Telluride Photo Festival

I've been photographing professionally for a long time and I've never attended a conference or a workshop. I'm not sure why that happened but a few months ago I decided to change that after receiving an email about the Telluride Photo Festival.

I took a peek at the Festival's web site and browsed the list of available workshops along with the speakers. A number of very recognizable names began to jump out at me. Nevada Weir, Jeff Lipsky, Michael Clark, Jeff Foott and Alexandria Bombach to name a few. If you have yet to see Alexandria's Frame By Frame, stop what you're doing and watch it. Now. Amazingly well done documentary with powerful but beautiful stories. Equally as moving, if not more, as War Photographer and The Bang Bang Club.

As I looked at the workshops, I noticed that Michael had one. I have followed his work for quite awhile and had been really impressed by his recent surf images from the North Shore, as well as ice climbing, utilizing Elinchrom strobes and hypersync. For me, it is an amazing leap in technology and I can't wait to play with it more.

I signed up for the workshop and grabbed a standard pass for the rest of the Festival. I would have loved to have participated in the portfolio reviews but time was against me. Getting a new book together just wasn't in the cards. Next year.

Michael's workshop kicked off on Tuesday while the Festival opened Thursday evening. I drove down to Telluride from Denver on Monday with my father tagging along for the ride. What should have taken us 6-6.5 hours, took us 12. Yep. 12 hours. A semi decided to play turtle on the 285 shutting down the highway and leaving us parked in no man's land between Fairplay and Johnson Village. Fun times.

So, after a drive twice as long as it should have been and a few hours sleep, I was on the gondola heading from Mountain Village down into Telluride proper. As always, the views coming down the hill from St. Sophia station into town were spectacular. The color in the aspens, along with the gorgeous early morning light, was totally off the charts.

The workshop itself was great and with only 4 participants, including myself, it was basically one on one instruction. Totally lucked out on that. I was looking forward to picking up some new tricks along with getting some business insights and Michael proved to be an excellent teacher. 

We spent Tuesday photographing some amazing downhill mountain bikers in the bike park at the Telluride Ski Resort. The weather was perfect. The dirt near hero status. The light was scrumptious. Michael had brought along some Elinchrom toys so learning about out-in-the-boonies on-location lighting was fantastic. 

On Wednesday, we met up with a couple of rock climbers and headed to a spot just above town near the power station at the top of Bridal Veil Falls. Neither the approach nor the wall were terribly difficult but the view down the valley into town was gorgeous. As the light faded, we headed down into the valley to a well known bouldering spot. So well known that we had a visit from a sheriff's deputy. The strobes blazing in the near darkness were the equivalent of a giant blinking neon arrow saying, "Here we are."  Brief conversation and we were packed up heading back into town. 


Thursday morning was an early one photographing a trail runner down in the valley along the river trail just before town. Quick shoot and we were done in about an hour. Later that day was all about on-location portraits. I always enjoy watching other photographers set up lighting scenarios. Michael was quick and methodical and I grabbed a few things to put in my back pocket. Somehow, I wound up as the model. The headshot in the sidebar was the result.


The actual festival kicked off Thursday evening with a couple of talks. Nevada Weir spoke about some of her early stories and travels with NatGeo. Nothing short of amazing.

Things slowed down a little on Friday. Breakfast meeting that went smashingly well then a quick hike up Bear Creek. A few lectures in the afternoon including another from Nevada. In the evening, Michael and Jeff Foott gave retrospectives on their careers. Again, amazing. 

Saturday included a hike on the Jud Weibe trail through wonderful fall color with a few lectures in the afternoon, including an interesting panel on social media marketing. That evening the Festival screened Frame by Frame. As I mentioned earlier, go see this. Hopefully, Alexandria will get some distribution soon. Following the movie, Jeff Lipsky shared his career in photographs. Every one more mind blowing than the last with stories to match.

For a first workshop experience, it was excellent. I learned a few new things, met some great people and made some fantastic images. Will I go back next year? More than likely but with more of a focus on the portfolio reviews. Time to get cracking on a new book.