MY FIRST WORKSHOP – HOOT HOLLOW INDOCTRINATION
That said, who wants to be the “dummy” in the group? Not me. So, I feel certain that I winged it more than a few times instead of admitting that I was clueless and asking for help. Tired of that method, I finally decided that reading issues of Outdoor Photographer wasn’t enough. I signed up for my first weeklong, hardcore photo workshop at Hoot Hollow with Joe and Mary Ann McDonald in Pennsylvania. We would be shooting slides! Oh, no, another new element added to the mix. For those who go back that far, you remember that you either got the shot or you didn’t. And, each slide – good or bad – cost you money. There was no lab tech adjusting your images for exposure. If you could be ruthless, the bad slides would hit the Deep 6 can, and the good ones would be sleeved. (When I get to sorting through my almost ten years of slides, I will have work to do in that culling process. I look forward to all of it.) Keep in mind that all I wanted to do was learn and become a better photographer. I had no aspirations to become a pro or teach or present at conferences. In fact, public speaking petrified me. I just wanted to stop “getting lucky,” and start being more successful in capturing on film what captured my eyes and heart. I needed to know more than point in a direction and press that button.
Thus, my first workshop, was intense and beyond overwhelming. It was also the best move I could have made in stepping out of my comfort zone. I brought my camera and two lenses (now a Nikon N80) and a tripod with a hexagon plate that I hated as it never felt like it was mounted securely. That first night Joe announced that we were going to have a METERING EXERCISE! I didn’t even know what metering was! He proceeded to show slides and ask the group how they would meter the image. Meter? What? I wanted to melt into the floor and disappear. I prayed that I wouldn’t be called on, and that request was granted. Whew! Next, they said that we would be shooting sunrise in the morning, that we would be shooting slides, that we would use our tripods AND that we would manually meter! Uggh. That morning in the marsh I found a tiny, dew-covered maple tree far away from the rest of the group, on purpose. I set up my tripod and framed the maple, staring at it as it was bathed in dew and light. And, I was mad. Yes, mad. I was mad at myself for not knowing what to do to capture this intimately beautiful scene, mad that no one was helping me, and mad that when someone came to me I would have to admit my inability to get it. I’ve since blanked on who came over to help, but I did bring that maple home, and it was another turning point for me in my photography. I now knew a little more of what I didn’t know, and I had a direction.