Originally posted at The Digital Trekker.
The potters hands. Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India © George Neill
I fell in love with photography in high school. Unfortunately, I wasn’t willing to commit time or money to further my love for it.
In college, I had the opportunity to see a friend and roommate work his magic behind the viewfinder and darkroom. We would go out on weekends into the woods to shoot. Well, he would shoot and I would tag along to keep him company. But, the experience of watching him compose a photo and then process it in the darkroom was an eye opening experience. Especially watching him dodge the light with his hand as he exposed images. The process was both artistic and scientific at the same time. And, as much as I was intrigued with it all, once again, I just couldn’t bring myself to committing the time or money.
Over the ensuing years, I remembered fondly the experience of sitting in our dorm room with his dad’s Kodak Carousel slide projector, lights off, music on, reviewing last weekend’s shots. You know, those kinds of memories that sound corny decades later, but still resonate and put a smile on your face.
We reconnected online a few years ago and seeing his recent work, I was reminded of my long time desire to learn how to take a decent picture. Something better than a snapshot with my cell phone or simple point and shoot camera.
When I saw that Matt was leading a photography workshop in Rajasthan, India, I thought why not? Why not take an opportunity to reconnect in person and finally take up something I’ve always dreamed of doing? It didn’t hurt that I already knew he knew how to take good photos. So, at his suggestion I bought a pretty decent ‘starter’ camera with a fixed lens, the Fujifilm X-20. Much more than any point and shoot I’d been using, with full manual and aperture and shutter priority capabilities and much more. And, I sent in my deposit to go half way around the world on my first trip outside North America and take some pictures and pray the others on the trip would be reasonably kind to my beginner photos and questions.
Royal Enfield, Pushkar, Rajasthan © George Neill
I also started looking for local photography classes and reading as much as I could. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find any class before I left for India. So, my very first photo class was with two professional photographers and 12 other very talented ‘amateurs’ who’d all been shooting for years and the only reason they are amateurs is because they don’t make their living shooting pictures. They were all incredibly good. And, I was incredibly blessed to have two weeks of wonderful photo opportunities with a dozen other people from all over the world who were more than willing to help out the newbie. I ultimately spent two weeks traveling in a very different and beautiful part of the world with an experienced tour guide and learn some very basic and advanced photographic techniques from a great group of people.
The travel experience alone was worth the cost of the trip. But, to have had the opportunity to learn and discover that I could indeed take a few decent pictures was the icing on the cake.
Part of what made this trip so valuable to me was our daily assignments and nightly critiques. Most days, Matt would give us an assignment and we would spend the day focusing on the assignment. As the noob, I was worried about this, but the reality was the assignments were fun and everyone was very cooperative and not competitive, so I was encouraged and not discouraged by my lack of experience. The evening critiques were absolutely the best opportunity to learn what I’d done well and what I might have done to improve some photos. Some improvements were about composition, and others were about post processing tools, which I was also learning about. I also was able to look at the other’s pictures with a different eye which also contributed to my learning.
On top of actually getting a pretty good education in photography, I met and became friends with people from literally around the world, experienced the culture and food of India that I never thought I’d be able to do, and discovered the value of focused time far away from my normal life.
We always found time to relax and enjoy the culture.
I am now planning my next photography trips with Matt and others to continue my photographic education. I still find that I need the encouragement and opportunities that a focused workshop provides. And, I also want to explore more of the world with interesting and talented people. I’ve also recently upgraded my camera and need to exercise it!