I just returned from my Death Valley workshop and am still on somewhat of a high--not just for the photography (which was fantastic), but for the entire workshop experience. Again. I tell my students I never shoot anything that moves (no people or wildlife), but today I'll make an exception with this image of (most of) my workshop group photographing sunrise from Death Valley's Badwater salt flats (that's not snow), 282 feet below sea level.
I'm entering my fifth year leading photo workshops, and while I started fully expecting to enjoy sharing my photography insights and favorite locations with others, I had no idea I how much just plain fun I'd have. Each group is different, with its own dynamic, but without exception every group I've guided has been a blast.
What's particularly interesting is the diversity of my groups, with men and women of all ages representing many countries, faiths, lifestyles, and political views. I've had doctors, dentists, mechanics, salespeople, attorneys, housewives/husbands, business owners, executives, educators, pro photographers, retired people, college students, and on and on. I've had a Hooters girl (a very sweet young lady who would completely shatter any preconceived notions you might have of what a "Hooters girl" would be), a geologist, an LL Bean catalog writer, a classical composer, and a professional harpist. In one workshop I had both a brain surgeon and a rocket scientist. Skill levels range from extreme beginners to quite advanced. But the one thing each person has in common is a passion for photography, and that passion is clearly enough to transcend all differences. (Even Canon and Nikon shooters get along!)
Last week's group was no exception. A 50/50 mix of repeat and new customers meant some of the participants knew each other, but most didn't. But it really didn't matter because by the middle of the second day you'd have thought we'd all been together for years. Starting as early as 5:30 in the morning, finishing a couple of nights photographing moonlight well after dark (we do take a modest break in the middle of the day), sharing images, eating meals together, and carpooling all seem to have a synergistic unifying effect. (As does world class scenery and beautiful light.)
In a previous life as a technical trainer who traveled around the country and sometimes overseas to teach programmers, I always relished the solitude of mealtime after a long day of training. But in the workshops I really look forward to the fun we have as a group at dinner. In addition to the great photographic information that's shared, and the opportunity to learn about the professions and life experiences of others, some of the greatest laughs I have come during these dinners. In many ways we're like a family without the baggage.
The upshot of all this bonding is relationships that last beyond the workshop. I have many participants who stay in touch with each other, some even planning future workshops together. I've met many current friends in my workshops, people with whom I continue to enjoy photography and non-photography activities. So as you can see, the rewards I receive from these workshops go far beyond financial and vastly exceeded my most optimistic expectations. I have only my participants to thank for that.
A few words about today's image. This is a very wide shot of the salt plain at Badwater--that's the Panamint Range in the background, with Telescope Peak beneath the cloud to the right of center. When we arrived it was still pretty dark and the moon was just setting behind the Panamints. There wasn't enough light in the foreground to photograph the setting moon (that would be for the next day at Zabriskie Point). But sometimes we get so caught up in our photography that we fail to appreciate what we see, so rather than set out immediately into the salt flat I suggested that we all stay and watch the moonset.
After about a ten minute walk into the heart of the salt flat we found that the polygons that distinguish Badwater were filled with water from the recent rain. This made for fabulous reflections of what turned out to be a beautiful sunrise. I'll be sharing images from this workshop over the next few months (and probably beyond). Stay tuned for a moonlight image on Saturday.
* Website: Eloquent Images
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