Thinking outside the shutter box

Workshop challenges the creative process of digital photographers

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— Rita Bradley came to Steamboat Springs from Houston, Texas, to improve her digital photography skills during a six-day workshop. Her camera malfunctioned on her way up the gondola. But it wasn't all bad news.

"The battery went dead and I was having problems with the pop-up flash," Bradley said. "So I bought a disposable camera."

The lesson she learned from that experience contains the essence of what she hoped to gain from the workshop.

"It's not the camera, it's the photographer," Bradley said. "It's what you have inside that counts."

Professional photographer Karen Schulman of Steamboat Springs is teaching the workshop titled, "Steamboat in the Summertime, Photography and the Creative Spirit." She has been emphasizing the use of the camera as a tool to capture what the heart and the mind see.

"People might think a picture is better with this lens or brand of camera," she said. "I try to break that belief. If you don't develop your creative spirit, the camera can't do anything except document things."

Schulman is encouraging her students to let go of the concept of subject matter and think in terms of abstract form, pattern and texture. Her husband, Joel Schulman, is teaching them all of the technical aspects of digital photography, including the use of software and manipulation of white balance. He also is covering digital workflow and image quality.

Barbara Brower, from Seattle, Wash., has used this workshop to play around with getting away from the literal. Her experimentation with digital photography up to this point had been disappointing.

"I go into things almost kicking and screaming," she said. "Every day I start out frustrated and my comfort level then keeps going up and up."

Brower, who is switching from film to digital photography, now views the computer as her dark room.

"If you don't know how to manipulate them (the photographs in the software program), it is just as difficult as being in the darkroom without chemicals," she said.

Brower also has learned not to constrict herself by seeing the world only through the lens of her camera.

"You can miss a lot of the bigger picture by looking through the camera lens," she said. "I've worked hard on balancing that and experiencing the whole environment."

Steamboat photographer Carole Milligan has taken many photography workshops before, but participated in this one to push herself towards more creative assignments.

"I've been learning about pattern and texture, light and shadows, close-ups in particular with flowers and I've been abstracting," she said. "I'm intentionally doing things like moving the camera as I'm taking a picture."

Schulman has been pushing her students to achieve personal success and stressing that anytime you work on creative expression, it has to be a natural result.

"I am so lucky to have the opportunity to work with such wonderful people who listen to me and want to improve their photography and the quality of their lives," she said.

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