Image Explorations 2015: Out of My Comfort Zone

Beautiful vistas, old rusty cars, textures, flowers, birds, settings where the light is just right…that’s what I tend to photograph. That’s my comfort zone. I hadn’t thought too much of this until the first session of my course about fine Art Photography at Image Explorations last month in Shawnigan Lake, B.C. Up until that time I was happy photographing what I liked.

I have attended IE for three years. All of the classes I attended have extended my knowledge and improved my image making. This year’s class was not exception.

Prior to attending IE this summer I felt that I was in a creative funk. I needed a push…actually a big push. It quickly became clear that I had made the right course selection. Our instructor, Laurie Klein, had a very simple message, “For the next few days you are going to be out of your comfort zone.“ That was her message. It set the tone for an in depth, introspective examination of our individual artistic visions and how our images could come to reflect that vision.

To start, each of us presented a set of prints that would be typical of the images we like to make. In mine, Laurie was quick to notice that I don’t photograph people. Certainly, I have many snap shots of family evens, our children, grandchildren and special events. But she was right. In my attempts to make artistic images I have gone out of my way not to include people. That was about to change in a big way.

As Laurie laid out the overview of our deliberations for the week my thoughts that we would be learning to photograph objects and scenes in a ‘more beautiful way’ were quickly dashed. We would be travelling to interesting locations and there we would be making images with live models. That definitely was out of my comfort zone. But when I found that the last session would involve nude models I knew I would be at the farthest edge of my comfort zone. I was reminded of the Allan Funt film, ‘What Do You Say to a Naked Lady.’ Scary!!!

Despite my initial reticence, the shooting sessions went well…even the last session with our nude models. In large part this was due to the skill by which Laurie brought our group together. Daily in depth discussions followed the previous day’s shooting sessions. In these, we presented our best five images from the previous shooting session. ‘I like’ or ‘I don’t like’ comments were discouraged. Rather we discussed our images in terms of our individual vision and how each of us would like to realize that vision in the next shooting session. Comfort zones expanded. It was a very exciting atmosphere.

The setting sun, fabric and a beautiful model...priceless.

The setting sun, fabric and a beautiful model…priceless.

Twelve photographers, male and female, of varying age and photographic experience came together as one. All of us would say that we knew more about ourselves and how better to show that knowledge in the images we made.

Only one word is fitting to describe my experience with Laurie Klein at Image Explorations 2015. “Awesome!”  As I move forward with my photography the question I ask myself, “How do I make my images uniquely mine.” That is my challenge.

This entry was posted in Education.


  1. Rick Thomas August 17, 2015 at 11:12 am #

    You’re moving on. Good on you Stu.

    • Stu Dale August 17, 2015 at 3:09 pm #

      Yes, I am moving on. Thanks!Amazing what a bit of inspiration and discovery can do.

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