Workshops & Tours

Workshop Content

What You Will Learn From Rod

Rod teaches field techniques that work for digital photography. You will discover new ways to explore and experience the wonders of the natural world from an unmanipulated and non-commercial perspective. Regardless of your skill level or imaging format, these offerings will take your photography to a higher level than you ever thought possible.

His instruction, both in the classroom and in the field, follows the field process of nature photography from the moment you find an inspirational subject to the creation of an image that is properly exposed, razor sharp (where and when it needs to be) and dynamically composed with strong visual integrity.

Throughout the workshop we will explore composition, exposure, equipment and the techniques used for capturing that location's unique subjects.

We will discuss how the subjects you chose to photograph should be your inspiration. To grow creatively you must expand your concept of what a subject is or can be - whether you photograph landscapes, small subjects or wildlife.

Along with subject selection, focal length selection (lens selection) will be discussed in detail. You will learn why focal length selection should be a decision borne of creative necessity.

Once you have found an inspiring subject to photograph and given great thought to your choice of focal length, you now must place equal importance on deciding where the camera should be placed and how the elements you have selected should be visually arranged. Throughout the week you will learn how to capture visually stunning images that feature the hallmarks of any great nature photograph: simplicity, balance and visual harmony.

No week would be complete without lots of instruction on everybody's favorite topic - exposure. Even with the sophisticated metering systems of modern cameras, learning how to consistently capture proper exposure is still a challenge for many photographers. During the course of the week I will discuss how to get most out of your camera's metering system. I will also explain why it is critical for digital photographers to read the camera's histogram while in the field and then show you how. I'll also explain why you expose differently when shooting in RAW versus JPEG. You won't leave the workshop without knowing how to read a histogram. There will also be lectures on aperture selection and the use of tilt lenses (when appropriate).

In addition, we will show you how he converts RAW files.

In Standard Workshops we cover most of the topics listed in the highlights during classroom programs. We then tailor each participant's field instruction to their own needs and skill level.

In Advanced Workshops and Tours, instruction is more streamlined to fit both the needs of the participants and the photographic possibilities of the chosen location.

Thinking Digitally

This program begins with a quick overview of the basics of exposure. Rod will discuss the correlation between aperture, shutter speeds and the roll that ISO plays in modern digital photography. He'll also explore exposure modes and suggest which exposure mode is most useful for digital photography. The program will then transition into a discussion specifically about exposing RAW captures. Rod will illustrate the exposure requirements for RAW captures and how to get them quickly and consistently in-the-field. With this knowledge photographers can take full advantage of the benefits of RAW captures and do it with confidence. A minimal amount of post-processing of a RAW capture will be discussed and illustrated. Jpeg exposure will also be discussed during this program.

(This program deals with single exposure captures only. Other contrast control methods such as merge to HDR, exposure blending or the use of split neutral density filters will not be covered during the program.)

Topics Include:
  • Proper Exposure and Digital Capture
  • What is a Histogram?
  • Is There Really Such a Thing as a Bad Exposure in Digital Photography?
  • Correct Exposure for a JPEG
  • RAW Capture: Exposing to the Right
  • Which Exposure and Meter Modes to Use
  • Speed Up Exposure Compensation in Aperture Priority
  • Plus more...

Composing World-class Images in the Field

Program covers how to see and compose strong images in the field to eliminate the need to use the crop tool and other forms of image manipulation. During this program Rod will outline methods to refine your creative vision.

This program is designed to give the photographer a better understanding of why certain compositions "work" and why some don't. This program would also be useful in the editing process. Even with the "instant feedback" of camera monitors many times photographers find during editing that some images are not satisfying compositionally. With the knowledge gained from this program you'll be able to get to the heart of why an image works compositionally or not.

Another benefit of having an understanding of composition is that it will help you compose better images in the field therefore minimizing editing time afterwards.

Topics Include:
  • Defining Image Quality
  • Defining Composition
  • The Visual Mechanics of Composing in the Field
  • Seeing Compositional Planes in an Image
  • Traditional verses Non-traditional Framing
  • Subject Placement and the Elements of Design
  • Visual Movement
  • The Hallmarks of a Great Image: Simplicity, Balance and Visual Harmony
  • The importance of precise camera placement
  • Plus more...

Photographing Insects, Spiders and other Small Creatures in the Wild

This program is devoted to the art of photographing small free roaming creatures (insects, spiders, amphibians and reptiles) in the wild while using natural light, fill and standard TTL flash methods. Rod uses stunning images and easy to understand instructions to explain what can be an arcane subject for many - flash photography. After hearing this presentation and following Rod's step by step instructions you'll be able to go out into the field and photograph free flying creatures with confidence. He'll also explain why flash is not always the best choice and when you should switch back to natural light.

Topics Include:
  • Lighting Insects, Spiders, Amphibians and Reptiles
  • Use One Flash or Two?
  • Natural Light: When to rely on it
  • Using Flash in the Standard TTL Mode
  • Standard TTL Flash: Quick Set-up
  • Controlling Exposure in Standard TTL Flash Mode
  • Using TTL Fill Flash
  • TTL Fill Flash Output Compensation: How much do you set?
  • TTL Flash: Quick Set-up
  • Equipment Suggestions
  • Plus more...

(NOTE: Flash techniques will only be covered in Standard Workshops if time allows)

Field Techniques

This program will cover a variety of subjects. It will begin with a discussion on when it is best to use a tripod. He will also explain how to properly use Vibration Reduction (VR) or Image Stabilization (IS) while handholding the camera. Basic camera setup will be covered along with an in-depth discussion on setting up your camera for flight or action photography and which focus modes work best for this type of photography.

Rod will also go into more detail about the use of apertures and aperture selection as a creative tool. The program will then move into the use of tilt-shift lenses along with how to use them to easily make panoramic images. He'll also go into the basics of making panoramic images.

Techniques for using Nikon and newer Canon digital cameras in the field to make in-camera multiple exposures will also be covered.

Topics Include:
  • When to Use a Tripod
  • How to Properly Use VR/IS when Handholding
  • Basic Camera Set Up
  • Setting Up Your Camera for Flight Photography
  • Aperture Selection as Creative Tool
  • What is achieved by Tilting a Lens?
  • Plane of Focus and Depth-of-Field
  • How Does Tilting Affect the Plane of Focus and Depth-of-field?
  • The Tilt Procedure (step by step instructions)
  • Easy Shift Panoramic Photographs
  • Techniques for making in-camera multiple exposures
  • Plus more...


Workshop and tour participants will be given the opportunity to have Rod critique their work. Critiques are conducted during group sessions. We encourage those interested to take advantage of this powerful learning experience by bringing a diverse selection of their images (prints or digital capture). We now offer a unique option for critiquing images. If you bring a selection of RAW captures, Rod will show you how he would process your images using Adobe Lightroom.

Class Size

Small group size is the hallmark of all of our workshops and tours. The maximum number of participants we accept in our programs is 10. In some of the advanced programs only 6 participants will be enrolled. This small group size assures maximum interaction between instructors and participants. During the instructional programs, lectures and numerous photographic field trips, you will have many opportunities to ask questions and receive individual attention and explanations. In addition to Rod Planck, Marlene Planck, a highly qualified assistant will also be available on field trips to provide additional instruction.