I recently attended a LF workshop taught in Zion National Park led by west coast fine-art photographer Chuck Farmer. I thought I'd share my observations and review with others here who might be interested. I hasten to point out that I have no financial connection or "axe to grind" in this regard. The Instructors ================ Chuck Farmer - B&W Fine-Art Photographer/Workshop Leader Dick Garrod - Fine-Art (Primarily B&W, some color) Photographer Former assistant at the Ansel Adams Yosemite workshops Colleague and friend of Brett Weston Kent Stocker - Commercial and Fine-Art Photographer Class Participants ================== About 15 people from a variety of professions and locations around the US. Most were shooting 4x5, one or two 8x10s, one 11x14 (!), one medium format, and two 35mm. (This could have been an ad campaign for Wisner cameras since about 2/3 of the cameras were his - including the 11x14. There were several Canhams and one old Ansco 8x10 in evidence as well.) Although the classwork was geared pretty much exclusively towards LF, in my observation there was plenty of shooting and discussion for everyone to benefit. One indication of the quality of this workshop is that the "one person in every group who is a general pain for everyone else" never signed up for this event 8-)) Everyone, old and young, experienced and rookie, got along famously. This was a really terrific bunch of strangers with which to spend a week. I know I made some lifelong friendships here. Location ======== Zion National Park, UT - A mountainous "high desert" region of the American Southwest known for its impressive canyons and rock formations. Duration, Cost, & Organization ============================== Noon Sat. through Noon Wed. $495 included several large "books" of magazine reprints, articles, and material written by the instructors. Each day was organized the same way: Early morning shooting After lunch topical seminar (LF camera movements, lens selection, packing for travel...) Late afternoon shooting After dinner seminar (Student & instructor portfolios, lecture on creativity, ...) Critique ======== Although I've been a serious photographer for the better part of 30 years, this is the first time I ever attended a workshop. I didn't know what to expect. I was very pleasantly surprised. The general tone and approach of the whole workshop was very informal and laid-back. (About the only thing regimented were starting times - the staff didn't want to keep 15 people waiting around. They largely succeeded.) The emphasis was NOT on the classroom or seminar work, but on shooting in the field. Although there were some classroom/technical sessions, these tended to be very short and not really organized as formal lectures. These tended to be driven by participant questions rather than as an orderly presentation. In truth, the instructors spent most of their "teaching" energy in the field while we were shooting. One thing I appreciated was that the staff did not spend any time themselves photographing the first 3 days or so. They wandered around the rest of us critiqueing, offering advice, and answering questions. The evening sessions which were primarily dedicated to student and instructor portfolio presentations were terrific. I expected the instructor portfolios to be good, but the student presentations were phenomenal as well. For example, I've always been a B&W bigot ("Color is seeing the movie, B&W is reading the book."). However, when I saw Dick Garrod's Ilfochromes I finally realized the kind of fine-art possible in color - I'd never seen anything like it before. I should also note the tremendous value I found in rubbing shoulders with serious photographers for the better part of a week. Being around a bunch of terrific folks who share your obsession for beautiful photographs has its own magical properties. Greatest Weakness ================= IMHO, the seminars on view camera movements, lens selection, creativity, and so forth would have benefited by being more organized and presented less as a stream-of-consciousness. There was plenty of value in these discussions, they just tended to be a bit hard to follow at times. Greatest Strength ================= The "hands on" personal involvement of the instructors with the workshop participants followed closely by the dynamics of the entire group were the highlights for me. It was a week of saturating in serious photography, and that week just flew by. Conclusions =========== I wholeheartedly and without reservation recommend the Farmer workshop for anyone serious about photography. It's funny, notwithstanding the 30 or so years I've been making photos, I learned an incredible amount. Yet, I cannot specifically tell you where in the seminar I made the improvements. It was such an intense immersion in LF photography that I kind of forgot everything else for a few days. The sum of the instructors, the field experience, the other participants, and the portfolios was incredible. This is $495 very well spent - In 5 days, I shot 81 sheets of 4x5 and almost 3 boxes of Polapan 100. I've just started printing the negatives and have never been happier with my own work. Go - you'll love it!
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