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Photography Workshop Coming 

By Staff | May 6, 2016

The draw is easy, said Wolford professional photographer Dan Smith.

Bringing people from all over the world to photograph north-central North Dakota is based on a simple formula.

“What they really like is there is not people everywhere,” Smith said. “It’s open and it’s quiet.”

Smith and friend Tillman Crane – a Camden, Maine, photographer – are hosting “Spirit of Structure: Abandoned Farms of North Dakota”, a workshop for 12 to 18 photographers Sunday through Friday. It’s the sixth consecutive year of the workshop, which has drawn guests from New York City, Utah, Washington and Brazil.

“One of the big things is we have access into these old homes and farmsteads and that’s hard to find most places,” Smith said. “Folks are often scared of people stealing (elsewhere) and people around here are friendly.”

Residents of Pierce County and surrounding counties grant permission to the photographers, who pay $1,500 tuition for a week exploring the prairie and its scenic offerings.

If inclement weather hinders travel, workshop attendees can spend time at the Prairie Village Museum in Rugby and the Dale and Martha Hawk Museum in Wolford. Smith said photographers have taken to the hospitality of Prairie Village Museum executive director Cathy Jelsing and staff and the way museum exhibits present photo opportunities.

When the weather cooperates, Smith said it’s hard to find better lighting than in North Dakota. Naturally, people relish a chance to shoot the Northern Lights.

“New Mexico is kind of considered a holy grail because of the light, and the light here is as good as anything New Mexico produces,” Smith said.

Previous participants have showcased their work at the Taube Museum in Minot and the Prairie Village Museum. Others have published books with images from the workshop. The local economy also received a boost as participants stay at motels, eat out and purchase fuel for their travels.

The photographers also hone their skills under the tutelage of Crane, Smith and their peers. Crane and Smith met about 15 years ago when the latter organized a show about the American West in Brigham City, Utah. Crane was among “what I consider the top 15 to 20 photographers worldwide” in location-specific photography, Smith said.

Crane also hosts workshops in Maine, Tennessee, New York and Scotland. For more information visit tillmancrane.com.

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