The Salton Sea Fine Art Program March 28-30, 2014

Only three openings left – please register today at

Lakeside Spa Abandoned 2
Lakeside Spa Abandoned 2 © Bob Killen 2014

In last week’s blog, I introduced the upcoming Salton Sea Fine Art Program, and, as I discussed this location, you know that it is well within my wheelhouse of visual themes.  In today’s post, I want to discuss the workshop brief, and some tips on how to get the most out of this experience.

First, consider that if a picture is worth a thousand words, fine art photography is the art of composing those thousand words into a visual narrative that employs several images united by an overarching theme. Images can pull the theme together via documentary points of view or through a metaphor that creates a feeling you wish to express to the viewer.

Second, we need to establish goals for the workshop so that you can pre-visualize your output. For this workshop, we will apply a professional assignment brief, one that is common to many masters of fine art programs and professional fine art/editorial assignments.

The Assignment Brief

For this assignment, we are exploring two thematic questions: one, did man abandon his dreams because of major environmental changes that occurred in this area; or two, did a quirk of nature, (the accidental sea), create false dreams of the future around a body of water that occurred because man accidentally flooded the area? Thus, our brief for this workshop is the following:

  1. Explore and interpret how this resort area fell from environmental grace to one of environmental poverty. In this context, we need to capture images that explore the vacancy and abandonment of cities and towns, the remains of resorts, lost streets, and the receding lake. Some of the people from richer times are hanging on and may be subjects too, while others are immigrant laborers who have taken over housing due to its low cost and proximity to agricultural work.  Within this structure, we can find the simplicity and beauty that often defines dreams of the past against the realities of the today.
  2. Capture and demonstrate the inherent beauty of what remains. There are spectacular sunsets and lake scenes, but we want to avoid creating visuals that say ‘lake’. Instead, we want to capture images of the lake’s beauty, but clearly define it as the Salton Sea. Further, there are incredible opportunities to capture beauty within vacancy such as the salt beds, the three trees, shoreline recession, and abandoned materials.
  3. Explore iconic spots and capture how they relate to the current cultural outlook. Image work from such places as Salvation Mountain and Nilan Pier will help define and interpret the cultural shifts.

Getting the Most From This Workshop

Corner of Brent and Larchwood_
Corner of Brent and Larchwood © Bob Killen 2014

Ask Tons of Questions – There are no stupid questions or stupid interpretations. You will be working with three working photographers who earn their living creating images. This is an amazing instructor-to-learner ratio and each of us are here for one thing; to help you grow and get the most from our time together.  We know that everyone will be at a slightly different point on the learning curve and chances are if you’ve got a question about something, so does someone else.  So ask, and recognize that photographers who advocate for themselves by asking questions, initiating dialogue, and seeking guidance always get the most out of an educational experience.

Connect with the Group – This is a great opportunity for long-term friendships and connections with other like-minded people.  Let’s face it, most of us have friends and significant others that aren’t photographers and, generally speaking, they think we’re a half a bubble off center.  This workshop is a great chance for you to meet and develop friendships with others who lean into the wind differently; for they, like you, are artists who wish to explore life with their own visual voice.

Share Images During our Critique and Post Processing Sessions. – I’ll have our screen and projector up and running so that you can share your images with the group. I recognize that we may feel insecure about our work, especially if we have not had a chance to move your raw images forward in post. No worries— I’m not interested in seeing “best” work at this time—  this is not about earning “atta boys” or “you go girls.”  I’m interested in reviewing images that you stretched for, but are not sure if you hit the mark. We’re here to learn how to extend our emotional range with images that excite, inform, and stir the feelings of our audience.

Workshop Output – After we complete the workshop, we will ask each of you to write a short essay and provide certain images for our on-line workshop publication. We will also publish a book about this experience, with images from each of the participants.

So join me – only a few spots left – as we explore this theme and more.

Course Highlights

Easy View Chair
Easy View Chair © Bob Killen 2014

On Day 1 — I will present a lecture to provide you with a background on the area, and teach you the methods that I use to develop a fine art essay. We will then drive to the east side of the Salton Sea, make stops at Bombay Beach, Salvation Mountain, and conclude the day with sunset photos over the inland sea.

On Day 2— We visit west side of the lake to capture the sunrise, followed by a trip through the Salton Sea’s “ghost town” areas to capture spectacularly decayed houses, trailers, signs and other architecture that remain from the area’s glory days.

On Day 3We explore some little known jewels such as three trees, the spa abandoned, Red Rock Marina, and other points that will help you fill-in gaps for your essay.

Onsite you will learn unique techniques for realistic HDR, how to extend depth of field beyond the cameras range. At night, we will explore painting with light, and star shine capture. During mid-day, we will return to the hotel, work with our images in Lightroom and Photoshop. As with my other classes, we will mentor and guide you to bring an individual voice to your images.

$995 includes your room.

La Casa Del Zorro Hotel information:
Salton Sea History:

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2 thoughts on “The Salton Sea Fine Art Program March 28-30, 2014

  1. We are so excited about participating in this workshop and we are looking forward to many new learning experiences.

  2. These blog posts & photos – whether yours or others (as ib the Mojave Moonlight) make me want to jump ship on the day to day & do nothing but visually document my world. Kudos.

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