Category Archives: Workshop Ruminations

Thoughts, musings and meditations from the various classes I teach around the world.

On Assignment: Sun Valley

October 9 – 12, 2014 – Sun Valley, Idaho


I am pleased to announce I will be teaching a travel photography workshop titled On Assignment: Sun Valley with National Geographic Creative photographer and former photo editor at National Geographic Traveler Krista Rossow.

Whether you want to take your travel images to the next level or begin approaching travel publications, you will learn how to go beyond simply showing what a place looks like to capturing what a place feels like.  For complete details follow the button below.

Learn More

See The Light, Molokai, Hawaii, Day 6


Gecko eating a green bug, Molokai, Hawaii.
Gecko eating a green bug, Molokai, Hawaii.

Point And Shoot

My wife and I had just walked back to our cabin at the Hui when I saw the gecko on the window. It was perched on the outside of the window glass with a bug over half its size in its mouth. Having tried numerous times to get a good shot of geckos as they walk on windows – I knew they were easily spooked by the slightest detectable movement in their field of vision – so in a hushed scream of photographic desperation I whispered “Sweetie DONT MOVE!”. At which my lovely wife smiled, looked at me, then promptly picked up her iphone and began snapping photos – flash on.

Spooked by the light, the gecko began beating a rapid retreat to the safety of the off glass area to digest its delectable meal as I scrambled to get my macro lens and strobe on my camera. I saw the shot dissolving before my eyes like the poor green insect dissolving in the gecko’s digestive track.

I’m not sure what, but something stopped the lizard in its tracks less than an inch from the edge of photographic oblivion. Perhaps he sensed he was about to be made famous, or perhaps he simply was thinking ‘Man the green ones always cause acid reflux!”. Whatever it was that stopped the little guy it was the micro seconds I needed to quickly and stealthily sneak up on the bugger and snap a couple frames.

Dewitt often says that as photographers we are responsible for only two things. What you put in your camera frame and when you press the shutter. What you put in your camera frame – point. When you press the shutter – shoot. Point and shoot. So simple. Why do we make it so complex?

See The Light, Molokai, Hawaii, Day 3

Perhaps it is because I am the youngest sibling in my family, or perhaps it was a habit developed later in life – but I must confess that I like to compete and I like to win. I thrive under pressure. It clarifies my mind better than any cup of coffee could by eliminating the unimportant. Whether it was climbing the Nose on El Capitan when I was 19 or being top of my class at Brooks, I always felt I had something to prove to myself, my family and my friends.

This week at the Hui, Dewitt has forwarded the following thought on competition “don’t prove, improve”. Don’t prove, improve – such a small shift of words, such a large shift of intent.

Yesterday afternoon I and 18 other photographers were shooting a hula halau on Molokai and I began to watch my process as I photographed. I know how to make a great picture of this scene. The competitive proving side of me begins to rise. But proving means I do what I always do – improving means I have permission to take a risk and potentially fail. I pause. Don’t prove Jonathan – improve. A weight is lifted off my shoulders. Permission to play, permission to experiment – granted…

Hula dancer, Molokai, Hawaii. (slow shutter)
Hula dancer, Molokai, Hawaii. (slow shutter)

See The Light, Molokai, Hawaii, Day 2

Photographing on the west end of Molokai I was astonished to see bodyboarders riding a wave that I have never seen anybody surf before. Yet there the bodyboarders were charging a gnarly right that threatened to spit them onto a rocky lava shelf. Risking life and limb they took off with great smiles of glee whooping down the face and pulling back just before being thrown unceremoniously on the sand.

As I panned my camera, following their bodies skimming down the surface, I smiled to myself at the similarity of the reasons we were both there. Rikki Cooke often says to ‘follow your excitement’ and that is what led me and 18 other photographers to the beach on the promise of a high surf warning. The reward is wave after beautiful wave backlit blue by the setting sun, intermittently interrupted by the whoops of gleeful surfers skimming down the face. May I follow my photographic excitement with the same reckless abandonment and pure glee that as these bodyboarders.

Bodyboarder surfing on the west end of Molokai, Hawaii.
Bodyboarder surfing on the west end of Molokai, Hawaii.

See The Light, Molokai, Hawaii, Day 1

Day 1 of See The Light on Molokai, Hawaii.  Participants arrive from as far away as Canada.  Molokai greets them with a spectacular sunset and show of stars.  Below is the Veitchi palm off the front porch of my cabin at the Hui Hoolana.

Night sky with star trails behind a Veitchi palm on Molokai.
Night sky with star trails behind a Veitchi palm on Molokai.
Night sky with star trails behind a Veitchi palm on Molokai.
Night sky with star trails behind a Veitchi palm on Molokai.