discussing various aspects in making the photos. He mentioned there are three ways to get closer: use a long lens, physically get close with a standard or wide-angle lens or crop. On cropping, his point was with the high-megapixel count on modern SLRs, you can crop a lot and still have enough pixels to print out a reasonably sized print. (This echoed a statement made by Kenneth Linge at the September Photowalking Utah event where Kenneth showed a 42" diagonal print that was taken with a 6 megapixel camera.) He also mentioned, when shooting kids close up, if you get in obnoxiously close, to the point where they're distracted, you can then back off a bit and they'll relax and start ignoring you, giving you the opportunity to get some good candid shots. If you just get in to your desired shooting distance, they may not relax enough to get the types of shots you want.

Alan's second topic was a beginners' tutorial on Photoshop. If you knew nothing about photo editing, it probably was informative. I did hear some comments from others indicating it was new material. I consider myself at an advanced beginner or beginning intermediate level and found it very basic. In some cases, the techniques demonstrated were probably not the best way for new users; they could probably get better results easier with other methods.

The final presenter was Ann Torrence, a friend of ours writing a book on the highway US-89. She wove together details about her project with how to do a largish photo project. As she talked, she had a slide show of images from her work running behind her, punctuating the topics and providing glimpses into her passion for the highway as well as photography. One of the things I got from her presentation, which I don't think she explicitly said, was to carefully evaluate and estimate the size of your project before you start it to make sure it's not bigger than you want. Another take away, which she did mention, was to stick with it. There will be times of disappointment and feeling overwhelmed. At these junctures, take a deep breath and press on.

After a break for dinner, the photo contest was judged. It was open to all attendees and I think everyone brought something, putting close to 60 images on the wall. There was a single judge who did a fabulous job. He had a large amount of judging experience as well as a formal degree in fine arts with an emphasis on photography. For each photo, he gave a one to two minute commentary about the good in the photo as well as how it could be improved. This was as informative as any of the other presentations. It was fascinating to hear his perspective on composition, lighting, and color and how they interacted to make a strong or weak image. In the end, he choose three for awards. Mine happened to place third.

Sunday was a free form day where people could choose to do whatever they wanted. Maps were provided with interesting photo subjects in the region marked. Unfortunately, I had to catch a flight early Sunday afternoon for a professional conference starting Monday, so we had to leave early. All in all, it was a great experience and will definitely consider attending similar events in the future.
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