Ricketts Glen photo challenges

This past week, Oct. 11 to 15 actually, provided yet another opportunity for a group of enthusiastic photographers to challenge themselves in unfamiliar territory. What was scheduled to be a workshop with autumn colors and some serious waterfalls as subjects was met with little color, heavy overcast skies, well travelled trails and more water that expected.

More than a rock, by Doug Harvey

We began Wednesday afternoon marching everyone into unfamiliar territory, much to everyone’s surprise and no little discomfort. Let’s call it photography without the primary tool . . . a camera.

With seven photographers with experience ranging from novice to experienced amateur scratching their heads, I announced that our first venue for the planned five-day workshop, wasn’t going to be the heralded waterfalls of Pennsylvania’s Ricketts Glen State Park. I wasn’t all that surprised at what appeared to be, shall I say, less than full throated enthusiasm for my first selection of a venue . . . a parking lot on the edge of the state park.

I told the gathered photographers that I didn’t want them to even take cameras with them, though they certainly could do so if they insisted. Rather, I wanted them to take small notebooks I had provided. Each notebook containing the same “starter questions” designed to get them thinking about potential photos.

Going with the flow by Jan Bishop

Questions about what caught their interest and why. How did they “feel” about their potential subject? What were the elements in their scene that could become part of a photograph they might choose to created the next day? Which elements didn’t contribute to the”story” they wanted their photograph to convey? Specifically, what would they let into their photography’s frame and what, specifically, should they leave out? I even want them to question the aspect ratios of their potential images. There was nothing to say it had to be the standard 3×2 aspect ratio, afterall.

Some found the exercise uncomfortable. Others relished the opportunity. Several later commented that the parking lot exercise had produced the results I had hoped. It had slowed their photographic rush and allowed creativity room to grow. The process of “seeing” images before pressing our shutter release buttons isn’t a habit we create in a single exercise and over the next few days, the process would prove illusive on occasion yet productive on others.

Take a look at the “Ricketts Glen Student Gallery” and enjoy the images that resulted.