In a one week period during the month of October, I signed up to attend a photography workshop led by one of the foremost analog photographers today, John Sexton and one of the most outstanding digital photographers, Charles Cramer. It was the best of both worlds. Assisting in the workshop was John’s wife, Anne Larsen, an excellent photographer in her own right. People who attended the workshop came from all over the world, 14 all together. We all converged on Lee Vining, CA. Many who were in the group have attended a workshop with John or Charlie before, as many of them knew each other already.
Each of the participants were asked to bring a portfolio of 10 photographs. John and Charlie critiqued the set from each of the participants as well as showed and talked about their own work. One of the most useful lessons that came out was how to detect “rogue highlights” or areas of distraction in a photograph. This was accomplished by turning the picture upside down to view. The distracting highlight areas just seem to pop out.
There were different field sessions that occurred each day. The group loaded up in a caravan of cars and headed to the destination directed by the instructors. The first afternoon, we headed for Black Point at the North end of Mono Lake. As the sun went down it got really cold. I forgot to bring my gloves so the metal tripod was hard to handle. When the sun went down, we all went to Whoa Nellie Deli for dinner. This is where we ended up each night. It is located at a Mobil gas station at the junction of Highway 120 and 395. The dinners were great, but the chocolate cake was to die for.
On the second day, the group went to the South shore of Mono Lake. This is the most popular place to see the large tufa out crops in the lake. There were other photography groups there as well.
The next morning or the third day, we left at 6:30 am to go to June Lake Loop where we created photographs of Aspen trees along a riverbank. Then we had a great breakfast in June Lake. In the evening we travelled to Lee Vining Canyon where there was a waterfall and more Aspen.
During this week in October, the government was shut down, so plans to enter Yosemite National Park had to be put on hold. So on the fourth day, the group headed back to Black Point to try to capture images of the moon rising. I wasn’t successful in this case, but possibly some of the others were able to create a photograph with the moon.
Finally on the fifth day, the government re-opened and Yosemite was accessible. In the morning we travelled to Navy Beach, an area on the South Shore that had short tufa in sand. In the afternoon we entered the park traveling up highway 120 to Olmstead Point, Tenaya Lake and finally to Weston Lake. It is great to be standing by John Sexton, Charlie Cramer or Anne Larsen to help guide the work flow, while you are composing and metering the photograph. The sun went down and we headed back to Whoa Nellie Deli.
OK, so this is starting to sound like the days of Christmas, but I have to say that the workshop was a rich and pleasant experience. So on the last day, the group mounted the vehicles and headed North to Bodie. What is it about photography and old buildings? Who knows? It was just so much fun to wander and create images. We had a picnic lunch and headed back South where we stopped along the highway to photograph groves of Aspen off the road and down a hill. From there we went back to June Lake for more photographic opportunities. This night there was no deli, but a catered dinner at the community center where we spent the week looking at portfolios and observing presentations.
The week went by fast and I feel that I have learned so much to enhance my photography. John said that the measure of success of the workshop will occur in six months when we are creating better photographs.
More images can be found on the Black and White page under Mono Lake Photography Workshop.