Spain Photography Workshop with Joe Baraban

May 2019 – I am fortunate to have the opportunity of spending about 2 weeks in Spain attending a photography workshop lead by my photography mentor Joe Baraban ( Fellow photographer Stephanie Cuneo ( and I arrived in Spain a few days early and joined Joe in scouting all of the shooting locations in advance of the other participants to make sure that there are no surprises after the many months of planning. As is par for the course, there were a couple of unexpected situations and Joe along with his producer Katka made the necessary adjustments to the schedule.

Even though scouting takes a lot of time and we may not be at a location at the best times of the day for shooting photographs, I enjoy it very much because it helps me to start “seeing-like-a-photographer” again. It also helps me to learn the best methods for planning, organizing and conducting my own photo walks and workshops.

Stephanie and I usually team up. She is a wonderful photographer and is very much “right brain” – fantastic creativity. I, on the other hand, am very much left brain (technical), and use this time to exercise my right brain – knocking the rust off. Since I have been teaching so much lately and shooting events rather than for my portfolio/exhibitions, it takes me a little bit of time to “see the light”, but it does comeback quickly.

The first batch of photos are from scouting: practicing and shooting because film is cheap. (-: Not necessarily photos that I would exhibit but wanted to share them so that you would get an idea of how I prepare myself for making photographs that I would exhibit and sell. When teaching or presenting my work, I often only show my BEST photographs leaving out all of the images that lead up to the good ones. Here, you will get a sense for some of the pre-work. All of these were taken at times of the day that may not have been best for great images, but often when traveling you may not have control over when you are in different locations. So, the goal is to make the best image possible using your elements of visual design and composition. I took about 500 images which resulted in the 24 below. Often bracketing.

I will be adding more images as the workshop continues. Click an image to view the slide show.

The workshop starts tomorrow 5/19/2019 with the meet and greet tonight. At the first critique of the workshop, each participant presents 5 images representative of their work. Since Joe has been my mentor for a while, he has seen most of my great shots. And, since I have not been shooting lately for my portfolio/exhibits (that is about to change!) I have a significant challenge in finding 5 that I would present tomorrow. So, I choose 7. (-: Here they are:

  • Photos 1 – 3: 2019 Boston Marathon including Women’s Elite winner Worknesh Degefa of Kenya.
  • Truck: Grapeland, TX
  • Photos 5 – 7: San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

May 19: Camera settings – in my Basic Digital Photography Class I share my “walking around settings”. I want to make sure that I don’t miss a shot, so I use Aperture Priority, ISO 400, F8 and let the camera set the shutter speed. I find that my camera needs to be set with an exposure compensation of -1 stop for bright sun-shinny days. The danger is in becoming complacent about how the camera’s light meter is reacting to the lighting and subjects. When you look on the back of the LCD the shots may look OK, but that image may not always accurate. Keep in mind that the image on the LCD is a processed JPEG image and many LCDs adjust to ambient light. Also, if you have gradient glasses on, that will affect what you see. Also it is important to keep in mind where your camera was pointed when you took the shot. If it is pointed at a bright spot of the image, then the whole image will be darker. If it is pointed at a bright spot in the image, then the whole image will be brighter. After walking around for about an hour, I switched over to 100% manual mode and my photographs were exposing much better. Now that some of the dust is brushed off, I will stay in manual mode most of the time. In bright sunlight with my camera (Canon 5D MK IV), I will shoot -2/3 to -1 stop under what the light meter is telling me. Always easier to bring up the dark and the shadows than shooting too bright. I will also often bracket too.

May 21 – The workshop has been quite intense.  Lots of hours and lots of opportunities for great shots.  The actual first day of the workshop (Sunday) consisted of shooting in an open air flea market in Madrid.  The market offers a wide range of opportunities for great shots but also a lot of challenges.  Since we were there in the morning, the light was strong and harsh.  The light was not necessarily where I would have wanted it.  There were lots of people milling around and the space was a little bit cramped.  Since I was still trying to switch my thinking from teaching to “see like a photographer, making (not taking) photographs, I resorted to the tried and true approach of “find the light and then find the image within the light”.  That worked and I think I got some nice shots. Monday and Tuesday included shooting at the Royal Palace, the old section of Madrid called Lavapies, Retiro Park including the Crystal Palace at blue hour, more market areas, and a couple of hours shooting with Flamenco dancers and guitarists, which was fantastic.  Now that I have been shooting for about a week now, I finally feel as though I am back in to the swing of things.  I am shooting 100% in manual mode all of the time.  It is giving me much more control creating images in all types of situations.  I am not using my typical walk around settings because the light has been consistent, not changing much as I am shooting.  I have been mostly using my 24 – 105mm lens on a full frame camera.  The elements of visual design and composition are my tools in creating the images.  The critiques have been invaluable.  We review a total of 60 images each session.   I am learning a lot not only from the critique of my images, but also of those of every other participant.  Following are images from the last couple of days. Minimal editing in these images. Haven’t had time to work on them yet. (-:

June 14: The workshop is over and it has taken me about 2 weeks to detox. (-: Visiting locations, shooting photographs, preparing for and attending critiques, and squeezing in fun resulted in long days. Spain is wonderful. The people are wonderful. The food is wonderful. The weather was wonderful. And the workshop was wonderful. I learn so much from Joe each workshop and I learn a ton from watching, observing and critiquing each other’s photographs. Joe’s ability to “see” is absolutely amazing. That’s what I learned the most, again. The execution of taking an image is fairly straight forward though challenging at times, but the ability to “see” a great image in your mind and then capture it on “film” is truly a creative art form. I returned with 4,500 images and have been wading through them. About 1,100 of those were taken in 2 hours at the Casa Patsas Flamenco Dance School in Madrid. Dancers, guitarists, and singers showed up in full costume and were more than willing models. The lighting was extremely challenging since some of it was “stage lighting” and not all that bright. Fortunately, there was some great window light which I was able to take advantage of. I also got to play a little Blues guitar with the Flamenco Guitarists on nylon strings… Here are some of my better shots.

I will post more images and info as I go through them with some tidbits.