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Photographic Tours Seminars &Workshops
by Gary W. Stanley

Photography, unlike other hobbies or vocations, happens to be one of those areas of interest that is able to provide you with more than just the satisfaction of taking a photograph. It affords us the opportunity to travel and to capture a portion of that experience photographically. Even if you have other interests, photography can still be part of the experience. If you like to hike, hunt, bike, vacation, or visit family, you can use photography as an extension of that experience.

The tours and workshops that I have lead over the past ten years have been designed around the photo enthusiast who also loves the outdoors, nature and wildlife. While most of my programs are designed to help any photographer improve their photography, most folks that travel with me are beyond the point and shoot stage. They are usually pretty serious about their photography and want to get some professional assistance while photographing in beautiful locations.

Light Chasers came about as a direct result of my own personal experience. Over the last ten years or so, the original concept of tours and workshops has changed. Workshops provided a classroom environment in a nice photographic setting with an emphasis on learning. Tours were set up with the location and photography as the primary consideration with less emphasis on slide lecture programs.

Today, most attendees are looking for a good mix of both. They want thoughtful instruction, useful tips and an experienced leader who puts the attendee ahead of their own personal photographic needs. They also expect great photographic opportunities. The majority of people on photographic tours these days are seasoned travelers and have come to a tour with high expectations.

There are plenty of tour companies out there, so what does Light Chasers have to offer that sets it above the rest? Well, I believe that we at Light Chasers have a pretty good idea what most of you are looking for in a tour company and the expectations you have for your own photographic experience. To better illustrate my point, let me tell you how we came to be called Light Chasers.

Jim McGee, the editor of Vivid Light Photography and I teamed up last year on a trip to Zion National Park in Utah. Contrary to what you might think, managing editors of photo magazines don't get out much, so this was a nice break for Jim. We were blessed with some fabulous weather for most of the three days that we were there. The day we visited Kolob Canyon, however, was less than ideal. It was overcast and windy, but beautiful just the same. Kolob Canyon is a good hour north of the main portion of Zion National park.

We were set up there hoping the light would improve. I happened to look out toward the southwest and could see some breaks in the clouds. I said Jim, "Let's head back, I think we can catch some good light if we hurry." Jim was driving, and as the passenger (I'm used to driving), I was nervously looking around sensing that the light was changing and knew that I needed to put something in front of this light. With traffic and speed limit considerations, Jim was doing the best he could to get where I thought we needed to be. I was okay with that until we reached highway 9. "Jim, I said, you better get a move on, it's gonna happen." "What's gonna happen?" "The Light, man! The Light!"

Jim understood and picked up the pace. As we got closer to Mount Kinesava, I pointed to a spot just up ahead. We slid to a halt, Jim popped the trunk, and we were shooting in under a minute. "Wow! This is outrageous," I said. The light was unbelievable. Mount Kinesava looked like it was made out of gold. We shot for about fifteen minutes, shooting some other subjects as well. When the light was all gone, we headed back to Springdale for dinner, I looked over at Jim and said, "You know, I feel like those guys who chase tornadoes, what do they call them?" "Storm chasers," Jim said. I was quiet for a few seconds then something clicked in my tiny little brain and my eyes opened wide, "That's it, YES! Light Chasers - that's what we are." Upon arrival back home in New England, I immediately registered the name Light-Chasers as a web site.

Photographers for the most part are looking for that special light. They're also looking for that special experience with the notion that their best shot is still out there. We all know that it doesn't happen every day, but that's okay, life would be pretty boring if it did. What Light Chasers has set out to provide for you is the opportunity to have that experience, and to give you the leadership and instruction your looking for, to help you capture that special moment.

That's great Gary, I can handle that, but be more specific, what will the Light Chaser experience do for me? Well, several things:

1. Great Locations: This seems like a straightforward statement, but it is a little more involved than that. I believe that if you spend most of your time riding in a van or on a bus, you'll quickly become disenchanted with the overall experience. We try to pick destinations that are not only beautiful, but also manageable. We look for locations that don't involve a lot of hiking, or long rides before the next shooting location. We like to keep the excitement going, after all, we are Light Chasers! 

2. Skilled Instructors: One of the most often overlooked areas when selecting a tour or workshop is the instructor. I hate to break this to you, but great photographers with recognizable names don't always provide a pleasant photographic learning experience. If they aren't great teachers who have your needs in mind, you might as well take the trip by yourself. 

3. Knowledgeable Instructors: I lead most of the tours myself and make a point of keeping up with the latest equipment, both digital and traditional camera gear and I have experience with many camera formats and brands. I know how to recognize a problem, fix it and keep you going in the field. While I can't guarantee success in every situation, it is good to know that I won't just tell you to read your manual (even if you should). 

4. Good Food and Lodging: We know too, that good food and clean comfortable lodging are important to you, and Light Chasers certainly tries to provide you with that at a reasonable cost. I've always felt that you shouldn't pay for something you're not going to use. The most lavish hotel and all it's amenities do no service to the serious photographer who is out before sunrise and back after dark. By the same token you won't find me sleeping in tents on the hard ground either. I'm just looking for a nice comfortable bed to get a good nights sleep, knowing that I'll be up early again the next morning, out there trying to be a Light Chaser. I believe most of you are looking for the same thing. 

5. Small groups: Besides great locations and a skilled instructor, we have decided to keep our group size small for a more one-on-one approach. Light Chasers won't do a long caravan of cars. I like the camaraderie and convenience of keeping my groups small and together in one vehicle. I try to keep a group at seven (including driver and assistant) for a minivan, and only ten people in a fifteen-passenger maxi-van, removing the back seat for equipment. 

6. Regional Travel Destinations: Unlike many of the large tour companies out there, we don't do the "Exotic World Destination" trips. I've noticed that after 9/11, we are still quite nervous about traveling. I hope that this will pass and that our sense of security will return. To be very truthful though, I believe we have so many photographic opportunities right here in the US and Canada, that I don't need to travel overseas right now. 

7. Destinations: We currently run tours to many of the national parks: Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, Bryce and Zion, Acadia, and the Smoky Mountains. We do spring and fall foliage tours in my backyard: Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. In winter, we do trips to Florida for birds, Texas for wildflowers and the White Mountains of New Hampshire for snowshoe outings. Because we can't be everywhere at once, we may rotate or choose other locations with similar overlapping dates depending on popularity. As we grow, we will expand on this list I'm sure. 

Grand Tetons, Wyoming

8. Seminars: We are also working on our 2003-2004 city-to-city seminars series where I do an all-day slide lecture and digital program covering many of the subjects and titles that you have read in the pages of Vivid Light Photography. In 2003, we will be doing the seminar called "From Picture To Digital Print" covering and answering your most frequently asked questions about photographic technique, capturing the image both digitally and with film, scanning, working in Photoshop and outputting to your printer.

I hope that you'll join us and give Light Chasers a try. We will be posting schedules and important information soon on the Light Chaser website, and on the Vivid Light Photography site as well.  

Isn't it time you became a
Light Chaser

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