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I’m back from my Great American Photo Workshop with renowned landscape and aerial photographer Bill Fortney and I have to say, it was one of the most enjoyable workshops I’ve ever been a part of. We had such a great group of talented, fun, easy-going, and passionate photographers that it really made for the ideal creative atmosphere to learn, make photographs, and laugh and awful lot.

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Guest Instructors
This was my first time in Savannah Georgia, and it’s a perfect place for a photo workshop, with loads of stuff to shoot around every corner (photo above taken with my iPhone 3Gs; much improved camera). We started on Wednesday with slideshows and presentations from the instructors, including two guest instructors; Joanne Wells (a wonderful Savannah-based fine art photographer with great knowledge of local shooting locales), along with first-class bird photographer Wayne Bennett (we had a total of four instructors for 30 students). By the way; that’s Wayne at the far right of the photo above).

Shooting a Classic Caddie
We did dawn location shoots each day, and a few optional dusk shoots as well (it was in the high 90s all week, with lots of humidity, so we made the dusk shoot optional). We went to some great locales (I’ll post a shot or two tomorrow), and then on the last morning we rented a Classic 1962 red Cadillac Convertible for the class to shoot among the old brick buildings and alleyways of Savannah’s Riverfront (the iPhone shot above, and at one at the top of the post, show a few of our students during our shoots).

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Here’s our group shooting in a back alley of Savannah’s Riverfront.

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Here’s one of my shots from that angle (above—click on it for a larger view). Taken with a Nikon D3, and a 70-300mm f/4.5-f/5.6 VR lens on a tripod. I shot at ISO 400 at 1/13 of a second at f/4.8.

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While the class was still shooting, I climbed up to a crosswalk above and behind the car where I got this shot. I leaned out as far as I could and then held the camera out away from my body. I had to shoot it at 2000 ISO because of the low light, but the noise is so unnoticeable (from the D3 with a 14-24mm f/2.8 lens), I didn’t even need to run a noise reduction filter. In fact, there are no effects filters or HDR used on any of these shots—-just Lightroom (though I did sharpen one in Photoshop).

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Above is another iPhone shot of the group shooting the Caddie.

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…and here’s the shot I got from that spot (above).

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This is me above, lying down on the job; ball head in hand, trying to get a low angle on the car. The photo was taken by one of my workshop students; Bruce Thayer (who’s quite a good photographer himself) who came all the way from Australia for the workshop.

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Above is one of the shots I got lying on the ground (and as I expected; it’s not nearly as good as the one Bill Fortney got lying down there).

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Same spot—different angle of view. By the way; if you look on the stairs to the right of the car, you’ll see the legs of one of the students in the workshop. I could have cloned them out, but for some reason, I kinda like ‘em there. Go figure.

A Celebrity in our group
We were lucky enough to have 14-time Grammy winning country and bluegrass artist Ricky Skaggs as one of our students, and he was just as humble, entertaining, and fun as you’d hope he would be. He’s a great photographer, but just learning Lightroom and Photoshop, and he’s totally loving it! (He pulled some strings and got us a table at Paula Dean’s famous restaurant for dinner, which saved us from waiting in the 80 to 100 person-long line each morning for reservations which snakes around the block starting at around 7:30 am. The dinner was fantastic!).

Learning Lightroom
In the classroom, we focused on Lightroom all week, and I have to tell you; I’m amazed at the transformation in the students between day one and Sunday morning when the workshop wrapped up.

In-Class Student Critiques
Each day we did live, in-class critiques of the students’ best shots from each shoot, and it was a wonderful learning experience. (A number of students told me it was the single most valuable learning part of the week for them, because when we would talk about what a problem was with a particular photo, I could open that photo right there on spot, and make the Lightroom/Photoshop changes that were necessary, or to recrop and recompose the photo, and they saw live exactly what to do to improve the shot next time around.)

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Deconstructing My Edits in Lightroom
We did kind of our own mini one-hour “Photo Walk” on Saturday morning along the Savannah Riverfront area, and then I put together a slideshow of around 20 of my best shots from the shoot (I processed them all in Lightroom before I presented my slideshow—shown above).  Then after my slideshow presentation, I went back to each image, and using the History panel in Lightroom, I showed each individual step of how I got from the original raw image out of my camera to the final image that made it into my slideshow. This worked amazingly well, and it really turned the light bulb on for a lot of the students.

Great images + Great people
All in all, it was a stellar workshop; I met some really great people (two of which will be with me down in St. Lucia with Joe McNally in a few days for another week-long workshop), and I saw some old friends (Steve and Larry) and made some new ones. Thanks to all my students, and especially to Bill Fortney, (whose brilliant photography continues to just blow me and everybody in the room away), for the honor of teaching alongside him.