This weekend I taught a backcountry navigation class. I have been a photography educator and outdoor instructor for many years. Over the years, I have taught nature photography, people photography, backcountry navigation, and backpacking classes to teenagers through senior citizens. I presently instruct for Wilderness Outings and before that for A16 outfitters whose motto is “Leave only foot prints, take only memories” and in my case “take only pictures”. I love teaching about how to enjoy the great wilderness areas of the world in a safe comfortable way. It’s great to see people learn about how best to photograph places few ever get to experience so they can share their vision with others. The recent navigation class teaches them how to find their way in the backcountry using USGS topo maps and compasses.
Is it little wonder as a professional photographer much of my present work is people portraits in their environment on location. Some of my advertising photography and video requires the control I have shooting in my studio but it is hard to beat the spontaneity that often happens on location. As I teach in my outdoor classes, it is good to approach a project with a plan and know what you are doing but also stay open to new ideas. I was recently photographing a V.P. at Comerica Bank for a magazine cover and feature story. The V.P. had a great suggestion for a very graphic location just a block away from the original location but hidden from anyone who did not know it was there. I have developed a very portable lighting kit for just such opportunities. We actually did three very nice variations around that spot. It’s great to get your subject involved; the images are much more engaging to the viewer. Pictures of the V.P. will follow after the magazine has had the chance to publish them first.
I grew up spending my weekends and summers wandering the Sonoran Deserts and Rocky Mountains. My entertainment, as a teenager, was hiking with friends and photographing them. Little did I know, I was honing my skills for what I would partly do as a professional photographer and educator. I now see how very fragile earth is compared to what we can do to her. In a future blog, I will discuss how I work at protecting the environment while operation a photography studio.