In the last couple of years, I have been altering my photography to include teaching as a major focus. I have always enjoyed teaching and, so far, my courses have seemed to be well received. I have run classes on Introductory Digital Photography in a classroom for Keene Community Education, and, around my dining room table, an intensive course on Adobe Lightroom. Actually, in addition to these formal programs, I have been teaching about photography in New England for years through my weekly, “Getting it Right in the Digital Camera” blog. The one thing I haven’t tried is a workshop, that is until a couple of weeks ago.
|Spofford Lake Gazebo|
In recent years, photography workshops have become increasingly prevalent. Just scan the ads in any photography magazine and you will find a long list of workshops focused on special locations such as Iceland, Alaska, Africa and the magnificent natural monuments of the southwest. Often very pricey, but, great places to shoot, and a chance to learn from some of the most talented photographers in the country. What, other than being dirt cheap, could I have to offer?
The answer seemed obvious, Monadnock and our spectacular fall foliage. My home base of the Monadnock Region of New Hampshire and southern Vermont is one of the most beautiful and underappreciated corners of New England, and our brief autumn explosion of riotous color is unquestionably magical. The decision was obvious, a Fall Foliage Weekend, but then I had to figure out the when, where, the who.
I decided that my workshop would be during one of the autumn weekends. I planned to host the participants at my home on Friday evening for snacks and a discussion about photography in general, and the specific opportunities and challenges of foliage photography. It would also be time to plan the shooting for all day Saturday and Sunday morning, but which weekend would be best.
|Christ Church, Guilford Vermont|
The where had to be a bit more fluid, based on the progression of the color from north to south. I spent much of the week prior to the workshop traveling around the region to gauge the quality and the location of the best color. There had been many dire prediction about the damaging effects of the hot dry summer on the color, but I was thrilled to find that this year’s foliage was spectacular. Perhaps most importantly we had not been hit by our usual October wind and rain storms, which can often knock the leaves to the ground. By the Saturday morning I had a plan for our tour, but I was ready for changes as needed.
|At Pete's Stand, Walpole New Hampshire|
Friday evening was a lovely time to get to meet the participants, many of whom were old friends. Most were from nearby, but one actually came up from Concord Massachusetts. I had prepared a talk which started with many of the important basics of digital photography and ended with a discussion of what we might find as we chased the color. I had already sent an email listing a few of the essential pieces of equipment, including a tripod and, most importantly a polarizing filter. Apparently Monadnock Imaging, our local camera store, did a nice business in the days prior to the workshop. YES! We actually have a camera store in Keene New Hampshire. To keep everyone awake there was also coffee, tea, and Susan’s wonderful Apple cake. I sent everyone home around nine to rest up for our early start.
Saturday morning dawned clear and crisp, a perfect autumn day. Almost everyone arrived in my driveway before our 7:30 start time
|Roads End Road|
|Green River Crossing|
My first job was to place the group in beautiful locations and then help them get the most from the opportunities. I captured some images for myself while demonstrating technics, but I tried to keep the focus on the students. My greatest frustration was that I couldn’t be next to every student all of the time. After numerous stops, we finally made it to Green River. With its white church, red barns, wood crib waterfall and perfectly located covered bridge, there may be no more classic example of a small New England village. We headed back to Brattleboro for a late lunch, along the West River, at the Marina Restaurant.
Pete’s and a Harvest Moon
Fall is not only about garishly colored leaves, and to illustrate the point I brought the group up the Connecticut River to Walpole New Hampshire, and Pete’s Farm Stand. It was a great chance to shoot some beautiful produce and to capture the necessary group photo.
By this time my “kids” were getting tired, but they were still able to rally for a shot at capturing the “Harvest” full moon rising above Spofford Lake. Of course, I planned the full moon for the enjoyment of my workshop participants.
|Harvest Moon over Spofford Lake|
Dinner and Critique
A very long day ended with pizza around my dining room table and a chance to review the results of the day’s shooting. Everyone contributed to the discussion, and I trust my critiques were gentle and constructive.
Mercifully, Sunday’s shoot started a bit later, and everyone showed up, even Brian who again traveled up from Concord. We gathered in Keene at 8 am and headed for a tour down Route 124. I have long contended that this road, as it runs southeast from Keene alongside Mt Monadnock, provides the best views of the mountain.
Along the way, Monadnock’s profile continuously changes and we stopped at many of my favorite viewpoints. We ended at Jaffrey Center, another classic New England village. In most places the foliage was holding up well and the light varied from brilliant sun to soft overcast.
|Mount Monadnock and the Perfect Cow|
|Jaffrey Meeting House|
I said goodbye to my group at about noon. Brian had to get back to Concord, Aaron had a big date and I had to get home for the Patriots games. I think everyone had a valuable and enjoyable time. Comments included. Many expressed the desire to return for my future workshops and class. I loved the chance to communicate my excitement about photography and to share some of my favorite nearby locations in the best time of year to see them. Most importantly, I was thrilled that I managed to get through without any major disasters. I was incredibly lucky. We saw the rising harvest super moon and when setting up to shoot Mount Monadnock from a hillside at East Hill Farm, a cow obligingly settled into the perfect spot in the pasture. Sometime you just must depend on luck.
I don’t know that I can ever hope to repeat my good fortune, but hey, this is New England in the fall, and anything can happen. I will definitely be back and my list of potential future workshops is growing. How about a spring weekend for new foliage and waterfalls, or a summer program to celebrate the night sky? Stay tuned.
Fall Foliage Workshop Gallery
Fall Foliage Workshop Gallery