Photo ops: Workshops can be a trip
Focusing in on a good travel-photography workshop
THEODORE ROOSEVELT NATIONAL PARK, North Dakota (CNN) -- Pat Gerlach stood on the hilltop and pondered his next move.
The wildlife photographer was tracking the movements of a herd of wild horses through Theodore Roosevelt National Park. He could see that they were on a path that would take them across the park's main road where they'd be easy photographic prey. But exactly where would they cross?
Minutes later, Gerlach and the half-dozen members of his photography workshop were back in his truck, driving to the most likely rendezvous point.
The timing was perfect. Four members of the herd were waiting for them. Over the next hour or so, Gerlach and his students had a rare close encounter with a family of wild horses.
It's experiences like this one that draw thousands of photographers, amateur and professional, to photography workshops around the world. And in taking a course of this kind, you'll not only learn to take better photos, but you may also have the adventure of a lifetime.
A shot at the perfect workshop
One way to begin your search for a workshop is by browsing the ads in major photography magazines.
On the Web, Yahoo! and Google (in its directory) list categories devoted to photography workshops.
There's also Photo.net, one of the largest photographic sites on the Internet. Do a search for "workshop" and you'll come up with hundreds of postings from members telling you what they liked and didn't like about workshops they've attended.
In little time, you should have a list of several interesting possibilities. Here are some guidelines to help you find the one that's best.
Classroom workshops are more focused on teaching specific techniques and skills.
Field workshops tend to emphasize location and finding photo opportunities.
Field workshops are more informal, but Gerlach says he believes they offer lessons you won't get from a lecture. "Classroom workshops are about f-stops and shutter speeds, and that's all good and well," he says. "Out there, it's about seeing things.
"There is so much information to be had in books, but you use so little of it when you take the picture," he says.
"What technique do you use when you shoot a flower? We can get down on the ground and show them how to do that. With horses it's different. With landscapes it's different," says Gerlach.
You may find yourself looking at a list of gear you don't know how to use or can't afford. Even if you don't need all of it, make sure you have the essentials to get the most out of the workshop.
Gerlach calls this the "insider's view."
"I try to give them (his students) an intimate feel for the landscape," he says. "It's so easy to be overwhelmed for the first several days. I try to get them past that and get them comfortable about the area. I'll take them over the river, up a dusty cattle trail, along a ravine, over a hill and there you are, looking out over a vista where you can see for miles."
If your room is included in the price of the workshop, ask if you'll be sharing a room and what it would cost to get one of your own. If you have to find your own place to sleep, see if the workshop has recommendations for nearby hotels and if there's one with a price break for participants.
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