To sum up, the Karijini Photography Workshop I just attended was more fun, stimulation, challenges, photography information, socialising and opportunity than you can possibly imagine, squeezed into 4 days in one of the most stunning and undiscovered locations in Australia. Basically if you have the opportunity to go, do!
Practical stuff – The workshop is a nice balance of practical shoots, processing sessions and presentations. Over the 4 days there’s usually a sunrise and sunset shoot each day along with a few hours for image processing and 2 information sessions. The location is in the Karijini National Park in Western Australia and the accommodation is either in the eco tents or the campground of the Eco Retreat which gives some flexibility around your budget. The event is fully catered by the Retreat. I won’t describe the location, it speaks for itself. Check out the guru of Karijini photography for some images here. The workshop is always held around the Anzac Day public holiday to minimise leave requirements.
People attending vary from a few years experience with a camera and limited Photoshop skills (I attended the first one with a few months behind the camera and never touched Photoshop in my life!!) to those that have won high awards at APPA. Ages varied from the young (teens) to young at heart (we won’t go there!). Some specialised only in landscape, others were cross genre photographers doing portraits, weddings, abstracts, fine arts etc. Many did have ABNs (I won’t use the word professional as people immediately think that it relates to skill level and it doesn’t!) but it was not a discussion point. If you don’t have a business and/or photography does not play a commercial role in your life, you would feel right at home. The workshop celebrates the joy of photography.
Everyone felt like minded and they often stay in touch or return again (This is my second year and Andrew gets the award for having attended every single year). You will learn as much from looking over each other’s shoulders and discussing your images/photography/philosophy on life as the technical sessions. The chance to connect with others is invaluable. It was great to see the number of Pilbara people increasing – this year included Tom Price, Port Hedland, Karratha and Newman. The Pilbara people were extra appreciative of a workshop at home each year, compared to those in the city where there are endless photography courses, workshops, events, tours etc (and finding the right one for you is the challenge). In the first year I was the only female but this year was much more balanced.
The high point of the entire thing is the presenters (in no particular order) – Christian Fletcher, Peter Eastway and Tony Hewitt. Seriously, check out the websites and see if you haven’t defined the most incredible group of professional landscape photographers. Their pedigree is without question – Peter really is the big poo bar (yes that’s the technical term!) of landscape photography, judging of competitions, running Better Photography and other magazines and generally being the respected elder of the industry. Tony is a fabulous people person – both portrait photography (I hasten to add he’s awesome at many other types) and interpersonal skills. Christian is Mr Karijini having shot it many times and written the photography book. He’s also mercilessly teased by the others for being the pinup boy with other guests staying in the retreat asking for an autograph! The access to these guys during the workshop is unparalleled compared to other events I’ve been on. They are with you 100% of the time and are completely giving of their knowledge and experience. Don’t underestimate the value of it and don’t do what I did and hold back because you’re overawed. They continually encourage questions of any type and freely give feedback and information.
The presenters attitude is summed up nicely by Peter Eastway’s statement that the most important thing is to have fun and you’re guaranteed to be laughing the entire time. They constantly rib each other and draw you into a very friendly and relaxed group. They also run a very professional event and safety is the first thought. This was particularly relevant after Nick Meladonis’s horrible accident where he fell in Knox Gorge – he was not on the workshop at the time.
When I say the opportunities were fabulous, I’m not joking. Guys from the L&P Digital and Camera Electronic brought kits to try including Hassleblads, Phase Ones and Tilt Shift lenses. I was very nervous about taking out a kit worth over $50k but the gear is fully insured and there was no sales pressure. I finally got my nerve up on the second last day and played with both a 17mm Tilt Shift lens for my Canon 5D2 and an IQ180 (Phase One). I would attend this workshop just for that opportunity alone (read more about this in my next blog post).
The fitness level was a bit of concern for me. Regular readers know I have chronic fatigue syndrome and am still very limited in my functionality (some may say that’s just because I was dropped on my head as a child!). At least one shoot a day is in a Gorge which range in difficulty up to class 5 and require climbing large rock stairs, clambering over rocks, scambling up walls or swimming. The presenters are fabulous at accommodating any fitness level (within reason). If I couldn’t get into a gorge because of my health limitations, they offered an above gorge shoot. They were also happy if I simply stayed at camp where there was more than enough to do. You are guaranteed to never be bored, that’s for sure!!
Having access to a 4WD is essential. Of course you don’t each need your own personal 4WD and organising to share transport is a big part of the planning. For those not lucky enough to live in the Pilbara, you need to get to a gateway – usually Newman or Paraburdoo. It’s just under 3 hours drive from Newman to Karijini. Newman has around half a dozen flights a day from Perth and there’s an abundance of 4WD to hire complete with flags and flashing lights (for use on the minesites). In the first year everyone drove up from Perth but most people saw the light and flew into Newman this time round. Other gear includes hat, walking boots, laptop, dry bag and sense of humour.
For a personal view of the workshop, I’ll post tomorrow.