X-Peditions: Strobist Location Workshops

NOTE: The X-Peditions 2019 season is completely filled. To be notified when our 2020 season opens up, please sign up at the bottom of this page. -DH

It's 5:00am.

It feels strange to be awake at this hour, but jet lag has screwed with your body clock and turned you into an early riser. So you grab your camera and head out onto the street to watch the city wake up.

Who knew each day had two golden hours?

You'll miss the hotel breakfast, but that's okay. It can't compete with the $2 street-food dim sum you learned about yesterday from one of your classmates. Besides, you're betting the elderly lady working the stall has a good story. A couple more chatty visits might build enough rapport to get access to the back of the shop, where you suspect good photos await.

It's your third day in the city. You've already made friends with most of the other photographers in your group. Your confidence is growing by the hour. Just six months ago when you signed on, you honestly would not have imagined yourself wandering out before dawn to explore the back alleys of Yau Ma Tei in Kowloon.

Introducing X-Peditions

I'm David Hobby, the photographer behind Strobist and lead instructor for X-Peditions. I have been a traveling photographer for all of my adult life. First, being on the road for 20 years as a photojournalist, then for another decade as an educator. And all the while, traveling with my wife and family.

Over the years I've encouraged some of my fellow photographer friends to join me on trips to places they otherwise might not have visited. I have seen them grow from rookie third-world travelers into people who now are comfortable being dropped almost anywhere in the world. I have watched their horizons expand as they explored and photographed people and places previously assumed to be inaccessible.

As a photographer, there is no catalyst for growth more effective than spending a week in a fascinating city exploring, photographing, making new friends, eating new foods and in general stepping outside of the comfort zone of your normal life. Adding in a daily class environment with a small group of like-minded photographers just makes it all the better.

That's the core idea behind X-Peditions, a joint project from Strobist.com and Washington, D.C.-based Focus on the Story.

X-Peditions are small, private photo workshops in some of the most world's most interesting cities. They are not lighting workshops. Rather, they are about learning how to travel and think and shoot more like a professional photojournalist. Over the course of a week or more, you'll grow both more observant and more technically proficient as a photographer.

But just as important, we also reserve the time for you to simply soak up a city, existing more as traveler than as tourist. Because that downtime is critical, both to experience your trip and to fuel your uptime as a photographer. Also, learning to strike a conscious balance between photographer and traveler makes you a better companion for future trips with family or friends.

Photo ©Bob Plotkin, X-Pedition Havana, 2018

When the light is great we'll be out shooting, because that's when the pictures happen. You'll learn how to tweak and exploit the weak-but-beautiful light at the edges of the day, and deep into dusk. You'll teach your camera to see light the way your eye sees it. And you'll never again abdicate that control to your "auto white balance" setting.

Photo ©Jeremy Lasky, X-Pedition Havana, 2018

If your brain still thinks, "rule of thirds" when you hear the word composition, we'll coax you to think about your composition in three dimensions. And as you gain comfort with that, we'll push you to add a fourth dimension. You'll discover the value of patience and anticipation, managing static layers as you wait for that next dynamic layer to converge within your frame.

Throughout the week, you'll become more comfortable integrating yourself into your photographic environment.

You'll grow to understand the work ethic that makes some photographers consistently, annoyingly, "lucky".

You'll learn to embrace (and even hope for) bad weather — especially bad weather at twilight.

In daily discussions we'll work through those subjects and more, when the sun is high in the sky. Then we'll head out to apply what we have learned when the light is right.

Winding Down in the Evening

Nighttime is for socializing: dinner, drinks, edits, and/or sharing photos from the day. Our approach is that of a group of photojournalists, working for different publications, all on assignment in the same city.

As we progress through the week, you'll think of yourself less as a tourist and more as a traveling photographer. We'll talk about different ways to approach your photography within the context of your other strengths—i.e., photography not as an end to itself but as a catalyst for other things.

You'll get plenty of time to explore individually, or along with fellow travelers if you prefer. You'll become more confident in unfamiliar environments. For future travels, you'll choose from a much wider array of potential destinations.

Our destinations are designed to expand your horizons. To take you somewhere where the culture, or economic structure, or primary religion might be very different than in your home country. That is how we grow.

And because you are a photographer, you'll come back with not only new friends and memories but also photographs that will always evoke a meaningful week in your life.

A Streamlined Approach

We'll encourage you to travel with less photo gear and baggage. Every possession is a burden, and nowhere is that more true than when you're on the road.

The name X-Peditions is a nod to Fuji's X-cameras, for which I ditched my heavy DSLRs several years ago. You don't have to shoot Fuji, of course. But we will encourage you to travel lightly; to aim for a balance of more purpose and less stuff.

Speaking of baggage, would you be comfortable heading to a remote city for a month with only a carry-on for both your photo gear and clothing? If not, we can help you get there.

Are You New to International Travel?

No worries.

If you are reading this from the US, odds are you have never traveled outside of the country. Two-thirds of US citizens don't even have a passport. If that's the case, I want to talk directly to you for a moment.

There is no camera, no lens, no flash that you can buy that will expand your life nearly as much as will taking the plunge and traveling to a completely different place and culture. If one of our X-Peditions turns happens to be your first experience of overseas travel, please do not fail to let us know this—and please do so early in the process.

We can promise you this:

1. We will do our best to make sure you have a fantastic experience.
2. After this, you'll be much more likely to travel in the future.
3. You'll be prepared to select from a broader choice of destinations than that of the typical traveler.

Come With Us

X-Peditions is designed to be a small-scale and personalized experience. We limit our group size to 12 people, and only produce 2-3 trips per year.

Because these workshops are put on privately, without embedded marketing expenses, we can offer strong value for dollar. We also offer the flexibility (both financial and geographic) of flying with us or meeting us onsite.

Our first X-Pedition, in January of 2018, was to Havana. You can view work from some of the students on that trip here, here and here.

Our 2019 X-Peditions season, to Havana in January and Hanoi in the fall, is completely filled. But you can still view the linked info pages if you would like more detail.

We'll announce our 2020 season soon. All of the previous X-Peditions have filled quickly; Hanoi 2019 filled even before being announced publicly. The best (and possibly, only) way to join us is to sign up on the advance notice list below.

The list is only used for advance X-Peditions announcements, and your info won't be shared. You won't be obligated to anything. You'll simply receive an advance heads-up when a workshop is being planned and/or open for registration.

I hope to see you soon, someplace really cool.


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