Ever wonder what it is like to take a workshop with Jay? Brendan Quigley writes about the experience…
As I eyed my quickly filling calendar a few weeks ago, I came to the conclusion that I HAD to get out behind my camera before the end of the year, or I would probably explode. Perhaps not, but I’m sure you know the point I’m trying to illustrate. I work on Broadway as a stagehand, and travel to do productions out of town, so my free time is in precious small commodity.
While searching a few of the many photographers’ websites that I have bookmarked, I looked at my good friend Jay Goodrich’s website (one whose design I really like!). His workshop schedule listed one that met my criteria: it was a landscape workshop (an area of my photography that needs some help), it was in a beautiful part of the country (Eagle, Colorado, and the surrounding areas), and the weekend dates worked with my wacky schedule. Oh, and the best part: it was a small group and was going to be taught by Jay himself.
If I were to say that the weather cooperated and the light cooperated, you might be tempted to think I was wasn’t telling the complete truth. But they did. Our two morning trips to the Maroon Bells in Aspen, CO provided us with two entirely different opportunities to shoot an iconic landscape image under different circumstances. The beauty of the lake and the mountain face were a draw on both mornings, but there were other images to be made. As we watched other photographers shooting those mornings (there were many, but plenty of room on the shore of the lake for us to set up), none ever got low enough to change the perspective of their image. Nor did any wander a few feet from the water to shoot the frost-covered leaves, small groups of flowers, or other flora found feet behind us. We also headed about 20 minutes up the canyon to find a stream that gave us the opportunity to shoot lichens, and for some experimental shots with flowing water. Jay was able to push my creative boundaries there, and I am now able to see water in a new, different, and more creative way.
There were images hiding everywhere at Maroon Bells: flowing water, reflections, aspen leaves turning gold, lichen covered rocks; they all called out to me. But it wasn’t all about “taking” a picture; as Jay and I chatted, it was also about “making” an image. Composition, light, focus (subject matter), and more were discussed as we both crouched over our cameras and tripods. Learning doesn’t have to be in a classroom: standing next to Jay, having him look through my viewfinder and looking through his, and having him say, “This is great, but why not try this?” kept me on my toes and learning all the time.
But my trip to Colorado wasn’t just about the iconic images of Maroon Bells. We were also able to visit some other great locations: an afternoon visit to the Great Sand Dunes National Park provided us with some stunning panoramic images. To remind us that images can be made anywhere, we pulled off the road on our way to the park to shoot a rainbow, only to find that the real image was behind us as the weather moved our way. The front was moving slowly enough, so we were able to stand and make panoramic images of the rain, clouds and god-beams of light as over the prairie. And as luck would have it, there was a fence in the image so as to provide a sense of scale, focus, and depth to the images.
When I said the weather was cooperative, I meant it: on our final day, in the final hour (really, the FINAL ten minutes) while we were at Piney Lake in Vail, the skies were overcast, the images weren’t dull, but had no zing to them, and Jay and I were wondering aloud if we were actually going to get an image that was worthwhile. We were really contemplating heading back home in his FJ Cruiser over some pretty bumpy roads, it happened.That magical moment we all wait for as photographers. The grey skies opened and gorgeous warm light lit up the mountains in the distance. Jay and I hurried to find the best positions to capture images of the sun setting across the mountains. It was a flurry of intense work, but the results were magnificent.
The weekend was awesome. Jay has intimate knowledge of the area (he’s been living in Eagle for a number of years), and has shot in just about every locale imaginable within a couple of hundred miles. And the pace of the workshop was perfect: as I work nights, the transition to getting up at 5AM can be a little tough for me, but we were in the field when we needed to be and I was able to get a little mid-afternoon rest in as well before heading out for some afternoon shooting. If you want to get a keeper image of this region, Jay is the guy to go to, and he can take you to get the image you have always dreamed of.
All right … I’m off to Baltimore, or Boston, or LA, or wherever the next plane is going to take me for work. I hope you will get on a plane to Denver, drive a couple of hours west and check in with Jay for an amazing photographic opportunity, with a guy that is part mentor, part instructor, and all friend.