Why attend a Workshop?

Other essays in this series

Monument Valley 2005

Why attend a workshop? There are numerous reasons why and I go over some of them in my Workshop FAQ. However, the most important reason is because what you will learn during a workshop cannot be learned any other way.

Today I am publishing (with the author's permission) an email I received from Howard Warren, May 2005 Navajoland workshop participant. If you are considering attending one of our workshops it is a must read.

Envelope-to: alain@beautiful-landscape.com
Howard Warren
Re: Home Again
Date: Thu, 26 May 2005 08:59:22 -0500
To: Alain Briot <alain@beautiful-landscape.com>

Now that I have rested and my mind is once again starting to function, I have thought a lot about my pre and post workshop photographic mentality. I had, for a long time, admired your photographs and those of others like Michael Reichmann and had tried to find similar photographic opportunities. I searched far and wide to find the kind of light and color that were depicted in you work, and with very dismal results. I found that I had become infected with "photographic purity syndrome".

In studying others work, I had come to believe that photographers, for the most part, were depicting exactly what they were seeing, with very minor post shot production. Where was this light and color that I kept seeing, and that was so elusive? Steve Johnson, photographer for the National Park Service, adheres to a very strict standard of true depiction of what was there, even to the leaving of a Pepsi or Coke can in a photograph on the cover of one of the National Park (albums). Not that I say this is wrong, I don't, but he is making a historical record of exactly what was there at a certain point in time. His work is beautiful, but his technique and equipment are out of the reach of most photographers.

I shot what was there and when I processed it, that's what I got, "just what was there", flat light, washed out color, little interest. I thought "you get what you see" in the viewfinder. All of these things worked together to keep me in a constant state of mediocrity.

After, well actually during, your workshop I learned from you and Natalie that photography is also art. One can express their emotions in their work and truly make a work of art. I had finally broken through the "photographic purity syndrome" and began to do work that was satisfying and rewarding. To be artistic with a scene does not mean to change it from a photograph to a "what did you do, that's not real" picture. What I learned is we don't really add anything to what we have photographed, except the enhancement of what was already there. We didn't add the color that we show in the photograph, it was there all the time. We just give it new life. We didn't create the scene, we just recognized it for what it was. We didn't add the flowers or the rocks, we just took advantage of them. We didn't even make the camera or write the software that was used to produce the photograph. We just added a little bit of ourselves to the mix and in the end get some credit for showing what was really put there by God.

I recommend your workshop for anyone who wants to take their photography to the next level, and that will come with an open mind—ready to learn. I hesitated in the beginning because I thought that I would be surrounded by professional photographers and I would be uncomfortable with my limited and misguided knowledge and success in photography . There were indeed some professional photographers, but no one ever made me feel unwelcome or uncomfortable. Everyone shared their experiences and successes and failures and in the end you realize that no matter where you are in your photographic experience, everyonewas at the same place at one time and understands and tries to help. I made new friends and more importantly found others with the same desire that I have—to create beautiful photographs. I'm sure that these relationships will last for years and I look forward to sharing new ideas and photos with them.

Thanks Again for a very rewarding experience.

Howard Warren
Purcell, OK

You can see one of the photographs Howard created during the workshop here.

Monument Valley photograph Copyright © Alain Briot 2005
All rights reserved worldwide