Visionary Wild, LLC • 2200 19th St. NW, Ste 806, Washington, DC 20009
E-mail: email@example.com • Tel: 1-202-558-9596 (9am to 6pm, EST). • Justin Black’s iPhone: 1-202-302-9030
We look forward to hearing from you!
Frequently (and not-so-frequently) asked questions… We’d love to hear from you if your questions aren’t answered below.
Visionary Wild offers four types of experiences as part of our scheduled program: Creative Core, Advanced, and Vision Workshops, and Expeditions. Each is designed with specific goals and expectations of participants. Our workshop descriptions provide some detail about topics to be covered and recommended level of experience. Of course, since no one is issuing black-belts in photography, "level" is subjective and hard to define. If you have any
questions at all about whether you will feel at home in a given workshop, please let us know. We are more than happy to chat with you and to help match you to the experience that will be most rewarding to you.
Creative Core Workshops (two instructors, 10–15 participants)
These four or five-day programs for up to 15 participants deal heavily with composition, working with different qualities of light, exposure control, essential gear and creative tools, fundamentals of digital workflow, and introduction to digital exposure blending and stitching. It's an intense schedule of photography in the field followed by projected lectures, constructive group critiques, and discussion. These are outdoor photography workshops, and the emphasis of any individual participants' work is up to them, whether they wish to focus on landscape, macro, wildlife, abstraction, color, black and white, HDR, panoramics, multiple exposures, or all of the above. Any enthusiastic photographer will feel right at home in a Creative Core workshop. In our experience, most participants at this level are solid intermediates with a couple relative beginners and a few advanced photographers thrown in the mix. We have over a decade of experience successfully accommodating a range of experience levels – make that over a century of combined experience when our instructors are included.
Very often, we are amazed by the way in which the beginners teach the advanced students a thing or two about unrestrained creative openness and serendipity, while the expertise of the more advanced students can be a welcome resource for the rest of the class. We supply materials in advance of the session to get newcomers up to speed with basics having to do with digital camera set-up and techniques, essential equipment recommendations, and other guidelines to ensure that everyone is ready to make the most of the experience.
Advanced Workshops (two instructors, 10–12 participants)
Our Advanced workshops offer the next step for those who feel they are photographing competently, with a good grasp on the technical fundamentals of digital cameras, exposure, essential tools, and a functioning digital workflow, and who are ready to focus on more specialized areas of study. These might include visual storytelling, developing personal style, advanced digital techniques, dedicated wildlife photography, fine digital printing, shooting for conservation campaigns, targeting a participant's work to specific markets, or intensive fieldwork with a planned outcome, such as an exhibit or book.
Vision Workshops (three instructors, 10 participants)
These intensive, small-group, four-day workshops with John Shaw, Jack Dykinga, and Justin Black feature a dual focus, first on field work aimed specifically at developing your vision to a higher plane of creativity to find unexpected and overlooked compositions and, second, on mastering a smart, logical, and comprehensive digital workflow from RAW image capture in the field to a final master file ready for output as a fine print. Vision workshops are open to photographers who are competent with the essentials of composition and exposure control, very comfortable with their equipment, and familiar with a basic digital workflow.
Expeditions (two or three instructors, 5–10 participants*)
Expeditions are about photography with a purpose. From one to three weeks in duration, usually international, they feature an emphasis on field work in optimal conditions. We help those who are interested in finding outlets for their work to photograph with particular applications in mind. These may include gallery exhibition, magazine publication, a book, a conservation-oriented public awareness campaign, a blog, etc. Participants are expected to be competent photographers, familiar with their equipment and digital workflow. To ensure that instruction can be maintained at a high level throughout, Expeditions are for advanced photographers or intermediates who learn fast.
* Most groups number 5 to 10 participants. Some trips may accommodate larger groups well.
Drawn from among the very best photographers working today, all of our instructors are highly experienced professionals with bona fide career track records including diverse and extensive assignment, publication, and exhibition histories. Their professional credentials are just the starting point, however, as every one has been selected for his or her excellence as a teacher and expedition leader, professionalism and a gregarious nature, and generosity as a mentor. Every one of them is simply a good person and a pleasure to spend time with. Each has certain specialties and strengths in particular, of course, some of which may be gleaned from their biographies and portfolios. If you would like personalized guidance in choosing an instructor, we encourage you to contact us to discuss matching you to the instructor who will best suit your photographic goals.
Visionary Wild workshops and expeditions are typically packaged inclusive of single-occupancy lodging, all meals, and all beverages, including wine and beer at dinner. Many include transportation during the session. Here's a breakdown of what to expect:
Lodging: The accommodations we select are chosen to best serve the goals of the program in question. In some cases, this could mean a world-class luxury resort that provides exclusive access to a location. In others, it could mean a well-located and beautifully renovated historic hacienda or chateau featuring modern amenities. When overnighting in wilderness areas, we camp out under the stars. It all depends on the scenario that best facilitates the photography we have come to do and the format of the experience. Most of our programs feature accommodation in highly regarded lodges or hotels (typically ranging from two-star to as high a five-star), selected for their high standard of customer service, comfort, and responsiveness to our particular needs.
Since a majority of our participants prefer single-occupancy lodging, our programs are generally packaged and priced that way by default (though prorated fees for double occupancy are usually available). This is in contrast to most of our competitors, who generally do not include lodging or list a price based on double occupancy that requires payment of a single supplement.
Meals: We feel that group meals are a critical part of the experience, and as with all that we do, we take good care of our clients in this respect. Meal times and formats are subject to the particulars of each workshop or expedition, but we always provide breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Depending on our photographic goals and what the itinerary permits, we will either offer a sit down breakfast or continental breakfast on the go. Lunches are typically catered by local delis or similar eateries, and dinners are usually fine dining at high-quality restaurants and bistros.
Beverages: We do our best to keep our clients well hydrated both for their health and comfort, but also to to keep their energy levels up and minds sharp. At our nature photography workshops, we typically have a support vehicle carrying water, juice, and soda into the field. Arrangements are made to keep classrooms stocked with coffee, juices, iced water, and soft drinks. Beverages are of course included at all meals, and at dinners, beer and wine are on us.
Transportation: Some Workshops and all Expeditions are packaged inclusive of transportation during the session itself, beginning at an initial meeting point in the area. Please see each program's webpage for details.
Yes, every participant will be supplied with a recommended reading list prior to each workshop, and the list will include selections targeted to the focus of the workshop. We even provide, in advance and as part of the package, reading materials that we consider particularly useful for a given session.
We happily accommodate and welcome participants' guests who are traveling with them during workshops when we can, to a limited extent, and with certain restrictions. It is typically not possible to accommodate non-participant guests on expeditions. Click the "more" tab for details.
Many of our clients travel to workshops in the company of their spouse, a family member, or friend, and we do everything we can to welcome and accommodate them, short of gratis participation in the workshop, involvement that negatively impacts the experience of our clients, or provision of services, meals, etc. at Visionary Wild expense (except on occasions when VW explicitly invites one guest per participant to be our guests at a meal, as we sometimes do).
Lodging: At most workshops where single-occupancy lodging is included as part of the package, one additional guest may stay in the participant's room at no extra cost. If there is any additional cost to Visionary Wild for lodging, transportation, or anything else due to the presence of the non-participant guest, that cost is the responsibility of the hosting participant.
Meals: During workshops, we are also often able to accommodate one guest per participant at some meals (most commonly at dinner, and particularly with advance notice so we can include them in reservations), though the guest or hosting participant would be responsible for arranging to pay separately for the guest's meals and drinks. Participants wishing to dine with larger numbers of non-participant friends or family should plan to do so apart from the group, which may simply mean at the next table.
In the Field: Non-participant guests are also welcome to be present at field locations (except in circumstances of access requiring special permits, restricted capacity, the services of a guide, special group transportation, etc.). Note that we don't say that non-participants are welcome to join our field sessions per se, but if we are visiting a public place, they are welcome to be there at the same time.
That said, we do have a few guidelines that we ask are followed out of courtesy to the other participants:
Note regarding participants with special needs: Special accommodations can typically be made for participants who require a non-participant personal assistant due to disability or other factors beyond their control, though all costs associated with the assistant's presence are the responsibility of the participant in question. Please contact us to discuss arrangements prior to booking.
That’s about it. In a perfect world, we would prefer not to have to set rules, but experience has taught us that it is best to do so for the benefit of the overall group workshop experience.
For each workshop or expedition, we provide guidelines for what you'll need in terms of apparel, footwear, outerwear, and the like. In general, however, we like to dress in relatively lightweight layers that compress and pack compactly – cotton when it's hot and dry, a mix of synthetics and cotton when it's hot and wet, and synthetics or wool when it's cold and wet. Of course, this is subjective and a matter of personal preference to some degree. We always
recommend sunglasses, and hats for warmth and/or shade. Fleece gloves for chilly mornings, a bandana for wind in sandy area, but don't overdo it unless you are driving to the workshop. You'll need the baggage space for your photo gear. The key thing is to think twice before packing anything.
Footwear should be suitable to provide support and good footing on rugged, uneven terrain. Depending on your personal foot and ankle support needs and the predominant weather conditions we'll face, this could mean lightweight trail running shoes, rock climber's "approach" shoes (Five-Ten makes great ones), lightweight waterproof hiking boots, or more heavy-duty hiking boots. In some cases, sport sandals or Keens may be the way to go. Please feel free to contact us if you are uncertain how to pack.
Yes! We have a great deal of experience organizing special one-on-one training, custom workshops, and expeditions. Whether it’s private guiding to make the most of photographic opportunities at exciting locations around the world, working in the field to refine specialized techniques and vision, hands-on training in Photoshop and digital workflow skills, or a workshop for a select group of friends with personalized set of instructors, we can and will put together an excellent program for you. The photographers we collaborate with are exceedingly well-traveled, so when you desire a private professional guide (or two) for your dream trip, we can accommodate you. Please contact us to discuss details.
Absolutely! We would be happy to have a chat about your goals and provide some suggestions.
Yes. Unless you will be using film cameras exclusively during the workshop (which is fine, by the way), you will need a laptop computer with software suitable to download, edit, and adjust images. We recommend Adobe Lightroom or Apple Aperture, but some combination of Photo Mechanic or Adobe Bridge, and a recent version of Adobe Photoshop or Photoshop Elements will do the trick. Make sure you've updated whatever software you will use to convert RAW
image files to ensure that it will work with your camera (especially if you are using a camera that you aren't yet familiar with).
NIK Software plugins are excellent resources and fun to play with too. You may find that they become an essential solution for certain technical challenges and aesthetic preferences.
Make sure you bring your charger with wall plug and a card reader appropriate for the type of memory cards used by your camera. A USB flash drive can be helpful in a workshop context as well. External portable hard drives (primary plus backup) are a really good idea.
We supply a list of equipment recommendations for every session, but please feel free to contact us with any lingering questions.
Lenses are at the discretion of the photographer. However, here are some general guidelines for different types of photography. The lens focal lengths mentioned below assume a 35mm format as found in "full-frame" digital SLRs. You may need to refer to your camera's manual for the conversion multiplier.
Also, some of the specialty optics described below are very expensive and may only be useful to you for specific trips or projects. When you have short term need for specialty lenses, we recommend renting. Lensrentals.com provides a discount to Visionary Wild clients and offers a vast selection of lenses and cameras of various makes.
Landscape: 20mm to 200mm. We could shoot landscapes happily forever with nothing more than that (even 24mm to 135mm does a splendid job most of the time), but wider and longer is fine. Perspective control (tilt-shift) lenses like Nikon's extraordinary PC-E series are excellent for landscape work, so long as they help you find solutions to make the images you want, rather than imposing unnecessary complexity into the process – this is personally subjective.
Macro: Longer is almost always better in the macro world. If you have a 180mm or 200mm macro, use it. Otherwise a 105mm macro, or 70-200 zoom with extension tubes or a quality accessory close up lens will do the trick.
Wildlife: For serious wildlife photography, a versatile and super-sharp solution is the 200-400mm f/4 zoom. Add teleconverters and/or a "crop-format" camera to extend the range for smaller, shyer species, and this lens becomes incredibly versatile. Otherwise, a 500mm f/4 is a good compromise of focal length, size, weight, and speed. 600mm f/4 lenses are beasts that are difficult to carry and travel with, but they serve their purpose in the right situation. Of course, if you can find clever ways to make intimate, close-up photographs of truly wild animals (without stressing them) using lenses in the wide to short telephoto range, you are entering the realm of the very best wildlife photographers.
Cultural documentary (AKA travel and people): 20mm to 200mm. Keep your kit relatively lightweight, simple, and compact, and leave the big glass at home. Get close with your feet, not with your longest lens. As one of our instructors says, "At least keep it under 200mm!" Image stabilized lenses are great as tripods are often less practical in this type of work.
Filters: In the film days, we carried lots of filters to control color casts, black and white film contrast, extreme variations in brightness in a composition, etc. With digital cameras, the only filter that could be considered a necessity across photographic genres is the circular polarizer. Unlike virtually any other filter, the effect can't be replicated in digital cameras or in the computer. Graduated neutral-density filters are still useful to control areas of different brightness in some situations, as are standard neutral density filters that cut back light universally, forcing longer exposures or allowing the use of wide-open apertures in bright light. When selecting screw-in filters we recommend getting the size that matches the largest diameter among your lenses, and using step-up rings to adapt the filter to the others.
At the end of the day, keep in mind that lenses and filters are only tools to help you achieve your vision. They don't make photographs – photographers do. As always, please feel free to contact us with questions.
The simple answer is that we recommend the camera that you are comfortable working with and that will help you to achieve your photographic goals. For most of the photographers we work with these days, this means a digital SLR or digital medium format camera, simply because these offer the most flexibility and creative control for your
photography. Compared to compact digital cameras, they tend to offer the best image quality, the best low light performance, and the greatest range of lenses and accessories, which is useful if you wish to pursue a range of genre from wide-angle landscape to life-size macro to wildlife portraits with long telephotos.
That said, we have seen some more advanced students use digital point and shoot cameras to stunningly good effect (though this was after learning to control their craft using SLRs), and some of the latest mirrorless systems are interesting and very compact. As long as you can shoot in RAW mode, you can use it, if it is the camera you like to use.
Film cameras are absolutely welcome at Visionary Wild workshops. If you are a large format landscape photographer or enjoy shooting Tri-X with your Hasselblad, we will happily share our decades of film expertise with you. We do not arrange for film processing during workshops, however, so film users will only be able to participate in critique sessions only if they bring a portfolio of digital image files or a box of prints.
Please feel free to contact us about the specifics of your gear situation and suitability for the session you are interested in joining.
Yes. All workshops and Expeditions will involve at least some short hikes ranging from half a mile to two miles round trip, and on occasion these may involve fairly steep sections. You’ll want to be comfortable carrying your photo gear on trail and working on rugged terrain. Some more advanced sessions may involve longer hikes, which will be addressed in the description for the workshop in question. If you have any fitness or health concerns, please feel free to contact us to discuss whether you’ll be comfortable participating in a particular experience.
Yes, we supply a list of required equipment and recommended equipment for every workshop and expedition.
We understand that life and busy schedules can be unpredictable, and that on occasion a conflict may arise that forces a client to cancel their participation in a workshop or expedition. We endeavor to extend every courtesy to accommodate cancellations and full refund, but due to the significant costs incurred in advance and commitments that we have to make to package our sessions, we have to implement a sliding refund scale based on the amount of time we are left with to attempt to fill a vacancy.
If a client must cancel a reservation and Visionary Wild is notified at least 90 days prior to the start date of the session in question, Visionary Wild offers a full refund of all deposits and fees paid toward the session in question. If we are notified of the reservation cancellation between 90 and 60 days prior to the start date, we refund up to 75% of the total cost of the session being cancelled, and we retain 25% of the total retail price (if only a 50% deposit has been paid toward the session, we refund 50% of that deposit amount). Between 60 and 30 days prior to the start date, we refund 50% of the total cost of the session (if only a 50% deposit has been paid by this time, that deposit is forfeit).
In any case, Visionary Wild will, as a matter of courtesy, provide a full refund to the canceling client if the session in question is ultimately sold out at the time of the start date.
In the event that Visionary Wild is forced to cancel a workshop or expedition, we will of course provide a full refund of any deposits or fees paid to Visionary Wild by the client in question. Visionary Wild is not responsible for, and will not be held liable for, any expenses incurred by the client in relation to planned participation in a cancelled Visionary Wild workshop or expedition, including, without limitation, costs of travel, passports, visas, photographic or computer equipment, software, apparel, luggage, or supplies.
Please feel free to contact us with any questions you may have about our policies.