Before spending a week attending Krista Rossow’s “The New World of Travel Photography” class at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops, I was guilty of more than one bad habit. After living and backpacking throughout Southeast Asia for most of the past ten years, I became adept at deciding which city (sometimes country) I would travel to at the last minute. While spontaneity is my strength, research of my destination(s) fell to the wayside. When traveling more quickly (to which most Americans with limited vacation time can relate), I often lacked the patience required to make a better image. I never made a shot list. I rarely scouted locations ahead of time. I even struggled with finding hooks to my stories other than the names of the exotic destinations I found myself visiting.
And then I was sent out to The Santa Fe Photographic Workshops (SFPW) on behalf of B&H Photo to attend a workshop located only a few minutes away from The Plaza in the center of Santa Fe—B&H Photo is an educational partner of the workshops. Only a handful of my colleagues have had the opportunity to attend a workshop at SFPW, so I felt a little lucky and a lot excited to be a student for a week. As I walked toward the main office, it was impossible to not feel how much the campus and its staff reflect Santa Fe’s laid-back warmth and authenticity. Due to some rather last-minute travel arrangements, I didn’t stay in the campus housing; however, I did dine on-campus with my classmates and instructor, for every meal that didn’t conflict with our location shoots. My experience there was as wonderful—if not better than—what my B&H colleagues had disclosed before I left New York. Later, I discovered that SFPW also has a reputation for incredibly delicious meals.
While there are countless travel photography workshops out there, and I certainly can’t speak to them all, Krista Rossow successfully taps into her experience as a staff photo editor at National Geographic Traveler and, as one of the magazine’s contributing photographers, to thoroughly educate her students during the week-long workshop. Rossow discussed technical and creative techniques, coached my class on what to research, how to find and develop a story hook, and how to get our images seen on social media, as well as in other publications. In other words, she helped me break a lot of bad habits. Furthermore, she fielded questions in and out of the classroom about photography, her career, her travels… and then gave specific assignments when we were on location in and around Santa Fe.
As Rossow pointed out, “Santa Fe is perfect for a travel-photography class because there is so much variety in the area. Students can focus on the mixing of Native American and Spanish cultures, for example, delve into the rich art or food scenes, or incorporate the stunning landscapes and outdoor experiences that can be had.” This rang especially true for me, having only been out West a handful of times. I became smitten with not only the landscape but the western farmer and cowboy culture that differs from the culture I grew up with in Kentucky or more recently, living in New York City.
Specific and achievable goals for the workshop were set on the first day of class. Then, we were immediately instructed to begin thinking of different story angles when we headed out to photograph Santa Fe. The second day of the workshop—and every day after—included a critique of work. Tips like “consider how negative space could be useful for text” in an editorial story, and how certain angles worked better than others, were sprinkled into comments throughout the critique. Every day included presentations where Krista walked the class through different topics like the more general “The Travel Assignment,” down to the more specific, “Why wasn’t a photo chosen for Traveler magazine.” We got both the broad perspective and an insider look at the travel photography industry.
“Great travel images don’t happen by chance and, in my workshops, I aim to give participants the tools to get themselves into situations that will yield strong photographic results. I encourage participants to get off the beaten path and to delve deeper with their image making,” Rossow told me after the class had wrapped up.
Thinking back on the workshop, I certainly accomplished getting off the beaten path during an afternoon in Madrid, New Mexico. Rolling into a town consisting of one main drag and a population of a little more than 200 people, I was automatically thinking of how I could make images that differed from the images that the rest of my classmates were making. A classmate and I explored the few streets that ran behind the main thoroughfare, photographing old mining machinery, mattress spring fencing, and even a life-size zebra statue on the roof of a house. While I enjoyed getting to know the vendors at the farmer’s market, and the artisans in Santa Fe, I ended up being most satisfied with the still life shots that I captured in Madrid.
The second to last day of the workshop, after the morning critique session, Rossow helped each student cull and sequence his or her work into a fleshed-out photo essay. This one-on-one time allowed my classmates and me to see her in action, speedily selecting favorites, moving them into a Lightroom collection where she compared, arranged, and rearranged until everyone was satisfied that their story was being told accurately.
It should come as no surprise that when I asked Rossow to name her favorite part of the workshop, she responded, “I love being able to work one-on-one with participants to help them craft a story that interests them. I love seeing the excitement when they find something they are passionate about.”
Sadly, I had to head back to New York before the workshop ended, leaving my classmates as they continued to prepare their work for the final slideshow presentation and closing celebration. While I’m no stranger to taking classes and workshops back home, in Brooklyn, classes in New York City generally don’t end with a round of hugs. They do, however in Santa Fe. I wondered if I had just gotten lucky with an excellent workshop, led by an incredibly experienced and professional instructor, with a lovely group of students to boot… until other professional photographer and educator friends I talked to confirmed that Santa Fe Photographic Workshops are the “crème of the crop.”
While I continue to feel lucky that I could attend, it appears that all the workshops at SFPW are as successful as Krista Rossow’s New World of Travel Photography. In case you’re interested in attending, she’s already slated to teach in Santa Fe next year, from June 24-29, 2018. For other workshops in Santa Fe, San Miguel, or even Cuba, information and listings can be found at www.santafeworkshops.com.
You can also learn more about Krista Rossow’s approach to photo editing by viewing her presentation, How to Think Like an Editor, from the B&H Optic 2016 Conference.
Which SFPW Workshop would you feel luckiest to attend? Let us know in the Comments section, below.