Autumn leaves on forest floor

Past Workshop

Workshop Summary

November 20, 2021 – The Textures of Autumn – Artistry in Nature
Location: Palisades-Kepler State Park (between Cedar Rapids and Mt. Vernon, Iowa).
Start: 8:00am / Concludes 5:00pm
One-Day field nature photography workshop
Main Topics: Creation of visually-stunning photographic art emphasizing the textures and patterns of nature, by learning to see creatively and developing compelling compositions. We’ll employ landscape, macro, and creative techniques, deeply exploring composition and image design, creative exposure, and mood.


A thick forest of barren trees, branches intersecting and tangling. Tree bark descending into a thick carpet of fallen leaves. Sand, stones, and driftwood, covering beaches and sandbars of the meandering Cedar River. Stone faces of rocky cliffs. River water pooled in small inlets. Barren thistle and wildflower stems, bowing and broken after a long growing season. Muted tones, innumerable shades of grey, brown, and beige – yet perhaps a few subtle colors of fall remaining after the brilliant leaves have long since fallen.

These are some of the many subjects we’ll encounter during this workshop, and we’ll work all day creating compelling, artful compositions in the hauntingly beautiful landscape of late fall in the Midwest.

This new workshop event, The Textures of Autumn – Artistry in Nature, will take place at Palisades-Kepler State Park, located 12 miles East of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, near the quaint college town of Mount Vernon. Known for its dense forest, hilly terrain, and long riverbank access to the Cedar River, it’s a beautiful location to photograph any time of year. After the summer-season beachgoers and picnickers have long since left the park for the year, it can be a glorious landscape in which to find solitude.

Or to share with 10 other photographers!

COVID safety protocols will be emphasized, as we work as a socially-distanced group to photograph this beautiful location.

What to Expect

During this workshop we’ll thoroughly explore both the forest hills and the riverbanks, concentrating on the patterns, texture, and natural design of the native landscape. Yes, we’ll cover camera & tripod settings, composition, and exposure to create beautiful landscape, nature “portrait,” and macro images. But this workshop focuses more on the artistry of nature photography – composition, image design, creative exposure techniques, and mood.

Alternating between hands-on shooting and instructional sessions on nature photography topics, we’ll explore several locations within the park, working to build solid nature photography technique – and a robust portfolio of images – for the full day.

Topics covered include both basic and advanced topics of outdoor nature photography, including exposure, selective focus, composition, proper field technique, numerous creative techniques, equipment and gear, and much more.  We’ll also discuss aspects of artistry in photography, including authenticity in your own art.

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. My 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.

What to bring

Photo Gear:

  • A Digital SLR or Interchangeable-lens Mirrorless camera
  • Normal- , wide-angle, and telephoto- lenses, if you have them; a dedicated macro lens if you have one; no worries if your gear is minimal – I’m known to work all day with a single basic focal length.
  • A sturdy tripod (Note: If you do not own a tripod, you will want one, but please contact me before purchasing one! You may also find this article “Tripod 101” by photographer Thom Hogan to be helpful. My advice is generally very similar to Thom’s)
  • A collapsible diffuser or “5-in-1” diffusion/reflector will be helpful (I have some to share)
  • Plenty of media cards for a full day of shooting
  • Plenty of batteries for a full day of shooting. 
  • A rain cover (or small trash liner bag) to cover your camera in case of rain (I’ll show you how to make a camera cover from one, if necessary

Non-Photo Gear

  • Appropriate clothing and safety gear: dress in layers. You’ll probably want long pants and long sleeves due to cool weather and brush for some hours of the day
  • Comfortable shoes or hiking boots – we will walk a lot
  • Rubber hunting boots or waders (optional) – one of the unique features of the Ledges is its streams, and you may find the optimal vantage point to be from ‘in’ the stream
  • A hat to block the sun
  • Sunblock
  • Rain gear – just in case
  • Something to cover your camera/lenses/camera bag in case it rains
  • Plenty of drinking water (snacks and bottled water will be provided, but please also bring water).
  • Your lunch – we’ll eat together in the field

The workshop will be held rain or shine – in fact, often the best nature photography is in the rain!

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

Physical Activity Level

This workshop requires moderate physical activity: we will drive to a few general photography locations within Palisades-Kepler 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.


Palisades-Kepler State Park, near Mount Vernon, Iowa. This beautiful location is 12 miles East of Cedar Rapids on Highway 30, and just 4 miles from the quaint college town of Mount Vernon. Both towns have hotels. The Eastern Iowa Airport is nearby. Palisades-Kepler is a 2-hour drive from Des Moines.

Exact meeting location, maps, and details, will be emailed to registrants prior to the workshop. Additionally, a liability waiver will be sent to all participants at registration – a signed returned liability form will be required from each participant prior to the workshop.

Post Workshop Image Review

In many of my past workshops, we debriefed at the end of the workshop day – or went into town over lunch – to review and discuss images together. Due to the current pandemic, we won’t do this at this time. Instead, I’ll host an optional 90-minute Zoom call the next day, Sunday, November 21, during which participants can share and discuss their top 3 images of the day. This ‘next day’ feature will allow some time to cull and select some favorites to share.

Workshop Date and Time
Saturday, November 20, 2021
Start Time:
8:00 am
End time: 4:00pm

Cost: $169 per person. Register and pay securely [closed].