X-Peditions: Strobist Location Workshops

All photos by David Hobby unless otherwise noted

Thirteen years ago, I created Strobist.com to dispel the notion that lighting was intimidating, complicated and expensive. Because lighting is something that anyone can easily learn how to do, and it unlocks amazing new worlds for photographers to explore.

Just as there has always been a perception/reality gap with lighting, there is for some people a similar gap with travel. Many people already visit well-trodden destinations like New York, London or Paris. But those kinds of places can be surprisingly expensive. And because of their popularity, they are also increasingly homogenous experiences; another box to tick for the traveling horde.

Approached more thoughtfully, travel can be less expensive and more rewarding.

For all of my adult life I have been a traveler. I was on the road for 20 years as a photojournalist, then for another decade as an educator. And all the while traveling with wife and family as a curious tourist.

Over the years I've encouraged some of my fellow photographer friends to join me in going to places they otherwise might not have visited. I have watched them grow from anxious newb travelers into photographers who would be comfortable being dropped almost anywhere in the world. I have seen first-hand their horizons expand as they explored and photographed people and places previously viewed only through the distorted lens of the media.

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 boundaries of your normal life. And adding in a daily class environment with a small group of like-minded photographers just makes it all the better.

That is the core idea behind Strobist's X-Peditions workshops.

Strobist X-Peditions

X-Peditions are small, private photo workshops in some of the most world's most interesting cities. They are not lighting workshops. At their heart, 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.

And 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 important, 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. You'll learn how to embrace and balance multi-colored light that is nowhere near standard daylight white balance.

You'll learn to never, ever let your camera steal that control away from you via the "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 learn to compose 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 your static layers as you wait for that next dynamic layer to converge within your frame.

You'll become more comfortable integrating yourself into your photographic environment. After all, a camera is only a black box that records your experiences. Better experiences yield better photos.

You'll learn to embrace (and even hope for) bad weather. And 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 work to apply them when the light is right.

Winding Down in the Evening

Nighttime (when we're not out shooting, at least) is for dinner, drinks, edits, and 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 learn to think of yourself less as a tourist and more as a traveling photographer. We'll also 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 the city individually, or along with fellow travelers if you prefer. And on each trip, you'll have the opportunity to get out of the city to a new environment — and different photos.

For future travels, you'll gain the confidence to choose from a much larger selection of possible future destinations.

Just like lighting, traveling off the beaten path can sometimes be intimidating only because you have not yet tried it. (Those of you who are both lighting photographers and more experienced travelers know what we mean.)

For that reason, 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 learn to travel both with less photo gear and less 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 years ago. You don't have to shoot Fuji, of course. But we will encourage you to travel lightly; to aim for an experience with 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 a Newb?

No worries.

If you are reading this from the US, odds are you have never traveled outside of the country. In fact, two-thirds of US citizens don't even have a passport. If that's you, 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 by some stroke of luck one of our X-Peditions turns out 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 much:

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 interested in a much broader choice of destinations than that of the typical traveler.

Come With Us

X-Peditions is a small-scale and personal project that I have been saving for the time when my children are off to college. 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 (Havana in January and Hanoi in the fall) are already filled. But you can still view the linked info pages if you would like more details.

We'll announce our 2020 workshops in mid-2019. The best (and, most likely, only) way to join us is to sign up on the advance notice list, below. X-Peditions fill very quickly. Hanoi 2019 filled even before being announced publicly.

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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