Back to School

Some kind of normalcy has returned, if only temporarily—I taught my first photo workshop again since the lockdown of the world. It was nice to feel at least to some extent what life used to be like. Before social distancing. Of course, the workshop participants and I still needed to comply with the requirements of social distancing as well as observe general infection control as prescribed by health authorities. However, we could nevertheless enjoy a weekend of photographing, learning and discussions.

The workshop took place in Bergen, Norway last weekend, starting on the eve of Friday and going through Sunday. The group was very small, only three participants and me—which made it possible to run the workshop without risking the health of neither the workshop participants nor people they photographed on the street during the weekend. As mentioned social distancing was implemented throughout the workshop.

For me in particular, it was good to get back into teaching as we—that is my colleague Sven Creutzmann and I—had to cancel the planned photo workshop in Cuba in the end of April and the beginning of May. Despite the special circumstances I had great fun during last weekend, as I think was the case for all three participants.

As always, when teaching a workshop, I learn and get inspired just as much as the participants do. We all see differently, and it’s really fun to recognize the difference and pick up ideas from each other. It was an powerful weekend with a couple of intense days.

Here are but a few glimpse of the participants in action.

Hello from Bergen

Another week in lockdown mode has passed here in Bergen. This is the new normal. No big changes over the last week. The positive is that new numbers of people affected by corona have stabilized here in Norway. We still get new cases, but it’s not longer by an exponential growth by rather a straight curve.

Like last week, I have been able to maintain work. However, this might be my last full week of work as I would like it to be. I have only gotten one new assignment during this time. Of course, it worries me, but I know I will get through the crises. Actually, I look forward to start those projects I otherwise never have time to work on, as I mentioned last week.

This week I have mostly been working on a big story about life behind the scene at a theatre here in Bergen. All the photos were taken before the lockdown, as most of the interviews. Only days later, the theatre had to close down. It’s been strange to write about it. When I visited the theatre, it was full of life, and actors and stage workers, and other employees were given their best. Now it’s all dead and quite. All employees temporarily laid off. The contrast between now and then is particularly evident when I edit and process the photos.

Winter has suddenly decided to show up in Bergen again. It’s the kind of winter we have over here. Suddenly lots of snow and as suddenly it’s all melted again, only moments later to start snowing again. And in between there is a feeling or spring in the air. I have enjoyed the snow and try to spend time out when I can—if nothing else, by running and exercising. Hopefully, it will snow again tomorrow, the first day of the weekend. If so, I will get my butt out and have fun in the snow. Maybe working on one of my photo projects, for which I have long wanted to get some winter photos.

The theatre story was sent to the editor today. Now that I slowly will free up time for my own projects, one of the plans are to develop new online photo workshops. I already have a couple of ideas. But maybe you want to help me? Tell me what kind of photo workshops would be valuable to you. You can do so in a comment below, or if you wish to have me send my eBook 10 Great Tips for better photography, send me an email (to ottovon@online.no). You will receive the book for free.

In these dire times, posts from fellow bloggers from around the world, provides hope and inspiration. Blogger Nicole with her blog Thirdeyemom, has started to collect and link to bloggers who share what they are going through during the pandemic. The unifying title is “Hello from…”. I think it’s an excellent idea, and this post here is my tribute. Maybe you want to be part of it? Go to Hello from Minnesota and post the link on Nicole’s blog.

Next Years Photo Workshops

Granada, Nicaragua © Sven Creutzmann
Granada, Nicaragua © Sven Creutzmann

If you are like me, you are constantly trying to develop your photography. I read everything I can come across—well, almost… I certainly use internet for all what it’s worth. And I attend photo workshops.

Nothing is quite like a photo workshop. The experience of spending a couple of intense days or maybe a week with similar minded photographers eager to learn and develop, under guidance of a thoughtful and knowledgeable tutor is expansive and transcendent. For me, both attending and teaching is inspiring, not the least learning from different participants’ approach to their photography. This year I attended one workshop with the fabulous Swedish photographer Martin Bogren. In addition I thought two workshops, respectively in Norway and Bolivia.

Now, next year’s photo workshops that I will teach have been settled. 2020 will be a year full of possibilities for anyone seeking to develop her or his photography. As with all the photo workshops I teach, the focus is on imagery and how to create captivating photos—and less so about the technical side of photography. So maybe you will find something that could trigger you to come along:

As usual, my friend and colleague Sven Creutzmann and I will teach a one-week photo workshop in Cuba. This is our longest existing workshop that we have taught for almost every year of the last 15 years. It always gets great feedback from our participants. The workshop runs from April 25th to May 2nd 2020. You’ll find more info about the workshop here: “Street Photography in Cuba”.

Sven and I will also organize a photo tour in Nicaragua in the autumn next year. This is a complete new tour that we are proud to be able to put together. It’s a photo tour we have been working many years to create and finally it’s coming together. We will have the beautiful colonial city of Granada as a base for exploring the city and the surroundings over the one week trip. The tour runs from October 31st to November 7th 2020. You’ll find more info about the photo tour here: “Street photography in Granada”.

On my own, I will once again teach the popular and intimate weekend photo workshop in Bergen, Norway. We gather in my loft for lectures and feedback. The rest of the time, we will be out photographing in this lovely city situated on the west coast of Norway. This workshop runs from June 5th to 7th 2020. You’ll find more info about the workshop here: “The Personal Expression”.

Finally, I will organize and teach a photo workshop in northern Norway in the autumn. This is another completely new workshop that I will be teaching for the first time. We will be situated on an spectacular island just north of the famous Lofoten archipelago, with the same extraordinary landscape but much less visited by tourists. During this five day long long workshop the focus will be on the visual language and how to tell stories with photos. The workshop runs from September 9th to 13th 2020. You’ll find more info about the workshop here: “Telling Stories with Photos”.

Maybe I’ll see you on a photo workshop next year?

Granada, Nicaragua © Sven Creutzmann
Granada, Nicaragua © Sven Creutzmann

Earthy Bolivia

As I have written before, the photo workshop I taught in Bolivia in the end of September and the beginning of October was a great experience for all, for the participants and the organizers alike.

Bolivia is a splendid country for a photo workshop. The people are open and hospital, the majority of which live a simple and down-to-earth life, their culture rich and colourful and not the least the nature they are surrounded by, with breathtaking mountain ranges, spectacular valleys and lush forests.

As soon as the participants had acclimatized, they captured amazing images, and better and stronger for each day of the workshop, as could be seen in my post Excellent Photography a couple of weeks ago.

Here are a handful of images I was able to capture myself. They don’t come close to what the participants were able to produce. But that’s how it should be, they were in Bolivia to learn and photography, while I was there to teach and guide. I am only happy they got home each with a strong portfolio of Bolivia photos.

Excellent Photography

© Jathushiga Bridget Rajah
© Inger Ellen Eftevand Orvin
© Vigdis Robberstad
© Katharina Dale Håkonsen
© Monica Broen
© Nicolaas Kuipers

As I wrote in my last blog post, the photo workshop in Bolivia in the end of September and beginning of October was a great experience for both participants and the organizers, that is me and my colleague Sven Creutzmann.

Not only was it great experience, though, during the ten days the workshop lasted, the participants grew and showed significantly developments. Of course, to varying degree. For anyone who is already an experience photographer, it’s always harder to show any drastic improvements. However, those in an earlier stage of their development have a larger potential for advancing their photography. And that’s exactly what happened during the Bolivia workshop. It was great fun to watch how they all were able to capture stronger and more enchanting images, particularly as the days went by and towards the end of the workshop.

Here is a handful of their captivating images, showing the rural life in the eastern mountains of Bolivia. Enjoy!

A Delightful Bolivia Workshop

I have just returned from teaching my latest photo workshop in Bolivia. It was a really fun workshop, with dedicated participants, lots of photo opportunities and plenty of enjoyable moments. Most important for us, the workshop teachers, was seeing how each participants were able to develop their photography during the 10 days we were travelling in eastern parts of Bolivia.

This workshop involves a lot more travelling than most of the workshops I teach. More or less every second day we were taking off to a new town or village, which both makes the workshop more adventures as well as add some pressure with regards to being able to find time for picture critiques and lectures every day.

We were travelling in the footsteps Che Guevara and his failed revolutionary attempt in Bolivia fifty years ago. Following his last days was just a framework for the travel not a theme for the photographing—unless participants chose to do so. After meeting up in Santa Cruz, the financial hub in eastern Bolivia, we took off first to Samaipata, then to Vallegrand and La Higuea before returning to Santa Cruz. The highlight was no doubt La Higuera, a small village high up in the mountains with a handful of houses and only 43 inhabitants.

I think it’s fair to say, that the combinations of daily feedback on photos the participants take as well as being able to photograph one and one next to either me or my colleague Sven Creutzmann, with whom I taught the workshop, give a good dynamic for each participant to develop his or her photography. The result was noticeable. A lot of very strong imagery was captured during the workshop.

This is the third team we have organized this workshop.

Here are a couple of glimpses behind the scene during the workshop. Later on, I will get back with photos we shot during the ten days in Bolivia.

On the Road Again

As you are reading this post, I am getting going teaching another photo workshop in Bolivia. It has just started. Today, Monday, we are heading out from Santa Cruz, the regional centre in eastern Bolivia, to the village of Samaipata. Over the next week plus, we will continue to Vallegrande and La Higuera and finally head back again to Santa Cruz at the end of next week.

I have been looking forward both to be on the road and not the least to teach this workshop again. Last time we did it—that is my friend and colleague Sven Creutzmann and I—was back in 2013. We have a nice group of participants with us this time, most of whom have attended at least one of our workshops before.

This is definitely a photo workshop for the more adventures photographers. Yes, here in Santa Cruz we stay at a great and quit luxurious hotel, but hereafter it’s going to be plenty of bumpy roads and the most unpretentious of accommodations. Simply because that’s all there is in the towns and village up in the eastern mountains of Bolivia.

The tour will follow in the footsteps of Che Guevara. For some he was a hero, for some a terrorist. No matter what you think about him, the history and how it all ended here in the mountains of Bolivia is fascinating.

I will try to keep you posted about the trip and the workshop as we go, but cannot promise anything. Internet is not well accessible in these rural areas. Anyway, here we go.

Develop Your Visual Language in Seattle

Come along for a photo workshop over an extended weekend in Seattle in mid September. If you need some inspiration, if you want to push your photography, if you want to advance your visual language, this is the perfect workshop for you. From September 6th to 9th, the workshop will be focusing on how you can develop your photography and your photographic expression.

Through daily lectures and picture critique, I will challenge you and stimulate growth of new visual ideas and your creativity, as well as stretching your ideas of what a good photograph might be. The workshop is less about technique than about imagery, however we will of course talk about technique when and if necessary. Nevertheless, the focus is primarily on the visual language and the creative approach to photography.

During the workshop, we will explore various neighbourhoods of the city. We will head down to the waterfront of downtown Seattle; the mixed, former hippie district of Fremont as well as other areas. Against a backdrop of jaw-dropping scenery, the waterfront is all about walkable fun, where quirky shops, seafood eateries, and iconic experiences await. Fremont is the artsy, waterside enclave where people come for a selfie with the gigantic Fremont Troll and enjoy the neighbourhood’s free-spirited charm.

I will walk and photograph with participants on an individual basis, which I have found that former students always appreciate the most. By photographing side by side, you can learn from my approach, but also give me a chance to suggest ways to change your own approach. I believe in challenges and in expanding into new ways of seeing and capturing and this will be the underlying force through the workshop.

Does this sound interesting? You’ll find more information about the workshop “The Visual Language” in Seattle here.

Or you can ask for the brochure for the workshop here.

Maybe I’ll see you in Seattle?

Come Rain Come Shine

This weekend I taught a photo workshop in Bergen, Norway. Despite not having the best of weathers, I was impressed with the participants’ efforts. They were out early in the morning, shooting, shooting and relentlessly defying the weather.

What I enjoyed even more was their willingness to accept the challenges I forced upon them. They took it straight. For some it was losing control and become more reckless, for some it was approaching people on the street, for some it was not shooting sharp images, and for everybody it was to keep shooting long after they felt they had overly and too long disrupted whomever they stopped on the street.

It’s a natural instinct, to capture one, two or maybe even three photos of someone on the street and then let go. But most likely that will not be enough to produce captivating images and break the first inhibition and the subjecting wanting to play up to the photographer. On the street, the photographer has to keep going, keep shooting, 20, 50 maybe 100 photos of a situation. I know, it’s not easy, you feel you step over what is acceptable behaviour, but those who try often find out surprisingly how willing people actually are. As the participants of the workshop found out.

The participants not only defied the weather and the challenges, but also brought back some excellent images. At a later stage, I will display some of their work here. For now let me just inform that I am teaching another weekend photo workshop in Seattle from September 6th to 9th. If you may be interested, you’ll find more information about the workshop “The Visual Language” here.

As of tomorrow I will take off on a two weeks holiday in Ireland. I will be away from the blog sphere during the holiday. But I will be back in the end of June. Take care friends.

Streets of Rome

Rome is a fascinating city. Just thinking about its thousands of years of history can spellbound any person. The history is evident all over the city, in ruins, in incomparable buildings all from the earliest periods up until today, and not the least in the Roman culture and attitude.

The latter was what I was trying to capture during the photo workshop lead by the Swedish photographer Martin Bogren, I attended two weeks ago. I roamed the streets away from where the tourists the usual ramble. Photographing regular Romans of today—in their many shapes and appearances. It was actually so pleasant to not have to visit any of the big attractions, but rather experience the “real” Rome.

Here are a few last images I will post from my very rewarding trip to Rome.