A Great Photography Workshop

This may be a little off topic, but then again many voyaging sailors are, like me, also avid photographers, so here goes.

I just got back from an intensive one week travel photography workshop taught by Bob Krist, who is one of the best and most prolific travel photographers around.

But more than that, Bob has a pragmatic approach that works well in the real world of boat-borne travel photography where we need to be able to get good shots with gear that we can carry comfortably on our boats, not to speak of on our aging backs, and while still having a life. He is also great fun to learn from: smart, funny, and articulate.

But don’t get the idea that this is an easy course. Bob set the tone the first morning by saying “not a lot of pressure here, but keep in mind the sign on the wall in National Geographic’s office: we print photographs, not excuses.”

On the evening of day three when I had driven for an hour and a half to get a shot only to have the cloud roll in, I remembered the quote. I had nothing and knew that Bob and my fellow students would be waiting to see photographs, not excuses, in the morning. Oh well, you can sleep when you’re dead, and I was up at dawn to get something, anything.

In fact that was the big take-away for me from the course: Good travel photography is not about taking a few pictures when the light is great and you feel inspired. It’s about coming back with good images no matter what. It’s about operating outside your comfort zone, sometimes way outside. It’s about oscillating 20 times a day between “wow what a great shot I took” and “I suck!”.

I still have much to learn. I will always have much to learn. But a week with Bob, and 12 wonderful, supportive and talented classmates, has given me a big boost in my craft and confidence.

If you want to improve your travel photography or, heaven help you, try to make a living at it, a course or workshop with Bob Krist will be a great help. Some of his gigs are very high end (think private jets and luxury cruise ships) but the course in Maine was both reasonably affordable, particularly if you sponge off friends for accommodations as I did, and good value.

On each of four days we had to present Bob with 20-30 images made on the course that he would critique and edit down to five for a daily class slide show. (I thought of fudging from my large stock of images of Maine but I suspect that Bob is way too smart to accept an image with fall colours in June). Below are my shots that made the cut. Keep in mind that I was trying to shoot outside my normal comfort zone, so the show is very different from what regular readers are used to seeing from me.

Slideshow requires a reasonably up to date copy of the Adobe Flash plug-in or iPhone/iPad or Android and that java script be enabled.

If you would like to see more photography related posts, or not, please leave a comment.

{ 7 comments… add one }

  • Tony D July 24, 2010, 8:03 am

    I’ve heard of Bob Krist, I’m glad you got alot out of his workshop. I’m closer to being an avid photographer than a cruising sailor these days but I have taken my love of photography aboard my 26′ sailboat on the Potomac River in the past year or so. My wife has declared a difference between ‘picture taking sailing’ and ‘no camera sailing’, after I had a near accidental gybe while getting the shot… I really like hearing more about your photography, keep it up!

    • John July 25, 2010, 7:11 am

      Hi Tony,

      I know what you mean. Phyllis has definitely noticed the difference between hiking with a camera, the norm these days, and without.

  • Matt July 25, 2010, 5:56 am

    Hi John

    Although I’m a keen sailor, I stumbled across your website through a link from a photography site. I’ve always wondered what camera body & lenses you normally use? Full frame dslr & wide aperture lenses would be my guess… Also, what software do you normally use to edit your shots? From one of the shots taken at your course (above), it looks like Aperture 3 running on MacBook Pros was popular?

    I’m sure the answers to these questions may not interest everyone, but as a keen amateur photographer I sure would be!


    • John July 25, 2010, 7:22 am

      Hi Matt,

      You are correct, a full frame camera (Canon 5D) with a selection of zooms from 17mm to 400mm. The shots in the show are pretty evenly spread between focal lengths, all the way from the wide end to 400mm. One of the things I was trying to do in the workshop was work more at the wide end, which is, at least for me, a harder place to be than the long. I use Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop to handle my photos.

  • Richard July 25, 2010, 8:03 am

    Hi John,

    I’m new to sailing and enjoy your blog. I thought your photographs were excellent. You are very modest.


  • Doug (& Dale) Bruce August 4, 2010, 1:53 pm

    You aint no sponge, you’re a seriously talented photo junkie!
    Lovely stuff we wish we could come close to matching.

  • benjy December 24, 2010, 8:21 pm

    Ahoy John,

    Your pics are excellent. You are not a lazy photographer, you can see from the quality of your work that you have put a lot of effort in. Personally, I’d love to see more pics and camera talk.

    Your whole site is amongst the best I’ve seen. Keep up the good work and Merry Christmas to you both and Happy New Year!

    Benjy and Celia, yacht ‘Doolittle’ St Tropez


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