Access Collective Intelligence

Good workshop leaders know how to activate collective intelligence.
Access to collective intelligence is one of the most important aspects of workshop experiences. You go to the same locations using the same (or similar tools) and come away with different images. We all see the world differently. When you see the way other people see and what they have to go through to get there, your visual horizons are expanded.
We cordially engage in daily contests. Winning image of the day gets posted here. At the end of the day, we buy a drink for the person with the best image from a particular site or for the day. It’s all in fun and it drives us forward to try harder.
Can’t make it to a workshop right now? You can get some of this type of stimulation and feedback by photographing with friends.
Find out more about Focus on Nature here.
Get Priority Status for all 2009 workshops now by emailing einar@focusonnature.is.

Get Local Information – Part 2 – Ragnar Sigurdsson


Focus On Nature’s creator Einar Erlandson enlisted professional photographer Ragnar Sigurdsson to help guide us on location in Iceland. A native of Iceland, Ragnar Sigurdsson, is a highly successful stock photographer (Getty, Corbis, Jupiter ) specializing in arctic images for over 25 years. “If it’s cold I’m there.” Where? Siberia, Greenland, Lapland, Canada, Arctic, Antarctic, and of course Iceland. He just got back fromChucotka  Siberia flying in a giant MI8 helicopter.
You should see his ATV. If anyone can get there, Ragnar can. He uses a specially modified military vehicle; 44″ inch tires, heating, stereo, computer holder, GPS, air pump for deflating and inflating his tires, 220W power supply, strobes, and more. Strobes? Yes. One of his signature style is using strobe on in remote locations. (Oh, and his French cognac is excellent.) Life is indeed an adventure made richer by those you share it with.
Find out about Ragnar Sigurdsson’s and Arctic Images here.
Find out more about Focus on Nature here.
Get Priority Status for all 2009 workshops now by emailing einar@focusonnature.is.

Get Local Information – Part I – Einar Erlandsson


One of the things that makes a workshop in a foreign destination great is local knowledge. Focus On Nature’s Einar Erlandson is an Iceland native – his family history in Iceland goes back over 1000 years. Iceland’s more than geography to him. It’s his personal and family history. He knows all the nooks and crannies to get into, the backroads and the sideways that take you to remarkable places you’d never find without a lifetime’s worth of experience. He’s taught photography for years and knows not only how to make successful images but also how to help others learn to make their own successful images. That kind of insight and guidance is invaluable.
Even though Einar Erlandson is an Icelandic native  enlists local photographers who’ve lived their whole lives here to add to his extensive body of knowledge of the terrain and its history. They’ve seen new islands emerge; seen volcanoes wipe out villages; seen Rekjavik grow.
From your trusted information sources, you want to more than experience – you want specific kinds of experience. Focus On Nature enlists the help of many local professional photographers. Professional photographers know what conditions make good photographs. They know not only what’s interesting, but also if a location is interesting photographically. They know when to go; weather and light can dramatically change a location visually. And they know what types of images have been made at those locations – and they’re willing to share it all.
Bottom line, when on location, enlist local knowledge whenever you can. The time spent getting to know locals is worth its weight in gold. And you make new friends!
Find out more about Focus on Nature here.
Get Priority Status for all 2009 workshops now by emailing einar@focusonnature.is.

Focus On Nature Begins


15 years ago, Einar Erlendsson had a dream. Start a photographic workshop program in Iceland. Offer people from all over the world an opportunity to experience a unique land. Immerse them in its culture, history, geology, climate, and biology. Help them make more compelling images. Inspire them to share their experiences with a wider audience. Tonight that dream came true. The first workshop began. (Vincent Versace and I coteach a special weekend workshop before my weeklong workshop Illuminating Creativity – Icleand starts.) It was an emotional moment for all of us – but, of course, particularly for Einar who navigated over a decade of obstacles to make this a reality. He’s got a lot of great ideas for unique workshop experiences that will develop rapidly next year. Driving on glaciers? Exploring ice caves? Diving in underwater caves? Walking in volcanoes? It’s all coming soon.
Focus on Nature has a  dual meaning and a dual purpose. It’s not just designed to promote photography. It’s also designed to promote the environment and sustainable land use practices. It’s a message in line with the spirit of the Icelandic nation – the largest exporter of geothermal technology in the world. There’s a lot more that can and will be said on this subject. Stay tuned to the Focus on Nature website.
15 years ago, Einar Erlendsson had a dream. Start a photographic workshop program in Iceland. Offer people from all over the world an opportunity to experience a unique land. Immerse them in its culture, history, geology, climate, and biology. Help them make more compelling images. Inspire them to share their experiences with a wider audience. Tonight that dream came true. The first workshop began. (Vincent Versace and I coteach a special weekend workshop before my weeklong workshop Illuminating Creativity – Icleand starts.) It was an emotional moment for all of us – but, of course, particularly for Einar who navigated over a decade of obstacles to make this a reality. He’s got a lot of great ideas for unique workshop experiences that will develop rapidly next year. Driving on glaciers? Exploring ice caves? Diving in underwater caves? Walking in volcanoes? It’s all coming soon.
Focus on Nature has a  dual meaning and a dual purpose. It’s not just designed to promote photography. It’s also designed to promote the environment and sustainable land use practices. It’s a message in line with the spirit of the Icelandic nation – the largest exporter of geothermal technology in the world. There’s a lot more that can and will be said on this subject. Stay tuned to the Focus on Nature website.
Find out more about Focus on Nature here.
New dates for 2009 are now available.
Vincent Versace August 10-14
John Paul Caponigro August 17-21, 2009 Iceland workshop here.
Stephen Johnson TBA.
New instructors and dates will be announced soon.
Get Priority Status for all Focus on Nature workshop here.
Or, get Priority Status for all 2009 workshops now by emailing einar@focusonnature.is.

Iceland – Prelude



(That’s Stephen Johnson on his recent trip to Iceland.)
I’m flying to Iceland today to scout for my upcoming workshop.
During my stay I’ll present a free lecture in Rekjavik hosted by Canon.
August 12 and 13 (Saturday and Sunday) I co-teach a free weekend workshop with Vincent Versace.
August 14 – 18 I lead my workshop Illuminating Creativity. This is a field workshop, a variant of my workshop by the same title, much like my Fall Foliage workshop, with a majority of the time spent on location in the field. Participants and I will engage many exercises to stimulate creativity and encourage versatility when coming up with solutions to visual challenges. I’ll tell you about many of them and show you our solutions here in the days to come.
Stay tuned!

Ollie Treadway – Simplifying Workflow


For Ollie it all came together on the final day of our workshop The Fine Art of Digital Printing (this time at the Hallmark Institute for Photography). He was able to untangle his workflow and his file structure and produce better results in less time.
Here are a few core concepts he absorbed. Keep it simple; amid multiple methods that offer equal quality, the simplest way is best. Work globally first, then regionally. Don’t fix problems created during the editing process, fix the adjustments that created the problems. Organize and label your layers.
Now that the technical issues have been answered and simplified, Ollie’s freer to direct his energies in more important areas of his creative growth – finding and developing his own authentic voice.
These are the kinds of dialogs Mac Holbert and I have every day with participants in our the Fine Art of Digital Printing workshop during our extensive One on One and Review sessions.
Look for future workflow sessions from Mac and I at PhotoPlus East and the Epson Print Academy.
Check out my workflow PDFs here.
Check out Ollie’s website here.
Find out about the Hallmark Institute of Photography here.
Find out more about The Fine Art of Digital Printing workshop here.
Find out about my The Fine Digital Print workshop series here.

Marc Siegner – Testing Sharpness


Marc creates multimedia prints and installations. He uses a wide variety of media for their material characteristics. So naturally he’s particularly sensitive to the look and feel of his images. We tested sharpness (low, medium, and high) with one of his images. Then the whole class had the opportunity to see the results side-by-side. Consensus wasn’t instant. Some like it sharp. Some like it soft.
One thing became clear, sharpness influences spatial relationships – especially when applied selectively. Typically, sharper image areas appear closer to the viewer, while softer areas appear further away.
So sharpness not only involves aesthetic choices, it can also be used to control spatial relationships within an image. Texture and contour are essential elements in visual vocabulary that you can use to further your personal expression.
Test it for yourself! On your images! Do it! While you can imagine the results, there’s nothing like experiencing it.
How important is sharpness in your images? Do you like your images sharp or soft? Comment here.
Find out about the Hallmark Institute of Photography here.
Find out more about The Fine Art of Digital Printing workshop here.
Find out about my The Fine Digital Print workshop series here.

Jay Strojnowksi – Testing Substrates


Jay took a risk. He brought in large scale photographs printed on canvas for review. They were different. This triggered a long dialog on mixed media and installations. Now he’s no longer thinking in conventional terms about making prints. In 30 minutes we listed dozens of ideas for expanding the possibilities of printmaking and presentation; multiple media – silk, mylar, metal, transfers; multiple picture languages – photographs, blueprints, text, code; and multiple installations – hung on walls, becoming the walls, drapes, projections. This is one of the things that’s so stimulating about teaching. It’s inspiring to see diverse perspectives. And it’s a privilege to be able to help others realize their visions. I highly recommend you take time to explore your options. Think of the possibilities! You might surprise yourself … and us!
How many ways can you think of enhancing your images with media? Make a list. Then rank the list and try the most promising options.
These are the kinds of dialogs Mac Holbert and I have every day with participants in our the Fine Art of Digital Printing workshop during our extensive One on One and Review sessions. This week we’re at the Hallmark Institute of Photography.
Check out Jay’s website here.
Find out about the Hallmark Institute of Photography here.
Find out more about The Fine Art of Digital Printing workshop here.
Find out about my The Fine Digital Printing workshop series here.

Cemal Ekin – Crafting a Signature Style


Cemal was fairly confident that he wanted an alternative process look so he printed a key image for a series of black and white images on Epson matte papers – UltraSmooth, Velvet, and Watercolor paper.  He like the rich black of the Velvet surface. Then Cemal made two unexpected moves that gave what at first seemed like an antique treatment a very contemporary edge. He “crunched” his shadows running the contrast high, heavily darkened regional areas, and he used heavy sharpening (both Unsharp Mask and High Pass), making them look like photographs drifting towards etchings. He confirmed that this was indeed the most compelling treatment for his images by printing renditions with more shadow detail and less sharpening. Some experiments succeed, some fail. You need to risk failure. In fact, failures aren’t failures if you learn from them – they bring confirmation and direction. This kind of experimentation is necessary to create more distinctive and expressive prints. The key is to do focused experiments that are most likely to give useful or relevant information.
What kinds of focused experiments would help you most? List a few now!
Cemal brought with him a beautiful portfolio of small prints (printed on Moab Entrada and collected in a companion folio). Comparing them to prints of larger scale revealed yet one more facet of his work.
These are the kinds of dialogs Mac Holbert and I have every day with participants in our the Fine Art of Digital Printing workshop during our extensive One on One and Review sessions. This week we’re at the Hallmark Institute of Photography.
Find out about Cemal Ekins here.
Find out about the Hallmark Institute of Photography here.
Find out more about The Fine Art of Digital Printing workshop here.
Find out about my The Fine Digital Printing workshop series here.

Harry Sandler – The Fine Digital Print Expert Workshop Finding Your Voice


(The above images are after and before.)
This is just one of the many reasons to teach. You make a real difference for some really great people. Harry Sandler had a breakthrough last week. He connected emotionally and intellectually to the work he was doing with a level of clarity he hadn’t achieved before. It’s given him a better sense of himself, the reasons he does the work he does, and how to approach both his old and new work. Mastering any tool (especially Photoshop) means more than knowing how to use it; it means knowing how to apply it to achieve specific results. To achieve those, you first have to know what you want to achieve – and why.
Here’s the letter Harry sent me after he left the workshop.
“John Paul,
First of all many thanks for a wonderful experience at your Fine Digital Print Expert workshop – it far outweighed my expectations. I am most appreciative of how technical information was balanced with the idea of discovering one’s artistic voice.
Having dabbled in imagery for most of my life without ever fully realizing what moved and in turn motivated me I enjoyed being pushed a bit toward finding a technical solution to being able to express myself physically, a breakthrough, albeit just a start, that happened on the third day of the workshop.
When asked to stretch the limits of one image (an image that we felt to be a cornerstone for a body of work) by taking it in various directions I had an epiphany of expression within myself. In particular it would appear that I connected this photo (and the way it was printed) with some inner turmoil from my childhood that opened during this exercise, and, that sense of discovery continued after working on another file from the same body of work. The instant feedback from the print resonated deeply and appears to be the catalyst for moving farther down the road to more self-discovery.
A quote came to mind that evening while viewing the image: “Be still with yourself until the object of your attention affirms your presence” – Minor White
PS: On my drive back on Saturday I also noticed myself drifting off into the cloudy sky noticing small shifts of saturation and color so maybe there is hope for this old time black and white brain of mine.
Regards,
Harry Sandler”

Download my PDF Portfolio Review here.

Download my PDF Aesthetics of Printing here.
Find out about my Fine Digital Print workshop series here.
Find out about The Fine Digital Print Expert workshop here.