I’m home from BugShot, bleary-eyed and sleepy from a long night of travel and three prior days of sleep deprivation. No, Alex Wild, John Abbott and Thomas Shahan weren’t working us THAT hard, but I was so darn fired up and excited about everything we were doing that I found it hard to tear myself away from my camera, even at 2 a.m.! The Shaw Nature Reserve in Missouri provided a beautiful setting for this jam-packed and very hands-on workshop, and the new (to me) ecosystem meant encounters with a lot of new critters!
In the field with Alex Wild, as he demonstrates some lighting and diffusion techniques (I'm convinced his awesome field hat is at least party responsible for his photography-super-powers.)
I had the most amazing weekend: I learned everything I hoped to, and more. Even better than the fact that I’m feeling considerably less camera-stupid (I’m not shooting in Auto Mode as a default! I can manipulate my exposure all by myself! I’m using FLASHES!!!), I am coming away from this weekend feeling incredibly inspired. I’ve got some new ideas about composition, lighting, equipment and technique that I can’t wait to try in the field, and in a studio setting. I think I will get off my very disorganized arse (*badly-labelled desktop folders*) and start applying what I’ve learned about digital asset management (*metadata! LightRoom! external hard drives!*) in a serious way.
My first "keeper" of the workshop, taken in my usual style with ambient light: plant hoppers (Enchenopa sp.-on-Ptelea) and egg masses
The three instructors were friendly and incredibly generous with their time, expertise and advice. Each had a unique artistic eye and set of ideas about how to get the most out of your equipment; I’ve taken away some great tips and ideas from all of them. I have to thank Alex especially for giving me the opportunity to experiment with some of his flash units and studio setups – it was so great to actually work with these things rather than simply observe.
Trying out Alex's Canon 430EX off-camera flash with remote trigger (WANT!) in the field. I never could have captured this image of two very cryptic grasshoppers tucked under a shady bark nook in the dark forest understory without it!
I’ve also really enjoyed sharing with and learning from all of the participants – each one brought different perspectives, expertise and levels of experience, and I’ve benefited from so many of them. Special shout-outs have to go to some of my online friends who I FINALLY got to meet in person: Lee, DragonflyWoman, Dave, and Ted, it was a blast! (I’ve also found some new online folk, stay tuned for some blogroll updates!)
“Fishing” for tiger beetle larvae with none other than the blogosphere’s famous Ted MacRae (fangirl moment: Ted is one of my personal blogging/beetle/photography heroes) was definitely one of the highlights of my trip (Ted, next time I’m in the area – you, me, beetle-hunting, ok? :-))
An antlion larva, fished out from its funnel-shaped chamber under a porch (my first antlions!!!) and posed in Alex's white box setup for a studio shot. What a super-fun tool! I have a lot of respect for the work Alex must do to chase down fast-moving ants in there...this little guy seriously didn't stop moving (backward!!!) for more than a nanosecond!!!
So, basically, the entire thing was awesome and if I could do it again next weekend I would in a heartbeat. I think I’m going to start saving up now so I can go again next year (after I’ve finished saving up for some new equipment, mind you)!
I have a lot more pictures to share, but I’m not going to do it now…this workshop gave me enough blog fodder to get me through the busy fall term!
Thanks again, Alex, Thomas and John!!!