In April I attended an action packed photography workshop in Moab, Utah conducted by The Digital Photo Workshops. The Digital Photo Workshops hold weekend workshops that start on Thursday night and go through Sunday afternoon. For this trip they had a “crew” of Jeff Leimbach, Randy Van Duinen & Wayne Bennett and guest instructor Dave Black.
I got to meet and get to know some fun and interesting people, especially my fellow carpoolers. The instructors, Jeff, Randy, Wayne & Dave, created a fun and comfortable environment in which to learn. I’ve been on other workshops where I felt an invisible line between the instructors and the students, that I did not feel here. They strive to have one instructor for every 4 students so the class size wasn’t too big and I never felt like I had to wait to ask a question.
So just how action packed was it? Let me give you a taste.
On Thursday night we have a meet and greet followed by some instruction to whet our appetites for what’s to come. Breaking the ice with the instructors and fellow attendees helps set the stage for the rest of the weekend.
Friday starts by meeting at 4:30 AM in the parking lot to set up carpools before heading out to Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park.If you’re not aware Mesa Arch is one of those icon sunrise locations that attracts tons of photographers. You have to get their early if you want a prime spot.
Once the sun is up we head to breakfast at the Jailhouse Cafe. It doesn’t matter what you order here as long as it includes the BACON!! I had the Ginger Pancakes..they lasted me all weekend. Did you know cold pancakes can be tasty when you’ve missed dinner 😉
Back at the hotel meeting room, Randy gives us a walk through of his photoshop/lightroom workflow. This is the first workshop I’ve been to that includes the post-processing.
To keep to our agenda, we eat lunch in the car as we drive out to the town or remains of a town called Cisco. Cisco is located off Highway 128 between Moab and the Colorado border. The 128 is how I got to Moab from Grand Junction, but more on that in another post. Cisco provided a lot of old, broken, rusted subjects for HDR photography.
On the way back from Cisco we stop at Fisher Towers where we get to photograph a rock climber hired just for us.
Sport photography is one of Dave Black’s specialties as he’s photographed 12 Olympic games among other events so we were well coached in what to look for.
By the time we get back to the hotel we’ve got time to grab a few snacks before it’s time to head out to Balanced Rock in Arches National Park for sunset. While we do some shooting during sunset, the highlight of the evening will be lightpainting Balanced Rock.
While we wait for it to get dark enough we play around with creating some light spheres. We also get our first hand’s on lesson from Dave on lightpainting a “tabletop” or in this case a “rocktop” . Once we master the small stuff, it’s on to lightpainting the big stuff 🙂
Saturday starts at 4:45 with a return to Arches National Park. This time we are headed to the Windows/Double Arch Area for sunrise. From one parking lot you can visit Windows Arch, which lets you photograph one arch looking through another Arch, Turret Arch and Double Arch. The most interesting photograph you can get here is Windows Arch, but it’s not that easy to get to in the dark and I chickened out. I was able to walk around Turret Arch and get help from Jeff & Wayne on my compositions.
After breakfast back at the hotel, we get some more workflow instruction from Jeff and Randy before working on our own photos. Jeff, Randy, Wayne & Dave were on hand to help us with either shot selection, post-processing or words of encouragement. We also got a chance to do some more lightpainting in the classroom with Dave before heading out to Delicate Arch for sunset and lightpainting.
Getting to Delicate Arch was quite a hike. I jokingly told Jeff, I’d pay extra if they provided some Sherpas to haul me up 🙂 I have to say it was worth the hike. We sat on the rim taking photographs as the sun went down.
As it was getting dark we headed to a lower vantage point so that we would be looking up at Delicate Arch and the Night Sky. While at Balanced Rock each of the attendees got to take a turn at lightpainting, here Dave did all the work while we pushed our shutter buttons. Logistically it worked better. There were a lot of people besides us there who were cheering Dave on as he was doing the lightpainting. As a sports photographer, I’m sure he’s used to hearing people cheer for his subjects, but it’s probably not that often he hears cheering directed at him 😉
On Sunday we met at 5:00 am to go to the Park Avenue/Courthouse area in Arches National Park for sunrise and some reflections. How do you shoot reflections with no lake, pond or river in sight? You find little puddles in the rock and if there aren’t any puddles…you make them 🙂 The second secret is you need to get on your belly so that you catch both your subject and it’s reflection in your viewfinder. Laying down on rock isn’t the most comfortable thing to do, but you don’t take these kinds of workshops to be in your comfort zone.
We return to the Jailhouse Cafe for more bacon (and breakfast), followed by more image processing with the instructors. The workshop ends with a slide show of everyone’s best submissions. It’s always fascinating to see how we can all be in the same place at the same time and see such different things.
Between getting up to meet as early as 4:30 and not getting back to the hotel until as late as 11:00, hiking and crawling around on my stomach, I was tired and sore. It was the kind of tired though that makes you feel like you accomplished something… and I did. Click to see the best.
Stay tuned for more about what I learned in future posts.