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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2010-11-11

WORKSHOP DIARIES: Mountain Workshop
'First of all I did not know what exactly a photo-story was…'

By Cooper Neill

First and foremost, I am not a photojournalist… yet.
Photo by Cooper Neill

Photo by Cooper Neill


I am a history major at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. with a passion for photography and stumbled upon the Mountain Workshop website randomly one night. I quickly applied, and heard back the next day saying I had been accepted, and committed to what would become one of the longest weeks of my life.

Tuesday morning, I woke up bright and early to drive from Nashville to Elizabethtown, Ky. where the workshop was being held this year to pick up my story and meet my coach. When I arrived, I was immediately overwhelmed by not only the amount of people in attendance, but also who they were.

The students were broken up into groups consisting of one coach and six to eight “students” which in my case consisted of former University of Montana professor and director of photography at the Portland Oregonian, Patty Reksten, as the coach with three professional photographers/journalists, two photojournalism majors at Western Kentucky University, and myself – the kid who had never taken a photography or journalism class.

As far as my story goes, it was a challenge. First of all I did not know what exactly a photo-story was and for the first day and a half took pictures I thought looked good without any purpose behind them. Patty worked with me on this, telling me repeatedly to “shoot with a purpose” and to capture the emotion of my subject – problem number two.

My subject, a local artist, worked alone in his home studio for around eight hours a day while his wife worked long hours and his two sons had moved out years ago… capturing any emotion was difficult to come by.
Photo by Cooper Neill

Photo by Cooper Neill

The week progressed with shooting features before the sun came up, meeting my subject in the morning, dropping off cards and meeting with my coach around noon, going back to my subject and shooting more features, grabbing Taco Bell on the way back to the headquarters for the night.

Once the students all congregated back at the headquarters we listened to two or three speakers who were all amazing, had large group critiques, which were terrifying, and then small group critiques, which lasted a long time. It is safe to say most students were working on eighteen – twenty hour days… and being cheap, I spent those five or so hours of sleep in my car at the Wal-Mart parking lot.

I continued having problems finding emotion in my subject which was extremely frustrating, but led to the realization that his lack of contact with others is a key part of who he is. Patty and my group continued to teach me the art of creating a photo-story and giving me great feedback on my images.

At the end of the week, I had successfully finished my first ever story, had two images printed, framed, and hung on the wall (out of around thirty), and two other images selected in the top twenty features online.

I learned more than I could have imagined from my coach and group as well as other coaches, students, presenters and faculty. Not only did I come away with a stronger skill set – I left with a new sense of confidence. Having never had anyone look at my work, it was great to have several professionals complement my successes and point out my flaws.

Overall, I could not have asked for a better week!

My story on Rich Griendling can be found here: http://stories.mountainworkshops.org/workshop/2010/slideshow/1317/cooper-neill-family-business/


Cooper Neill is a student at Belmont University. http://www.sportsshooter.com/members.html?id=9155

Contents copyright 2017, SportsShooter.com. Do not republish without permission.
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