AHPW Women’s Photo Retreat: Summary From Post-Workshop Critique » You Can Sleep When You're Dead: Blog by Colleen Miniuk

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Sep 052012

One of the most enjoyable and valuable educational aspects of the Arizona Highways Photography Workshops (AHPW) – of which I’m honored to lead a number of each year – is the post-workshop critiques.  Though we conduct image review sessions during the workshop, a post-workshop critique allows participants additional time to edit and process their photographs before submitting to their instructors for additional feedback after the class concludes.

Whether we complete these productive reviews during or after the workshop, we analyze the positive aspects of each student’s images and constructively outline ideas for how to potentially improve them from a technical and artistic perspective.  Kind of like this:

What the Duck

“What The Duck” comic strip copyright and courtesy of the author and artist Aaron Johnson at http://www.whattheduck.net.

All choking and joking aside, the point of the evaluation is to go beyond answering the simple question: “Do you like this picture?”  The true value of the exercise comes in when we define in-depth we WHY like and don’t like an image, which generates new ideas to sharpen our skills and polish our individual styles from our different answers.

Earlier this week, I completed the post-workshop critique for the recent Women’s Photography Retreat at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  Although I’ve shared image-specific comments for 45 images, I thought I’d share a summary of the three main take-away’s from this particular critique session:

The Totem Poles and Yei Bi Chei at Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona

Example:  Tilting my camera down emphasizes the sandy landscape and allows the sky to become a less dominating backdrop. By composing so that the line of bushes and the patterns from the wind-blown sand lead my audience into the frame, it helps guide the eye through the landscape towards my primary subject: the side-lit Totem Poles at Monument Valley. Do you agree?  How would you critique this image?  (Prints available! Click on photo for a direct link).

  1. “Half and half” works well in coffee, but not always in landscape images. Unless you aim for symmetry among the various elements within your frame (e.g. a reflection of mountain in a lake), placing the horizon line in the middle of your frame will only serve to divide your viewers’ attention.  Should they look at the land or the sky?  Make it clear:  If the sky is more interesting, tilt your camera up and place the horizon line at the bottom

    third of the Rule of Thirds tic-tac-toe grid.  If the land is what caught your eye, then tilt your camera down so the horizon is at least at the top third of the grid.

  2. Let there be light…oh, and a strong subject too!  Is there anything better than sitting on the edge of the Grand Canyon and recordings the rays of the setting sun break through the clouds, turning the landscape and sky into a fiery mix of orange, pink, and purple? (In more technical terms, we call this “super yummy light.”)  YES!  That same spectacular show by Mother Nature happening over a well-thought-out composition!  Good light alone is often not enough to make a great image.  Similarly, a strong center of interest without interesting light may lack shape, contrast, and mood.   To capture the best subject in the best light, visualize strong compositions first in the field, then return to work the scene when the light is just right.
  3. As “all roads lead to Rome,” all lines should lead to somewhere important.  Lines can direct your viewer to through your image, but the payoff at the end of the line shouldn’t be a one-way ticket out of your frame.  To keep the viewer’s interest, ensure the visual path doesn’t extend beyond the edge of your frame and leverage diagonal, converging, S-curve and other style lines to pull your viewer not just into your frame, but also somewhere interesting.

If you’re a past student of AHPW – not just of this specific workshop, but any of them – you have the ability to view my image-specific comments by logging into the Arizona Highways Photo Workshops Smugmug site with the password you received during your workshops and selecting the “Women’s Photo Retreat” folder.  You also have the ability to leave comments as well, so hop on the site and let’s here you’re thoughts!

If you aren’t a past student of AHPW, there’s no need for you to feel left out.  If you’d like input on one or more of your images, stop by my page and submit your shots at GuruShots at www.gurushots.com/colleen-miniuk-sperry.

In closing, I’d like to thank the ladies who submitted their beautiful photographs for critique:  Denise, Deanna, Christy, Amy, Julie, Tamara, Sue, Pearl, and Jeanne.  As Abigail Adams once said, “Learning is not achieved by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.”  May we all embrace learning like these and all of the women who attended the Women’s Photo Retreat have.

AHPW Women's Photo Retreat:  Silly Group Photo

The attendees of the AHPW Women’s Photo Retreat having a “Zen” moment during our Group Photo.  I’m not sleeping, I’m merely practicing “Corpse Pose.”

  3 Responses to “AHPW Women’s Photo Retreat: Summary From Post-Workshop Critique”

  1. Dear Colleen
    Just reviewed the email from Arizona Highways and reviewed your wonderful upcoming Bryce Canyon
    Photography Workshop. I enjoyed your group photograph of the women doing yoga poses and trust that
    you might do yoga yourself.

    Oh would I love to attend the Utah workshop with your group but my timing is off. Please place me on your email list for all your upcoming workshops. You are doing spectacular work and delighted to read about your history.From Minneapolis, I am headed to Tucson on Tuesday Feb 12 and departing on Monday Feb 18. By any chance will you be in Arizona next Wednesday or Thursday. I will be with my friend who lives in Marina and will be wishing to do some outstanding photoshoots in some new locations. Just wondering if you like to do private workshops or if you have any classes during next week. I love Arizona and Utah…
    Thought I would just attached the link that was created by our publisher.
    My yogini model, Laurie Ellis-Young (www.BreatheTheChange.com) and I were in Tucson on deadline in 2010 prior to our book being published. Look forward to hearing from you. Nancy http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRT_5L8DZBU

  2. Dear Coleen,

    I was very excited to read about your Valley of Fire Women’s Retreat and then disappointed to see that it is already sold out. So I am encouraged to see you have another Women’s Retreat , the Vermillion Cliffs retreat scheduled. I would love to participate! I see it is almost a year away. My challange is that I do not know my work schedule ahead of time. I am a Flight Attendant and get my schedule for the each month on the 18th of the month prior. I have some flexibility and can sometimes trade days off, but it’s not guaranteed. So, my questions are: Can you let me know if there is a cancellation for the Valley of Fire Retreat? and How far ahead do I really need to sign up for the Vermillion Cliffs retreat to get a space?

    I appreciate your help and look forward to hearing from you,
    Patricia Brandenberger

    • Hi Patricia! Thanks for your note and your interest in the AHPW Women’s Photography Retreats. We’d love to have you join our super fun, supportive community some time! The AHPW workshops I lead in general tend to sell out 6-14 months in advanced, and the Women’s Retreats are the most popular workshop, selling out every year (and sometimes even before the trips are even posted). The Vermilion Cliffs workshop was literally just posted, and it’s already filling up fast.

      Considering the uncertainty in your schedule but interest in joining us, I’d recommend calling the office at 1-888-790-7042 and talking with Roberta/Holly to see what arrangements can be worked out for you. I’ll keep my fingers crossed you’ll be able to join us!


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