Life is like a workshop.
I’ve never really thought about it that way before, but the value you receive from a photography workshop is often still paying dividends years and years after the workshop has ended—very much the way one’s childhood, education or other experience can only be truly valued with the benefit of hindsight. In my case, I met my photographic hero at a workshop, I met my best friend at a workshop, and I’ve made some of my favorite images at workshops.
But, it’s the lessons about perserverance, about the desire to create images that hold up over time and especially the relationships you forge that are the true value of a workshop. It’s a time to share ideas and discover new pathways for your career.
A superb example of that is the picture editor I met at a workshop who introduced me to many other editors and clients over the last several years. When I trace all the subsequent connections I made back to her, I realize that the client tree that grew from that first introduction has made up a huge part of my business over the last several years. All from one, single introduction. I’m glad I was a part of that workshop.
I recently completed another week of teaching at the Sports Photography Workshop in Colorado. I was part of a staff that included photographers and editors from Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, the Associated Press, the NCAA and the local newspaper, the Colorado Springs Gazette. There were also some of the finest photographers from the world of sports photography, adventure photography and nature photography in attendance. It is truly humbling to be included with such an esteemed group of shooters.
The workshop is produced by the legendary Rich Clarkson, who has photographed eight Olympic games and more than 50 Final Four tournaments. Rich is a former Director of Photography at the National Geographic Magazine and was a contract photographer for Sports Illustrated magazine where his photographs have appeared on the cover more than 30 times.
The students came from as far away as Singapore, Australia, France and Switzerland to be a part of this annual workshop that mixes sports action and portraiture with Olympic athletes who are training in everything from swimming to cycling to kayaking. There are also opportunities to shoot side-by-side with the instructors at Major League Baseball games, a motocross track, a skateboarding park, the sheer cliffs of a rock-climbing wall or countless other venues.
Over the years I’ve developed some wonderful friendships, established some new business relationships and found myself accross the table from some of the most talented people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing—students and faculty members alike. This year was no exception. It’s truly inspiring—and deeply humbling—to spend the week with such a talent pool. When the week is over, I’m never really sure who’s learned more, the students or me.
My role each year is to produce and teach a four-day lighting workshop that begins with how light works and culminates in a multiple light, multiple set-up, full-blown portrait session with an athlete at the Olympic Training Center. Along the way, we discuss everything from speed lights to studio strobes and share about concepts that include flash duration, the inverse square law and how to defy the laws of light to make the photograph you want.
This year, I introduced the students to “Stilla,” my lighting model and studio partner. She stands six feet tall and is a size two—a difficult woman to buy clothes for, to be sure, but I still enjoy shopping for her. She did everything I asked while I was creating my lighting demonstration images and she never compained about holding her pose while I positioned the lights just right. At $149.95, she was all I could ever want in a subject.
Once we were finished with Stilla—who was remarkably patient while I taught about reflectors, soft boxes and grids—it was time to go out and make a portrait of an actual athlete. This year, student Ali Darvish engaged two fencers as our subjects and with the help of the manufacturers and all of their lighting gear, we created three different lighting set-ups for the students to work with. The entire workshop is supported by manufacturers from Dynalite, Elinchrom, Manfrotto, Nikon, Pocketwizard, Profoto and Roberts Distrubutors, as well as several others. Their support is unparalleled.
Storied photographer Dave Black, who lives right in Colorado Springs, was kind enough to loan me his endless supply of black fabric so that we could isolate the fencers from the otherwise ugly room that they train in. Kevin Lackey from Manfrotto helped me out with some indespensible grip equipment and Elinchrom RX System monolights. Peter Poremba from Dynalite brought several heads, packs, grids, reflectors and softboxes. Lorenzo Gasperini from Pocketwizard provided all the radios and because of the PocketWizard’s ability to use different channels, the students could shoot at the different set-ups without triggering someone else’s lights. And, of course, Ron Taniwaki from Nikon loaned me the latest D-series camera and any lenses I wanted so that I didn’t need to travel with my own gear. It was a team effort and I’m grateful for all the support that day.
Each student had the opportunity to direct and photograph the fencers during the two-hour shoot and along the way, created some truly fine images of two world-class athletes, Samantha and John.
I can’t wait to be there again next year to meet some new people, share some new stories and look at more amazing photographs. It’s a week like no other.
Click Diagram to Enlarge
Special thanks to Rich Clarkson, Brett Wilhelm, Chris Steppig, Steve Nowland, Matt Sewick and Ryan McKee from Rich Clarkson and Associates for putting on an amazing workshop; Ron Taniwaki from Nikon, who is an old friend and a passionate voice behind fine cameras and lenses; Mark Astmann, Jan Ervin and Kevin Lackey from Manfrotto for some of the most useful products made; Peter Poremba from Dynalite who is always so helpful and generous; Denis Nervig from Profoto who is always eager to give me anything I need; Lorenzo Gasperini from PocketWizard who not only knows more about PocketWizard than anyone should, but can also repair them in the field; and Jody Grober from Roberts Distributors who couldn’t possibly be more helpful.
Finally, I’m deeply humbled by the intructors who give of their time and energy so selflessly. I learn so much from each and every one of you: Dave Black, Jeff Jacobsen, Keith Ladzinski, Richard Mackson, Mark Reis, Bob Rosato, Bob Smith, Brad Smith and, of course, my brother Mark Terrill. You all leave me shaking my head in disbelief at both the brilliance of your work and the generosity you show in sharing your wisdom.
Thank you all.