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James Kay
Photography

JIM'S ANSWERS TO FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

 

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN IN BUSINESS? I've been working as a full-time professional photographer since I quit my engineering job in 1982. I am a regular contributor to Outdoor Photographer Magazine and have served as one of their professional advisors for more than 25 years. My work has been featured in the Nikon Legends Collection and my photographs have been published in a wide variety of magazines and used in commercial advertising projects around the world. My wife, Susie, and I have conducted workshops for the last 8 years.

 

HOW LARGE WILL MY GROUP BE? Group size is limited to a maximum of 8 participants in order to create a more intimate atmosphere and to allow me to work closely with you as we compose images in the field. This small group size also means you won't be competing for space at each of our photography vantage points or be tripping over each other's tripods. It also creates an intimate group dynamic as we travel and share our meals together. We've found that groups larger than this tend to break up into sub-groups and cliques which we want to avoid.

 

WHAT'S INCLUDED IN THE PRICE? All prices include comfortable, high-end lodging, guiding, and photography instruction in the field. Our New Zealand workshops also include meals (excluding alcohol) and ground transportation. We reserve all lodging far in advance so your room will be ready when you arrive. You are responsible for arranging for your transportation from home to each workshop location. For our workshops other than New Zealand, you will also need to bring a vehicle for transportation during the workshop.

 

WHAT'S YOUR CANCELLATION POLICY? We have 2 cancellation policies; one for our New Zealand workshops and one for all the others. To view our cancellation policies, look for a link in the line under the REGISTER or WAIT LIST button for each workshop.

 

HOW STRENUOUS ARE YOUR TRIPS AND WHAT KIND OF PHYSICAL CONDITION DO I NEED TO BE IN? I'm an active guy and have always enjoyed getting off the beaten path to capture unique images so I've designed a series of workshops for people who are seeking a more active, adventurous experience than the standard only-shoot-from-the-side-of-the-road workshop; after all, roads weren't designed to provide access to all the best photo locations. While we actually do shoot from the side of the road in varying amounts during many of our workshops, some of them require varying amounts of walking/hiking to access the most dramatic vantage points; they run the gamut from very easy to strenuous with most falling into the easy/moderate category so everyone should be able to find a workshop which suits their physical abilities. Each workshop page has a full description of the physical requirements necessary to participate. A detailed itinerary is also listed and explains what is involved with each day's activity.

 

HOW DO YOU ACCOMMODATE PEOPLE OF VARYING PHYSICAL ABILITIES? We ask that each person carefully reads the physical requirements of each workshop as listed on our website to ensure that their physical capabilities are compatible with the workshop they choose. It works best when everyone has a similar physical-fitness level, especially for our more strenuous workshops. If one or two of our guests are not as strong as the majority of people in the group, we may be able break up into two groups during our excursions, but this is not always possible.

 

WHAT IS YOUR CUSTOMER RETURN RATE? We have a return rate of 80%. I think the reason we have such a high rate is because we work overtime to ensure that our guests have an exceptional overall experience. This means much more than just spectacular photographic opportunities, it means comfortable high-end lodging at the end of each day (included in the price) and excellent dining venues plus all those other behind-the-scenes details which provide our guests with rich, memorable experiences. As one of our guests recently put it; "The combination of great tour leaders, wonderful photography locations, and excellent dining venues made for perfection! Both of you run a superb operation with attention to great detail; endless effort to please your clients; and most importantly, with the goal to provide the best photography possible."

 

WOULD YOU BE ABLE TO PROVIDE ME WITH GUEST REFERENCES? Yes, we would be happy to give you the names and contact information for guests who have already participated in our workshops. Please email us if you would like a list.

 

I'VE BEEN ON WORKSHOPS WITH PROMINENT PHOTOGRAPHERS WHERE THEY TOOK US TO A LOCATION AND THEN DISAPPEARED TO TAKE THEIR OWN PHOTOGRAPHS WITHOUT PROVIDING THE GROUP WITH ANY INSTRUCTION. WILL YOU STAY WITH US AND OFFER INSTRUCTION? Yes, yes, yes. The main reason I teach these workshops is to assist and instruct you, not to take photographs for myself. I am very familiar with and have photographed each of these areas many, many times in the past so I am not in the process of actively building my image libraries. All of my attention will be devoted to you. When we arrive at each location, I normally start by taking some quick test shots to show everyone what I think are the best compositions. I will then spend time with you, one-on-one, to offer suggestions as you compose your own images. If, however, there is a double rainbow over a glaciated peak with a small shaft of sunlight illuminating the top of the mountain as a bald eagle flies by, I may take the opportunity to get a shot of my own.

 

HOW WILL GROUND TRANSPORTATION BE HANDLED DURING THE WORKSHOP? You are responsible for your travel arrangements to the various lodges where we meet on our first night and then back home at the end of the workshop. During the workshop itself, we will all share our private vehicles and carpool to our various photography locations except for New Zealand where we will provide all ground transportation during the workshop. For some of our workshops in Southern Utah, we recommend high-clearance 4WD or AWD vehicles.

 

IT APPEARS THAT THE ONLY WAY TO GET THE DOUBLE-OCCUPANCY DISCOUNT IS IF I CAN FIND SOMEONE TO SHARE A ROOM WITH ME. MANY OTHER WORKSHOPS OFFER DOUBLE OCCUPANCY TO EVERYONE. WHY DO YOU PREFER SINGLE OCCUPANCY? Our goal is to provide a high-quality photography/travel experience for our guests. We've found that the overwhelming majority of them prefer the privacy of their own room. We've often heard from guests about a previous trip where they had to share a room with an unpleasant person who snored all night. This can have an enormous negative impact on your entire experience. This is the main reason we default to single occupancy. We also prefer to use comfortable, high-end lodges, some of which only have one bed per room. Couples will all receive the double-occupancy discount and we will also provide it to our single guests who have found someone on our guest list who would like to share a room with them. While it may double our overhead when it comes to lodging costs, and make our workshops appear more expensive at first glance (when compared to other workshops that bury the fact that you will be sharing a room with a stranger), we think this arrangement will provide you with the best overall experience.

 

I JUST RETURNED FROM A WORKSHOP WHERE A LOCAL GUIDE WAS HIRED TO LEAD US AROUND, BUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER INSTRUCTOR HAD NEVER BEEN THERE BEFORE. HOW FAMILIAR ARE YOU WITH THE LOCATIONS WE WILL BE PHOTOGRAPHING? We only offer workshops in locations which I am very, very familiar with based on many years of exploration and photography. This intimacy means you'll not only have the opportunity to photograph the well-known iconic locations; you'll also get to explore and photograph the unknown hidden gems few people will ever have the opportunity to experience on their own. It also means that when we run into problems with weather, road/trail closures, or other situations in the field which cause us to adjust our itineraries, I'll have a long list of backup locations which will work at the same time of day.

 

HOW WILL MEALS BE HANDLED?  We handle all restaurant reservations and we will all eat together as a group. The cost of meals is only included in our New Zealand workshops. We will also have picnic meals at remote locations in the backcountry which are included in the price of each workshop. We will provide a selection of snacks in the field as well as cold drinks at our vehicles. We also recommend bringing some of your favorite snacks from home to consume in the field between meals.

 

WHY ARE MEALS NOT INCLUDED IN THE PRICE FOR MOST OF YOUR WORKSHOPS? New Zealand is our only workshop where meals are included. We've quizzed our guests over the years; guests with every financial makeup, and virtually everyone has told us that they much prefer to pay for their own meals. If we were to include the cost of meals in each workshop, we would have to base the price on the possibility that everyone would order the most expensive appetizer, main, and desert at each location. Not only would this likely be more than you would spend if you were paying for your own meals, the light eaters would end up subsidizing the heavy eaters.

 

DO YOU OFFER CLASSROOM SESSIONS WHERE WE CAN REVIEW AND CRITIQUE OUR IMAGES AND LEARN ABOUT IMAGE EDITING TECHNIQUES? I'm an active guy and I offer adventurous field workshops as opposed to classroom workshops or some mix of the two. We will spend the vast majority of our time outdoors searching for and composing images. I feel that you will learn much more working with me, one-on-one in the field, as I review, critique, and offers suggestions on improving your compositions before you trip the shutter release than by discussing, after the fact in a classroom setting, what you could have done better. We do conduct classroom sessions if the weather doesn't allow us to get outdoors or if we need a little rest from our outdoor activities. We've found that the vast majority of our guests, when they travel to an exotic location, prefer to be outdoors; experiencing, exploring, and photographing dramatic landscapes. Very few request to return to the hotel after a sunrise photo to spend some or most of the remainder of the day inside a darkened conference room critiquing images compared with being outside; enjoying, exploring, and photographing as much of their surroundings as possible before returning home. I've found that dramatic compositions present themselves throughout the entire day, not just during the magic hours of sunrise and sunset.

 

HOW FAR IN ADVANCE SHOULD I RESERVE MY WORKSHOP? We post each workshop on our website about 13 months prior to departure except for New Zealand which we post 18 months prior. Since we only offer 8 spaces maximum on each workshop, they tend to fill quickly, with some filling within a few weeks of when we post them on our site. We would suggest securing a spot at least 6 months in advance and 12 months in advance for our most popular trips to Glacier NP, The Canadian Rockies, and New Zealand.

 

WHO SIGNS UP FOR YOUR WORKSHOPS AND WHAT TYPE OF PHOTOGRAPHIC PROFICIENCY DO THEY HAVE?  We've had people between the ages of 18 and 85 join us with an average age around 55. Most are in good physical condition. We welcome a wide variety of photographic proficiencies. Our guests have ranged from novice to semi-pro with most falling into the serious-amateur category. Since I work with each guest individually, anyone with a basic knowledge of their camera functions and a love of photography is all it takes to enjoy one of our workshops.

 

IS THIS A GROUP EXPERIENCE OR WILL WE BE MORE ON OUR OWN? We will do everything together as a group, including meals. We believe that good group dynamics is an important part of any memorable travel experience and we strive to provide an environment to nurture this. Regardless of political or economic differences, we all share a love of photography and will concentrate on that. Our small group size of 8 guests also ensures that everyone gets to know their fellow participants. Our goal is to ensure that by the end of each workshop, you'll have a new group of lifelong friends who you can share photography experiences with for years to come.

 

WHAT WILL I NEED TO BRING? We will send you a very comprehensive gear-and-information list when you sign up for one of our workshops. It covers everything from camera gear to clothing as well as all information you will need to fully participate in one of our workshops.

 

HOW DO YOU HANDLE SAFETY OR INJURIES IN THE FIELD? We are trained in NOLS Wilderness First Aid and fully permitted to operate on the public lands we visit. We are very familiar with the potential hazards we may encounter in the field; from grizzly bears in the northern Rockies to flash floods in Utah's canyonlands and have made provisions to minimize the risks. We carry satellite phones at all times in the event of an emergency situation.

 

DO YOU HAVE PERMITS FOR ALL THE LOCATIONS WE WILL VISIT? The permiting process can be very involved and costly but we feel it is very important to procure all the permits and other documents required by public-land agencies to conduct commercial tours. We have been asked many times by park rangers to see our permits and we're always able to comply. If we did not have one, they would escort all of us out of the park and the workshop would be over. That would obviously be a nightmare for us and our guests.