Last weekend I attended a National Geographic Traveler Nature and Landscape seminar here in Detroit. It is not too often you see something like this pop up in this area. It didn’t seem to be too overly gear focused, which appealed to me greatly. With agenda topics such as “Lighting Your Fire for Nature Photography” and “How Come Mine Don’t Look Like That?” – I thought I would catch a little inspiration. It was also a good chance to revisit the campus I haven’t been to much since I graduated more than 20 years ago.
I thought the instructors Eddie Soloway and Michael Melford were pretty good. They offered a good balance I suppose of instructional images vs. just showing of some of their favorites. Eddie Soloway in particular went back to some images from his very first show and reflected back upon them. Michael Melford showed many of his assignments for National Geographic, and had some interesting stories to tell.
At some point in their passions for photography, everyone romanticizes National Geographic photographers. Melford pulled back the curtain a little bit and told many stories of how with some of his cover shots he just got lucky. He was a pretty well traveled guy. He had an interesting statistic, that the ratio of shots submitted to Nat Geo from Nat Geo photographers to those that get published is something like 3,331 to 1.
Soloway definitely presented the more creative and playful side of nature photography, showing everything from his experiments while driving his car to ethereal and painterly images that result from a lot of experimentation. He talked quite a bit about trying to break out of the box that we find ourselves in from time to time. A lot of this just comes from ignoring what we may be preconditioned to think what may or may not work and just do it. He discussed his philosophy of being pulled by light, instead of chasing it, as a way of working in the field.
Their discussion of the technical aspects of photography were prompted mostly by questions from the audience. I admit I tend to tune these out most of the time now because it seems the same questions are asked over, and over, and over at every photography seminar I have been to. What type of lens, raw or jpeg, what tripod, do you use Photoshop or Lightroom, etc, etc. The question that stuck out to me was from a younger “kid” who gave compliments to Melford for all the mountains and grand scenics, asking how one might find things to photograph around the Detroit area when we have none of that. I must admit I felt like shouting out to him – go to grafphoto.com. :-)
Overall I would say it was worthwhile going. I don’t know if I heard much in the way of new ideas or tips, but at this time in my photographic journey, the challenges seem to be just keeping all these ideas in your head while you are out in the field – and getting out there to begin with. If anything, it reinforced many things I already knew. It was a reminder of how much of photography is realizing the possibilities while you are out there, whether they are in camera, or what you can do later on in post-processing.
I picked up a good statement that I think I will remember most…
Go Back. Go Slow. Be Thoughtful. Be Playful.