Lower Vieux Quebec, also known as Quartier Petit Champlain, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada image copyright © 2014 Susan Seubert
Public speaking, for me, was once a terrifying prospect. Standing on stage in front of an auditorium full of strangers, lights low with maybe a dim spotlight on me, huge images projected on the screen behind me: this scenario was petrifying. Yet over the years, it’s become much easier for me to stand in front of an audience and speak. Perhaps it’s from practice or maybe it’s simply the passing of time, but either way I am now much more familiar with myself and what I do than I was when I gave my first formal lecture. It was to the Society for Photographic Education’s Conference at Evergreen State College in Washington. I was 22 years old and had to excuse myself after the first sentence came out of my mouth as I thought I might pass out.
Thankfully, that was not the case these past two Sundays when I had the opportunity to speak alongside National Geographic Traveler’s Director of Photography, Dan Westergren. I had been asked by the National Geographic Seminar program to prepare a day long talk about “The Travel Assignment”, something with which I am now familiar. The day was broken up into several segments in order to address the subject in as comprehensive a manner as possible in under 6 hours. Dan and I took turns speaking depending on the subject. Occasionally we would interject a relevant story or address a specific audience member’s question during the other person’s presentation. My subjects were the following: “How Portraiture Can Inform a Larger Narrative;” “What I Carry in My Daily Camera Bags and Why (using pictures to illustrate not only the gear, but also examples using different lens lengths, hello Canon and Think Tank!! );” and finally to present two stories shot on assignment for the magazine. Dan’s topics were: “Photos We Love and Why;” “Histogram, White Balance and Composition;” “Mirror-less Cameras;” “Using Light;” and “Essence of Place.”
A highlight of the program for me was Dan’s opening sequence of, “Photos We Love and Why.” November 2014 is National Geographic Traveler’s 30th Anniversary, and I am humbled and pleased to have one of my images included in their 30 Greatest Travel Photos in 30 Years. Because these were the images Dan chose to show as part of the program, I was able to explain the behind-the-scenes of my image chosen, and Dan described the criteria he and his editors use in the selection process for the photos published in the magazine, and how those criteria had changed over time. Considering that over 30 million images have been submitted to National Geographic Traveler and of those, approximately 34,000 have been published in those 30 years, I feel very fortunate that one of mine landed in the chosen 30.
In both Los Angeles and Portland, our audiences were terrific! Everyone was engaged, positive, asked great questions and seemed pleased to have spent an entire Sunday in a darkened room, looking at pictures with Dan and me. In fact, one of the winners of the 2014 National Geographic Traveler Photography Competition was in attendance at our Portland seminar. One of the many benefits of attending these seminars is that we allow a good amount of time for questions where anyone in the audience can ask and we are right there to answer. Our goal is to be there to not only provide insight and information about the world inside National Geographic Traveler Magazine, but also to tailor the day for interaction with participants. I always dine with the guests so we can possibly continue talking during lunch. Participants also received a handout which has not only the information we address during the seminar, but also a list of resource web sites for Travel Photographers.
I look forward to my upcoming speaking engagements. I will discuss my work during Portland’s upcoming Photolucida. I am scheduled to give a talk to the students at the Pacific Northwest College of Art during one of their “Career Chat” programs and also at the Froelick Gallery where I’ll be having a show of my work in April. I will be giving another seminar for the National Geographic Seminar program this coming spring. As the schedule becomes available, I’ll be posting about it on my social network pages as well as on this blog.
Presenting my portrait images at the Skirball Cultural Center Auditorium in Los Angeles for National Geographic Seminars, “The Travel Assignment”
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