X-Peditions: Strobist Location Workshops

COVID-19 Update:

Things may be kinda crazy right now, and at the moment we are of course not traveling. But things will normalize. And when it is safe, we will be traveling again, making new friends, discovering new places, eating new foods and making fantastic photos.

Keep reading, or hit the X-Peditions site to learn more.



Photo ©Jill Sanders/X-Peditions

It's just after sunrise in the village of Nam Sai, in the mountains of rural northern Vietnam. You open the door of your bamboo lodge to see the scene above. You pop back into your room to grab a camera.

It was a bit of a jump to get here from Hanoi. First, a sleeper car on the overnight train to the Chinese border town of Lao Cai. And then another two hours by SUV, winding further into the mountains.

But that extra effort landed you in a remote valley that sees few westerners over the course of a year. The local villagers are up early, trying to beat the midday sun as they harvest the annual rice crop by hand. You grab an spare battery for your camera and head out to meet people and make photos.

You're absorbing your second significant culture shock in less than a week. First came Hanoi, with its cacophony of sights, sounds, smells and tastes. And yesterday it was Nam Sai, a quiet valley that in many ways is suspended in time. But even here, you can sense modernity creeping in. Which makes you glad you got here when you did.

What would your friends back home think of this place? You glance at your phone, which has a solid three bars of signal. You could log on and Instagram it if you wanted.

Maybe later. The light is too good to waste right now.



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. I spent 20 years as a photojournalist, then another ten years around the world 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 neophyte 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 they might never have visited otherwise.



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 places. 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-Peditions

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-Peditions

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



The X-Peditions program 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 offer strong value for dollar. This approach is affirmed by the people who now join us as repeat travelers.

Our initial X-Peditions, in 2018 and 2019, were to Havana, Cuba. Our current location for X-Peditions workshops is in and around Hanoi, Vietnam. We have one trip timed to the rice harvest and another for later in the fall.

Every previous X-Peditions trip has sold out within a few days of public notice. If you think you might be interested in joining us on a future X-Pedition, please sign up on the advance notice list below.

This 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.

You can get full information on our courses at X-Peditions.com. I hope to see you soon, someplace really cool.




__________

New to Strobist? Start here | Or jump right to Lighting 101
Connect w/Strobist readers via: Words | Photos
Got a question? Hit me on Twitter: @Strobist
Grab your passport: Strobist Destination Workshops



Permalink