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.

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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.

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.

Workshop Announcement: Introduction to Large Format Photography: April 14-15, 2012

Large Format Photographer in the Alabama Hills

This workshop will take place in California’s renowned Alabama Hills (featured in scores of movies and television commercials), just outside Lone Pine, California, in the rainshadow of Mt. Whitney and the High Sierra). Limited to 5 photographers only.

NO PREVIOUS LARGE FORMAT EXPERIENCE IS REQUIRED! The large format camera offers the ultimate in control over the entire creative image-making process and large format negatives and transparencies that offer extraordinary resolution. The market is flooded with plenty of used and value-priced large format gear, and new high quality yet inexpensive field cameras have made this an excellent time to move up to the format with only a moderate amount of expense. This course is designed for experienced photographers who are ready to take their photography to the next level, and for those who have previously worked with large format but have struggled with it. At the completion of this intensive two-day workshop, you will be able to efficiently and confidently compose, focus, meter, and expose your own large format photographs. Please click here for more information and to register.

I hope you can join us!

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

Upcoming Workshops

Come join me in the Eastern Sierra for two exciting workshops!

October 5-8, 2010 Eastern Sierra Autumn Color Tour
All camera formats and experience levels welcome! Limited to only six photographers. Join me on this incredible and photography intensive three-day tour of California’s Eastern Sierra, Owens Valley, and the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest. Come enjoy and photograph California’s finest autumn colors in one of the most breathtaking settings on the planet! For more information and registration….

November 6-7, 2010 Introduction to Large Format Photography
Alabama Hills, Eastern Sierra (just outside Lone Pine, California). Limited to only 5 photographers. NO previous large format experience required! My teaching methods and techniques are direct and easy to comprehend. At the completion of this intensive two-day workshop, you will be able to efficiently and confidently compose, focus, and expose your own large format photographs! For more information and registration….

I am happy to answer any questions you may have regarding these workshops/tours. Previous workshop participants can enjoy a 10% discount on tuition! Thank you for your interest.

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

Yosemite Valley SNOW!

(L to R) Large Format Photography workshop client David, and Michael

I had yet another private workshop last Saturday, this time in the Happiest Place on Earth: Yosemite Valley. I worked with David Okner on Large Format photography, helping him to gain control over view camera movements and teaching him my easy system of metering and exposure (no more bracketing or failed negatives!). We had a great day together, with David displaying a sense of wonderment (how could it be this easy?) and camera confidence by day’s end.

Yosemite Chapel in fresh snow, photo, picture

Yosemite Chapel in fresh snow

The first big winter storm of the season was slated to arrive after midnight on Sunday (and it’s not even yet winter!), so I stayed in The Valley and hoped to awake to snow on Monday. Sure enough, the National Weather Service nailed it. There were two inches of white stuff on the ground when I awoke, and by the time my coffee was ready, it had begun snowing again in earnest. By 4pm Monday – after a full day of non-stop snow – approximately one foot of new snow covered everything. It was absolutely beautiful, and there’s hardly a better place to enjoy a beautiful winter storm like this one.

photo, picture: Merced River, Yosemite Valley, snow, storm

Fresh snow on the Merced River, Yosemite Valley

Right around sunset I made the photograph at left and then decided to try to head home via Hwy 41/Wawona. It was a slow drive out, as it was snowing, foggy, icy – you name it. Driving conditions were challenging and required vigilance. Heading south on Hwy 99, I learned that Caltrans had closed both the Grapevine/I-5 and Hwy 58 to snow, so I did not make it home that night and drove back into the Sierra (southern) to find a place to bivouac and photograph in the morning 🙂

Thanks for a great workshop, David!

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

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Workshop Announcement: Introduction to Large Format Photography. Feb 13-14, 2010

Introduction to Large Format Photography Workshop
February 13-14, 2010, Alabama Hills, Eastern Sierra (just outside Lone Pine, California)
Limited to only 5 photographers; $349 per person

4x5 large format view camera in the field

Despite the digital photography boom, large format film photography is witnessing a resurgence of interest and an increase in users. Large format negatives and transparencies offer extraordinary resolution, and view cameras offer extraordinary control over fine focus and perspective. Simply stated, a large format camera offers the ultimate in photographic control over the creative image-making process. Further, a market flooded with used but clean large format gear and a couple of new economical yet quality view camera manufacturers have made this an excellent time to enter the world of large format with only a moderate amount of expense (a good LF kit can cost and weigh less than a professional D-SLR kit).

My teaching methods and techniques are direct and easy to comprehend, and I will successfully put you in full control of your camera. At the completion of this intensive two-day workshop, you will be able to efficiently and confidently compose, focus, and expose your own photographs.

This workshop will take place in the world famous Alabama Hills (featured in scores of movies and television commercials), just outside Lone Pine, California (in the rainshadow of Mt. Whitney and the High Sierra). We’ll be learning in an outstanding location and will have access to the Eastern Sierra’s incredible wintry mountain scenery.

Due to the decrease in available instruction, my Introduction to Large Format Photography workshops have become increasingly sought after. Please do not delay your registration, as I expect this workshop to fill quickly. For more information and to register for this workshop, please see my Workshops page. Thank you for your interest!

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

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