One of my goals for 2011 was to attend at least one workshop where I could stretch my skills a bit and learn from a knowledgeable instructor and some peers. After looking at a few options I chose to put my name onto the list for one of Derrick’s workshops. He began the workshops a bit over a year previous as an extension of the activities surrounding The Digital Story. Having listened to his podcast for a couple years and heard him talk about the workshops I decided to make it happen. Derrick maintains a list of interested podcast listeners – he has yet to open a workshop for general availability so if you’re interested be sure to listen to his podcast to get in on the action.
The logistics of the workshop were smooth. Everyone gathered at Derrick’s Santa Rosa studio on Friday evening for some wine, snacks, and getting to know each other. My workshop included seven students with five living in northern California and two of us traveling from outside of the area (I live in Washington; one attendee traveled from Texas). Derrick is the photography evangelist for Lowepro and they’re a workshop sponsor. One of the Friday activities was the “Lowepro bag grab” – names were dropped into a hat and attendees got to choose from a large pile of camera bags to take home. I ended up with a Lowepro Classified 160 AW which is a great bag. I’ve used it several times since the workshop and it holds a decent amount of gear in a shoulder walkaround bag.
Saturday morning we gathered at the studio again, this time in a classroom environment for a full day of learning. After a bit of instruction, we headed to a local park for an outdoor shoot with a model. It was a great learning experience for all as we explored options for using natural light, strobes, reflectors, and diffusers in order to produce a flattering image. We learned from Derrick but also learned from each other. After the photoshoot we came back to the studio, processed our best photos and then shared them with the group for peer review.
The final portion of the afternoon was spent preparing for Sunday: we’d be getting up before sunrise to photograph the pre-dawn launch of some hot air balloons at the Sonoma County Hot Air Balloon Classic. Each participant had a role to play in documenting the event for a story to run on The Digital Story. I drew the role of the copy editor. We wrapped things up and a few of us went out and enjoyed a casual dinner in Santa Rosa.
My alarm went off at 03:30 on Sunday in order to be at our meeting point and then get to the festival. The group made our way to the event and arrived just as they began to fire the balloons. We stayed for a few hours, putting our event photography skills to the test as we captured the balloons, people, and atmosphere of the festival. Around mid-morning we drove back to the studio and again prepared images for review. We ate lunch as a group and shared our photos, with the member playing the role of photo editor having the job of narrowing down our hundreds of images into three for the article and about three dozen for a Flickr gallery. Eventually we prepared and published the article; I was pleased that one of my images was chosen as the lead photo.
We wrapped up the day with some concluding thoughts and said our goodbyes. New friendships were formed and new skills were learned.
Overall I felt the workshop was worthwhile and a good value for the price ($499 which included the Friday reception as well as two lunches). I would say the workshops are a good fit for the amateur or advanced amateur. I found some of the event material a little basic (not surprising since I shoot a lot of events) but there were other areas where I learned a fair amount including interacting and working with a model. The small class size allows for everyone to receive attention and Derrick’s studio is comfortable for a group of that size. If you enjoy Derrick on The Digital Story podcast you’ll be pleased to know he’s the same nice guy in person.
I was happy with the workshop and would definitely recommend it to friends looking to increase photography knowledge in an intimate, supportive environment.
This review originally appeared on a different website, but that website is disappearing and I wanted the review to live on. ↩