2014 Lake Superior Photography Workshop Teaching Philosophy and Topics

 In Newsletter, Workshops and Classes

Before the beginning of each new year, I like to look back on my workshops by gather together all the feedback forms that I received throughout the year and rereading them and thinking about how I taught the workshops and what I think people learned. I also like to look at the slideshows, which I’ll change slightly every year and decide if the slideshows were effective at communicating the topics that I wanted to teach. Basically, I do a year-end review.

After finishing the review, I think about what I want to teach in the following year. Throughout the year, I collect ideas that I’ve learned from students and new teaching tricks that I’ve used into a document. While considering feedback, my own observations and my new ideas, I come up with topics that I’m going to teach in the following year. This review not only keeps the photo workshops fresh for returning students, but it also keeps it fresh for me and that builds my enthusiasm for teaching.

Workshop Specific Teaching Topics

fall colors at the fall riverAfter this year’s review, I’ve come up with the teaching topics for 2014. Before I list them, keep in mind that each workshop also includes specific topics relevant to the workshop. For example, on my Lake Superior Winter Photography Workshop, you learn how to keep your gear running and stay safe while photographing an icy Lake Superior. In my Spring Waterfall Photography Workshop, you learn how to change the look of the waterfall to change the emotional impact of the photo. Or in my Lake Superior Kayak Photography Workshop, you learn how to photograph from a kayak (and maybe even how to kayak!). These teaching topics are in addition to workshop specific topics.

2014 General Photography Workshop Teaching Topics

For 2014, I’ve decided to really shake up my topics with concepts that I’ve tested in 2013 at various workshops. All these topics ended up working well and communicated the lesson well. Here are my teaching topics for 2014:

  • Juxtaposition in Landscape Photography: I’ve given talks on this topic at REI, Lakehead University in Thunder Bay and at Lake Superior Magazine’s Photography Weekend this year. This has been an effective way to teach landscape photography and I feel like it’s now worthwhile to include in the workshops.
  • Working a single subject to find the most effective way to photograph it. This will be the new challenge in my workshops. For those of you that remember the topic cards, this replaces those. Although, it may still include a topic card. ;)
  • Background/foreground relationships at different focal lengths and how that relationship can create a stronger landscape photo.
  • Bolder Lightroom processing – Processing a photo to emphasize the emotional feel and maximize the visual impact.
  • A new concrete workflow for determining the proper exposure using your histogram and aperture priority. I’ve taught this before, but this will be significantly more concrete and the workflow will be something that is easily transferable to the field.

I’m also continuing to teach about:

  • Using filters to maximize the exposure range of your image.
  • Using filters for long exposures.
  • Using filters to make colors pop.
  • How to use and understand your camera.

Workshop Structure

kayak photography workshop

The photography workshop structure is staying the same for 2014, because it has been refined over the last seven years to the point where I think it works well and the feedback has been positive about the current structure. The structure is as follows:

  • Friday: Photo warm up in the field
  • Friday evening: Classroom slideshow
  • Saturday: Field day usually from sunrise to sunset
  • Sunday: Field time for sunrise
  • Sunday: Image processing
  • Sunday: Image review

New Photo Workshops for 2014

Smoky Mountain Photo Workshop

Last year, I added a Lake Superior Kayak Photography Workshop and an informal Great Smoky Mountain Photography Workshop. This year, the Smoky Workshop, which was awesome, goes formal and I’m adding two more. My October Night Sky Workshop has been popular, so I’ve decided to add a 5-day night sky workshop in August and I’m adding a 2-day workshop in Iowa at the Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge — I’m teaching that one with John Gregor of Coldsnap Photography, who is also a veteran photo workshop instructor.

Here are the elevator pitches for the new workshops:

Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge Photography Workshop: Join veteran photographers and photography workshop instructors Bryan Hansel and John Gregor as they team up to bring you an all-new, two-day digital photography workshop at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge near Des Moines, Iowa. The Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge Photography Workshop includes a combination of classroom time, field work and plenty of one-on-one instruction in both the field as well as classroom.

Northern Night Skies –Night Photography Workshop: In August, the nights are still warm and the sky is generally clear, which makes it the perfect time to learn night photography. The workshop is planned around the new moon, which makes it easier to photograph the Milky Way and, if they happen, the northern lights. Each night we’ll visit two to three different locations that will include locations on Lake Superior and inland locations near the BWCAW, so that you’ll go home with a wide variety of images. You’ll learn how to photograph the Milky Way, stars and create star trails. We’ll also spend time on processing the images from each shoot to make them look their best.

smoky mountains

Great Smoky Mountain National Park Fall Photography Workshop — Peaks and Streams: Just as the colors of Lake Superior fade and disappear, the fall colors in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park explode into peak. During this intensive workshop, we’ll photography from sunrise to sunset each day, exploring overlooks high in the mountains and wander up rocky but intimate streams. We’ll also visit several historic buildings and photograph them with the fall colors. If you love layered views in the mountains and waterfall photography, there isn’t a better place in the country that combines them both. One of my favorite places to photograph!

Workshop List

Registration for the following workshops opens Mid-January.

  • Mid-June: Wildflower Photography Workshop at the North House Folk School
  • August 20 to 24, 2014 — Northern Night Skies: Night Photography Workshop – 5 day
  • September 24 to 28, 2014 – North Shore Fall Photography Workshop  – 5 day
  • October 3 to 5, 2014 – Fall Photography Workshop – 2.5 days – Photography clubs can book this entire workshop.
  • October 17 to 19, 2014 — Great Smoky Mountain National Park Fall Photography Workshop
  • October 25-26, 2014 — October Skies: Night Photography Workshop at the North House Folk School
  • November 7 to 9, 2014 — Gales of November Photography Workshop

General Philosophy

sunrise over Lake Superior

I think photography is something that can be learned, and I believe that you can develop photographic talent. I also believe that photographic instruction is essential for getting the most out of photography. With instruction, you will gain confidence, learn to make more effective photos and shortcut the learning process.

My workshops include classroom time and field time followed by an image review. The small group gives you plenty of one-on-one time with me as an instructor, allows you to learn from others in the group and lets you practice the same techniques taught in the classroom in the field immediately after. The image review gives you feedback shortly after you created the photo, and it also lets you see other photographer’s images, which shows you what you missed and can help open eyes to additional possibilities. The combination of the three aspects maximizes your learning and increases your skills in a short period of time.


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picture from a winter lake superior photography workshopthrowing boiling water to watch it turn to snow