A New Arcanum Master

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I had been teaching college level English classes for a few years at Truckee Meadows Community College when I met my supervisor’s mother at an on campus copy machine. She told me that she taught art classes, and I told her that I had almost twenty years experience as a photographer and had been published in some top-notch publications and worked at the summertime Lake Tahoe art fairs at Kings Beach. She told me that I should go talk to the art department because she thought they were looking for a new photography instructor.

A couple hours later, I did exactly what she recommended and was basically given an Intro to Digital Photography class to teach the following semester. The department asked me if I could teach Photoshop, and I said that I had been using it since 1995. Then I was asked if I could also teach Adobe Lightroom. I said that I could and basically fibbed because I had at the time never used Lightroom at all. I knew that I had enough time to learn it before the semester started and went and purchased a copy with my teacher’s discount at the University of Nevada, Reno. I read some blogs and watched some videos, and that was when I first learned about Trey Ratcliff.

I am surprised that I didn’t know who he was before then. He is currently the most famous and successful travel photographer alive, and he has a following on social media that is larger than Mick Jagger’s. He also has great tutorial videos on HDR photography and Lightroom, and I ended up purchasing both. Thankfully, that Lightroom tutorial prepared me to begin teaching it in my first photography class, and now I use Lightroom as my primary software for editing and organizing my photography catalog. Honestly, it is now my favorite software that I have ever used, and I wonder how I made it so long without it.

During my first year as a photography instructor, I continued to follow all the cool things that Trey was doing, and through him I was able to keep up with all the latest and greatest things which were going on in the photography world. If you haven’t noticed, and I really hadn’t at the time, technology has rapidly evolved in the photography world during the past few years, and many things are possible now that weren’t five years ago. For example, using high ISO for nighttime photography has improved so much that some cameras will shoot very well at an extremely high ISO which didn’t exist in the days of film. Also, many digital cameras can now shoot video that is much better quality than what video cameras could produce a few years ago.

Nighttime Scene from Nevada's Cathedral Gorge State Park

Nighttime Scene from Nevada’s Cathedral Gorge State Park

One day, while looking at Trey’s blog at www.stuckincustoms.com, I read that he was going to start a new online photography mentorship program called, The Arcanum, and I became interested immediately and decided to sign up. While I felt as though I was qualified to become a master right away, I didn’t have all the required tutorial videos, and I thought it would be fun and helpful to initially take part from a student’s perspective, so I signed up to become an apprentice. My application was submitted in December of 2013, and I received my invitation from Angela B. Pan in August of 2014. I was already familiar with her amazing HDR photography of Washington D.C., so I accepted the invitation the day that I received it and have been involved ever since.

The Arcanum experience was terrific. The people in my cohort were all super fun to visit with, and I learned a lot from Angela, whom I like to call Angela B. Rad. She has an amazing eye for detail that has really helped me to improve my compositions while in the field, and I also learned some post-processing techniques from her that have taken the presentation of my photographs to a higher level. Besides the learning experience, it provided a great community aspect that I really hadn’t experienced as a photographer. Most of my friends aren’t photographers, and The Arcanum brought me new friends who liked to talk about all the technical stuff nobody else I knew wanted to talk about. In my opinion, the friendship and camaraderie makes The Arcanum different and sets it apart from other platforms of learning.

This past January, Angela recommended me to become a master and I started working on all the requirements in February. At the time, I really didn’t know much at all about shooting or editing video, but I put a lot of effort into it and am now comfortable with both. As an already experienced teacher, the rest of the transition from apprentice to master was relatively easy for me. I was assigned a supervising master, Jessica Lark, who is a famous boudoir photographer, and I found a second supporting master, Ron Clifford, who is an amazing landscape photographer from Canada and one of the nicest guys in the world. They, and Angela, helped guide me on the path to where I am today. I was able to merge what has been successful for me in the past as a photography instructor into a new form of learning through the merger of yesteryear’s master and apprentice method with the high-tech modern technology of today. It’s all so exciting, and I am so happy to be about to send out my first batch of invites.

Arcanum Masters (from left to right) Jessica Lark, Angela B. Pan, A.D. Wheeler, and Ron Clifford take part in the Trey Ratcliff photo walk in Philadelphia.

Arcanum Masters (from left to right) Jessica Lark, Angela B. Pan, A.D. Wheeler, and Ron Clifford take part in the Trey Ratcliff photo walk in Philadelphia. Photo by Zach Heaton  www.facebook.com/zachariahshawnheaton

If you are interested in being one of my 20 apprentices, please fill out an application at www.thearcanum.com and let me know. My cohort will be general in that all genres of photography will be covered and discussed, but there will be a strong emphasis on landscape photography, and two of my leveling-up assignments will be about nighttime photography. There will be a weekly, Theme of the Week, challenge, and I will be hosting at least three video hangouts on Google + a month. My goal is to level up the skills of all the cohort members while also building new friendships amongst likeminded individuals with similar interests. 

Please let me know if you would like to join or have any questions. Also, I will be participating in Trey Ratcliff’s photo walk on September 19 in San Francisco. If you happen to be there, please come by and say hello.

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