One of the more mundane aspects of giving a photographic workshop is scheduling what days it’ll be given. Usually several considerations, both logistical and artistic play into the decision, and the workshop I’m currently giving in the Bandon, Oregon area is no exception.
Expected conditions are always a first consideration, and usually require research or at least experience. For autumn workshops I’ll think about when I think it’s most likely I’ll be able to find at least some fall color, for spring workshops I’ll aim for months in which flower blooms are likely. While there’s no surefire way to know what the flowers will be doing a year in advance, with some research it’s usually not too difficult to stack the odds in your favor. Weather in general is another big factor, for this particular workshop I hoped to take advantage of the unpredictable, often-stormy nature of the Oregon Coast in the early months of the year to “bet on” having a variety of conditions to work in. That bet has worked out very well, in the last three days we’ve seen rain, rainbows, snow, hail, clouds, fog, mists, strong (and quiet) winds and full sun—while it hasn’t always been easy conditions to work in, so far we’ve had a lot of really beautiful conditions to work in.
Seasonality is also a factor, although it’s possible to play that both ways. “In season” works well for a lot of places, in terms of leaving more options open for dining and lodging. And often you don’t have a choice, a fall workshop around Mono Lake is going to be “in season” whether you like it or not. However, “out of season” has some real charms worth considering as well. Here in Bandon things are very quiet this month, which leaves some of this coast’s most beautiful beaches a lot less crowded than they’d be in summer, making them far easier to photograph. The “off season” plan has worked out incredibly well for us in terms of lodging; as this is a small workshop we were able to secure a very large vacation home two blocks off the beach for a fairly ridiculous sum, which had worked out great in terms of having a common area to share work and socialize in. “In season” lodging would have cost quite a bit more.
As a rule, I try and avoid giving long workshops in summer, the nights are simply too short to allow students much sleep.
The moon (and in this case, the related tides) are an part of any workshop scheduling exercise, and related, the biggest tides come along with the full moon each month, and we’ve had some really great shooting conditions at sunset this month, having planned the workshop to coincide with deep sunset low tides. Once I’ve determined about when I’d like to give a workshop (say, March), I’ll usually browse Tidelog for likely dates, it provides both the moon phase, rise/set times and tides in an easy-to-scan graphic format.
Finally, I’ll give a little though to participant travel time. While my own schedule is pretty flexible, most workshop participants have day jobs and arranging the timing of the workshop to take advantage of weekends or holidays can be a real benefit for them. In the case of the current workshop, I ended up settling on a Monday-Friday workshop to allow participants the weekends as travel time.