Photography on the Big Screen

February 03, 2017

Originally posted Feb27, 2012

Saturday I again this year attended the second day of Photograph Nebraska, a two-day photography workshop held in Hastings, Nebraska. Only it was more fun this year, as Cindy attended with me. Somehow, she always seems to bring the entertainment, and I love it!

We heard interesting and useful presentations by NEBRASKAland Magazine Associate Editor, Jeff Kurrus, Lincoln’s Randy Hampton, the Omaha World-Herald’s Alyssa Shukar, and this year’s featured presenter, Joel Sartore. Where last year’s event was held at the country club in Hastings, this year it took place at the Hastings Museum, which also houses the Imax theater, although I understand that facility is no longer an Imax designee.

Whatever, the advantages of co-locating the workshop with the Imax were obvious before Saturday’s program ever kicked off. After having signed in, Cindy and I joined others in the theater, which was running a slide show of images. All of a sudden, there was “The Kid” displayed 25’ by 30’! I’d actually forgotten that we had submitted that photo (or rather Julie submitted it for me) when I registered for the workshop, so it was quite a jolt to see that picture that size…something that every aspiring photographer should get to experience.

The kickoff speaker…in the Imax…for Saturday was Alyssa Shukar, the very able young shooter for the Omaha World-Herald, who recently spent (if I recall correctly) some three weeks with Nebraska and Iowa soldiers in Afghanistan. Listening to this young woman and seeing her work displayed Imax size were a real treat. One of her photos displayed the equipment she carried around Afghanistan on her back, along with her clothing and personal items, and body armor. It was pretty impressive. She noted that she prepared for the trip by taking a UNO course on Afghanistan and also taking up weight lifting in order to cope with the physical demands of being embedded with the military in a war zone. I visited with her briefly after her presentation and observed for her that her picture should appear in the dictionary to illustrate “plucky.”

From Jeff Kurrus, I got some helpful ideas on what NEBRASKAland is looking for in terms of both words and copy. Jeff has recently authored a children’s book…illustrated by the photographs of Michael Forsberg…on Sandhill Cranes. He discussed just how you get from a photo project to a published book.

Randy Hampton, as always, was totally engaging and almost paradigmatically informative. I told Randy that we have to find a way to franchise him and go worldwide. His rather dry humor together with the solid and practical information he combines it with really hold your interest. I’ve lost count of the number of Randy’s workshops I’ve attended, but every time, I come away with something to put to use right away in my own photography. Cindy has observed that I also always come away with my eye on some piece of gear Randy has exposed me to, and this time was no exception. I’ve long salivated over the Pocket Wizard remote flash triggers but have been put off by their cost. Well guess what? At this presentation, Randy identified a similar product available at a fraction of the cost of the Pocket Wizard. Even though I don’t do that much flash photography, I don’t think I’ll be able to get by much longer without this bit of technology.

And Sartore. I’ve wanted to meet and hear from him for maybe five years, and finally the chance presented itself. He also showed his stuff on the Imax screen, and even this photography veteran and world traveler enjoyed seeing his photos at King Kong size. Suffice it so say that Joel Sartore lives a life that I have trouble imagining. He’s gone from home maybe six months a year and travels to the remotest corners of the world, shooting thousands of photos of subjects most of us can only dream of. The chief hazards of his career seem to be the exotic ailments that can be picked up in the places he journeys to for Nat Geo. He showed us pictures of an expedition to photograph bats in their cave in some remote corner of Africa, where he was hit in the eye by flying bat fecal matter. While that may sound like a pie-in-the-face bit, some eight to ten percent of folks exposed to the disease harbored by these particular bats, in this particular cave, die, and Sartore was immediately sent home to see if he would be one of them. He survived but has not been back to that cave and those bats again, and who could blame him?

At the end of the day, the thing that I find most intriguing about folks like Randy, Shukar, Sartore, or Michael Forsberg, for example, is how they manage to sustain a passion for something like photography for an entire lifetime. None of those guys have ever really done anything else other than the normal marry, buy a home, raise a family, etc. I kind of drift in and out of things without ever going head over heels for a particular interest of activity or ever quite giving it up entirely. Things like hunting, cycling, photography, mountain climbing, and flying have all at one time or another been a major interest in life. I cool on them but never totally walk away from them, and most of them have come around again at least once, if not two or three times.

But people like the ones I got to see and hear in Hastings this past weekend, somehow manage to maintain their original focus on an undertaking…photography in this case…right on through their adult lifetimes. And it’s that kind of dedication and commitment that makes them the sort of individuals the rest of us go to for inspiration, information, and example. Thank you Photograph Nebraska for the opportunity to share some time with some of the outstanding picture-takers in the Cornhusker State.

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