By Steven Jacobs, Summit Workshops Staff
From Sept. 19 to Oct. 2 the Summit Series of Workshops hosted two extraordinary photography workshops in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
The first of the two workshops was the Adventure Photography Workshop, from Sept. 19 to Sept. 21 in Teton Village, just outside of Jackson, WY. The Adventure Workshop is a six-day workshop for photographers who want to learn and improve their outdoor sports, lifestyle and product photography, as well as their filmmaking. This includes photographers who want to shoot rock climbing, trail running, kayaking and paddle-boarding, as well as photographers who want to shoot outdoor lifestyle photography for companies like The North Face, Patagonia, and more. On Saturday Sept 19, 28 attendants and 10 instructors and vendors met in the Gabe Room above the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort Store, and the Adventure Workshop began.
Instruction, instruction, instruction. Ron Taniwaki gives attendants a crash-course in adjusting exposure, ISO, and other camera settings for different situations while Bob Smith teaches them how to upload their images to the workshop image critique. After some preliminary instruction comes introductions, where faculty and attendants introduce themselves and the instructors learn a bit more about what the attendants want to learn at the workshop. After meeting each other and eating some pizza, the attendants then watch the first night presentation of the workshop given by Lucas Gilman.
Lucas’ work is firmly in the adventure photography realm and he is a staple at the Adventure Workshop. He’s photographed kayakers go over waterfalls all over the world and he’s photographed surfers from the warm waters of California to the cold waters of Iceland. Although Lucas is incredibly talented and has had much success, he highlights in his presentation that it’s completely up to the photographer how good they want to be. In Iceland with a surfer, he captured incredible action photos of the surfer in what is best described as an arctic setting. The photos were outstanding, but Lucas describes that they waited endlessly for a blizzard to subside just to get the photos, and after capturing them the blizzard started up minutes later. That event truly epitomizes Lucas’ work, because adventure photography is about being prepared and having technique, and once you have that than you can take advantage of a little luck – like when a blizzard in Iceland subsides for just five minutes.
Let the shooting begin. Attendants wake up early at sunrise and split into groups to go shoot trail running and mountain bikers. The area is full of wooded trails for runners as well as tracks for mountain bikers where they can go off jumps and catch serious air!
Photos taken by attendants at the Trail Running & Mountain Biking shoot:
After the morning shoot, students have their first image critique and receive valuable feedback on what to do for future shoots. Then they have more classroom instruction, including a class from Scott Willson on the make up of an outdoor product shoot and a class from Lucas Gilman and the faculty on properly managing social media. Then it’s time to shoot again. Attendants and instructors head outside to the central area of Teton Village where there are nice open areas, colorful trees and a photogenic pond. Perfect for shooting yoga and lifestyle, as well as going over the basics of filmmaking.
Photos taken by attendants at the Yoga & Lifestyle shoot:
After getting their first crack at shooting outdoor lifestyle photography while getting to go over storytelling in filmmaking, Day Two ends with two great presentations from two instructors with very different perspectives.
Scott Willson’s presentation had a great deal of information about the photography industry as it pertains to adventure and outdoor product and commercial photography, and for good reason. Scott has worked in every aspect of the adventure and outdoor product photography world, from photographing for major outdoor retailers, to being a photo editor, to being a producer of photoshoots. Scott fielded questions about photographing things with the end in mind, i.e. When I take photos should I leave space for potential text and logos? In short, Scott believes that yes you should, but not always. You should always consider that your photos could eventually run with text on a magazine or poster on the wall of store, but don’t let it restrict you to only thinking about shooting for commercial use.
Everything you know about the comic-book superhero Aquaman is wrong, because Aquaman is actually a woman and her name is Jen Edney. Jen is a trailblazer in sailing photography, and her presentation showed attendants what the meaning of determination is. She has spent months at a time on a single sailing boat, telling stories of the crew’s long trek through action photography, human interest, and even photography from in the water as the boat goes by her! Jen conveys that the key to enjoying what you do is photographing what you enjoy. Jen loves the water, sailing boats and sailing races, which makes it easy for her to call her job fun. If you had to photograph something that would make your job fun, what would it be?
In the morning, instructors give attendants a valuable critique of the photos from Day Two’s yoga & lifestyle shoot as well as valuable portfolio reviews. Then things get interesting as attendants and instructors get ready to travel up the Jackson Hole Tram and photograph rock climbing at 10,450 feet. Now that is an adventure.
Behind-the-scenes from the Rock Climbing shoot:
The Jackson Hole Tram holds 100 passengers and takes just over nine minutes to transport them to the summit.
This timelapse video takes that nine-minute trip and turns into a twenty-second one.
After returning back down the tram, students edit their rock climbing photos and have them critiqued by the instructors. Then the last event of the day, a presentation by one of National Geographic’s own.
Sadie Quarrier is in charge of the adventure side of National Geographic Magazine, where she is a Senior Photo Editor. She’s also a voting member on the National Geographic Society’s Expedition Council and Young Explorer’s Grant Committee. That means any time an expedition takes Nat Geo photographers, videographers and writers to the edges of the Earth, Sadie is monitoring its status and is crucial in editing the take afterward. Her presentation reflects what she does, helps develop stories. She shows attendants photos and video from a National Geographic expedition to Mt. Everest, which was she was heavily involved in. The crew on the expedition faced an incredible amount of obstacles while attempting to climb a previously unclimbed route up the mountain.
It’s not every day that you go white water rafting with the intent of not getting wet, but that’s exactly what the Adventure crew did on Day Four. Attendants and instructors gathered at 6 A.M., piled into a bus and headed down to the Snake River to go photograph kayakers and paddleboarders.
A behind-the-scenes look at the Kayaking & Paddleboarding shoot:
Photos taken by attendants at the Kayaking & Paddleboarding shoot:
When the Adventure crew arrives back at headquarters in Teton Village, they have a short break and then begin editing their rafting photos for the next image critique. After having their images critiqued, students enjoy a real treat that is three exceptional night presentations.
Although not a part of the Summit Workshops Faculty, Jimmy Chin was kind enough to stop in, make a guest appearance and give a great presentation. Jimmy lives in Jackson Hole, so he knows the area very well and truly embodies the “adventure spirit” that so many of our attendants desire. Jimmy began his presentation by describing how he got into photography. His parents never wanted him to pursue photography, but as soon as he sold his first photo to a magazine Jimmy knew that he wanted to do nothing else other than photography. He continues by showing some of the amazing adventures his photography has taken him on, from El Capitan, California to the mountains of Tibet. Jimmy is also an accomplished filmmaker, and he showed attendants a few videos that encapsulated what it means to be on a climb, or an expedition, and truly be on an adventure. The humble and talented Jimmy Chin left attendants in awe, and somehow the night was just beginning to get started.
Ben Moon‘s career is not unlike Jimmy Chin’s. He focuses on rock climbing photography and is very well-versed in the realms of adventure photography and videography. But one thing that sets Ben apart from the pack is his life story. Ben has overcome more obstacles and adversity in his lifetime than most could ever dare to, and it provides him with an extremely unique perspective that is sought after in the adventure photography industry. After a quick warning to all of the attendants who are dog-lovers, Ben shows his short film Denali, a film about him and his dog that had become one of the most-watched videos in the history of Vimeo. After the video, and after wiping a few tears away, attendants then listen to Ben describe the makings of a film. As Ben states, there’s more than just a beginning, middle and end, and every shot must evoke the right response to carry the story forward. Ben’s story is one of perseverance, and he teaches us all that the adventure isn’t at some distant place, life is the adventure.
Few people can say that they’ve photographed wakeskaters on top of a cranberry bog and even fewer people can say that they’ve filmed a star athlete ride his bike around an abandoned football stadium, but Ryan Taylor can say all of it. Ryan’s work has a foot in the photography industry and a foot in filmmaking, but both feet are firmly planted in the adventure realm. Aside from being an expert on trail running photography, Ryan is an authority on all action sports and produces a great majority of his work for Red Bull. From water to Winter and from Summer to the Silverdome, Ryan has photographed and filmed just about everything that screams “adventure”. From Ryan, attendants learn just how far adventure photography can take them and they learn all of the different opportunities that are out there to do something truly unique.
DAY FIVE & SIX
Day Five begins with a healthy serving of instruction over a variety of topics like Pitching an Idea/Working with Editors to The Art of Filmmaking to The Business of Adventure Photography. After a lunch break and a few hours of portfolio reviews, attendants pile back into the big bus and head out for the Gros Ventre Campsite for the night of camping. At the campsite, groups assemble and head out to shoot camping lifestyle and product photography in the waning sunlight. After a fun night of photos, laughs and reminiscing on the week’s events, Day Six begins as attendants wake up the next morning to go out and shoot more camping lifestyle and product photography.
Photos taken by attendants at the Camping Lifestyle & Outdoor Product shoots:
When the students arrive back at workshop headquarters in Teton Village, they begin editing their photos for the final critique of the Adventure workshop. After the final critique and a short break, students reconvene for the final dinner where students enjoy laughs and memories from the busy week and even have a chance to win some prizes. And with that, the adventure ends…
Attendants leave Jackson with a reinvigorated love for adventure and outdoor photography, a newfound knowledge of the business of adventure photography, and the technical prowess to take their photography to the next level.