Many of you realize what drives us to document weddings. While we love the wonderfully creative designs and decor we’ve seen in past years–these have been gorgeous, highly personalized and designed events–there’s really one big thing that drives us. It’s what makes the day-after soreness, stock in Advil’s parent company, and 80-hour work weeks worthwhile.

It is simply the opportunity–nay, the honor–of being able to tell a family’s story. To do so unobtrusively and artfully, with ultimate trust from our clients do to do what we need to do to capture the collection of images showing a series of decisive moments throughout the day. Sure, one might say, it’s just one day. And it’s one of 28 or so weddings we’ll document in a year. But for each of these clients, it’s their wedding. The one celebration of their love and the merging together of their families–forging the beginning of a new chapter in these families’ history. To be able to do that is an incredible honor, and we’re not just saying that. It really is.

To that end, it’s up to us to create best possible work we can for each client–to tell their individual story with grace, with love, and with humor.

We have been involved with the Foundation Workshop since its inception back in 2003. We both have attended as students, served as staff, as teaching faculty, and over the course of the past few years, I’ve directed the workshop’s operations. The workshop’s premise–to teach wedding photographers who might not have a background in photojournalism to tell a story–their clients’ story. It is the single most important, most fulfilling workshop of which we’ve ever been a part. It is not easy. It is not a silver bullet. It is a worthwhile investment of time and money only with immense personal effort. But it is absolutely worth that effort.

Frankly, if I weren’t on the faculty, I would be returning as a student. That’s how powerful the experience is, how incredibly amazing the teachers–all fellow wedding photographers–are, and how personalized each student’s experience ultimately is.

It’s pretty impressive to me that FW11 (yes, the 11th consecutive time we’ve gathered), is once again scheduled, once again packed with the absolute best in wedding photojournalism (a term unfortunately too loosely used by those who don’t really understand what a decisive moment truly means), and once again, back in Texas next winter. For the first time in the workshop’s history, 33 of 42 available slots have already been claimed, mere days after registration opened and eleven months before the workshop even begins. Wow. Just. Wow. That that many people signed up for FW11 so quickly after the conclusion this past month of FW10 means so much to me, as it was my last year directing the workshop.

I had the added role this past workshop of serving as a mentor on Brooks Whittington’s team, alongside Joe Ellis and Andrew Mejia, one half of Sedona Bride alongside his lovely and talented wife Katrina. Thankfully I get the chance to return to this team to once again teach our participants how to tell someone’s story. A story completely unrelated to weddings. But a story nonetheless. And to watch the transformation of our participants throughout the workshop and throughout the succeeding year–well, that’s just icing on the cake. I love teaching and am grateful to be able to do so. We have continually had a long wait list of potential staff and faculty who have wanted to help, and it’s the passion our current faculty have displayed that has made the workshop into what it is today.

If you are willing…no, that’s not right…if you are eager to change, to discover new ways of capturing your subject, to creatively frame an image, to work a scene, to expel your bad shooting habits, to get past all of your preconceived notions of what makes good photography, then reserve your slot on our team. Don’t sign up though if you’re expecting the same old workshop experience, where you stand behind a pro and shoot models arranged by that pro and call it a day. No, sign up only if you are committed to telling the story. Sign up only if you are committed to telling your clients’ stories. Sign up only if you have no other choice–you simply must. If you’re ready for that challenge, I hope to see you there.

Below are a few images, most taken by Annie, from this past FW10 workshop, held in funky and beautiful Austin, Texas while I got to teach. Thanks, sweetie! You’re the best.

But first…Texas BBQ…

Later, we returned to one of our favorite Austin watering holes, the Ginger Man. With 80+ beers on tap and an equal number bottled, it is a beer-lover’s nirvana.

And…the start of the workshop. It begins with some classroom instruction before everyone heads out the next day on their shooting assignments.

A couple of teams collaborated to create some shooting exercises for students to help them identify good framing techniques and how to anticipate moments. Here, Anja and I “arm wrestle” as part of one exercise.

Going over the week’s assignments before presenting them to our team’s participants.

Mark gets up close and personal one an energetic puppy at the local shelter, his assignment for the week.

We got in on the shooting action. Cute dog. Almost brought him home with us. Except Callie the Cat might have some objections.

Love this! So funny, yet so true. The first day of shooting is largely like this. A lot of trial and error, mostly error. The second and third days of shooting produced work our participants were much more proud of, as were we.

Back at the editing suite around 2 a.m. Some images were better than others, as you can see here without actually seeing the image on the screen.

Part of our team’s assignment was to produce a good, solid silhouette, as per Silhouette Sensei’s requirements. Here, Loic achieves that goal and gets his head band. These were made by Brooks before the workshop as a surprise to everyone. It was so funny and so apropos.

Joe and I converse about something. This was around 3 a.m., so it’s hard to remember exactly what.

Back at the downtown Austin fire house the next night to help Jenny with creating a twilight portrait of the firemen she had spent the past two days covering.

Our dear friend Tyler, also a team leader, at our final presentation dinner Thursday night.

I want to offer a personal thanks to everyone who participated in FW10 in one fashion or another. Every single person contributed greatly, despite some roles being more visible than others. Next year, I’ve relinquished the reins to the workshop’s founder Huy Nguyen, and simultaneously groomed my successor in coordinating the workshop during the week to our friend Joe Gidjunis. You go, Joe!

We’ll see you next year in Dallas…