I never thought I’d find myself standing underneath a rock face pointing my 70-200mm lens up at a lithe twenty-something climber. She’s gliding laterally, like a kind of swanlike cliff side dance, making it look graceful in a way that I know I could never do. It’s almost high noon at this point and the sun is just cresting over the cliff’s edge. There’s a snake beneath us, the kind made of gray concrete with two yellow stripes down its middle, aspen trees and evergreens lining its sides. Tiny car ants weave their way around its bends every few minutes. My feet are gripping the sides of my tennis shoes, which are pressing into a bed of wobbly red rocks and, truth be told, I’m scared shitless. I am, there’s no other way to say it. But I don’t say it out loud. My 60-year-old mother is next to me with her 16-35mm wide-angle lens pointing straight ahead and if she can do it, I can do it.
We’re there together, as part of Canon Live Learning’s EOS Destination Workshops and as part of a new tradition we’ve set of traveling together – her newly retired, me in a career that thrives on travel. I spent the months leading up to the workshop drooling over our instructor Tyler Stableford’s work on his Instagram and his website and everywhere in between. It was inspiring. The kind of work that made me want to do more with a creative craft I’m more and more falling in love with. Do you ever stumble across artists like that? Who make you want to put more into growing your creative self? I always feel lucky when I meet someone who does that.
If you’ve been following along here for some time, you know that I’ve hesitated to say it out loud, to claim the identity of “photographer” (or artist or writer or creative) given my lack of formal training in, well, anything creative beyond constructing academic research papers. But my camera is a part of me these days, like an extension of my actual body. It’s there when I photograph recipes for my blog and do shoots for private clients and magazines. It was with me as I toured Nova Scotia, aiming it at ruby jewel lobsters and frosty pints of IPA and lighthouses that bathed in magenta fog at sunrise. It was with me just a few weeks ago when I gave a talk to a room full of fitness bloggers on food photography, offering tips on how to compose and style food, how to work with restaurant lighting, how to photograph smoothies at just the right liquid-meet-light points. I’m starting to feel more and more like I can claim those creative identities. But, at least in the realm of photography, I often feel like there’s still a mountain of things to learn, especially given that my experience is skewed heavily to the subject of food.
Thankfully, my mother, also a self-taught photographer specializing in nature and wildlife (and also the person who first put a Canon camera in my child hands at the age of 7), invited me to join her on Canon Live Learning’s Destination Workshop in the rocky mountains of Colorado, the one that had us doing a little amateur rock-climbing – okay, fine, it was more like boulder hopping lite but you get my point – getting action shots of adventurists and photographing all kinds of new scenes that I never would have imagined possible.
Tyler, being the patient and generous soul that he is, shared countless tips with us as we bolder-hopped and slipped on snow and hiked through the Maroon Bells at sunrise with gear and lenses strapped to our backs. He helped me finally feel comfortable with speedlight portraiture, offered more insight into lens selection (I often rely too heavily on my trusy-for-food 50mm lens!), and told us how to adapt when the weather throws you unexpected curveballs. He walked us through his own post-processing techniques, pointing out all kinds of features and tools that I, sad to admit since I’ve been a heavy Lightroom user for over several years now, never even knew existed. At the end of it all, I felt more confident with my camera than I have in the seven years that I’ve owned a DSLR. Like I could photograph an in-motion model on horseback equally as well as a bowl full of soup. It was an experience I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat, even if I do have to rock climb a little to get there.
Click here for a full list of Canon Live Learning Destination Workshops happening this year. And let me know if, you know, you want a travel buddy to tag along with you for one of them. I’ve got my eye on that Surf Photography Workshop on Oahu and promise I’m much more adept at water sports than I am at mountain climbing. (Hint, hint.)
This post was sponsored by Canon but, as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own. Many thanks to you, lovely readers, for supporting the brands that keep C+M thriving.