April 13, 2015

In Cuba, Personal Projects Begin to Simmer

From the very first time photographer Ellen Silverman visited Cuba, she was in love. She joined a Santa Fe Photographic Workshops Cuba Cultural Exchange program in December 2010, and recounts, “We arrived at night, under a cloak of darkness. In the morning, I awoke to a world of sound, rhythm and visually rich textures, colors, and movement. It was all very exciting.” She remembers the experience fondly, saying, “Visually, it’s so stimulating. I loved the people that I met, the photographers I was meeting, everything.”

Jumping at the opportunity to visit Cuba on one of The Workshops’ licensed cultural exchanges fulfilled not only Ellen’s a long-standing desire to experience Cuban culture, but also awoke in her a passion that became the basis for three different personal projects: A photographic series called Cuban Kitchens, a cookbook titled The Cuban Table, and a recent master’s thesis video project called My Roots Lie Here.

Ellen’s first Cuba-inspired project, Cuban Kitchens, was created on her second journey to the small island nation. “When I went back the second time I wanted to have more purpose,” she explains, “so I self-assigned this kitchen series.” The series was well-received and led to a show, and then to her first cookbook collaboration, The Cuban Table.

“I thought it would be amazing to do a cookbook,” she says, adding, “I didn’t want it to be just a collection of recipes. I wanted to include the history, influences and culture of the food—the personal stories.” She partnered with Cuban-American food blogger Ana Sofia Pelaez, and the two set to work. Using connections made during her trips with The Workshops, Ellen and Ana Sofia joined forces with Carlos Otero, a local Cuban photographer who works with The Workshops. The trio traveled from one end of Cuba to the other, knocking on people’s doors, visiting restaurants, and collecting recipes from home chefs and professionals. “People were happy to let us in,” Ellen recalls, “We got access to their homes and were able to talk with them,” adding, “People wanted to share themselves and their stories and talk with me.”

They kept their travel plans loose, which allowed for a satisfying degree of spontaneity and luck. Ellen remembers one instance where they saw a man on the side of the road making pan de mais cake, and they stopped to photograph him. They ended up talking at length about recipes, food, and life. “I loved meeting all the people, the whole experience was a treat and a joyful exploration.”

These personal projects are a refreshing change of pace for Ellen, who spends the bulk of her photographic life doing commercial work. “For years I’d been looking for a project like this,” she says, “It’s a collaboration of two people who are passionate about their art,” Ellen says.

That passion really shows. When asked what the most difficult part of the project was, she earnestly replies, “Laying out the book! There were so many images that didn’t make it in. Creating the images was not challenging, but choosing what to include, that was hard.” When asked to choose a favorite recipe, she’s similarly torn: “I love the flan recipe, the pastel de pollo, oh, there are so many good ones!” she exclaims enthusiastically, “I like the el pecado, that’s a drink, and the nadilla noche, or the lechon asado…there really are a lot of good recipes.”

It would seem the public agrees: the book is currently the #1 Latin American cookbook on Amazon.com, it was included on both Tasting Table’s and The Chicago Tribune’s seasonal Top Ten Cookbook lists, and it has been featured in The New York Times and The Miami Herald. Check it out for yourself—The Cuban Table is available for purchase here.

Experience the magic of Cuba for yourself: Join Ellen and Santa Fe Workshops for At Home in Havana, this November 3-11.

“I appreciate the lucidity of The Cuban Table. . . Ellen Silverman adds cohesion to this story of losses and gains with soulful pictures that capture the restraint and dignity of the Cuban kitchen and table and the enduring beauty of an island where the weathered and imperfect are not just what is left of the past, but the only present.”

March 31, 2015

Urban Exodus: Behind the Lens with Alissa Morris-Hessler

For more than a year, Alissa Morris-Hessler has been photographing creative people who left behind an urban existence and moved to the country in Urban Exodus. She also documents creative urbanites who opted to stay in the city, but brought the best parts of country living to their urban environment. She initially started the project after moving from Seattle to a tiny town on the coast of Maine. At first, she could count the number of young people in her town on one hand, two years later, as she says, "I am way past fingers and toes." She hopes to inspire people with these stories about reconnecting to the land. 

When not working on Urban Exodus, Alissa runs a boutique creative agency, photography studio and co-teaches landscape photography workshops around the U.S. with her husband Jacob Bond Hessler. We're thrilled to have her joining us in Santa Fe this summer with The Contemporary Landscape, July 26-31.

Here, in a self-interview, she shares photographs from the project, along with a little about her background and her own Urban Exodus:

What inspired you to move to the country? 
I met my boyfriend (now husband) literally the day he signed the closing papers on the farmhouse in Maine that we now call home. I met him at a bar during an art magazine launch party in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I was living in Seattle, working for the smartphone giant, HTC, running their global product launches. I came to NYC that week to launch a new phone and BONUS! I also met my soulmate. Five months of long distance was all I could handle. In late February of 2011, I packed up my life and moved across the country to Maine. It is worth mentioning that I had never been to Maine before meeting my husband and moved there after only four visits. I have always been bold, but it was a really big leap of faith. 

Initially what was the hardest part about making the move? What challenges came later? At first the worst part was leaving my friends, successful career and family (I have 5 siblings and all of them live on the West Coast). The challenges that came later were seemingly endless. Losing my sense of self, as I soon realized I measured my worth and value by my career accomplishments. Finding any sort of gainful employment. Owning and maintaining an old farmhouse. Adjusting to the East Coast/New Englander cultural norms - the East and West Coast are really very different. Having to YouTube and Google everything from pruning trees to patching plaster walls to natural black fly repellent. Not being able to walk anywhere. Feeling like I was missing all of the social, intellectual and cultural deliciousness that Seattle had to offer.  What surprised you most about country living? Did it meet your expectations? I was surprised at how foreign living in the country felt to me, even though I technically grew up in the country (the redwood forests of Northern California). I was alarmed at how interested everyone in town was with the new young people, there was no anonymity, I literally had five people come up and say that they knew me from seeing photos of me on my mother-in-law's Facebook. Several years in though, it has surprised me how comfortable I feel here now. I love spending quiet afternoons weeding the vegetable garden or mowing the lawn. I love swimming in the lake by our house and taking our little boat out on the ocean to explore the many islands off the coast. I love silently gliding through the woods on cross country skis in the winter. Although the winter is still a little too cold, dark, snowy and long for this California girl, I do love the contrast of the changing seasons. 

What were the hardest things to get used to? What do you miss the most about the city?
Hardest...I would have to say is the very LONG winter. It is about 6 months of trees without leaves or color. The last few months of "winter" (ie: April/early May) can feel very depressing. The things I miss most about living in a city are walking everywhere, great museums, watching live music, ethnic cuisine and my friends I left behind. 

Would you ever go back to an urban existence? 
I would love to somehow figure out how to do a couple of months in warmer urban environments every winter but honestly I don't think I would want to move back to a city full time. Three days in NYC is about all I can handle now; before the noise, filth and intensity starts to wear on me. 

What do you appreciate the most about life in the country? 
The space one has to create and be creative, both physically and mentally.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of moving out of the city? 
1. Get your ducks in a row. I wish I would've considered my career options before leaving the city. The people I have met who were able to keep their city jobs and work remotely are living the dream. It is difficult to make city wages in the country unless you go that route. It is difficult to secure a remote position after you have already moved to the country, as all of your former colleagues/friends will think you are just drinking lemonade and taking long walks in the woods now and aren't as capable or available as you were in the city.

2. The country isn't cheap. If you are moving to a place that is cold in the winter, heating bills can be outrageous.

3. My last piece of advice is really get to know the community you are considering. No two small towns are the same and it is important to put together a list of what is important to you in a small town (ie: restaurants, cultural offerings, schools, etc.) Also, think about your needs now and into the future. My needs when I first moved to Maine in my late twenties feel different from my needs now in my early thirties. 

When you go back to visit the city, what are the first three things on your to-do list? 
1. Visit friends

2. Eat at all my favorite restaurants

3. Walk everywhere/visit museums/watch live music

Where do you draw your inspiration and passion from for your work?
I love connecting with people and inspiring others to create more. People are my main source of inspiration but nature, specifically the ocean, is a close second. I also owe a lot of my creative development and confidence to my husband. I studied photography and art when I was younger but because my professional career had me managing photographers, designers, etc. I lost my confidence in my own artistic abilities. His support, enthusiasm and love has helped me find my voice again. 

Have you noticed a change in yourself and/or your work since moving away from the city? 
I have chilled out a lot. I have always been a work-horse and very type-A. The country has taught me that good things take time - from cooking to growing your own food to starting a business. In the city it was easy to do things quickly and see immediate results. I am finally appreciating the journey just as much as the end result. 

Walk us through a typical day in your country existence? How does it compare to the day to day in the city?
My husband wakes me up with coffee in bed (yes, I am totally spoiled). I spend the morning answering emails and working on projects. I usually go to the gym in the middle of the day to avoid the rush. Depending on the time of year, we try to do something outside before it gets dark. In the winter it is cross country skiing or snowshoeing. In the summer it is swimming in the lake, gardening, kayaking or adventuring in our boat. In the Spring it is usually yardwork, gardening or hiking. In the Fall it is hiking, foraging for mushrooms and raking leaves. Our days in the country aren't typical and that is what I love about them and hate about them. In the city I was in the office by 8am and left around 6pm. When I came home, I could usually leave work at the door. In the country I really have to stop myself from working all the time (looking at the clock, it is 9pm while I answer these questions). 

Are there things that you are able to do here that you wouldn’t have dared to try before moving from the city?
I would've never started Urban Exodus or built my own business had I stayed in Seattle. I always managed creative people for work and didn't have the time, energy or drive to invest in my own creative pursuits outside of work. My second winter in Maine I decided that every morning I would draw for one hour before starting work. That exercise improved my artistic abilities drastically and now I feel confident calling myself an "artist," which I never would have associated myself with prior to moving. 

Do you have a specific space or place that helps you feel inspired? 
In the summer I could sit in my vegetable garden all day. It is filled with butterflies and the occasional hummingbird. I also love our home and creative studio. We renovated an old 1877 barn on our property and that is where we run our business and photography workshops now. It is a light-filled magic place with so much space to work on lots of projects all at once. 

What are some common misperceptions about life in the country? What do you want people to know/understand about life in small communities? 
People often think that living in the country is easy. It is actually a lot of hard (but rewarding) work. Living in a small community can be amazing if it is the right community for you. I landed in a wonderful community and feel very lucky to be here but had I landed somewhere else it could have been a very different story. 

What are your future plans/goals for the coming year? 
I would love to turn Urban Exodus into a coffee table book so people can live with these beautiful stories and images in their own home. My husband and I are also going to continue teaching photography, this July we are teaching at Santa Fe Photographic Workshops. We are also planning on growing our family sometime in the near future. There is never a dull moment here in the country.

To see more photographs from Urban Exodus, visit Alissa Morris-Hessler's website, Urbanexodus.com

February 4, 2015

She Discovered the Photographer in Her in Santa Fe

When Ellen Cantor first arrived on the Santa Fe Workshops campus in 2002, she had no idea her life was about to change forever. Before that fateful day, she had occasionally photographed while on vacation but had never pursued a photographic education. Then, she decided that 2002 was the year she would take the plunge. She signed up for a workshop with Joyce Tenneson, and a whole new career and creative life blossomed.

Black Beauty, © Ellen Cantor
"In that week, I learned I could be a photographer," Ellen recalls, “I stayed on campus and it was photography, 24/7. I was sharing photography with other people, seeing other people’s work, eating together, and talking about photography. I loved the camaraderie.”

From there, the floodgates opened. Ellen continued to take workshops, improving her technique and exploring her creative vision. She enjoyed coming to Santa Fe Workshops each year because, “The  location lends itself to a very creative, spiritual experience.” She adds, “I found the instructors very encouraging for whatever level or type of work someone is doing.”

They Told Me I Had Spiders in My Spine
© Ellen Cantor
Before long, Ellen was exhibiting her work in galleries and winning awards for her photography. Things really came together with one of her first studio series, Unorthodox Anatomy. “I found a new voice, one that is who I really am,” she says. She is now a successful professional fine-art photographer, exhibiting in solo and group shows around the world, from California to Delaware, and even Korea.

She credits Santa Fe Workshops with helping her to find her creative voice and giving her the tools to pursue her photography. She adds, “I hope that others will be inspired by my story, and by Santa Fe Workshops. Try to give yourself the gift of going away for a week, photographing as much as you can, and living the photographic life.”

Ellen Cantor’s photographs can currently be seen in Marvelous Things: The Art of Still Life at PhotoPlace Gallery in Middlebury, VT; The Art of Our Consumption at Foundry Art Centre in St. Charles, MO; and Beyond Words: Contemporary Book Art at Foothills Art Centre in St.Charles, MO. Her website is www.ellencantorphotography.com.

Start a new chapter in your life; sign up for a Santa Fe Photographic Workshop today!

February 3, 2015

Reid Callanan's Latest Cuba Trip: NBC News, Brian Williams, and Alicia Alonzo

Our fearless leader Reid Callanan recently returned from his first trip to Cuba in 2015. With all the recent news regarding the changes in U.S.–Cuba relations, the timing couldn’t have been better. Here, he shares some highlights of his epic journey:

Let me start at a good place: the beginning of the journey to Havana.

The morning of Wednesday, January 21, we flew to Havana on our normal charter flight. I should have known something was up due to the buzz of excitement at the airport. I sensed it, but wasn’t sure why. I got our groups checked in, through security, and to our departure gate with ease. Everything just flowed.

Once at our American Airlines gate some answers were revealed. I quickly found out we were being joined on our flight to Havana by the NBC Nightly News team including the tech crew (of course dressed in casual black attire) and news anchors Brian Williams and Andrea Mitchell.  Now I am not a nightly news kind of guy so I wouldn’t haven’t recognized these two, but Arthur Meyerson and many of our travelers did.  Brian was hiding behind aviator sunglasses and Andea was very, very busy tapping on her Blackberry. The main reason NBC was on the plane was because Roberta Jacobson was too. She is the Assistant Secretary of State and was leading the U.S. delegation in talks with their Cuban counterparts that week in Havana. Roberta is the highest-ranking US government official to step foot on Cuban soil in four decades. I am a bit surprised she was on a commercial flight. She didn’t seek me out for any diplomatic advice and I kept a low profile. I moved to the back of the plane and pulled my cap down low. Phew!  Close call. I did knowingly nod at Brian, Andrea and Roberta as I passed them in their first class seats. They smiled back. 

We touched down on Cuban soil 40 minutes later and the customary round of applause rose from the rank and file in steerage. Ten minutes before I departed the plane, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State stepped on Cuban soil – a truly historic event.  View the news clip: Brian Williams Reports from Cuba

That evening Brian Williams began the nightly news, with the Havana skyline on the Malecon behind him, by saying “Good evening from Havana, Cuba.”  

The next day proved to be even more unforgettable, as I had the opportunity to meet the third most famous person in Cuba after Fidel and Raul Castro – Alicia Alonzo, the world-renowned prima ballerina assoluta. Back in November, I had met with Pedro Simon (husband of Alicia) to talk about our groups visiting and photographing the dancers of the National Ballet of Cuba (Ballet Nacional de Cuba). This in itself would be a major coup because no one is granted access to Cuba’s most famous ballet company’s closed practices. Apparently the ballet company had some needs: photos and pointe shoes.  The photos are easy, but the pointe shoes proved to be a bigger challenge. In trade for access I agreed to provide a dozen pointe shoes. They placed their order of various sizes and degrees of wooded pointe hardness, and I went to work finding the shoes in the U.S. Of course, they wanted the best shoes made. So, after countless hours talking to ballet supply companies around the U.S., the order was assembled, shipped to me in Santa Fe, and packed to go with me to Cuba.

Soon before I arrived in Havana I was informed Alicia Alonzo wanted to receive me and accept our gift. At 94 years old and totally blind she is still the director of the National Ballet Company she stared in 1960 with $200,000 from Fidel. Thursday morning I gathering the shoes and a bottle of perfume I bought at the duty-free shop at the Miami airport and headed off with Kip and Jorge to meet Alicia – the Queen of Cuba, so to speak. We sped over in Jorge’s 30-year-old Russian Lada with no seat belts nor directional signals (I had to help out by throwing my arm out the window at the appropriate time to signal a directional change). We made it safely! After some standing around and high-level negotiations between Jorge and Alicia’s minions, we were ushered into her inner sanctum. At 94, I didn’t have high expectations of a lively woman. I was wrong!

She was standing behind her desk, between her husband and her main ballet instructor as we entered and looked steady and beautiful. I was introduced and we talked together for 20 minutes. We conversed in English, which she is fluent in because of her many years living and dancing in NYC, while Jorge translated our dialogue into Spanish for the rest of the room. It was as if she and I had this secret conversation and the rest of those assembled had to wait for Jorge to tell them about it. She was charming, witty, sharp minded, and gracious. I gave her the ballet shoes and she had her instructor open the boxes and hand her the shoes to feel. Her immediate reaction was that the shoes were too hard and her dancers would not be able to use them. 

My face must have gone pale, my knees went soft, and I was ready for the “queen” to say, “off with their heads.” The instructor raced to the rescue and said, with a wink to me, that the shoes were indeed too hard for Alicia (one of the greatest prima ballerinas the world has ever seen), but the current dancers in the company would love them. Then I mentioned I had brought gel toe cushions for the pointe shoes. Alicia said she never used these and wondered what they were. I unwrapped a couple and put them in her hands. She fondled them for a few seconds, a big smile came across her face, and she said, “Perfect, now the shoes won’t be so hard. If only I had these 70 years ago I would still have toes that work.” My life was saved.

Then another drama unfolded that I was privy to and a player in. Apparently, Jorge was trying to arrange for a group of our photographers to get to photograph a practice session the next morning but was being rebuffed by one of Alicia’s minions, her PR Director. Jorge asked me to intercede and see what I could do. I
told Alicia that I would really love to see a practice and meet some of her dancers but I was leaving Monday for the States and was there any chance I could come tomorrow?  She quickly said, “You are always welcome here.” And I responded that I would love to bring some of our students with me. She said, “Of course.” This time it was the knees of her minion that went soft. The queen had spoken. We were in for the Ballet Nacional de Cuba practice session the next day. As things started to wrap up, I told Alicia (my new best friend) I had a personal gift for her and gave her the bottle of perfume. She was touched and held the box tenderly. I said, “I hope it smells good.”  She burst out with a loud laugh that startled the folks in the room and said, “I hope so too!” With that we were off. 

Once we got to the sidewalk outside the building Jorge burst into his own laughter and said, “That was amazing. Did you see the look on the PR guy’s face when Alicia said yes to tomorrow? He was crestfallen.” There were slaps on each other’s backs and congrats all around as Kip, Jorge and I sped away in the Lada.

The next morning we reaped the spoils of my command performance with Alicia as we photographed the young dancers of the National Ballet. I accompanied our group and we arrived just before 9am. Alicia was nowhere to be found (as expected), but we were greeted with open arms by the converted minions. We were told we could photograph the women in the downstairs studio and the men in the upstairs space, know to the dance community across Cuba as the “Blue Room.” We were warned not to enter the studios and get in the way of the dancers, but to make our pictures from the entryways or from the balconies above the Blue Room.  

Once we got ourselves in place, the practice started with the dancers warming up. Within minutes the dance instructors overrode the minions and waved our group into the studio and motioned for us to go where we wanted on the floor. SCORE!! For the next 90 minutes we had the run of two dance studios. After a few minutes the dancers forgot we were there. Our photographers had found Nirvana. 

It was obvious from the very start that these dancers are at the top of the heap, a cut above anything else in Cuba and perhaps the world. This was, after all, the National Ballet of Cuba and the level of dancers proved it. AMAZING!!  
So, my latest Cuban adventure was one for the ages …

If you’d like to have a Cuban adventure of your own, don’t miss our newly added Cuba Programs in April, with Keith Carter, Zack Arias and Joe Baraban. Read more about our upcoming Cuba Programs here.

December 1, 2014

Top Cyber Monday Deals for Photographers

If you’re anything like us, you love the holiday season for its seasonal cheer, time with family, snowy hikes and yummy food. But amid all the festivities, there are money-saving deals to be had. Get a jump on your holiday shopping and you'll be back to sipping your tea by the roaring fire in no time.  

Today being Cyber Monday there are thousands of sales and discounts, so Will Van Beckum, Digital Lab Manager and instructor here at The Workshops, hand picked some of the best ones for photographers. Here's his roundup of the very best Cyber Monday photo gear deals: 

Let's start with the most important… cameras!  

  • Go anywhere, shoot anything, with this prosumer level super zoomtastic deal on a Nikon D7100. Get the Nikon D7100 with 18-140mm lens plus accessories (other deals also available) for $1,196 at Amazon.
  • Just getting started with digital photography?  You can’t do better for your money than the Nikon D3300. Score a Nikon D3300 with 18-55mm lens (other deals also available) for $496.95 at Amazon.
  • Need a pocket camera that doesn't weigh you down to take with you on your holiday travels? Nikon Coolpix A compact camera is on sale for $500 at B&H.
  • Get a go anywhere, do anything lens from Sigma! Sigma 18-250mm lens for Nikon, Sony, Canon or Pentax cameras, $250 on Ebay.
  • Action nut? Want to see what all the hype behind drone photography is about? There are GoPro and Drone deals out there too! Once you've got your gear, keep your eyes peeled on our summer schedule for a drone photography workshop! 
    • GoPro Hero4 Silver with 32GB memory Card and $50 Amazon Gift Card for $400 on Amazon
    • DJI Phantom 2 V2.0 Quadcopter Drone for GoPro Cameras,  $639 on Amazon.

And now, the always-essential accessories!  

  • Bags for any occasion, photo and non-photo, too! Timbuk2 bags up to 80% off at Timbuktu.
  • If you’re like us, your computer is all out of USB ports. Here's the perfect opportunity to expand your ports! Aukey 7-port USB 3.0 Hub for $40 on Amazon.
  • This one’s special! We all need more storage for our precious photos. Now you can get Lightroom bundled with your Seagate hard drive, all for less than Lightroom normally costs! Seagate 5TB Hard Drive plus Adobe Lightroom 5, $145 on Ebay.
  • Flash drives and SD cards have prices slashed for today's sale event at Amazon.  If there’s one thing we can’t have enough of, it’s storage! 
  • Computer holding back your creative process? Here are two deals for desktop computers, from the robust MacPro to the sleek MacMini. Either way, the savings are huge.  
    • Mac Pro Desktop Computer (3.5 GHz Intel Xeon E5 6-Core 16GB RAM 256GB Solid State Hard Drive for $3,499 at B&H.
    • Mac Mini Desktop Computer (1.4 GHz Intel Core i5 Dual-Core Haswell 4GB Ram 500GB Hard Drive for $449.00 at B&H.
  • And finally, because as photographers we are obsessed with lighting, the Philips Hue Lightbulb Set lets you control your household lights from your smartphone. Set the perfect holiday color scheme with this deal on LED lightbulbs. Philips Hue Starter Kit for $200 at Best Buy.

November 6, 2014

WATER Contest Winners & Jurors Share Their Experiences

As the theme of our 25th Anniversary photo contest, WATER was a chance for 904 photographers from 26 countries—including Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, Columbia, Egypt, France, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom—to submit 3,791 images representing what WATER means to them.

Jurors Céline Cousteau, Sarah Leen, Elizabeth Opalenik, and Daniel Miller reviewed this body of inspiring interpretations and chose a Grand Prize image for each of the four categories (Landscape, Documentary, Abstract, and Portrait) and 46 Honorable Mentions. We spoke to the four winners and the jurors to get a behind-the-scenes look at what went into making and choosing the winning images.

Doron Talmi, Herzliya, Israel: Landscape Grand Prize, Windows of Water
1. Where did you make this image? How did it happen?
The image was captured in Venice, at a vaporetto (water bus) station on San Michele island. While visiting Venice for a week I had been using these buses quite extensively, and their multiple layers, split screens, reflections and compositions, with and without passengers, attracted me. On this particular case the light was soft, and there were no other passengers there, giving me the opportunity “to do it right.”

2. What does the photo mean to you?
First and foremost it is a memoir from a wonderful week in Venice. Secondly, I think the absence of people reflects San Michele, which is a cemetery island.

3. What made you want to enter it in the WATER photo contest?
I felt that the windows' effects makes it appear as if there are several different bodies of water, though it is all the same sea, and I thought it would be more interesting to present this one sea in a varying manner.

Jeff Schultz, Anchorage, Alaska: Documentary Grand Prize, Cracks and Dogs
1. Where did you make this image? How did it happen?
I made this image during the 2008 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, as part of my coverage as the official photographer of the race—a volunteer position.

This is an aerial photo taken from a fixed-wing Cessna 180 airplane. My volunteer pilot, Danny Davidson, was helping me on my quest to document the race and find some interesting photos. We were flying in a 25-knot headwind as we passed over Farewell Lake, and I could see that the wind
had swept the ice free of snow. The deep green color was spectacular and pressure cracks made a wondrous spider web. I loved the pattern and could only hope that a dog team would be nearby enough that we could photograph it. Now 3 full days into the race, the mushers could be spread out by many, many miles. On the far side of the lake, in a clearing, we easily spotted a team, but the shot was just okay. I wanted to wait for a musher out on the lake. The plan was to drop to 300 feet, put the musher nearly straight beneath me, and have Danny fly as slowly as he could. Danny suggested we
approach the musher head-on, into the wind; otherwise, we’d blast by the team like a rocket.

The ride was pretty bumpy, so I wanted the fastest shutter speed for a sharp photo. I cranked the ISO to 800 and shot at f/4, with a shutter speed of 1/8000th  of  a second, and put the motor drive on high for five frames per second. When I look at this photo, I am thankful for my experienced pilot. He’s the one who timed a 90-mph airplane with an 8-mph dog team, calculating the wind resistance, and working the tail rudder, the yoke, and throttle... all this from the other side of the plane, where he couldn’t even see the team. I credit Danny for making this shot happen.

2. What does the photo mean to you?
I've been photographing the Iditarod each year since 1981. To me this photo is the very best I've made of the race, so to me it means a lot. It shows just how unique and spectacular the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is.

3. What made you want to enter it in the WATER photo contest?
Ice is simply another state of water, and the way the ice changes from liquid to solid shows well in the image. I think it's a unique look at water and we in Alaska deal with it regularly.  

4. How does it feel to win?  
It feels just GREAT. I'm happy to know an image that I like, is liked by others.

Rania Razek, McLean, Virginia: Abstract Grand Prize, Reflections
1. Tell me a little about your image. Where did you make this image? How did it happen?
My image is of raindrops and I focused on its infinite reflections of the image within. The title "Reflections," is exactly what it displays. It is a reflection of tree that is larger out of focus in the background. The image was taken during late winter in Mclean, VA. It soon became a series of images, but this by itself was the most powerful. It happened by chance amongst other times that successful images come about. I waited in my car for the rain to subside. I looked up at the sunroof and saw how the raindrops were coming down with the trees in the far background I grabbed my camera and began to shoot non-stop.

2. What does the photo mean to you?
It means a great deal to me. Most images that mean something to me the unplanned images. Sometimes, I plan certain shots or locations to take the right image, and end up not get what I was hoping for. I then take a different angle and switch perspectives to see a more mesmerizing shot that grabs my attention. I cross my fingers and pray that I managed to capture its essence. When displaying my photographic work, specifically abstract photos in exhibitions, I like to hear viewers' comments. Some have commented of how it must have been done on photoshop and are surprised that its not. If such an abstract image, "Reflections," leaves audiences wondering how it was created or what it was, then I have done my job. It leaves me with a great sense of pure gratification. My wishes are to create more.

3. What made you want to enter it in the WATER photo contest?
It just seemed to fit perfectly to the Abstract theme of "Water."

4. How does it feel to win?
I'm ecstatic, who wouldn't be? I wish all the participants the same wonderful feeling. It is a great honor to be selected as the grand prize winner from such a distinguished establishment. The Santa Fe Photographic Workshops always have such inspirational and engaging programs. I learned a lot in the past and hope to continue to do so.

Portrait Grand Prize: Ron Henderson, Dallas, Texas, Trunk Show
1. Where did you make this image? How did it happen?
This photo was taken in a wonderfully primitive looking landscape called Vazquez Rocks in Agua Dulce, California. (For Star Trek fans, it was the backdrop for the famous fight scene between Captain Kirk and the alien lizard dude.) We were actually filming on location and in between takes I noticed the elephant sucking up water and playfully spraying it into the air. I framed the action with the rather surreal rocky background to give the image an even more whimsical feel.  

2. What does the photo mean to you?
I've always loved the camera's ability to freeze a moment in time and in a fraction of a second tell a story that's often more provocative or captivating than what's happening in real time. To me, this was a great example of that.

3. What made you want to enter it in the WATER photo contest?
A.  I pulled all my photos with water.
B.  I tossed all the ones that made me say "meh."
C.  The elephant made the cut.
*I also liked the idea of entering an animal in the portrait category since they can often be just as expressive and as interesting a subject as humans.

4. How does it feel to win?
Like a cold blast of water in the face. Very exciting.


Juror comments:

Céline Cousteau
1. What was the experience of jurying the contest like?
No matter how many times I end up on the jury for one event or another, it is always tough to compare a variety of talent because you can see the effort behind so many of the images. With so many photos to compare, the WATER contest was like a puzzle but in the end, my instinct led me straight to my choices.

2. How did you choose and evaluate the entries, considering the theme was WATER?
What intrigued me the most was how water was interpreted and integrated in the image as opposed to being the focus of the image. Though the quality of the photo certainly part of my criteria, what won me over was more the originality of the intention and the story I could imagine that led to the image.

3. What was your favorite part of participating?
It was wonderful to discover so many people’s visions through their images - it truly made me want to get out and shoot more!

4. Is there anything else you'd like to add or share with the entrants and winners?
Contests are a place to share, learn and grow, and though there is a winner, it would be great if the ultimate goal would be to feel a sense of community with others who share a passion and have gone through this story with you. And though there is a winner in the end, it was just one jury that determined this- there are many more life opportunities to share your work and ‘win'.

Also please provide a link to your website(s) so we can include that information as well.

Elizabeth Opalenik
1. What was the experience of jurying the contest like?
It is always a pleasure to see so much interesting work on one subject, but because the work was strong, it was also difficult to make choices.

2. How did you choose and evaluate the entries, considering the theme was WATER?
I found myself revisiting each theme within the water genre and selecting images that were alive or asked me to look harder. The "right" images are always subjective but always jump and stay with you.

3. What was your favorite part of participating?
 If I could work in only one genre personally, it would be water and has been for 35 years, so for me this was a visual smorgasbord of ideas and solutions. A joy to see so much creativity within a theme.

4. Is there anything else you'd like to add or share with the entrants and winners?
To the winners, bravo for your elegant way of seeing.  To all the entrants, thank you for sharing your unique vision of the world. You are all winners for letting your creative spirits soar.

Also please provide a link to your website(s) so we can include that information as well.


Daniel Miller
1. What was the experience of jurying the contest like?
It's always good to look at new work and artists I haven't seen.

2. How did you choose and evaluate the entries, considering the theme was WATER?
I was looking for more conceptual pieces surrounding the idea of water.

3. What was your favorite part of participating?
Working with Santa Fe Workshops' really talented team.


*Juror Sarah Leen was unavailable but her comments will be added later.

October 7, 2014

Staff Picks: Scenic Spots near Santa Fe

Autumn has arrived and the leaves have begun to change. The light has turned as golden as the leaves, the weather is gorgeous, and it's the perfect time for some nature photography. In addition to the very popular Aspen Vista and Santa Fe Ski Basin, there are tons of lesser-known spots with beautiful views and smaller crowds. We were curious what our staff of Santa Fe residents had to say, so we rounded up their favorite scenic locations, and came up with places that will wow photographers and non-photographers alike. Now let's get out there and make some images!

Reid Callanan, Director
For me, it's Black Mesa. Coming from a geology background, I really appreciate the geologic features that make up the mesa, and I know is a spiritual land form for Native American peoples, so there's a spiritual aspect to it as well. With the combination of the beauty of the formation and the spiritual nature I get chills every time I pass it.

© Carrie McCarthy

Carrie McCarthy, Marketing Creative Director
The Abiquiu area, because of the diversity of the landscape. You can watch Abiquiu Lake turn a zillion different colors, there's Red Rocks, Plaza Blanca, the farmlands, and cottonwoods lining the banks of the Chama River—Abiquiu is a smorgasbord for the eyes and the camera!

© Melyssa Holik

Melyssa Holik, Marketing Assistant
It's a little difficult to get to, but the view from Deception Peak is pretty amazing. The entire hike up is pretty, with wildflower meadows and mountain vistas, then the actual peak is above the tree line, so it's 360 degrees of beautiful. It's totally worth the hike. 

Renie Haiduk, DIrector of Operations
My yard, because it's full of natural wildflowers and I can see the mountains from every angle. It's private so I can photograph in my pajamas. Oh, and there's a railroad trestle too. It's freakin' gorgeous!! 

© Brandon Johnson
Brandon Johnson, Operations Assistant
The Pecos Wilderness! It's a very different ecosystem than Santa Fe, but it's still close by. There's more water and you can get up into the big pines.

Will Van Beckum, Digital Lab Manager
There's spot off of the Nordic Trail where my fiancé Maddie and I go every year for her birthday. It's what I proposed last year, so now instead of birthday rock it's engagement rock! There's a great view from up there.

Abigail Moore, Digital Lab Assistant
The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge in Taos is a stunning overlook with great view of the mountains.

Mignon Ohmura, Administration Assistant
I would say my favorite spot is probably Ghost Ranch, definitely. I like the diverse colors of the rock, the earth, the greenery, and the sky.

Cindy Ryker, Administration  Assistant
My mind automatically goes to Tent Rocks. I know it's a popular destination, but it's so different and unusual. Yep, I have to say Tent Rocks.

© Anne Fuller
Anne Fuller, Administration Manager
El Rancho de las Golondrinas is New Mexico's only living history museum. It has beautiful vistas and is historically significant to the area.

Suey Surprise, Administration  Assistant
Cross of the Martyrs has great panoramic views, plus it's close to downtown.

Jay Reisinger, Finance Assistant
My apartment. It's my sanctuary. I love going home there, I love the surroundings, I love the environment, and the quiet. Other than that, I really like The Workshops campus. Looking out the window of my office is probably the best view I've ever had.

Sharon Bain, Director of Finance
Heading out of Cochiti, on the way to Bandelier. It's a narrow road with tons of switchbacks, so you need a four-wheeler. Once you're there, it's 360 degrees of views: Santa Fe Ski Basin trails, the Jemez, Sandia and Ortiz Mountains ... everything. It's just spectacular.

Many of the favorites mentioned by our staff are also locations we visit for workshops. Join us, and let us know what your favorite Northern New Mexico scenic location is! For upcoming workshops, visit www.santafeworkshops.com.