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As someone seriously pursuing professional photography, photography workshops are a bit different. If I had the money and was an amateur photographer, I imagine I’d be going on a ton of them. As a pro, I believe in continuing education heavily, but the selection process gets much more stringent.

The first selection criteria, is the workshop teaching something I really need or want to learn and I think I’d do much better with some hands-on learning than an online course or something. Also, the ability to arrange the hands-on training without paying someone else comes into play.

The second criteria; does the workshop have arrangements, such as special access to subjects or travel plans that it’s certainly worth it to pay someone else to arrange rather than set it up yourself. An idea that is similar to hiring a producer for a commercial shoot.

From these criteria, I certainly haven’t participated in many workshops, but when I have, they have been fantastic experiences.

The most fun thus far, has been my trip to Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. This trip was light on the instruction, assumption was that participants pretty much knew what we were doing. There was an instructor available for any help needed, but it was a freestyle setting. At the time, when I was a part time photographer and full time food quality lab technician, my focus was wildlife photography. I’ve always loved history though and thus, the combination of the great seabird photography with the history on the island was very exciting.

The days were full of excitement, yet very relaxing. We’d get up before dawn and walk over to the Clipper House, a nice French bistro themed around the Pan Am Clippers that made Midway the second stop on their flights across the Pacific. The food was fantastic and the service friendly and humbling as I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anyone work as hard as the two ladies that worked the dining area. Then it was off to shooting. The wildlife was so easy to find and approach that we were able to fulfill any plans we made within an hour or so, thus we came up with a lot of different ideas to try in a week’s time. Then lunch would roll around, so it was off to what used to be the old Navy mess hall. Here the food was a choice of typical American, such as Hamburgers, or authentic Sri Lankan cuisine. I tried a lot of different fabulous curries.

After lunch, most of us took a nap through the harsh light of midday. Then we finished the day off with some more shooting and dinner at the Clipper House immediately after sunset.

All of this shooting and eating fun was topped off with great times with a bunch of people with similar interests, but diverse backgrounds. We had a WWII Navy fighter pilot, a woman who watched the attack on Pearl Harbor from her yard, and a Swedish woman who was not at all interested in photography but was there as she wanted to bird Midway but thought photographers would be better company since she wasn’t a lister. We even ran into the Secretary of the Navy who was on a tour of ex-Navy bases in the Pacific. It was fascinating to listen to one of his bodyguards, a fighter pilot during Desert Storm, swap war stories with the WWII fighter pilot in our party.

Now, my big plan for this summer is a different sort of workshop; Madras A2A X. This is a workshop to teach us some of the skills of air to air photography and provide a general experience built for photographers at a local airshow. It is heavier on the education than my earlier Midway trip; fortunately since I need to learn some things about planning shoots like this and related safety issues.  Since I’ve become a full-time photographer my focus has shifted more to vehicles and people and photographing them together, so this is well targeted. My favorite vehicles are definitely vintage aircraft.

The second slide show here is from the Airshow of the Cascades from 2013, the workshop will be built around the 2014 show.

If you’re interested in this sort of thing I suggest you strongly consider this workshop. If you’d like to see some images from our instructors and organizers, the Facebook fan page for the workshop is a great place for that, https://www.facebook.com/madrasa2ax.