Stones by stream side

Workshop Summary

Saturday, April 23, 2022 – Making Great Photographs: Composition in the Field
One-Day field nature photography workshop
Location: Ledges State Park (near Madrid, Iowa)
Starts: 8:00am / Concludes: 4:30pm
Main Topics Include: Landscape and nature photography techniques. Strong emphasis on principles of composition and image design, and their critical influence on the creation of impactful photographs.

What to Expect

This is an instructional workshop that employs hands-on active photography in the field with three over-riding objectives:
– to improve participants’ nature photography field technique – emphasizing both macro and landscape photography technical topics
– to help participants to gain a greater understanding of compositional “rules” and composition techniques in photography, and to be able to skillfully use them to make more powerful nature photographs
– to create a portfolio of successful nature photographs from the day

Nature photographs that please the viewer – or even better that “wow!” the viewer – can be very challenging to create. Not only are technical aspects of photography important, but the artistic element of composition is critical to create visual impact with a photograph. In other words, your composition, or image design, is very often the difference between yet another ho-hum snapshot and an artistic photograph that wins awards and demands to be printed. So why take just another pretty flower snapshot – or a “BOAS” (“Bug On A Stick”) photo that…I’ll say it…the world doesn’t really need – when you can learn to create a photo with far more impact?

In this workshop, we’ll spend part of the day working on the technicals – equipment, exposure settings, focus techniques for successful nature photography in the macro, nature, and landscape realms. But the majority of our time will be a deep dive into the various aspects of composition. Specific topics will include, but will not be limited to:
– Subject Selection
– Compositional “Rules”
– Patterns
– Tones and Colors
– Tension and Balance
– Image Flow
– Backgrounds and Framing

We’ll explore each of these topics, among others, in depth by actively photographing nature subjects throughout the day.

I’ve taken my former “Composition I” and “Composition II” half-day classroom workshops, and transformed them into a full-day field experience. So rather than sitting in an indoor classroom watching a PowerPoint that illustrates composition concepts – and occasionally doing a “break-out” to try things – we’ll be actively creating our own images to illustrate each concept. We’ll build each “next” concept on the last, so that by the end of the day you’ll have a full understanding of how they work together. You will be photographing all day long.

I am a very hands-on instructor and I do not shoot my own images in the field; rather, I focus 100% on assisting participants to learn proper technique and to create successful images. Photos I create during the workshop are purely for demonstration and instruction. My ultimate goal is to help you return from the field at the end of the day with a collection of publication-quality photographs including landscapes, close-up or macro images, and evocative artistic images – and the knowledge to continue to create these images on an ongoing basis on your own.

The workshop will be held rain or shine – in fact, often the best nature photography is in the rain! However, in the event of dangerous thunderstorms or tornadoes, the “rain date” will be Sunday, April 24.

A liability waiver will be sent to all participants upon registration – a signed returned liability form will be required from each participant prior to the workshop.

The workshop will be limited to a maximum of 10 participants.


Ledges State Park near Madrid, Iowa, will be our outdoor classroom. “The Ledges” has long been one of my favorite photographic locations in this region. The park is actually a lot larger than most Iowans realize – people tend to drive down into the “canyon” and splash about in the stream, not realizing that this area represents only a very small portion of the park. I’ve been visiting the park for many years, and have led photo workshops here since the early 2000s. Depending on what Mother Nature is offering at the park in the days leading up to the workshop, we may or may not even venture into the canyon on this workshop. In other words, if you’re thinking, “I’ve photographed the Ledges before,” but you’ve primarily photographed in the canyon, then no you actually have not photographed the Ledges before. The park offers forest, prairie, lake, and river environments with a large variety of subjects for nature and landscape photography.

Who Should Attend

This workshop is open to photographers using DSLR or Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Cameras, who are already familiar with their camera and its settings. While all skill levels are welcome, this is not a “how to use your new camera” session. That is, we’ll be focused on artistic theory and topics, not trying to figure out how to set spot metering and turn on manual-focus on your particular camera model. For this course, you’ll already want to know how to do these things.

What To Bring

A detailed gear list will be emailed to participants upon registration. Participants will at a minimum want to bring
– a DSLR or Mirrorless camera (required)
– a macro or close-focusing lens
– other lens(es) for landscape photography
– a sturdy tripod (required)
– enough batteries and memory cards for a full day of active photography

You don’t need to go buy, say, a brand-new $1000 ultrawide-angle lens for this workshop. Of course you can do this, if you wish – I’m happy to offer you an excuse to upgrade your gear, and you’ll get good use out of it at this workshop. But almost any lens can be used to photograph landscapes (my own most-used landscape lenses are my 70-200mm zoom and some old prime lenses from the 1970s that I adapt to my mirrorless camera with a $25 adapter).

Food and Drink

Please plan to bring a lunch – we’ll break mid-day to eat together. We’ll also hold a general Q&A session at this time. Bottled water and snacks will be available throughout the day.

Physical Activity Level

This workshop requires moderate physical activity: we will drive to a few general photography locations within Ledges State Park, but will then walk to access the exact area at which we’ll shoot. Participants should be in good enough physical condition to be able to walk carrying their own photographic equipment for up to 200 yards or so at a time, in uneven terrain. Please come prepared with comfortable hiking shoes/boots (or rubber boots if it’s been raining heavily in the days preceding the workshop).

COVID Safety

COVID safety protocols will be emphasized, as we work as a socially-distanced group to photograph throughout the day.

Post-Workshop Image Review

In past years, we debriefed at the end of each workshop day to review and discuss images from the day. Currently, I’m using Zoom to host an image review session from each workshop, a few days after the event. We’ll schedule this during an evening or the weekend following the workshop, giving each participant time to cull, select, and edit some favorite photos from the workshop. We’ll each share a few photos from the day, and I and other participants will provide feedback. This session is included with your workshop registration.

Workshop Date and Time

Saturday, April 23, 2022
Start Time: 8:00am
End Time: 4:30pm


$169 per person, includes instruction, handout, and snacks/water throughout the day.