Most of us have considered signing up for one of those high-priced seminars offered in some remote location but usually back out because they're too expensive or too far away or you really don't want to give up a week's vacation to shoot rocks and roots.
The truth is that, if you live in Orange County, there is no better place to learn a lot about photography than in your own back yard.
Enter landscape photographer Larry Vogel, who will be conducting two weekend workshops on "The Fine Art of Black and White Photography" May 19 and July 14 in Huntington Beach and Westminster. The fee is $100 and each workshop is limited to between five and eight students.
Because both technique and inspiration will be discussed, any photographer--beginning, intermediate or advanced--can benefit.
Vogel says the inspirational side is very important but is left out of many seminars. "I have met a lot of people in photography who have the technical side down but their work really lacked that emotional value," he said.
"There is a fine line where that happens, especially in landscape photographs and black-and-white photography. A lot of times the quality only exists in the technical part of the print and there's always more possibilities than most people take advantage of."
The seminar will cover such topics as composition, exposure, a modified zone system (what it can do technically and how it can help you control your vision), film developing and printing controls, making proper proofs, quality printing with burning and dodging, selecting the proper paper grades, archival techniques, the finishing studio, mounting, matting and framing.
The workshop will start on a Friday night at Vogel's house in Westminster, where he will have an introductory critique session.
A shooting session will start Saturday morning at Central Park in Huntington Beach, where the zone system of controlling exposure will be taught using a 4-by-5-inch view camera.
Different techniques of composition will be covered and there will be demonstrations on how to create a mood with your images. Students will then shoot under Vogel's direction.
The subjects on Sunday morning will include darkroom techniques, editing and working toward a final archival-framed print.
"I want to take the finished work in the house and hang it on the wall," Vogel said. "I've had a lot of people ask me at galleries or shows: 'What were you thinking or feeling when you made the photograph? Did it actually look like this?'
"A lot of those questions come up when they see the finished work." Workshop participants "will have gone through the whole process and all those questions will be answered because they were there."
Two weeks after the seminar, each participant will receive an 11-by-14-inch mounted print taken at the park as a remembrance of the workshop.
Vogel has a few tips for those who can't attend the workshop but would like to improve their landscape photographs.
Select the proper light. Look for days with the least contrast or an overcast sky. Early morning or late afternoon are the best times because the film can seldom handle the contrast range that exists on the bright sunny days.
Look at a lot of fine artwork at galleries and museums and learn from others. It will give you a sense of quality and let you know where you stand technically.
Decide what you really want out of photography. Is it going to be a hobby or a career? Realize you will get back whatever you put into it. Nothing happens accidently or by itself. Also, set a photographic goal.
Use fine-grain film with a slow film speed when shooting landscapes where a fast shutter speed isn't a concern. You can produce larger photographs with finer grain and subtler tones.
Use a tripod. It will help you produce sharper images and also slow you down and make you think about your vision.
For information, contact Vogel at (714) 891-6956.
The Photography Column, which runs Saturdays in Orange County Life, is intended to help the serious amateur and weekend shooter. Questions and ideas are encouraged. Write to: Robert Lachman, Chief Photographer, The Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626.