Are all professional photographers able to teach?
Well, that is certainly a good question and the truth is that during the last few years the number of photographers organising workshops has exploded having identified this niche as a lucrative commercial activity. However, teaching requires very different skills than those needed to become a good photographer. You can certainly be a great photographer, but in order to pass on that experience to others you must also have a strong vocation for teaching. Excellent pedagogy, a well structured way of explaining theory and the ability to combine that with practice, sociability and enthusiasm, the capability of adapting the tuition to the level and expectations of the student and a high degree of satisfaction in seeing other people learn are some of the common aspects shared by great teachers.
Before becoming a full time fine art photographer, Rafael Rojas was a university lecturer for many years, and before that he taught science to young students for more than a decade. In a way, Rafael was a teacher well before he became a photographer.
Which are the languages used during your workshops?
Please refer to the details of each workshop to know about the official languages catered. Most of the times, our workshops are held either in French and/or English, and even sometimes Spanish. We normally use one or two languages for the general explanations and critique sessions (French and English).
However, as the number of participants is quite small, we do tailor the teaching to cater for the particular language of our participants, and speak with them either in English, French or Spanish.
We are used to dealing with international groups in our workshops and it is normal to have four or five nationalities represented in the group. Trust us, that is one of the strong points of our workshops and a highly enriching experience!
Why are all workshops held in Switzerland?
Our workshops are highly intensive learning experiences and that is why most of them focus on half a day, a full weekend or three days at the most. For this reason, we normally focus on the area we live in, which is in fact one of the great paradises for landscape photography: Switzerland. We also hold workshops in the Jura, nearby in France. Otherwise, we also organize longer photographic trips in other places all over the world.
Does Rafael also take photographs during the workshops?
During our workshops, Rafael is normally focused on the learning experience of his clients, and for that reason he rarely takes his camera out of the bag. He may do so to explain certain aspects, or to demonstrate with some particular examples how he normally looks for his compositions and creates his photographs. Workshops are highly intensive learning programmes, and therefore all the time is put to the service of our clients, with one-to-one tuition.
However during our photo trips, with more days available, we adopt a less intensive approach, allowing our participants to immerse themselves with plenty of time out in the field on their own. Of course, participants will still get a lot of hands on tuition from Rafael during the photographic sessions, but they will also have the possibility of seeing how Rafael works, how he visualizes, composes and creates his photographs in the field. Some of his photographs taken during the trip will also be used as examples during the lectures and critique sessions held during the trip. In a way, during our photo trips you will also learn by seeing how Rafael normally works on his own photographs and later on uses them for discussion and analysis.
Are these workshops for those who just want to learn how to use their new brand camera?
Yes, but not only that. In fact, we will try to help you understand quickly how to use your brand new camera, so that we can focus on what we really enjoy: Using photography in a creative way for the sake of personal expression. If you are only interested in getting to know how to use your new toy to snap a few photos of your family, these may not be the right courses for you!
Participants of all levels, from total beginners to semi-professionals attend our workshops, so you may participate even if you have never taken a photograph before. However, although we will deal with the technical aspects of photography, during our workshops we will also focus on aspects such as personal expression and the use of photography to portray a message, emotions and feelings, and how to use composition, visual design, natural light, post-processing, etc to increase that emotional content.
To summarise, our workshops are not just about photography, but about creative nature and landscape photography used for personal expression.
Which is the difference between the 1/2 day workshops and the full weekend workshops?
Our weekend or 3 day workshops are the best solution for those who wish to accelerate their learning. As our weekend courses are held for 2 days or more, we have the ability to shoot during the magic hours of sunrise and sunset, and enjoy a wider variety of weather and light. Furthermore, as we spend the night in the field, we can also enjoy the twilight hours and even spend some time practicing night photography. For our weekend workshops, as we have more time, we hold a critique session normally on the second day of our weekend workshops with the help of a projector and laptop, where we comment and analyze a number of the photographs which have been taken, so taking advantage to also tackle post-processing aspects using Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop.
Lastly, these courses can also provide the opportunity of more thoroughly exploring some areas of natural outstanding beauty, sometimes off the beaten track, which could not be reached with a half day workshop.
A few days after the end of our workshop, a 90 minute video is prepared and sent to all participants providing constructive feedback of some of the images taken by the group members.
On the other hand, our 1/2 day workshops, which last around five hours, are the perfect solution for those who wish to concentrate on improving their photography and do not have the time or energy to spend several days on a longer workshop. Although their time is highly reduced compared to our longer workshops, they will still allow participants to learn quite a lot in a compact time period, and can serve as a very pleasant introduction to our longer workshops and photographic trips. A 50 minute video is also prepared several weeks after our 1/2 day workshops where we provide constructive feedback of some of the images taken by the participants.
I do not have any photographic equipment. Do you have some available for rent?
We do not rent any equipment as we should need to cater for many different requirements; however we can suggest some addresses where you will be able to rent a camera, lens or tripod. If you have any queries concerning what to purchase prior to a workshop or a photo-trip, just let us know and we will be very glad to help.
Is feedback on the participants' photographs a component of your workshops?
Yes, feedback is one of the most important elements of our workshops. We provide our participants with constructive criticism and feedback at three different times during the workshop. During the workshop itself we always talk with each of the students while we are in the field, providing them with feedback about the photographs they are taking at that time. We also organize a critique session normally on the second day of our weekend workshops with the help of a projector and laptop, where we comment and analyze a number of the photographs which have been taken, so taking advantage of this moment to also tackle post-processing aspects using Adobe Lightroom. During the few weeks following each of our workshops (1/2 day or weekend), we also create a feedback video with images submitted by our participants, where we provide anonymous constructive critique about composition, use of light, post-processing, etc. This is something that our students particularly appreciate; it is very useful to help maximize the learning.
Can you cater for special diets?
Yes, our accommodation partners can cater for most diets. Please advise us of your preferences at the time of booking on your booking form.
If I have a medical condition will this prevent me from joining a workshop?
It is a condition of booking that you disclose any medical conditions. This is essential, as it may affect both your own and other people's enjoyment of the workshop and will allow us to understand the implications relative to the particular workshop.
Can I bring a companion with me to your workshops?
Yes. However, because the accommodation and logistical options we choose for our workshops are very limited in terms of number of people and due to the responsibility that we assume for accompanying non photographer persons, the normal and full rate of the workshop will still apply to them. So, basically, they will be considered as workshop participants. Therefore, you will need to complete the workshop booking by booking a place for your companion as well as for you.
Do I need to be very fit to participate?
You certainly do not need to be a superman or superwoman, but as a general guide you should be able to walk or hike with your camera equipment for a few hours each day. Please refer to the details of a particular Workshop or Photo Trip to learn the exact level of physical exertion you may expect.
Are workshops really suitable for photographers of all levels?
Yes. Our average groups have total beginners rubbing shoulders with semi-professionals. Please bear in mind that, besides some general sessions and explanations, all the tuition takes place on a one-to-one basis. Therefore we are able to adapt the learning to the personal level, skills and even language of each participant! That being said, in photography, we are all relative beginners, since its mastery is something we never fully achieve...fortunately!
Can the workshop turn into a competition to see who creates the best photograph?
No. Our whole philosophy is one of humility and self confidence, of forgetting about the hunt for photographic trophies, and about the need to focus on an individual¬ís personal vision. That is why the environment and mood we foster in our groups is deeply embedded in these beliefs. In all the workshops and photo trips we have organised during the last few years, we have never seen bitter competition arise between the members of our groups. If one day that should happen, you can be sure we will be the first to make it disappear. Photography should not be a contest, since we are all different, none better or worse.
What if I shoot film, can I join one of your workshops?
Yes, there is no problem at all. However, we may not use your photographs during the critique sessions as we cannot see them until they are developed! That being said, you will be able to benefit from the reviews of photographs from other participants. What we are able to do though is to offer film users a review/ feedback video, to be made during the several weeks following the workshop after you have sent us a few samples of your recently developed and scanned work.
What sort of photographic equipment do I need to bring?
The choice of the equipment to bring depends very much on your experience, your budget and your style of photography. There are a few general points that should be mentioned though. Most photographers tend to bring too much equipment, leading to extremely heavy bags which then become a burden more than a tool useful to experience and photograph the places we visit. Never bring equipment you are not familiar with on a workshop or photo trip, and limit your equipment to what you will need in the majority of situations. Typically, any camera you normally use and a couple of zooms such as a 24-70 and a telephoto 70-200 are more than enough for the vast majority of situations. Of course, this is not a rule, since many photographers have a preference for primes, love macro, or use panoramic film cameras, for example!