Most people who’ve never taken a photography workshop, and particularly one of my nature photography workshops, really don’t know what to expect each day or for the duration of the workshop. So here’s sort of a “thumbnail sketch” as to what you can expect to happen during a typical day in one of my workshops.
Pequawket Pond, New Hampshire – 2010
The best and most dramatic lighting for nature and outdoor photography is typically in what’s called “low light” conditions. So, we typically shoot in low-light conditions such as during the dawn and dusk portions of the day, before the sun is high in the sky. We also shoot a lot in other low-light conditions, such as when it’s overcast or cloudy. The sky is usually most dramatic, changing colors, great shadows, and so forth, when the sun rises and sets, so we shoot a lot of sunrises and sunsets.
Misty Fall Reflections
Therefore, most days we’ll get up before sunrise and drive to a location where we’re going to photograph the sunrise. How long before the sunrise do you have to get up, you may ask? Well, that’ll depend on how far the drive is from where we’re staying to the general sunrise location and any time it will take us to walk to where we want to shoot.
Run for the Clouds
On the extremely early side of things is shooting the Racetrack in Death Valley. For the Racetrack, it’s about a 3 ½ hours drive, with 1 ½ hours, or so, of the drive being across the desert. Once we arrive at the Racetrack playa it’s a half mile to a mile and a half hike out to where we’re going to shoot. So, if you’re working backwards that’s 3 ½ to 4 hours from where we’re staying to the shoot location. If sunrise is around 7 am, that means we’re leaving our home-base at 3 am!! A very early morning, to say the least.
On the “it’s not so bad” side of things is shooting sunrises in autumn is my New Hampshire Fall Colors Workshop, which runs from October 17 – 20. In the fall in New Hampshire the sun doesn’t rise until just after 7 am and it’s typically less than a half hour drive to the sunrise locations. So, in the fall you’ll be able to “sleep in” until 6 am, maybe later!
- Pemigewasset River Covered Brige – Franconia Notch, NH
When we’re out shooting we work a lot on controlling the exposure of the images we’re taking. Typically we select a depth of field (aperture/f-stop) suitable for the subject we’re shooting and then adjust shutter speed to properly expose our images. We also work A LOT with filters. We work with circular polarizers, ND filters, and ND Grads. Most students are surprised by the physicality associated with controlling your ND Grads.
Often we shoot the sunrise and possibly another location and then head back to our home-base for breakfast. For the New Hampshire Fall Color Workshop we head back to the The Buttonwood Inn, for a wonderful breakfast, put on by the amazing Paula Petrone.
- Dining room at the Buttonwood Inn
After breakfast depending on weather, tiredness, and many other factors, we may take a break to allow you to rest after getting up so early. Otherwise, we may work on photo editing for a portion of the late morning and early afternoon. Sometime in mid-afternoon we typically head back out and shoot various locations until it gets dark. Exactly when we’re going to head back out to shoot also depends many factors, such as the weather. If the weather’s bad and the skies are cloudy, we’re heading out to shoot!
While we’re out during the afternoon, I’ll determine a location where we’ll shoot the sunset. Again the nice thing about shooting in the fall is that the days are much shorter than in the summer. Sunset is around 6 pm in the Fall Color Workshop, as compared to 9:15 pm in the Grand Tetons Workshop. So, we can shoot a sunset, get some dinner, and still be back to the Inn by about 8:30 pm and get a good night’s sleep.
When we’re out shooting during the afternoons, and particularly sunsets, we’ll again really work on using our ND Grads to control the brilliant setting sun and sky.
So there’s a typical day in one of my workshops.
On the easy end of things is the New Hampshire Fall Color Workshop, where shooting days are only about 11 – 12 hours long. On the long end of things is the Grand Tetons Workshop, where 19 – 20 hr shooting days and 4 – 5 hrs of sleep is the norm. Because of the long days required to shoot nature photography, during each workshop we shoot several sunrises and sunsets, but may not shoot both a sunrise and sunset each day. People are typically pretty gung- ho the first day or two… but once a couple of days have gone by and you’ve only had 8 hrs of sleep in two days, people get pretty darn tired!
Please visit to my site, Jeffrey Aiello Photography, and sign up for my New Hampshire Fall Colors Workshop, and visit the Buttonwood Inn’s site, The Buttonwood Inn, to secure your accommodations for the workshop. It’ll be an amazing workshop!