Chuck Farmer LF Zion Workshop: review

By Tim Daneliuk for the Large Format Page

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.


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, ...)


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.


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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