As many of you know, I'm taking 16-18 months off from teaching The Photographers' Workshop in order to design and teach a year-long workshop with a group of past students. (That workshop is currently sold out, but if you'd like more information or would like to get on the waiting list, email me at email@example.com)
Since making that decision, I've received quite few emails asking if auditing a past workshop of mine was optional in order to gain access to all of the lessons, assignments, evaluations, questions & answers, etc. from The Photographers' Workshop.
That wasn't something I had thought of doing, but since so many of you have asked, I'm making it happen.
So I'll be offering a $100 discount off of the regular auditing price, so these auditing seats will be $145 instead of the regular, $245 cost.
Upon registering, you'll be given full access to a past workshop I taught. This means you can read all of the lessons from the workshop (450+ pages), all of the assignments, all of the evaluations I wrote for the students in this workshop, and all of the questions and my responses posted while this course was running.
* Note that I will not be available to answer photography related questions for anyone auditing a past workshop at this discounted price. This discounted auditing option allows you to access a past workshop which is no longer in session, meaning you can work at your own pace through the lessons, assignments, Q&A Board, evaluations, etc., from a class that already took place.
Also, if you are a past student of mine who has taken any other photography workshops that you would recommend, please post that information in the comments section for anyone who is interested.
Feel free to ask questions in the comments section as well and I'll respond to them there.
I'm going to take the rest of the week off from blogging, but will be back with a vengeance (all of our Spring Break photos) on Monday!
Cole volunteered as the official photographer for the 8th grade play at his school this year.
As you might imagine, I was pretty dang excited to hear this news and immediately started working with him on shooting in Full Manual Mode, Custom White Balancing, and composition.
I had him read the lessons I wrote for The Photographers' Workshop, I drilled him with questions like, "If you couldn't risk a slower shutter speed, but you needed a brighter picture, what would you do?", we shot together, and he took my old Nikon D700 and a new 50mm f1.4 lens to school with him every week to photograph play practice.
And then a couple weeks back, we practiced shooting the dress rehearsal together and not only did I realize how totally prepared he was for the event, I also got to take some pictures of him taking pictures...
And last week, after the final play, I received this email from his teacher:
"Cole was a complete blessing! I will proof the pictures and create a final photo archive for the school to burn for parents over the vacation. You should be very proud of your son. He was indispensable and I worked him hard!"
And last week while we were on Spring Break, he asked questions almost every time he saw me shooting, he did quite a bit of shooting of his own, he spent hours looking through my images on the drive home, and he asked if he could bring a camera next year too.
Two down (Ross and Cole both love photography), two to go.
A few weeks ago, I ran into a past student who has become a friend of mine (Hi Diane!) at a local coffee shop and after catching up for awhile, she shared a few recent photos she had taken.
And as I looked at each one, I felt increasing grateful for the job I've had for the last seven years, teaching The Photographers' Workshop.
I didn't feel at all responsible for the great images she was shooting.
Nope, that was all her doing. (I can supply students with information, but it's just useless information unless they're willing to put in the hard work.)
I just felt thankful.
Really, really thankful.
Thankful that a few of you convinced me I needed to teach photography. Thankful for the people I've met because of it. Thankful for the friendships that have developed. Thankful for all the excited and motivated students I've been able to work with over the years. Thankful for the learning that comes along with the teaching. Thankful for the images I've seen. Thankful that so many of you cared about me, believed in me, and encouraged me along the way. Thankful that photography is about so much more than photography. Thankful for conversations in the forum that humored me, moved me, and grew me. Thankful for the opportunity to play even the smallest role in the hundreds of thousands (probably millions) of 4x6 inch memories that have been made since the first workshop I taught back in May of 2008.
Images like Diane's...
My most recent workshop ended last night at midnight.
I won't be teaching the workshop again for at least a year and a half because I'm taking time off to design and teach a totally different, year-long workshop to a group of past students.
And though I plan to go back to teaching The Photographers' Workshop again, I've learned enough in these 42 years to know that plans are written in pencil and are often erased and written over in pen as plans fade and life unfolds.
And I'm totally ok with that.
In fact, I'm better than ok with it because the truth is that my penciled plans have always been about physical goals that never took into account the riches that come from a life penned with people and all the smiles, connections, words, wisdom, loss, laughter, hugs, hurt, change and growth that come about through that penmanship.
Those kinds of things make penciled-plans look laughably second-rate.
So I really don't know whether or not I'll be teaching The Photographers' Workshop again.
But I do know how thankful I am that so many of you were penned into my life over these last seven years because of it.
Woke up all alone on day two of our trip to Ferndale.
And when I went looking for Josh Downs, I found him working in one of the Ivanhoe's common rooms. (He loves getting up at 4:00 or 5:0 a.m. to drink coffee, check the news, and get an early start on emails before heading off to work.)
I on the other hand, like starting work at around 6:00 a.m.
And by noon, my brain always needs a break, which means I take a bath, read a book, and catch a 15-minute power nap. (Josh swears I'm going to drown in the bathtub one day.)
Some people were offended by seeing my bare-face in the bathtub a few years, back (no, I'm not joking), which probably makes a photo with a bare-shoulder downright scandalous.
And by the time I got out, Josh was back from work and it was time for lunch.
But not before a quick pit-stop at the hat-shop to try to find the plain, blue, mesh baseball cap Josh bought (and lost) last time we were in Ferndale.
That's what Josh looks like when he cracks himself up.
And that's where we ate.
And then Josh went back to work, and I moved my own work out onto the deck of the Ivanhoe to get some sun (after stopping by Chocolate & Light per the recommendation of a student - thanks Lorie - to get some truffles.)
And when Josh got back from work again, we decided to go on a bike ride and I had the clever idea of taking turns wearing my camera strap backwards (so the camera was on Josh's back in these shots) with the Interval Timer taking pictures.
Most of the shots turned out like that though.
But there were a few that turned out pretty good.
And then Josh held a table for us while I got cleaned up and ready for dinner. (Every time we come to Ferndale, we plan the trip around Thursday Night Open Mic at the Ivanhoe, which is probably one of my favorite things I've ever written about on this blog.)
And then we sat there together, eating dinner (Chicken Polenta for Josh, and Grilled Shrimp and a Dinner Salad for me), drinking drinks (beer for Josh and Mango PassionFruit Martinis for me), talking, laughing, and listening to all the same people we've had the privilege of listening to over the last few years.
And I took a photo of the sign that has sat on this table for 16+ years now (the Brown-Bag-Snack-Table that used to read 'reserved', but now reads 'deserved') where Eleanor (Roosevelt) and her friends sit every Thursday night.
Unfortunately, Patti had a stroke, so she's not able to yodel at the Ivanhoe anymore. (Bill said he takes his guitar to her house and plays for her whenever he can.)
That fellow is just as spry and handsome as ever though. (I don't think we've ever figured out what his name is.)
I even got to spend some time learning more about Eleanor (Roosevelt) and her life. (I got to hear the story about how Eleanor's mom was a nurse and how she met Eleanor's dad at the hospital where she worked.)
I also got some time to talk to the owner of the Ivahoe (while waiting in line to use the restroom.)
We talked about how special this place is.
How beautiful the people are.
How sweet it is has been for her and her husband to grow to know and love the people who have sat in these same chairs for the last 18 years.
And how painful it has been knowing that some of them (facing serious illnesses or passing away) will never walk through the doors of the Ivanhoe again.
It's a sweet, painful, beautiful thing worth celebrating though.
Ferndale has turned into one of our favorite places in the world.
It's a dinky, little town along the coast in Northern California and (lucky for us) Josh always has some ongoing work projects on the way to Ferndale, in Ferndale, and in a few towns that neighbor Ferndale as well.
So on Wednesday, we dropped the kids off at school (my mom stayed at our house while we were gone), and made the 4 1/2 hour drive along the coast to Ferndale.
I brought my computer (so I could work) and my camera (so I could shoot), but wasn't' sure how much shooting I'd actually do since:
1. I haven't been shooting much lately.
2. I tend to enjoy shooting a lot more when we're on trips with the kids rather than trips by ourselves.
Turns out, I did quite a bit of shooting (with the Interval Timer on my camera) though...
At a rest-stop.
While I waited for Josh to finish up some work at a water reservoir in Hiouchi.
When we stopped at one of the parks in the Redwoods.
In the car.
At lunch in Eureka.
At the mini-market. (Angry Orchard for me, and some sort of IPA for him.)
While we got unpacked at the Ivanhoe in Ferndale.
While we made our way down to the beach.
While we played frisbee.
While we relaxed.
And laughed at the kid who kept falling off his boogie board.
While I won the contest of who could keep their feet in the (freezing) water the longest.
While we smoothed some more.
While we read.
Of the sun setting in front of us.
And the moon rising behind us.
And the beach we had almost all to ourselves. (That's Josh reading in the lower right corner.)
And some of us playing shuffle board before calling it a night.
Josh and I first started talking about it a few years back.
Making our home a sanctuary for ourselves and for our kids.
One place is this chaotic, demanding, sometimes hurtful world where we know we can consistently find love, support, and grace.
One place in the world where everyone has your back.
Where everyone is for you.
Some days we fall short of this goal and some days we nail it.
Some days all you hear is "I love you" echoing through this house, and other days it's the echo of words that speak quite the opposite.
Some days this house feels like a prison and some days it feels like a sanctuary.
Some days there's no other place we'd rather be and some days we'd rather be anywhere else.
Some days, it feels like we are totally for each other and some days it feels like everyone is in it for themselves.
But Josh and I just keep coming back to this same idea.
Make it a sanctuary.
Josh has been out of town a lot lately and after a particularly hard day a couple weeks back, I sat down with the kids over dinner with plans of talking it all out.
I asked them if they'd each be willing to share one thing they feel like was going right in this house, followed by one thing they felt was going wrong, and what they personally were willing to do to fix the problem rather than pointing fingers and expecting someone else to fix it.
I went first.
I shared with the kids that I felt like there was a lot of physical and verbal affection amongst us. Lots of I-love-you's, lots of hugs, lots of thank-you's and other kind words, lots of leaning on each other's shoulder, lots of back tickling, head rubs, and snuggling.
But then I shared how I felt like everyone in this house (myself included) acted like life was all about themselves. Like each of us were playing the star role in a movie and expecting everyone else to be standbys. Like life was a singular endeavor all about ourselves. Like each of us were the most important person in the world. Like everyone wanted to be the the main character in a book and wanted to write the roles for everyone else, instead of asking God how each of us could be a part of His story.
And then I went on to tell them I was going to commit to less yelling and not allowing someone else's mood dictate my own mood anymore.
Cole went next.
He shared how he felt like everyone in the house was really quick to forgive each other. That we all were really good at apologizing and accepting one another's apologies.
But then he shared how he felt like there were times when our house was filled with nothing but anger, and because of that, he found himself wanting to distance himself from everyone.
And then he went on to tell us he wanted to quit allowing angry thoughts to run rampant in his mind about our decisions as parents and to quit getting mad over insignificant things with the girls.
But then she shared that after a day of feeling alone at school how sometimes she came home and felt like she was alone here too and that sometimes, she wished all of us were more excited about the things she felt excited about.
And then she went on to tell us she would commit to feeling joy when she was excited about something without depending on someone else's response.
Yans was up last.
She immediately broke into tears while telling us she agreed with everyone and everything we talked about, but that she couldn't go on living like this with everyone in the house (except for she & I) hating Deedle.
And then she went on to tell us she would commit to not shoving Deedle in Cole or Courtney's faces anymore and that she wouldn't sit him on their chairs (where he often leaves rat droppings) either.
And then Cole & Courtney agreed to never utter an unkind word about Deedle in return.
A few days later (when Josh was back home), I told him about the talk I had with the kids, and then we went on to talk (once again) about making this house a sanctuary for ourselves and for our kids.
One place in the world where everyone is for you.
And you know what? I think we've all been doing it. Not perfectly. Not consistently. Not effortlessly. But we're doing it.
I can see it on their faces.
I can hear it in my tone of voice.
I can feel it in our interactions.
And this morning when Cole fell back asleep after I woke him up and his dad offered to wake him up again (without yelling) and Cole came running down the stairs on the way to the shower with a towel around his waist and a smile on his face, saying, "Thanks for waking me up Dad!", as I diced up bell peppers in my pajamas for tonight's crockpot chili and delighted in (and showed everyone) how magical the mix of yellow, orange, and red peppers looked, while Annie ate her banana without complaint while simultaneously asking if I would make Paleo Pancakes tomorrow, and I (without yelling) reminded her for the fifth time to take her pills & powder (for all of her stomach troubles), while Courtney Lee texted "Hey lover!" from her mom's house to say good morning, and while Josh and Cole did Algebra homework on the chalkboard, I felt thankful.
Thankful for this morning.
Thankful for these people that I get to do life with.
Thankful for what (sometimes) feels like a sanctuary.
And I know there are more moments, and days, and weeks ahead when this place isn't going to feel quite so sanctuary-esque.
But it's a goal.
A goal that requires progress rather than perfection.
A goal that provides us with an endless supply of fresh starts.
And a goal brimming with the promise of grace and growth.
We celebrated Miss Yans birthday at our place with friends & family last Saturday.
Josh Downs barbecued.
And the rest of us just kicked back and enjoyed.
And then it was time for the birthday girl to blow out her candles.
That's a fake butterfly in that jar by the way (a gift from Grandma Jo & Grandpa Tom.)
And believe it or not, I really did iron that tablecloth. (Looks like I need to hone my ironing skills.)
And that was of course, followed by presents.
More dog supplies since that's all she wants these days.
A new Barbie from our neighbor, Lexie.
And loot from her Paka.
A new tetherball.
Some more loot from Rudy.
More puppy supplies.
And a letter, telling her about the mama Boston Terrier (also named Annie) who is going to give birth to Gent Dixon (that's what she named her future pup about a year ago) sometime this Spring, which means he'll be ready to come home with Annie during Summer Break so they'll have lots of time to bond before school starts back up.
I was up bright & early this morning, wrapping presents and thinking the birthday sleep was going to sleep in.
But then I found her in the kitchen with her daddy, reading a song he had written for me on the chalkboard. (In addition to it being Annie's birthday, it's also the anniversary of Josh and I meeting on a plane out of Atlanta, Georgia - he started writing that song shortly after we met and finished it up after Annie was born.)
And since we knew the other kiddos wouldn't be up for awhile, we decided there was no sense in making her wait for her birthday muffin.
And then she reminded us that she normally gets to open one of her presents before her actual party (which is tomorrow.)
Which means I got to spend the morning building a Lego Juice Bar.