My time in the Tetons

Can you look back in your career and identify that moment in time that everything changed for the better? Not that it was necessarily bad beforehand, but there were definitely improvements after? This workshop was one of those moments for me!

For years, I'd wanted to go to the Photography at the Summit held every year in the Grand Tetons, because, as a fan of the wildlife photographer Tom Mangelsen, I knew he was on the faculty of this workshop. Four years ago the stars aligned and with the encouragement of Christi, I went. I was hoping I was going to learn something about being a better wildlife photographer, but I really feel I learned so much more! I may even say it was life-changing from a photographic perspective!

That's a pretty big claim for attending a photography workshop, but here's the thing, Tom Mangelsen was just one of the award winning National Geographic photographers there that week. Joining him were:
Dave Black ~ Nikon Ambassador, Nat Geo, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, Time, KelbyOne
Jim Richardson ~ Nat Geo for 30 years with over 30 published articles, contributing editor of Travel Magazine
Michael Forsberg ~ Nat Geo, Charter Member of NANPA, Fellow of ILCP.
William Albert Allard ~ Nat Geo since 1964, contributing to 42 articles!
MaryAnne Golon ~ Director of Photography and assistant Managing Editor at The Washington Post
Allen Murabayashi ~ Co-Founder of PhotoShelter
Bob Smith ~ member of National Geographic's Image Collection, Nikon Professional Services and past Director of Mangelsen Stock Images.
Rich Clarkson ~ Founder of Photography at the Summit workshops, Photo Editor Nat Geo, American Photo Top 50, Basketball Hall of Fame (the only photographer in the hall of fame)

I'll be honest, I really didn't know any of them when the week started, but by the end of the week in their presence for almost 24 hours a day, I was in awe!!

Every day we were led out before dawn in small groups by one of the faculty to explore and photograph the National Park. Our challenge was to take photos that HAD to impress the faculty, who after lunch would review three of the images we'd photographed that morning. Oh, and we were allowed to use NO editing software to make changes other than cropping our image to the same aspect ratio!!!

So how do you impress faculty photographers that have been there, done it, and seen it?? I had to take a monumental leap in pushing my skill set and understanding of my gear to a whole new level in a very short time frame. What I found was that I once I started to push myself to find those images, I became much more discerning about how, what, and when I photographed anything! I learned to look at the world differently, and based upon the daily critiques and lessons in the field, I not only learned a whole lot about wildlife photography, but I discovered a whole new passion for sharing the lessons I'd learned.

I have to say, I had found myself in a photographic rut having been working in the field of portraiture and high volume photography for years. It had become easy for me to use a formula day in day out and come out with some ok photos. A week in the presence of such phenomenal, passionate, photographic educators made me realize how much of a lazy photographer I'd become! This week in the Tetons changed that! 

The faculty pushed us every day to be better and provided us the knowledge to do that. I learned so much that I created a presentation based on the things I learned that week called From Snap Shot to Pro Shot. The main thing I learned was to change my mindset! I already knew how to take a technically good photo, but what I learned during this week was how to begin to look for and see a meaningful, impactful photo, before I took it!! We strived with every image to 'get it right' in the camera, doing all the hard work before we even pressed the shutter release. 
I was also reminded of some things: that to be good at anything you need to practice. A lot. You can learn much from people better than you, so if you're looking to improve your photo skills (or skills in any field), investing in yourself to go on workshops and have your images reviewed is priceless! Most of all what I was left with after this week was an understanding of the passion these photographers have for their work, and making every press of the shutter count! For them, in every image they strive to create an impact, tell a story, stir an emotion. It was contagious!

If you're stuck in your rut, or just don't know how to take your skills to the next level, consider going on a workshop. In mine I share the technical and 'soft' lessons I learned in this and other workshops I go on to help you become a better photographer no matter where you're starting from, and I'd love for you to join me on one, but if you can't come on mine...go on someone's. It may change things for the better!


By the way, all the images here were ones I submitted to the panel for review and each one was well-received. It was a huge relief :) !!!