Access to exotic L-Series lenses, the ability to shoot with the best camera bodies available, the means to print images from a high-end printer – sounds awesome, right? How about a professional wildlife photographer at your disposal and a technical staff at your beck and call to answer your gear questions? Add breathtaking landscapes and beautiful wildlife to photograph until your cards fill up and you have a Canon Live Learning EOS Destination Workshop!
As a Technical Specialist for Canon USA, my responsibilities sometimes include providing support for photographers with their camera equipment at various events. This event was a Canon Live Learning EOS Destination Workshop held at the Triple D Game Farm in Kalispell, MT with Lewis Kemper, a 30+ year professional wildlife and nature photographer.
This workshop had the makings of a trip of a lifetime. We spent three days photographing a variety of animal species at the Triple D Game Farm, a ranch located in Kalispell, MT whose main business is to provide animals for cinematography and photography purposes. We made plans to do some landscape photography and, as it went, we added a little extra something at the end.
The workshop started with a very nice meet-and-greet dinner with the attendees where pleasantries were exchanged, and we all got to know each other a little bit. I made a very interesting observation at dinner: there were a wide variety of people with different photography backgrounds, from all across the country, from all walks of life. It doesn’t matter what you do, where you are from, or what you know; you can fit in at an EOS Destination Workshop.
After dinner, there was an impromptu get together at the hotel fireplace to go over some camera settings, confirm the latest firmware versions were installed in cameras, and a quick hands-on tutorial on back-button focusing.
A very early wake up call was required, as Triple D sets up the shoots at certain locations according to the animals planned. The small size of the group ensured that there would be plenty of personal attention from Lewis, myself, and Danielle, the other Canon representative, who planned and executed a perfect four days for the attendees. After a short drive, Lewis gave a quick lesson on exposure and discussed his thoughts on camera settings for the scene.
Our first subject, a grey wolf, was brought into the enclosure, which we were also in, and the shutters started clicking. Heather, the head handler from Triple D, made sure that the wolf was always in good light by facing the right way, so that every attendee could get incredible shots. In between shots, the attendees would ask questions and Lewis made sure to give everyone his full attention so that they understood the principles he was explaining and could apply them to their next “model.”
And that’s how it went for the entire workshop.
Here’s a quick rundown of what we photographed during the wildlife portion of the workshop:
Siberian Tiger: Heather let the two-year-old tiger run around the field behind the pond, as it peeked behind trees and, eventually, pounced through the three foot deep pond for some incredible action photos!
American Badgers: A pair of badger cubs proved to be the most difficult subjects to photograph on the first day. Those little guys were quick! We all got low, some of us even on our bellies, and were able to get “into” the animals habitat, a great tip given by Lewis. The colorful rocks of the landscape added to the photographs there.
Bobcat: The elevated position the bobcat was in was incredible! The deep blue Montana sky provided some amazing color to frame this beautiful cat in.
Snow Leopard: This workshop provided a very rare opportunity to photograph a snow leopard in such an intimate setting, without dealing with the limitations a zoo presents. We were concerned at first because there was no snow on the ground in June where we were, but the staff at Triple D quickly eased our minds by bringing us to another elevated location and the photographs were amazing!
Baby Raccoon: Prudence, the newest baby raccoon at Triple D made a surprise cameo appearance, and we were all thrilled by this extra treat from Heather! She played around a hallowed log, and gave us some very cute photos to bring home!
Coyote Pups and Mom: What a playful bunch they were! The pups were also very difficult to photograph, as they were quite active, but the highlight was when we all got the coyotes to howl! Even the pups!
Canada Lynx kitten: We were treated to another surprise when Kathleen invited us in two separate groups to photograph a Canada lynx kitten! This was the first time this animal was ever photographed, and Triple D makes sure that they get used to the people and the cameras at a very young age. This cat was only about 6 months old!
Mountain Lion: One of the most exquisite and beautiful animals that Triple D can provide was our third-day extra model, which all the attendees opted to photograph. We waited out the rain for a bit, and finally had some even light to shoot in. Heather managed to get the cat to jump from rock to rock, but not before Lewis provided some quick autofocus technique instruction to help ensure the most amount of keepers. Head shots, laying down portraits, and action photos. What a way to end the session!
We squeezed in some landscape photography one afternoon as well. Lewis scouted out a couple of locations a few days prior, and we drove the caravan of cars to two beautiful locations: the first was a canola field stretching out as far as you could see, the other being a high overlook of the lush valley below. All breath taking vistas. Lewis discussed panorama techniques, and some participants experimented with tilt-shift lenses.
After some more scouting, we discovered a local grill that hosted a rodeo once a month. The Blue Moon Café ended up being the exclamation point and added bonus that we never could have planned better. Bull riding, cattle roping, bronco riding, and barrel racing all provided some awesome opportunities to shoot some fast-paced action photos, but there were photos all around to be taken. A nice dinner and some two-step dancing (for some of the people there), ended what was an amazing workshop with incredible people.
There was a lot of sharing of knowledge; Lewis pulled out all the stops and gave the attendees so much information over the course of the workshop. Danielle and I chimed in when we had to, but noticed that participants were helping each other quite a bit as well. There was a lot of laughing going on for the entire workshop, because if you can’t have fun, then what’s the point right?
Quite honestly, I have never been with a group of photographers who were so eager to get along and share in the experience TOGETHER! And isn’t that what photography is all about, being able to capture what you see and share it with others? Just being with a group of people who enjoy the same hobby or subject matter is reason enough to attend a workshop. Hopefully I will be able to work at another Canon Live Learning EOS Destination workshop. But if I can’t, I can guarantee that I will attend more of them on my own!