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2016 Spring Wildflowers & Landscape Photography Workshop Report

Chuck_King_2I’m pleased to finally be able to post a workshop report for my Spring Wildflowers & Landscape Photography Workshop. The sold-out class took place in early May, and was made up of a very solid group of photographers ranging from beginner to very experienced enthusiasts. It was a very fun group with which to work.

As always at my field workshops, we started early in the day at 6:30am in order to photograph during the peak morning light. And we were not disappointed! Meeting once again at Berry Woods south of Des Moines, Iowa (Berry Woods was The Nature Conservancy’s first official parcel of land in Iowa, and today remains pristine forest). It’s a somewhat hard to find location, but once located it treats the visiting photographer to fantastic natural history subjects, and is a lovely outdoor photography classroom.

Typical for springtime in Iowa, we experienced periods of sun and a few showers throughout the day. It rained hard for a short while (perhaps an hour) around noon – the only time we had to take shelter in our cars during the entire day. The rest of the day was cool and beautiful, though we did break out the camera rain covers a couple of times during sprinkles. But the showers led to great saturated colors and plenty of macro opportunities for dripping leaves, water droplet photography, and wildflower petals capturing moisture.

Participants were treated to several varieties of wildflowers including Sweet William, several phlox and anemone varieties, wild geraniums and wild roses, and a group favorite HUGE (and I mean REALLY HUGE) Jack in the Pulpits. We didn’t encounter tree frogs at this location as we have a time or two in the past, but the wildflower photography in the morning was excellent.

After lunch we switched into landscape mode and the group elected to remain at Berry Woods to photograph natural history landscapes. Working through several concepts and practicing landscape photography techniques, we enjoyed a great afternoon and I was impressed with the back-of-camera previews I was seeing.

Below are a few sample images submitted by workshop participants Chuck King and David Miller. Thanks Chuck and David for sharing, and congrats on some fine images!

A few more images have been shared over at my Peterson Photo Workshops group page on Flickr. You can find it here.

And in case you are tempted to ask, no I don’t have photos that *I* took at this event – at my one-day field workshops, I spend 100% of my time helping participants create images, and do not take my own photos.

I enjoyed working with this fine group of photographers. While I have several other workshops coming up in 2016 (full schedule here), my next nature photography workshop is my Midwest Autumn Color workshop on October 15. I’m already looking forward to it!

2015 Workshop Series Announced!


All-new workshops, studio seminars, and instructional photo tours!

Updated Workshops
Happy New Year! I’m happy to announce my new 2015 workshop offerings. Full details can be found over on my workshop website, Peterson Photo Workshops. For this upcoming yera, I have dramatically updated the format and content of each workshop.

I’m frequently humbled when photographers register for what is their 7th, 8th, or 9th workshop with me, and I thank each of you who have joined me for even half-a-day one time! This year’s workshops should be better than ever!

One-day Studio Seminars
I’m also bringing back two studio photography workshops that I haven’t offered in a few years: a full-day Portrait Lighting workshop, and a full-day Tabletop Studio workshop. These are both skill-sets I use weekly in my magazine, corporate, and portrait photography, and both promise to be exciting hands-on learning and portfolio-building events.

Instructional Photo Tours
Finally, I have made a significant schedule addition this year: I’ll be offering two Instructional Photo Tours to extremely photogenic locations in the Central US! I have extensive knowledge and experience at both of these locations and will get participants to spots for outstanding photography. These will be Thursday-through-Sunday events, and while I’m not quite ready to announce the dates and locations, info will be available soon. If you’re potentially interested, please keep an eye here as well as on my social media and of course on the workshop website.

Based on conversations I’ve had with field workshop alumni who have asked for such trips, I expect these photo tours to attract groups of interesting, highly talented photographers. I am also very confident that these trips will result in a very strong portfolio of nature, landscape, and cultural photographs for the participants.

Overall, I’m anticipating a very fun year of photography education, and I invite you to be part of it. The list of workshop offerings is below with links to individual workshop info. I hope to see you soon!


Saturday, February 7 ~ The Midwest Winter Landscape – Des Moines area, IA. All-day. $119

Saturday, February 28 ~ Intro to Digital SLR & Mirrorless Photography – Des Moines, IA. Half-day – 12-4pm. $69

Saturday, March 7 ~ Advanced DSLR & Mirrorless Photography – Des Moines, IA. Half-day – 12-4pm. $69

Saturday, April 18 ~ Introduction to Lightroom – Des Moines, IA. Half-day – 12-4pm. $69

Saturday, April 25 ~ Advanced Lightroom – Des Moines, IA. Half-day – 12-4pm. $69

Saturday, May 2 ~ Spring Wildflowers and Landscapes – Central IA. All-day. $119.

Sunday, June 28 ~ The Midwest Summer Prairie – Rural Marshall County, IA. All-day. $119.

Saturday, August 29 ~ Studio and Location Portrait Lighting – Des Moines, IA. All-day. $189.

Saturday, September 12 ~ Tabletop Studio Photography – Des Moines, IA. All-day. $189.

Saturday, September 19 ~ 9th Annual Living History Farms Photography Day – Living History Farms, Urbandale, IA (see LHF website). While this is not my workshop, I look forward to offering instructional sessions at this always-fun annual event – one of the largest outdoor educational photography events in the world!

Saturday, October 17 ~ Midwest Autumn Color – Ledges State Park near Boone, IA. All-day. $119.

Saturday, November 7 ~ Intro to Digital SLR Photography – Des Moines, IA. Half-day – 12-4pm. $69

Saturday, November 14 ~ Advanced DSLR & Mirrorless Photography – Des Moines, IA. Half-day – 12-4pm. $69

The Midwest Summer Prairie workshop – a lucky beautiful June day!

It’s been a crazy and busy summer, and after having been traveling most of July and booked solid most of August, I’m finally able to catch up on the blog. Here is a post-mortem on our very fun annual Midwest Summer Prairie photography workshop.

We had a great group of photographers converge on Marietta Sand Prairie in rural Marshall County Iowa, June 15, for this. Thanks to a fabulous group of photographers for joining us for a fun day in the sun! This was a very “different” kind of day for this particular workshop, but it was a very productive day.

Why “different?” Well, in 2012, I’d scheduled this annual workshop at its “usual” time in late-July – the same time I’ve held it most years. This is a time that the prairies of the upper Midwest are ablaze in color and there is a great variety of flora to photograph. However, in 2012 we were in the midst of a really bad drought, and late-July saw many prairie specimens past their peak and in decline. Plus, the week of this workshop in 2012 saw 100-degree-plus daily temperatures – it had been brutal out there in the prairie last year.

So this year, largely since the drought we’ve seen here in the upper Midwest was forecast to be even worse in 2013 than 2012, I moved this workshop up to mid-June. That’s about the time prairie flora was peaking in color around here last year. But in her ever-unpredictable manner, Mother Nature had other plans: spring snow – and LOTS of it – clear into May! And an end to the drought, brought about by a very large abundance of spring and summer rains. In fact, it had been so rainy in the days leading up to this workshop, I was sure we’d be out shooting in a downpour for this workshop. As a result of the late winter and heavy early-summer rains, not only were the prairie flowers we normally photograph at this workshop not peaking by June 15 as hoped, many of the plants were just barely sprouting altogether – the prairie was several weeks behind its normal blossom timeframe.

So while we weren’t able to photograph the oft-looked-forward-to purple coneflowers, grey-headed coneflowers, prairie blazing stars, and other favorites, we found a solid variety of other prairie flora to photograph. In fact, it was a challenge getting the group to move to different locations at times – most of the photographers in the group were thoroughly engaged. In fact, if it wasn’t for the threat of a late-morning thunderstorm (that looked ominous but ended up missing us), we may not have even broken for lunch until mid-afternoon.

All in all, though “different” than what we expected in terms of the shots we came home with (and that is just part of “the nature of nature photography,” it was an excellent day of nature photography on the open prairie, and participant feedback has been very positive.

Here are some behind-the-scenes images of our participants at work…

And some of the photographs they created during the day. Congrats on some great images, everyone!

Thanks again to everyone who participated. I’m looking forward to our next field workshop – our Autumn Color Photography workshop coming up October 12 at Ledges State Park in lovely Boone County, Iowa.

Intro & Intermediate DSLR Workshops at Octagon Center for the Arts in Ames

HarlequinI have scheduled two half-day Digital SLR photography workshops at Octagon Center for the Arts in Ames.

January 26 – Intro to Digital SLR Photography – this class is designed for those new to photography with a Digital SLR. Content is as described on my workshop website, here.

February 9 – Intermediate Digital SLR Photography – this class is for people who have completed my Intro to Digital SLR Photography workshop, or for those who are experienced with DSLR photography and using their cameras, and want to move their photography to the next level. See my description of this workshop, here.

These workshops are offered through the Octagon Center’s education program – register via their process on their website.

For those of you outside of Ames…yes, I will be offering more of these sessions in Des Moines this winter and later in the year, as well. Please see my previous blog post – my overall 2013 workshop calendar will be posted very soon.

Valley Junction iPhone Photo Adventure Re-cap!

"Harlequin Masque" © 2012 iPhonePhotoAdventure.comJust a quick post to mention the great fun – and to thank the awesome participants – at yesterday’s iPhone Photo Adventure in West Des Moines. We had a fabulous group join us in hip Valley Junction, and had a blast shooting, editing, and sharing iPhone art!

I’ve created a more complete run-down over on the blog, complete with images from the day. Please check it out!

iPhone Photography Adventure! (May 5 Workshop at The Octagon)

Good afternoon! Here are a few more details about my upcoming iPhone Photography workshop ~ iPhone Photography Adventure! ~ May 5 at Octagon Center for the Arts in Ames! It’s the third workshop in my Spring 2012 Digital Photography Workshop Series at the Octagon. Here’s the scoop on the session!

The iPhone has been widely heralded as the first smartphone that finally offered a credible built-in camera – or, some would rather say it’s a fabulous point-and-shoot camera with a built-in phone. Regardless of how you view it, the iPhone’s image quality – particularly that of the newer models – is competitive with, or even better than, many point-and-shoot cameras. And with so many Apps and image-sharing services such as Instagram available for the device, image capture, manipulation, and sharing with the iPhone have become amazingly fun!

This 3-hour workshop is designed to help the iPhone user master the phone’s camera and become familiar with a suite of photography Apps that will allow you to have an absolute blast taking, manipulating, and sharing iPhone photos!

We will begin by covering techniques of shooting the camera using professional photo techniques, and will explore a collection of the more capable available photography and image-manipulation Apps. Whether you want to create photo-realistic snapshots or creative art; whether you want sleek, modern looks, or retro/vintage grunge; whether you want to share your images online, via a mobile device, or to make prints (Gasp – yes, it’s possible!); there will be something for you in this session!

We’ll build a portfolio of iPhone photos when we venture out to an eclectic mix of fun Ames locations to photograph a variety of subjects while discussing camera-handling techniques, composition, and lighting. With a collection of newly-created images, we’ll return to the Octagon’s North Studio to post-process and share our masterpieces – all on our iPhones.

Participants should bring their iPhone and have an Apple ID to download Apps during the session. Note that while some of the Apps we’ll cover are free, others may cost $3.00-4.00 each depending on your imaging tastes.

Registration materials for this workshop are available on the Octagon website, here.

Thanks for reading! If you’re in the area and are an iPhone user, I hope you’ll join us for this fun event!

A note about these photos: The images in the above gallery were captured with my iPhone 4s, and manipulated with an assortment of Apps that we’ll discuss and use in the May 5 class. The above images were cropped into the square format for sharing on the Instagram photo-sharing service. I happen to really like the square image format – it reminds me of the fun I used to have working with my medium format Rolleiflex film cameras, which also produced square photographs! I also happen to really like textured images with rough borders and a grungy overall look. But that’s just my style – participant workshop images won’t necessarily be square, or textured, or grungy – participants will leave the workshop with the tools to share photos that express their own artistic style!

“Intro to DSLR Photography” workshop this Saturday at The Octagon

I’ve recently added a session of my popular Intro to Digital SLR Photography Workshop to my spring workshop schedule. It’s this Saturday, April 21, 2:00-5:00pm at Octagon Center for the Arts, 427 Douglas Ave, in downtown Ames, Iowa.

We just added this to the calendar a week or so ago, but my workshops at the Octagon fill fast so don’t hesitate to register if interested! As far as I know there are still seats available as of today! We’ve pushed the start time on this one back so those of you in Ames can enjoy your VEISHEA parade and still have time to get over to the Octagon for a fun afternoon of photography! (For those of you reading that are not from around here, Ames is a Big-12 college town, home of Iowa State University, and “VEISHEA” is a week-long annual spring festival that’s one of the university’s historic traditions).

Who should attend? This seminar is targeted at those new to SLR photography – though experienced shooters are also welcome –  who want to understand and master their digital SLR. The session is based on the premise that you can’t get consistent and predictable results with your photography until you take control of your camera – and you can’t do that until you understand why the various settings do what they do!

We will thoroughly explore basic (and a few advanced) camera settings that will allow you to understand those settings so that you can obtain consistent and predictable results – and no longer merely click the button and hope you got what you wanted!

The session starts with my “10 Must-Know Controls and Settings” that every SLR photographer must learn in order to consistently get photos you want! We’ll also explore artistry in photography, a few compositional “rules,” and discuss optimal accessories and lenses that will help you grow in photography.

A few of the specific topics we’ll cover:

  • File Formats (should I shoot jpeg? tiff? RAW? And why?)
  • Understanding exposure (ISO, shutter speeds, and f/stops and how they work together)
  • Technically correct exposures vs. artistically correct exposures
  • Your camera’s Exposure modes
  • Focus modes and when to use which
  • Understanding metering patterns
  • Composition basics
  • Understanding your histogram
  • What to, and not to, buy next as your interest in photography grows

Is that a long list? Yes! But it’s all so fun!

And this is a fun, fast-paced, hands-on workshop that alternates between classroom discussion and active studio shooting situations where participants will practice new skills with hands-on instruction.

More details and registration for this workshop (as well as several other workshops I’ll be doing at the Octagon in upcoming weeks) are available here.  Advance registration is required, so if interested, reserve your spot today!

Finally, speaking of other workshops, if you’re interested in this one, you may also want to consider my “Intermediate DSLR Photography” workshop as a “next step” – also coming up at the Octagon on May 26. Those who complete the Intro workshop or who have a solid basic understanding of their DSLR are eligible for that one. Details are here.

In the Studio with Liz

Liz, a personal trainer in Minneapolis, recently contacted me to have some new headshots made for her business.  She wanted to emphasize her athleticism and strength in a studio look, and she was great fun to work with. I hope you enjoy the photos.

Since recently I’ve been asked about my studio set-up rather frequently, here’s some info for the photographers reading…

I made these photos with a traditional 3-light portrait setup using three Profoto Compact 600R studio lights on Liz:

  • Main light in a 4×6′ Photoflex LightDome softbox, camera right
  • Fill light in a 2×3′ Photoflex LightDome softbox, camera left
  • Hair light in a small Photoflex Halfdome strip box with grid, behind and left, at lowest setting

I also added a Profoto Compact 300R with grid at low power to light the background (a 10′ white seamless) with fall-off.  And since I continue to be asked, these days I photograph in the studio primarily with the same gear I use for my nature and landscape photography – in this case, a Nikon D3 and 70-200 f/2.8VR lens.  (In the old days I primarily used 35mm gear in the field, and Rolleiflex 6000-series medium format SLRs in the studio; I do still have my favorite Rolleiflex, a 6001 Professional, but it hasn’t seen the light of…studio…in quite some time).  I use PocketWizard Plus II’s to control my Profoto Compacts, which all have built-in PocketWizards of their own (that’s the “R” in the model name – for Radio-controlled).

After we completed her personal training images, Liz asked if we could shoot some fashion in a dress her mom had recently sent her from Kenya.  Stay tuned for that…next post!

Exhibit at IKONIX Studio Gallery in Des Moines’ East Village

 Medicine Root Trail

Exhibit opening this evening: IKONIX Studio’s “Gallery 9” photography exhibit includes 10 framed landscape and nature photographs of mine, a diverse collection of excellent photographs by Des Moines photographer Jerry Ranch, and works by Anna Jones, Jaclyn Hansel, and other area photographers.

Exhibit curator and host Tom Woolery, owner of IKONIX Studio, will be serving wine and coffee 5:00-8:00pm this evening, and the gallery will be open 10am-4pm Saturday.  IKONIX is a working photography studio, so the exhibit isn’t accessible every day – check the IKONIX Facebook Page for updated gallery hours. The photographs are available for purchase, and the exhibit will run through January.

IKONIX Studio gallery, 434 East Locust (NW corner of E. 5th & Locust), in the heart of Des Moines’ fabulous East Village).  Stop by and check out the show!

UPDATE: During the week of December 20, the gallery will be open Monday (12/20), Tuesday (12/21), and Wednesday(12/22) evenings, 4-8pm.