A couple of WOWS and a couple of comments.
Would like to hear what you guys learned/discovered on this trip.
First off ... I was struck again by how nice a group of people photographers are.
My WOWS were:
1. Number One without question: Jim Galli's Eidoscope lens ... absolutely beautiful images and now I think I even understand where the hackneyed term "bokeh" originated. I need one of those lenses ... and, yes Jay, I'll let you know when I find one to bid on so we don't cause a bidding melt-down ... maybe we should chip in halvsies ... buy one lens, swap it every six months ... then after 5 years we could cut cards to see who owns it with the understanding that the other guy could borrow it ... and it gets willed to the survivor (of course at the prices I've seen it might take 6 of us.)
2. My own Cooke Series VIIB f6.5 158mm Wide Angle Anastigmat lens for 8x10 ... It came mounted on my inexpensive Empire II camera with a Packard Shutter and I promptly removed it and stuck it in the bottom of the bag for more "normal" lenses with shutters [a Goerz 270mm Kenro 2 and a 360mm APO f9 Ronar]. I was totally shocked when I developed the 3 shots I took with the Cooke on this trip ... absolutely sharp from corner to corner. This lens will be going to the top of the bag from now on. I hope to post a couple of scans.
3. Getting to watch John Powers shoot. I didn't get to watch many of you shoot ... but I did get to watch John for 1/2 day. He has an extremely sharp eye, a very well-practiced routine, and a patience in shooting that I would love to be able to develop. His gear is immaculate, organized, and he clearly knows how to use it. I think next year I'll just follow him around for the first day and a half.
1. I like El Marques food and margaritas
2. Tonopah has some incredible photographic venues within 40 miles
3. I'm never playing craps at John Asquaga's Nugget again (although I may try $5 martini night next time through)
4. I will limit my formats, lenses, and films next time (not likely)
5. I hope we re-do this workshop next year ... I think I have it figured out now
My WOWS were the photographs that were posted after we all came back,I'm sure there are alot yet to be posted.Another wow was those old lens of Jims and the other fellas.It was a great honor to work,see and learn along side Per and the other talented Photographers of the group.I was on the wagon so could not partake in any margaritas,but due Hartley agree of the photographic possibility's of Tonopah and the area around the city.Like to be at the work shop next year.Long live the Tonopah work shop.
1. From the perspective of working in isolation and having never seen anyone else touch a view camera, it was incredibly instructive to see others perform the craft of using a view camera and ask them about their methods.
2. The Zone System: a) is worth learning, b) you can employ elements of the Zone System in your photography without having to use the whole liturgy, and c) even limited application can improve your exposures.
3. You don’t need expensive toys to play and achieve magical results. Case in point, the great images Jim’s little projector lens produced, which cost him a modest amount (this is the lens Jim sold Harlan). Great funk for little dash.
4. Take any opportunity to get feedback on your prints. Working in relative isolation as I do, it was scary for me to show other people my prints. But, it is helpful to me to see what other people reacted to and how they react, i.e., does their reaction reflect what you intended to capture in the photograph. It helped empirically verify that some of my work has merit with people outside of my family, who are the only people that see my photographs and I know that they are predisposed to be supportive of what I do.
5. Per spent a few hours with me during a hands-on view camera use session, which was much incredibly helpful to me. During the session, Per casually pointed out two compositional elements in the scene and then discussed how we could connect them to make a stronger composition. It was like magic, I had never seen a composition put together before and it was simple and elegant. Seeing Per identify and connect those two compositional elements changed the way that I see composition, which is something that I struggle mightily with.
6. When Don whipped out his gorgeous prints on Monday, I had a moment of clarity. Today, so much photography that I see only exists only electronically that I was struck with the beauty of the fine print as an object and the challenge of producing a great print regardless of how it is produced. Result, my photography is going to be about the product, the finished physical print.
7. There is a parable that I have heard several versions of. The typical version is that a pottery instructor splits his class in to two halves. The instructor tells the one half of the class that their grade for the class will be based the single best pot that they produce. The instructor tells the other half of the class that their grade will be based on the total number of finished pots that they produce. At the end of class term, the students who produced the most pots also produced the best pots. The lesson being that you should produce as much as you can with what you have and know that the best you are capable of will precipitate from what you produce, so you should focus on producing work rather than technique, equipment, etc., etc.
Looking at the 8x10 images that I have created thus far, they keep getting better the more I take… I think there is a trend here.
Constructive Feedback for Future Workshops:
1. Maintain Schedule: a) a group of photographers will drift around like a herd of cats, if not herded by a daddy with a strong hand, b) the group of photographers really want to be herded so that they can learn as much as possible for the time they are investing, and c) there is a lot more photography content that they would like you to teach about than you would probably think. It might suck to think about being the heavy that keeps the show on the road, but there is plenty of time for BS'n and the laid back atmosphere will not be lost...
2. Future Potential Content Suggestions: a) classroom (living room) elements of composition session, b) demonstration of applying elements of composition in the field, c) simplified Zone System applications, d) lighting, and e) salvaging photography sessions when there is crappy light .
3. Mentor/Protégé Pairings: for people who are less experienced and request it, when you ask, pair them up with someone for a few hours who is competent in that area of photography. For example, if you have someone who has not handled a view camera much and would like some hands-on help handling the view camera (like me), pair them up with someone, including another willing student/attendee, for a couple hours to get some hands on personal interaction.
The first day was great, talking about composition at Jim's house with Per, reviewing others photos and Per explaining what makes a photography strong and what doesn't gave me a lot of inspiration towards future work. Open discussion and brain storming is a great way of motivating the group for the next day's to come.
I agree with Jay about the less experienced photographers (like me) grouping the second day to learn the basics. It was my first time taking a 4x5 camera into the field, so when I saw everyone running in a different direction on the Tonopah mining area, I though to my self "this is it!" I was a bit lost, Chauncey (the king of pichtorialism) was my instructor during the morning and told me everything about how to tilt, focus, level the camera etc...
In one way or another I learned a whole lot during the week, I felt I knew a little bit more of the Zone System everyday. Per has the magic ability to explain things in a non complicated way. Pre-exposing with a gray card, the zone system, or metering for the shadows and developing for the highlights makes more sense than ever after the week. I basically learned a whole lot from anyone that I could chat with: Curt, Mike, Mark, Glenn, John, Jim.
Just my two cents.
1. Dust sucks
2. I don't know how to focus a view camera as well as I thought I did, especially with movements.
3. I have much to learn to get to the level of many at the workshop.
4. Analog is a lot more work but a lot more satisfying than the alternative option. (Digital is just another alternative form of photography and should be classified as such).
5. The style of photography that is followed by the likes of Per and Jim certainly seems to attract intelligent, civil and interesting practitioners.
". There is a parable.....At the end of class term, the students who produced the most pots also produced the best pots. The lesson being that you should produce as much as you can with what you have and know that the best you are capable of will precipitate from what you produce, so you should focus on producing work rather than technique, equipment, etc., etc."
Excellent parable -- exactly the case with large format photography. Its far better to experiment with your own camera, make a bunch of images and look at the results, than to try to follow someone around watching what they do.
Pairing people up is an interesting idea, but remember that each attendee has paid to attend (even with low workshop fees, you are paying transportation, living, and opportunity costs). So everyone wants to get as much as they can out of the workshop, especially when the light is good. Jamie points out that he saw everyone running in different directions to make images, obviously excited by their own visions of images to be made-- yet if "paired", who determines where to go? And if the pair goes in opposite directions, where's the pairing? This is probably best handled informally by finding down time to ask questions, like our discussions of zone system at the Goldfield restaurant.... And, yes, Jamie lucked out getting Chauncey -- who had been to all the locations multiple times with Jim so he was already burned out on new images to start with.
My WOWs for the week
1) All the lenses with corresponding images that Jim laid out at the house. I'd seen some of this in view camera, etc, but in person it was overwhelming. Good thing Jim didn't put all the lenses out. We'd still be there looking....
2) How excellent Goldfield is for image making, both inside the courthouse and outside in the cold wind. I'd go back in a heartbeat. Thanks, Jim, for making the courthouse possible!
3) The calibre of the attendees -- while at various skill levels, all were open, friendly, sharing and helpful to others. A great mix. No prima donnas. No attendees fawning over the head of the workshop.
4) Seeing Per's images in person for the first time. Like Jay says, there is nothing quite like seeing prints in person. While I go to as many shows and galleries as I can get to, I hadn't seen Per's images except online.
5) I was impressed by Jamie's courage in showing machine-generated prints from 35mm, knowing that he was just a newbie in large format. I wonder if I'd have done this back when I was first starting 4x5....so Kudos, Jamie! And you've got a good eye for images.... And kudos to Jay for bringing his first large format images, and Jim Graves for sharing his first efforts at carbon printing (nice!).
6) The measure of a good or even great photographer isn't their equipment, their ability to setup, how much time they take making an image, etc. Its the resulting prints that they create and share with others.
At Monday's print sharing, some attendees either didn't have the courage to show their work, or the ability to create prints to share with others, or maybe couldn't take the feedback. Too bad for you. Too bad for the rest of us. I would have liked to see your work and your vision.....
7) When the Mexican restaurant has a fire, we all suffer. I was surprised at how bad the food was otherwise in Tonopah. The Banc Club's roadkill chicken toasted on top of the Chevy block was a one time treat for the restaurant (Last time I'll go there...). The Ramada's restaurant was a little better. Good thing the Mexican place got fixed. Lets hope it stays that way for next year.
Things I'd like to see next time
1) Everyone brings prints to share. Have courage. The reviews were always upbeat and constructive. You won't get torn apart like I have heard people have at Bruce's.
2) I'd like to hear more from Per on composition. Maybe using some of his images -- telling what choices he made.
3) Evenings could have been more constructive, particularly when sundown comes so early in November. Maybe after dinner, that's the time for the beginners to mingle with the experienced and ask questions about tilts, swing and yaw. Another evening could be used for everyone to bring something to show/tell. Could be a pile of new Dallmeyers found in a dustbin, or a cool night vision headset for loading film, or a demo on loading holders and dust management, or filtering, or developing, or discussion on alt processes like Carbon, albuman, etc. Maybe have another evening where everyone sets up their view camera, so people can play with them (there were many different types at the workshop). Everyone has something to share. Its all informal. All can participate. We'd need a location, maybe the break room at the Best Western? (enough of us stayed there....).
4) a little less soft light when we visit the dunes and the hoodoos.
Jay ... I know from your comments that you really enjoyed and got a lot out of this workshop ... my only comment is on your desire for more schedule and less chatter ... be careful what you wish for. I don't know how you can improve on a workshop that gave us a huge range of shooting types and venues, gave us the freedom to pick and choose our own shots, kept 18 photographers busy AND out of each others way, made two experts available to us every day, worked for beginner and expert alike, provided enough structure to keep us all on the same page each day, and still stayed informal and friendly. And, it delivered me home relaxed, refreshed and with a renewed commitment to photography ... and some great shots in the bag.
I've been on those "balls to the wall" 16-hour a day structured workshops ... I learned but was seldom inspired. I always returned home tired, ragged, burned out and ready to put photography on the shelf for several weeks ... or months.
The one recurring sentiment I got from the other commentators on this workshop is that they are all raring to go back next year ... that is a real testament to a good workshop. My sense of Per's workshops is that they are photographic opportunities with some instruction in gorgeous places with the opportunity to commune with and learn from other photographers ... they are as much photo get-togethers as they are workshops allowing each photographer to get as much ... or as little ... out of it as they want ... I don't think it gets any better than that.
I fully and truly enjoyed the workshop and learned lots.
For me the best parts of the experience were structured, by plan or by circumstance. The first day was exceptional, great mix of informality and structure. Similar experience inside the shed with Per and Jim the second day. Again in the courtroom and at Goldfields junkyard.
For me anytime there was a significant concentration of our group in a very, very small area it became productive. I include lunches in that too.
When we were undirected and just doing our own thing it was much less productive for me.
If I were to make a suggestion it would be to have a lesson then a guided assignment, each morning then again in the afternoon.
I'm not saying it should be balls to the walls for 16 hours each day but the subject matter available during the workshop was truly incidental. I came to learn from Per and Jim and to see Jim's lenses in action.
I want to stress the fact that the experience was great, I learned valuable lessons, I truly enjoyed the workshop, and the camaraderie. Next year though, well, I'd need to know that there would be more direction.
I would agree with you Mark and Jay, and some of Dons point of view of the workshop organization, but would not want to jeopardize its fluid decision making that is based on weather, or other outside influences.
I got the booklet, thanks much!
I don't think Don, Jay, or I are suggesting no flexibility.
All I'm saying is that when we show up somewhere like the Badlands, it would be nice to have a short lesson that fits the setting and to be given an assignment that drives it home.
Mark ... I agree ... There's a happy medium in there I think. I was kicking myself when I hiked off into the Badlands before asking about appropriate filters, contrast enhancement, etc. I think 15-30 minutes of structured info and questions once we got there and saw the conditions would have been very helpful. That said, I think I learn more when I go off and shoot, try different things, look at the results when I develop and print and then go to the books for information on solving the problems I've experienced.
I guess I tend toward the least structure because that's the way I shoot ... this, that, and everything ... as you'll see, if I can ever get my images posted. My primary gauge of a good workshop is getting a lot of shots in nice locations, learning some new things, enjoying the other people, and coming back relaxed, renewed, and re-motivated. With this criteria, I thought this was one of the best workshops I've attended.
Jim, there's nothing wrong with your motivations, or with Per and Jim Galli ignoring my suggestions. Everybody has different motivations for going to workshops.
For me though, the subjects in and around Tonopah and Goldfield were not that different from what I have at home. I have several old mining towns, two working steam railroads, bigger badlands, bigger sand dunes, cliff dwellings, blah, blah, blah, all within 1-3 hours of home, 4-5 hours gets me Canyonlands National Park or Canyon de Chelly or Natural Bridges or Monument Valley or the Colorado River.
What I can't normally get locally is Per's expertise or to see Jim's lenses.
I hear ya Mark,I pretty much did what Jim does in that I try to figure out my goof-ups when get back home.Funny thing is I new the contrast was pretty low on a few places but did not compensate for the plus development in the exposure.
"My primary gauge of a good workshop is getting a lot of shots in nice locations, learning some new things, enjoying the other people, and coming back relaxed, renewed, and re-motivated. With this criteria, I thought this was one of the best workshops I've attended."
Well said and exactly how I feel about this workshop!
Looking forward to seeing your images. I'm still developing 12x20's, and need to complete this task before I make prints to rephotograph and post (too large for the scanner)
Mark wrote: "For me though, the subjects in and around Tonopah and Goldfield were not that different from what I have at home. I have several old mining towns, two working steam railroads, bigger badlands, bigger sand dunes, cliff dwellings, blah, blah, blah, all within 1-3 hours of home, 4-5 hours gets me Canyonlands National Park or Canyon de Chelly or Natural Bridges or Monument Valley or the Colorado River."
Okay then ... next month I'm coming to visit and bringing 16 photographers with me. There's got to be a good Mexican restaurant in a town named Durango!
Jim in Sacramento
Yes, plenty of good food here. (Tourist town)
Next month though you might be fighting a fair size pile of snow.
Working and living with the snow and mud is my punishment for being able to weekend easily in all those fun spots I listed above.
There is a joke about the San Luis valley where the sand dunes rest. "What's the difference between the San Luis valley and the North Pole; a fence-line".
Maybe you ought to plan that trip for late next spring.
I'd like to go there for a work shop or just go.
I lived in Colorado for the decade of the 1980's, although in Colorado Springs not Durango...but I spent a lot of time in SW Colorado.
Actually you'd like to go there in July --- both D&S and C&TS are running, the high country is **usually** free of snow, and the wildflowers are blooming at high altitudes. The second best time is the first week in October with the Aspens "blooming".
Right now, everything is shut down. NO access to high country, snow on the paved highways makes pullouts problematic. Even some businesses (Mark can elaborate if this is still true...maybe there's now enough people in SW CO to ensure they can stay open other than seasonally) can be shut down waiting for the return of the tourist season...Even getting into some lower altitude places like Chaco Canyon (in NM) can be problematic with the rainy season soaking the clay roads..... Sure the Sand Dunes in Alamosa Valley are "open" but only the former Winter Park weather station usually had colder continental USA temperatures reported than Alamosa. Alamosa is still open as a weather station...
Ok,I can wait for July or so.