Vail’s thrill of the ‘click’ photo class |

Vail’s thrill of the ‘click’ photo class

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado
Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyKathryn Worley looks through local phtograher Jon Sheppards camera at a flower shot he composed for his class during an outdoor photography workshop in Vail ,Colorado

VAIL, Colorado ” A group of photography students wander the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens in Vail, Colorado, stopping every so often to hunch over a flower bed with their cameras like scientists peering through their microscopes.

Despite a brief downpour and chilly spring temperatures, the group attending the alpine garden’s summer photography workshop, free classes throughout the season led by Avon photographer Jon Sheppard. Sheppard, who specializes in nature and landscape photography, is starting the fourth season of the free classes.

Students don’t need anything beyond their own camera ” anything from a $10,000 digital professional camera to the standard lightweight point-and-shoot ” and a tripod if they have one. The classes go through the basics of photo composition and framing, rules of exposure and an introduction to camera equipment.

Avon resident Michelle Cawood came to the workshop hoping to expand her outdoor photography skills. She was bit by the photography bug a few years ago after a friend loaned her an underwater camera.

Since then, she’s experimented with her own point-and-shoot camera, and has been excited to display some of her own work in her home.

“I really enjoy nature photography and flowers, so I’d like to learn how to be more successful with that,” she said.

In the gardens, Cawood was able to work on what has been her most elusive shot ” the “fuzzy water shot,” where a longer exposure makes running water appear blurred.

Missouri couple Bill and Kathryn Worley saw the workshop as a way to visit the Alpine Gardens as well as hone their photography skills.

“I know enough to be very dangerous,” laughed Bill Worley of his photography knowledge. “We have some low-end equipment, and we’d like to learn more and get some higher end equipment.”

Kathryn Worley said she wants to learn more about art technique and get accustomed to the equipment and jargon of photography.

“It’s nice to hear about the techniques from someone else,” she said. “Also, it’s fun to see something through someone else’s eyes.”

And Sheppard is glad to give his students “new eyes.”

He talks about basic techniques and things to watch out for, using his own portfolio of photos as well as framing shots in the gardens. He gabs away in his Southern drawl about his photos, telling stories of how he trudged through knee-deep snow to find the perfect spot to photograph a valley, or about how long he sat still to capture a startlingly close shot of a mountain lion.

“It’s finding the right places,” Sheppard said. “People used to say, ‘Oh you must have a very nice camera.’ No, I have a good eye.”

He also encourages his students to frame their own shots and find the image that pleases them personally.

“Photography is a matter of personal preference,” he said. “It’s just like there are 2 million flavors of ice cream other than Ben and Jerry’s.”

Sheppard said he is also glad to look over students’ photos and give them pointers, and at the end of the summer, the top student photos will be chosen for display at the Vail Public Library.

What: “Art in the Gardens” photography workshop.

Where: Betty Ford Alpine Gardens in Vail.

When: Twice a month on Wednesdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. The next class is June 3.

Who: Avon photographer Jon Sheppard leads the workshops, which are open to all levels of photographers.

More info: or

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or


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