The 2015 Moab Photography Symposium

MPSI am thrilled to announce that I’ve been invited to present and teach at the 2015 Moab Photography Symposium! This year’s schedule also includes presentations from Charles CramerGuy TalChuck KimmerleBruce Hucko, and Colleen Miniuk-Sperry (all friends, all wonderful artists). Two-hour breakout sessions and afternoon field workshops are also offered by each presenter.

I attended my first digital printing workshop with Charles Cramer way back in 2002. I would have never believed that thirteen years later I would be presenting and teaching in the same forum as Charlie! I first met and camped with Symposium director Bruce Hucko in October 2014 in Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante. Bruce saw a kindred (and perhaps slightly crazy) spirit with my unabashed enthusiasm for tequila and wildlands (not necessarily in that order). As with where all other good things in life happen, around the campfire (not proverbial) I was asked to present. The Symposium will be a thrill for me both as presenter and attendee.

Find inspiration, fresh ideas, and new friends at the 12th annual Moab Photography Symposium this April 30-May 3! This popular event fills fast and sells out quickly. As of this moment, there are only six slots remaining (four on Friday, two on Saturday) for my half-day Field Sessions. I hope you will join us in Moab this spring for an extraordinary event! Learn More Now

You are visiting the blog of fine art landscape photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website. You can also find Michael on FacebookGoogle+, and  Twitter.

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A Fruitful Year

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Over the course of four nights last week, I observed  the peak of the 2013 Geminid meteor shower from my private bivouac above the floor of Mesquite Flats (in what was dubbed this year as the “largest international dark sky park“). The desert silence was profound and I was reveling alone in my fortune as a very lucky man. I’m not able to mention the typical darkness, as a near full moon flooded the Valley with spectacular nightlight, making the dunes plain to see well after nightfall. I was in Death Valley National Park – my home away from home in recent years – leading my final photo workshop of 2013 and reminiscing about the spectacular year I have been privileged to enjoy. It’s been a fulfilling year of exciting experiences in nature and wilderness (alone and with a few close friends), excellent growth in all segments of my photographic business, and many stimulating exchanges with inspired photographers who sought my workshops, tours, and training – I cannot thank all of you enough!

On the other hand, I apologize to all who patiently and eagerly wait blog entries and Facebook posts. My life, business, and travel are busier than ever before which has _MG_9340left little time for social media. I admit it: I have no social media “campaign” and have never found it to be an enjoyable medium that works for me and my personality (even though most would likely refer to me as sociable). My limited time at the computer is spent doing what must be done, and I’ve never considered “chat rooms” a must-do. I’ve instead been aggressively building on what I value most: Real life experiences and photographic journeys. Neither require a cell signal, internet connection, or any sort of campaign, and yet both have been tremendously successful for me in 2013.

Over the last calendar month, I’ve exhibited in two Southern California fine art festivals and have led two group workshops. I’ve hardly been able to keep up. The photo above left is my L.A. Center for Photography workshop on Death Valley’s Mesquite Dunes, and the one below and right is my Introduction to Large Format Photography workshop group enjoying a very special canyon last weekend. My sincere THANKS to all the wonderful participants (Amr, Daniela, Graham, Joe, John, Jorge, Jovanna, Ken, Kevin, Michael, Mike, Scott – thank you!) who joined me to learn in and explore one of the most fascinating places on earth.

_MG_9192As the sun begins to set on 2013, I thank you all for being patient readers and inspirational photographers. I hope your year was as joyous as mine and I wish everyone a radiant 2014. Happy holidays!

A few brief announcements:

* Guy and I have just had a cancellation and now have one space available in our February 20-25, 2014 Visionary Death Valley workshop. All of our Visionary workshops have been sold out; come find out why!

* My next  Introduction to Large Format Photography workshop is March 7-9, 2014 and still has spaces available. Kevin J. Mellis took part in last week’s large format workshop and demonstrated his kindness by referring to me an “awesome instructor”.

* My next  L.A. Center for Photography workshop at Death Valley is March 13-16, 2014; this workshop has just opened for registration and is expected to sell out. Register now!

* New for 2014! I’ve added a Fundamentals of Digital Photography workshop for novice photographers. This short and inexpensive workshop will give you all the tools you need to understand your camera, photographic basics, and basic post-production techniques.

You are visiting the blog of fine art landscape photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website. You can also find Michael on FacebookGoogle+, and  Twitter.

Photograph: Arterial Hypnosis

Arterial Hypnosis

The Racetrack Playa, Death Valley National Park. Made before sunrise on a cold January morning on Death Valley’s Racetrack Playa. 4×5″ camera and film.

Guy Tal and I would love to have you join us at The Racetrack and other spectacular Death Valley locations during this November’s Visionary Death Valley photo workshop.

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. Please visit his official website  for more information.

Introduction to Large Format Photography Workshop: Dec 13-15, 2013 – Death Valley NP

MG_IntroLF_bannerMy next Introduction to Large Format Photography workshop takes place December 13-15, 2013 in the incomparable Death Valley National Park. This workshop is limited to only five photographers – everyone gets plenty of hands-on instruction and attention. NO previous large format experience is required and loaner gear is available for those who do not own. Learn more about this workshop and register here.

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. Please visit his official website  for more information.

Epilogue: Visionary Moab

The Visionary Moab group before Balanced Rock, Arches NP

The Visionary Moab group before Balanced Rock, Arches NP

Guy and I concluded our Visionary Moab photography workshop just under a week ago.  It was another successful workshop with a great group of participants, and it’s a strong testament to our program and teaching when 50% of the participants are returnees (thank you, Bob, Paige, Ron, and Tina!). Visionary Moab explored fifteen unique locations and provided great shooting opportunities with diverse subject matter. Everyone in the group was able to enjoy the three mile roundtrip walk to the world famous Delicate Arch (in Arches NP) for a sunset shoot (great job, guys!). Although we visited a few well known locations (Delicate Arch, Grandview Point), our focus is otherwise on placing participants in less obvious, quiet, and photographically rich environments where one can stretch their skills and creativity. Daily shoots were combined with field classes, field exercises, portfolio assignments, and classroom time where we examined the tools and techniques to creating our art.

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Guy instructs

The core tenets of the Visionary program are intended to induce a quiet and thoughtful practice into ones work. Some educators and photographers engage in a “spray and pray” approach to image making. Visionary workshops recommends the exact opposite: slow down, quiet the mind; be completely present and in this moment; consider and deliberate; quality over quantity. Spray and pray is a mindless path to lucky captures and editing nightmares; quiet and thoughtful deliberation is a path to creative imaging and expression.

In the Window before sunrise

In the Window before sunrise

Free yourself from external influences: bills, obligations, and chores will pollute your experience every time if you allow. Bring your baggage to the field only at the risk of failure-to-see. Photo buddies are fun to hang with but can provide obstacles to photographic growth; practice working in solitude (quiet your mind).

Be observant of your entire surroundings. Take visual inventory of your “materials”, of what you have to work with to create your images. Compose away from the camera and viewfinder; use your mind and vision (photographer Edward Weston stated “composition is the strongest way of seeing“). Don’t get locked into the arbitrary 2:3 or 4:5 aspect ratio of your camera. Your camera has no brain; use the one you’ve been gifted with.

Guy instructs during one of our classroom sessions

Guy instructs during one of our classroom sessions

Be an expert; know and photograph your subjects better than anyone else. Honor, love, and dignify; meaningful relationships with your subject matter will often result in compelling and sincere photographs. There are no shortcuts to artistry, but there is a direct correlation between input and output. If you love photography and strive to become a better photographic artist, do more of it and make it more than just a spare-time pursuit; make it your life.

Our next Visionary workshop takes place November 21-26 in Death Valley and we hope that you’ll join us for stimulating and inspirational discussions and engaging photography in one of the planets most extraordinary places!

You’ll find eight additional images from Visionary Moab below this entry…

You are visiting the blog of fine art landscape photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website. You can also find Michael on TwitterFacebook, and Google+.

We enjoyed everywhere the beautiful aroma of Mahonia...

We enjoyed everywhere the beautiful aroma of Mahonia…

Yucca, wide open

Yucca, wide open

Mesa Arch?

Mesa Arch?

Sweeping sandstone

Sweeping sandstone

Reflected light

Reflected light

We explored and photographed lots of rock art

We explored and photographed lots of rock art

Guy, Ron, and Tom discuss the detailed rock art behind them

Guy, Ron, and Tom discuss the detailed rock art behind them

Washer Woman Arch

Washer Woman Arch

Announcing Visionary Photography Workshops

Guy Tal and I first met each other about ten years ago shortly after he’d left California for Utah. During the ensuing decade, we shared together many wonderful photography expeditions to extraordinary places and discussed at length our goals, philosophies, and hopes for nature and landscape photography as fine art. Despite our differences, we shared many commonalities and philosophies and began to plan our first workshop. In 2004, we hand-picked a select group of photographers for a free Grand Staircase-Escalante NM (Utah) workshop where we could test and vet our curriculum. It was a wonderful start with a great group of photographers, and we’ve since spent the last eight years teaching, guiding, and inspiring scores of photographers at all levels while continuously refining our philosophies and teaching methods. In 2011 we began hatching a refined Visionary concept, and in February 2012 offered our first (sold out) Visionary Photography Workshop in Death Valley National Park. It was a tremendous success, and it prompted us to consider additional offerings in new locations.
The success (or failure) of a photography workshops hinges on its leadership and planning. After eight years of teaching and guiding, we had heard the horror stories from our participants about bad workshops and bad leadership, and desired to never have our names associated with similar stories. Meticulous planning is part of every Visionary workshop. There is no “figuring it out” as we go along, no details are left uncoordinated, and we don’t use our workshops to build our own portfolios. We take great pride in the Visionary program we’ve put together, and we hope you’ll join us for a Visionary Photography Workshop in 2013.
You are visiting the blog of fine art landscape photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.

Air Travel with Large Format Sheet Film, Post-911

One of my recent Large Format workshop attendees emailed today with a horror story:

I had a horrifying experience a few days ago when I had asked TSA at the Rapid City, South Dakota airport to hand inspect my 4×5 sheet film. I had the boxes taped shut and the stupid idiots opened each box in broad daylight. At this point I don’t know how much was ruined, but certainly some was. I had spent two days shooting in the Badlands, part of which was in a violent thunder and lightning storm, which was a wonderful time for photographing.

I am lucky to have never shared Ken’s misfortune, but my rule is to always travel prepared and to expect the worse. Take comfort in knowing that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has published policies (available online) regarding traveling with film. In short, “[s]heet, large format and motion picture film” are “Specialty Films” for which a hand-inspection can be requested. Bear in mind that the TSA protects only U.S. transportation centers, so do not automatically expect pleasant and cooperative assistance when requesting hand checks abroad. Accordingly, the following recommendations may be of little use at the airport in Nice, France (this airport is not mentioned at random!)

Here’s what I do when traveling through U.S. airports:

1. Print out and carry with you at all times the TSA ‘Traveling With Film‘ document.

2. Make sure you understand the contents of this document and what protections it affords you.

3. When the TSA advises you that it’s perfectly fine to run your ISO100 film through the scanner, politely decline and request a hand-check. No matter what you are told regarding film speeds and scanner strength, the best precaution is to avoid ALL scanning ALL the time. The best policy is to not assume that there are a certain number of safe passes before your film fogs: Do not allow your film to be scanned! Be assertive and request a hand check or a supervisor if necessary. Refer to the TSA’s own document when they tell you it is safe to scan.

4. I highly recommend carrying in the airport with you a changing bag or changing tent. If you request a hand check for an OPENED box of cut sheet film – one on which the seals are broken – the TSA will likely want to open and inspect/swab that box. This is what the changing tent/bag is for. If they insist on open-box inspection, explain to them the nature of accidental exposure and then proceed to set up the tent. My experience with TSA and sealed/unopened boxes is that they’re OK with swabbing the outside of the box and and will not ask to open it. Your experience may differ.

4. Should you still posses and be traveling with Quickloads or Readyloads (remember those?), TSA can safely open the box and inspect the film packets, but make sure that they don’t pull on the metal clip sealing the packet end and accidentally expose your film!

5. When you’re done at security check, thank the TSA for their courtesy and cooperative hand-check. Feel free to ignore silly comments that ask why you haven’t yet switched to digital.

If this all sounds to be a bit of a headache, you might consider FedExing your film to and from your shooting location. According to FedEx, undeveloped film can be safely shipped with prominently marked packages and special labels. Ask your FedEx courier or call 1.800.GoFedEx 1.800.463.3339 (say “order shipping supplies”). Contact FedEx for more details about shipping professional large format sheet film.

I hope this information helps you and your film to travel safely and effortlessly. Happy large format shooting!

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Want to learn Large Format photography? My next Introduction to Large Format Photography workshop takes place November 16-18, 2012, in Death Valley National Park.  NO PREVIOUS LARGE FORMAT EXPERIENCE IS REQUIRED! Please click here for more information and to register.

You are visiting the blog of fine art landscape photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.