National Geographic “Wyoming’s Cowboy Country” Workshop, June/July 2015
How does the time go past so quickly? We’re already in the middle of summer of ’15, and it certainly has started well. I just completed the first two of the three National Geographic “Wyoming’s Cowboy Country” photography workshop, held at the CM Ranch in Dubois, Wyoming.
I’d built a proposal for National Geographic about 5 years ago, after having conducted a number of FirstLight Workshops in Dubois. Becky and I had built the first Dubois workshop in 2006, you can see the results of these by clicking on “Previous Workshops” link on the left (or by scrolling down through the “Where’s Jay” blog posts.)
Throughout these years in Dubois, we’ve always had our great friend and incredible instructor, Jeff Vanuga, working with me on these events.
“Wyoming’s Cowboy Country”, week one, started on June 28 and ran until June 28, week two followed immediately, June 29 until July 4. Over the past three years of that workshop every week has its very own and distinct personality. Groups change, events are a bit different, wranglers change, but the overall results of this incredible workshop are constant: incredible photographic opportunities, wonderful camaraderie among the group, and life-long friendships created in the Wind River Valley, home to CM and the workshop.
This is such an ideal event to work with our participants on that idea of visual narrative. I’ve been preaching this concept for years, that if shooting any event in which 2 or more images are made, by applying this “template” of story-telling to the collection of photos, the photographer then creates a more engaging and compelling body of work. What we do as photographers is actually quite similar to what a writer does, we simply use a different form of narrative in this process. And, we use a narrative that resonates perfectly with our process of remembrance of those events we photograph.
When photographing our “story” (this includes photographing our lives in general, events, sports, etc., etc.) by applying this template to our coverage, and making sure we have covered those 5 “components”, our story telling becomes more cohesive and complete. For more about this, you’ll have to buy “Perfect Digital Photography” and/or come to a workshop!!
One great component of the CM Workshop-lot’s of dust! We work with our participants on taking advantage of the atmospheric conditions (dry, dry and dryer) in which that dust can be a significant component in the images, instead of a detriment. The simple method of shooting into a backlit situation can really make those atmospherics work for the image. This also helps create a “ghost riders in the sage” look, which is very western and romantic.
In between the two workshops, I went to dinner with our two incredible assistants-and I use “assistant” very lightly, Frank Varney and George McDonald who bring huge amounts of experience, knowledge and credibility to those positions. Both are former instructors at Colorado Institute of Art, and both are extremely accomplished photographers in their on right.
This was on the Saturday night, after dinner in Dubois, I was going to head on back to the ranch (I don’t have many opportunities to use that expression accurately) instead, I decided to check out Dubois Overlook, as a powerful afternoon storm was just passing through. I was the only one up there and the views were stunning, made that much better by the dramatic cloud coverage that was being underlit by the suns coming out from behind the clouds, lighting those clouds from below. I was actually considering running up to the high spot, a knob that juts above the surrounding landscape. Then, my Boy Scout training came into play, with the realization that this high point was also that much closer to the strong lightening that was coursing through those clouds…I turned around to head to the car, and was confronted with this incredible rainbow.