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Thread: Charles P. Farmer Workshop

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    Socorro, NM
    Posts
    187

    Charles P. Farmer Workshop

    After reading testimonials regarding Large Format workshops on the internet, I chose a Charles P. Farmer workshop in Zion that ended last week. In appreciation for hearing feedback from others that helped me make my decision, here are a few thoughts on my experience.

    First, a little about the skill level I started from. I had exposed approximately 10 images on two different cameras before taking this workshop, and had received my Toho 4x5 only days before I left for Zion. While I have done a lot of reading, and received some basic instruction from a few friends, I was still very uncertain and clumsy with the film and the camera. While this workshop revealed how much I yet have to learn about exposure, I was relatively comfortable with exposure as I have been shooting medium format for about 4 years. I shoot color transparency film.

    Workshop Format The workshop was well designed. It balanced short lectures with morning and afternoon shoots in sites throughout Zion National Park. The evening programs were a combination of additional lectures on Creativity, a review of participant portfolios (feedback optional) and a look at some outstanding black and white work of Chuck and Dick Garrod (a student of Ansel Adams, and a friend and contemporary of Brett Weston). Early afternoon lectures addressed Optics, Camera Movements, and Logistics. The morning and mid-afternoon shooting, and the early afternoon and evening lecture schedule left little time for other activities (I was too tired each night to make it to the Driftwood Lodge hot tub). My one regret, is that I did not allow for a few additional days after the workshop to continue shooting in the Park.

    Chuck’s personal style, and therefore that of the workshop as a whole, is very laid back. Students could attend lectures or location shoots as they saw fit. (How many times can you hear a lecture on camera movements?) One morning, in lieu of going with the main group to another site, I chose to hike up the Narrows section of the Virgin River with a few other students, something I have longed to do for a long time.

    Instructor Attitudes I might have just as easily titled this section, Instructor Philosophy, as Chuck emphasizes that he wants to pass on what he knows to others and to make the learning process as easy as possible. From the beginning, Chuck, Dick and John (the other assistant) let everyone know that they were there to assist your learning. As a novice photographer, I felt that any of them was available to me on an as needed basis. At different times, I received assistance from all three. I did not see an instructor expose any film until toward the week’s end, by which time everyone knew that you only had to ask to receive assistance. And even then, their own shooting occurred only after they were certain everyone else was well situated.

    Chuck and Dick were willing to review participant portfolios one-on-one – an offer I took advantage of by meeting with each one separately. The personal feedback I received was very helpful technically, and I felt encouraged by hearing what I was doing that worked well. Additionally, at the workshop’s conclusion, Chuck made it clear that he is available as a resource at any point after the workshop. A service that others I spoke with attested to having used.

    Additional Observations Perhaps the biggest surprise was the skill level of the other participants and their willingness to share knowledge, and even equipment (filters, lenses, meters, etc.). A large majority of the participants in this workshop had attended other Charles P. Farmer workshops, with a number of them attending more than 4 or 5. This contributed greatly to a strong collegial, even family, atmosphere. At times, it felt like a photographic college reunion. The barbecue on the last night just seemed an extension of the camaraderie developed throughout the week.

    One hallmark of Chuck’s workshops is that spouses can attend without charge. This was a godsend for me as it allowed my wife to come along. She attended several of the lectures and we actually had conversations about photography without her eyes glazing over. Her observation was that it helped her appreciate my passion for photography, and she said that she had an outstanding time hiking along and joining in on the shoots and visiting with some of the other spouses. She even received assistance from some of the others on how to use the digital camera we had just purchased. The result was that we each felt that we had gone on vacation together.

    I felt a bit of a heretic shooting color transparency film among a crowd of mostly black and white folks. For me, there was an upside and a downside to this. The upside was that I gained an appreciation for the role of composition and tonality in a quality image. People who labor in the wet darkroom pay attention to the subtlest tonal differences and don’t have outrageous color to mask compositional shortcomings. I left with a new standard for the importance of those qualities in color work as well. The downside was that I didn’t get to see my color portfolio through the eyes of the other students with the same degree of acuteness as I believe the B & W folks did. I would have liked some discussion about color theory and its role in how we see. However, this would not put me off from attending the workshop again. In fact, my wife and I have already said that we hope to go back next year.

    As a professional trainer of trainers of adult learners, I could certainly find fault with some of the training methodologies, and make suggestions for improving the workshop. Things like asking participants in advance to identify what they most would like to get from the workshop and then checking progress with them throughout the week, or making the lecture on Creativity more interactive might have helped. Like most subject matter experts, Chuck and Dick teach in the style that they are most comfortable learning in themselves. (Think of the different learning styles of people who have Lion, Turtle, Puppy or Owl tendencies and you may get a sense of what I mean.)

    One last observation. This workshop was one of those experiences that seems larger than the sum of its parts. My wife and I are still grinning and sharing stories from the trip. I don’t think that this would be possible without the deep caring that Chuck Farmer has for fine art photography, and the integrity he evidences in relationship to his craft and in his honest desire to help others along the same path.

    Please contact me if you have any questions about my experience of Chuck’s workshop.

  2. #2

    Charles P. Farmer Workshop

    I enjoyed your description so much that I looked up C P Farmer's web site. He has several portfolios for sale, the last one called "Alexis". It seems that Alexis is Ron Wisner's daughter. Is Alexis C P Farmer's wife - or would you know?

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    Socorro, NM
    Posts
    187

    Charles P. Farmer Workshop

    Jerald,

    No, Alexis is not Chuck's wife. Chuck and Ron Wisner were friends and did workshops together for awhile.

  4. #4

    Charles P. Farmer Workshop

    I can't say enough about the Farmer workshops. I've been on two (Death Valley and Lone Pine). Great people (as the poster said, like a family)and enjoyed both enormously. Locations and knowledge of the area was superb; support was great and discussions insightful and inspiring. If you haven't been on one you should!

    Alan

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    Ottawa, Canada
    Posts
    638

    Charles P. Farmer Workshop

    Thank you very much for the report! I have been considering a workshop for next year and it is always difficult to choose. You have made this one sound more then legitimate and promising.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Posts
    20

    Charles P. Farmer Workshop

    I was in the same workshop with Don (Hi Don). I, too, was shooting color and doing digital darkroom with LF.



    I had a terrific time. Chuck and Dick do a great job of setting a familial and supportive tone for the whole group. There is a broad range of interests and skills in the group, but everyone gets something out of it. One of the best testimonies to the quality of the experience is that about 1/2 the group were multiple-Farmer attendees. I can see why. Unlike Don, my wife did not attend, but I heard the jealousy in her voice every night I called her and told her how much fun I was having!



    I, too, plan to do this again, at Zion and a few other locations. We are also planning to have a 'reunion' in January to see what we all produced on the trip. That may be the most instructive exercise of all.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Sep 2001
    Location
    Olalla, WA
    Posts
    291

    Charles P. Farmer Workshop

    The only negative thing about Chuck's workshops is that they eventually end and you have to go home. I attended the Lone Pine and Bandon workshops this year and both were excellent. I was hoping to make it to Zion as well, but it was not possible. I'll plan on next fall for that one.

    My wife went with me to both workshops and enjoyed the lectures, presentations and outings as much as I did.

    I hope to attend many more Farmer workshops. Chuck and Dick are terrific as are the many wonderful people I have met in the workshops.

  8. #8

    Charles P. Farmer Workshop

    I can't thank you folks enough for you kind words. We are always trying to improve our efforts and we appreciate your comments and suggestions. I did indeed blow it at this years Zion workshop. We always introduce our participants and ask them what the are looking for from the workshop. This year I forgot to do this. By the time I did remember it seemed that everyone had gotten to know one another so I just let it go. I'll do better next time.

    Being a "fine art" photographer is one of the hardest thing one can do. We all should enjoy it, help one another out and make it a family affair. I plan to keep teaching as long as my wife can provide her famous cookies.

    Best to all, Chuck

  9. #9

    Charles P. Farmer Workshop

    I was also in the same workshop with Don and his lovely wife. I have attended more of Chuck Farmer's workshops than I can count and I always go back for more. I find that I feel inspired and motivated in the wonderful environments where the workshops are held. There are several locations offered throughout the year. No matter how many times I return to a location, there are always new things to see and photograph.

    We usually car pool, so its a wonderful opportunity to get to know the other participants and share experience and techniques with one another, not to mention, develop wonderful friendships. Don was my car pool partner on the Zion trip last November. (Don, I really enjoyed your company and your enthusiasm.)

    Chuck and Dick Garrod have taught me so much about large format photography. My experience with photography was with a medium format camera, until about 4 years ago when I purchased a Canham 4 x 5 camera through Chuck. He was very helpful in getting me set up with the right equipment. The switch to large format would have taken me so much longer, if it hadn't been for Chuck and Dick.

    I particularly like looking into the creative aspects of photography, such as being open to seeing and recognizing when a composition resonates with you in such a way that the final image is vested with meaning. Dick does a wonderful job helping us understand and explore that creative spirit within us. At many of the workshops, there are other presenters as well. They help us look at other aspects of the world of photography and other photographer's bodies of work in the hope of helping us enrich our own work.

    During the course of the workshop, Chuck and Dick take time to show and talk about their own work. I feel that viewing these works has given me a better understanding of what it is I want to achieve in my own work. I encourage anyone who attends to, also, take advantage of the print reviews with both Chuck and Dick. They have a wealth of information to share.

    Last, but not least, I want to say that I look forward to seeing the friends I have met throughout my years of participation and to be able to share the improvements in our work. Chuck, in case you see this, thank you for making this all possible.

  10. #10

    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    NJ
    Posts
    1

    Re: Charles P. Farmer Workshop

    I missed this the first time around, but wanted to comment.

    Chuck's workshops are terrific. Great locations, lots of photo opportunities, quality instruction and conversation, and quite a bit of fun. It is, as said above, like a family.

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