This is the fourth Road Scholar (Elderhostel) program we have attended focusing on photography. We've enjoyed scenic spots in the Texas Hill Country, Maine seacoast and the fall colors around Lake Winnepausaukee. Our instructor here who makes his living as a scenic photographer for Arizona Highways magazine is the best we've had so far. He knows what he's talking about and is able to explain it in a way we all can follow. For most of his career he hauled around a huge camera that shot 4x5 inch negatives and a huge tripod. Each shot cost $5 and he learned to compose and consider all the variables carefully before he pressed the shutter. These careful habits carry over to these digital times and he advocates leaving the camera on manual and choosing the shutter speed and ISO. This seems a bit of overkill to us since today's cameras are so sophisticated, but our fellow classmates are the most camera literate group we've been with and they appear to be soaking up his wisdom like sponges.
After a morning of serious instruction complemented by wonderful photographs, we headed to McDonald Ranch to put what we've learned into practice. Although is has stopped raining, the sky was mostly overcast and I had a hard time getting motivated in the somber light. After wandering around for a while, we had a freshly prepared meal which we ate around the camp fire. As the sun went down it got quite cold and I was glad I brought mittens and parka, even though taking photographs with mittens on can be a real challenge. A few breaks in the clouds allowed the sun to flash through briefly, but inevitably is was not behind that picturesque cactus I wanted to photograph. The forecast promises lmprovement throughout the week. We are not too frustrated since we intend to be in the desert for the next few weeks and will have plenty of chances to capture it all, but most of our fellow scholars came here for the warmth and will be heading home again when the workshop is over.