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Creative Core April 15 - 19, 2019 | View other workshops

Great Smoky Mountains with Charles Cramer and Tillman Crane

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In April, Great Smoky Mountains National Park comes alive with the elegant rebirth of spring in the Appalachian mountains on the border between Tennessee and North Carolina. Redbud and dogwood trees bloom, fragile new pale-green leaves emerge, and fog brings simplicity to the chaotic the forest backdrop. This is without question one of the gems of the National Park system, and along with neighboring Blue Ridge Parkway it represents the highlight of Appalachia. Offering easy to a wide range of opportunities from expansive landscapes to intimate designs, it's one of our favorite outdoor photographic "classrooms," visiting midweek in spring means no crowds in this, the most visited park in the entire National Park System.

Your instructors are two of the most highly regarded – and down to earth – fine art photographers working today: Charles Cramer and Tillman Crane. Working in digital color and black & white platinum-palladium processes respectively, both are renowned as master print makers and natural teachers.

Charles is a masterful artist renowned for landscape photographs that derive their power from their elegant composition and gentle calm. He has returned again and again to Appalachia over the years to draw inspiration from its atmospheric interplay of light, mist, and elegant graphics. Garnering rave reviews whenever he teaches, Charlie enjoys nothing more than sharing his insights, creativity, and craftsmanship with other passionate photographers in an effort to help them refine their own vision.

Tillman's motto is, "Great photographs can be made in ordinary places." His distinctive platinum photographs combine 19th-century materials with a 21st century aesthetic. A former photojournalist turned artist, he loves Great Smoky National Park and Appalachia in general for its combination of nature and fascinating human history. Tillman has been teaching the art and craft of photography for three decades, and his passion for the artform continues to evolve as he embraces modern digital technology while simultaneously furthering his mastery of the platinum/palladium print. The focus of his imagery remains on the unique qualities of light and sense of place in the ordinary, everyday locations where he lives and teaches.

This all-inclusive workshop will be based at Highland Manor Inn, in the village of Townsend, Tennessee, the quietest of the three "gateway" communities accessing the park. This base of operations provides excellent access to field locations. Along with eight field sessions, Charlie and Tillman will present projected lectures on composition, light, exposure control, anticipating and working through changing conditions, and essentials of digital image development. A minimum of two constructive critique sessions will provide essential feedback on images created by participants in the workshop.

Click "read more" below right for more information...

This Creative Core workshop deals heavily with developing creativity and visualizing compositions, with a great deal of photography in the field. Creative Core workshops are general outdoor photography workshops designed to expose participants to the full creative toolbox, but the emphasis of individual participants' work is up to them. Whether they wish to focus on classic landscape, abstraction, color, black and white, HDR, panoramics, multiple exposures, or all of the above, any enthusiastic photographer will feel right at home in this workshop. Together, Charlie and Tillman have over 75 years of combined experience successfully accommodating a range of experience levels within the context of photographic workshops.

In advance of the session, we supply materials to get everyone up to speed with fundamentals of digital camera set-up and technique, as well as essential equipment recommendations, recommended packing list, and other guidelines to ensure that everyone is ready to make the most of the experience. Users of film are of course welcome to join the workshop, though in order to participate in critiques they will need to either bring digital files or prints of existing work.

Note: This workshop is operated under National Park Service Commercial Use Authorization.

Charles Cramer

After spending seven years of college studying classical piano, Charles Cramer visited Yosemite National Park, and soon realized he wanted out of those tiny practice rooms!  Realizing the similarities between interpreting music and interpreting a negative, he soon became enamored with making prints. Thirty years later, he is recognized as a master landscape photographer and printmaker, first for his darkroom-based dye transfer printing, and for the last several years in digital processes.  In 1987 and again in 2009, Cramer was selected by the National park Service to be an artist-in-residence in Yosemite. 

He has taught workshops since 1988 for the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite. His Spring and Fall workshops there fill almost instantly.  He has also taught for the Palm Beach workshops in Florida, Anderson Ranch workshops in Colorado, and the John Sexton Workshops in California.

Cramer has been profiled in magazines including Outdoor Photographer, PhotoVision, View Camera, PhotoTechniques,  Outdoor Photography (UK), Camera Natura (Sweden),  and Popular Photography (China). His work has been published by National Geographic Books, Sierra Club, and the Yosemite Association.  He is also included in the books  “Landscape: The World’s Top Photographers,” published in 2005, and “First Light: Five Photographers Explore Yosemite’s Wilderness,” published in 2009.   His work can be seen at many galleries and at  

Praise for Charlie Cramer's teaching style:

"Charlie couldn't have been better. He's a gifted teacher - gentle - helpful - makes subject matter clear” –Tom U., California

"Charles is a brilliant instructor. He is organized, precise and thoughtful in approach.” –Woody S., Colorado

“Everything exceeded my expectations, exponentially!” –Julie J., Oregon

"Charlie is a national treasure as a photographer and an instructor.” –Kerby S., California

"That Charlie Cramer is a superb teacher is well known and firmly established. 
What is less well known perhaps is a crucial and distinguishing core element in Charlie's teaching: he makes it possible for people to make their own pictures, however differing in style and subject from his own work, and to make those pictures better.” –Jed W., California

Tillman Crane

Great photographs can be made in ordinary places.

My photographs are always about the elusive qualities of light. Regardless of the subject – stone, tree, building, machine, or object – it is the light that I am really trying to capture. I can be fascinated by an object and try to photograph it, but if the light is not right, the image doesn’t work.

My job as a teacher is to help you find how you relate to what you are photographing, to find the light that makes your images work the way you want them to, to help you create images that tell your viewers how you feel about the environment you are working in. I want to help you find your vision, not copy some one else’s vision. It doesn’t matter what camera you have in your hands, it is what is going on between your ears that is important.

Tillman Crane, an award winning photojournalist in East Tennessee, began his teaching career in 1988 at the Maine Photographic Workshops. As Resident Faculty he taught over 60 one and two week workshops as well as teaching in the year round Resident Program. He earned his MFA from the University of Delaware in 1990 while teaching at the Workshops. In 1996 he began the photography program at the Waterford School in Sandy Utah. In 2001 he and his family returned to Maine where he founded Tillman Crane Photography where he produces exhibition quality platinum prints, teaches his own workshops and has published four books of his work.


Tillman worked with large format cameras and recently has embraced the digital world. He now works in both the analogue and digital world, producing beautiful platinum prints from both analogue and digital capture. He turns his attention to man made structure in the environment, from the Stenness Standing Stones in Orkney to farm houses in North Dakota, and along the Maine Coast.


He has taught workshops in Mexico, Scotland, England, Canada, China, and Japan as well as over 100 workshops in the USA. He has taught for Maine Media Workshops, Santa Fe Workshops, Peters Valley School of Craft, Coupeville Art Center, and Inversnaid Photography Center.


He is a well know writer on the craft of photography with articles appearing in Photo Technique, Silver Shotz, the Ilford Photo Instructor Newsletter and twenty articles for View Camera Magazine. In 2001 Tillman Crane/Structure was published, followed by TOUCHSTONES, Odin Stone, and A Walk along the Jordan. Structure is a monograph of 25 year of large format black and white work. A TOUCHSTONE is a visual poem to Scotland published in 2005, and Odin Stone is photographic essay about the Orkney Islands. A Walk Along the Jordan celebrates the rebirth of the Jordan River as it runs from Utah Lake to the Great Salt Lake thru metropolitan Salt Lake City. Each book has been accompanied by an exhibition of platinum prints.


In 2016, the exhibition The Alchemy of Light opened at the National Art Museum of China in Beijing. It was a retrospective that included 100 large platinum prints, including work from all four books as well as new work. It was the largest exhibition of American platinum prints in China. There was also a book produced to accompany the exhibition, The Alchemy of Light.


In addition to solo exhibitions and books Tillman work has been included in numerous book collections including, Maine Photography , A History, by L. Bischof, S, Danley, and E. Shuttleworth Jr. 2016; Looking at Images, Brooks Jensen, Lenswork Publishing; 2014; The View Project, Seventy Photographers Reflect on Meaning and Perception, Ed Joyce Tennyson, 2011, Why Photographs Work, by George Barr, 2011; and Le radici dello sguardo (The roots of the Eye), Edizioni Marcovldo, Il Filatoio, Caraglio, 2013.



  • The quiet of the park's off-season, featuring the spectacular photographic potential of spring conditions
  • Eight field photography sessions, maximizing opportunities to work in magic hour light, and atmospheric morning fog
  • Generous expert instruction, focused on advancing participants' photography
  • Composition and creativity
  • Working the scene through changing conditions and light
  • Understanding and using various qualities of light to best effect
  • Exposure and tonal control
  • Essentials of digital image development
  • Two projected group critique sessions
  • Easy fly-in access from Knowville's McGhee Tyson Airport, about thirty minutes away

Accommodations & Travel


Package includes single-occupancy lodging, all meals, snacks and beverages, including adult beverages with dinner. Prorated fees are available for double occupancy and for those who do not require lodging. Highland Manor Inn in Townsend, Tennessee is a very comfortable, quiet, and welcoming accommodation just outside the park. It provides an excellent classroom space, easy access to excellent photographic locations, and several restaurants where group meals will be hosted.

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The closest airport is Knoxville's McGhee-Tyson (TYS), about a half-hour drive from our accommodations in Townsend, Tennessee We will carpool to field locations no more than an hour from our hotel. Access to locations on foot is easy. April weather is always changing, ranging from sunny to foggy to overcast to rainy, with highs ranging from the 60s to 80s (Fahrenheit), and lows from the 30s to the 60s.