A bi-annual award-winning photographer symposium, FOCUS stands for Friendship, Open-mindedness, Collaboration, Understanding, and Success! It is sponsored by Nevada Magazine and moderated by Art Director Kippy Spilker, growing in size and popularity since 2017 in Carson City, expanding now into the Las Vegas area.

Comprised of presentations and demonstrations given by respected local photographers as well as organized photo walks and outings, these symposiums are great social learning events for photographers. Come and meet new friends, gain helpful insight and knowledge, and just have a good time. The event is open to photographers of all levels, and even those shooting with a cellphone will find something of value.

Join the FOCUS Photographer Symposiums Facebook group for more information or to see photos and video from past events. You can also find information about past events by clicking on any of the following links:







FOCUS is currently on hold due to COVID-19.

What do past attendees have to say about FOCUS? Here are some of the survey responses:

Favorite parts of the event and general comments: 

Not sure what I like more – the fact that I learn something from every single presenter, no matter the subject material, or the fact that I get to hang out with some of the coolest, most talented, open-minded and open-hearted people in our area. FOCUS may just be the best thing that ever happened to my hobby!

The people who attended were friendly and networking was easy. Easier than huge for profit workshops I have attended.

This Focus meeting happened to be on a day where I was off and could attend. It would have been a worthwhile experience at 5x the price. I hope I’ll have the opportunity to attend them in the future.

Great job!!! I’ve been all of the Focus events except Vegas and they have all been good, I wouldn’t miss one for the world.

I think this was the most friendly event that I have been to in a long time. I wish there were more like it. Thank you so much for having it in Las Vegas. 🙂

Getting to meet so many facebook friends in person.

The different perspectives of each of the presenters and those in attendance! Amazing!

Learning from like-minded artists.

The speakers, with the breaks in between to allow people to mingle

I LOVE the interaction between all of the diverse levels of photographers.

All the planned “breaks” and meals together that allowed us much time to get to know other photographers, and build relationships that will be valuable in future photographic growth

The presenters mixing during the breaks. Very gracious

The laughter and the fellowship with other photographers.

I enjoy the focus group because I always learn something to help me Improve my photos. Also everyone is so friendly, helpful and willing to share tips and a great way to network

I have been to each event and found something useful at each. I would recommend them to photographers of all skill levels, the networking alone is worth the effort.

A wonderful concept that is presented well and attended by a wealth of participants. It was great to rub elbows with the photographers we all look up to.

The people are fabulous!

I enjoy collaborating with photographers and always take away something to improve my skills.

The pace was excellent! The outdoor feature added even more because of the face to face connections! Please continue these events!

Thank you for a great workshop! I had a wonderful time learning new things, visiting with friends and meeting new ones!

Thank you for putting these on. They are fabulous and I walk away every time with something new to think about!

Much gratitude! The pre-planing of every detail and communication with registrants prior to the event was immensely appreciated. The insistence by the moderator of keeping to the time schedule, despite people’s avid involvement in conversations with one another, was also very professional and valuable.

It was inspiring to hear the different photographers lecture, each with their own techniques and all with a passion for photography!

It is very exciting to have this opportunity in Carson City with such talented speakers and at a reasonable cost. The networking is great too.

I loved it all, I am very new to photography and I felt like I still understood most of what was being discussed. So something for everyone!


The first FOCUS event was held June 28, 2017, here in the historic Laxalt Building in Carson City, where our Nevada Magazine offices are. In the 2nd floor chambers, this first-time event was free, and we outgrew the room’s capacity right out of the gate, with 52 people in the room.

After a half day of presentations from Melissa Knight encouraging photographers to take risks, Larry Burton sharing information on photography and camera basics, Christi Tolbert describing the microstock photo market and how photographers could become more involved in it, and a light painting presentation from Neil Lockhart, attendees were invited to meet at a local BBQ place for lunch and more mingling. Originally only about 15 people had RSVP’d, but after having such a great and energizing morning, we ended up doubling that number at the restaurant. It’s safe to say a good time was had by pretty much all.

FOCUS 1 event photos from Tanja Musselman.
FOCUS 1 lunch at Q’s BBQ in Carson City, taken by Tanja Musselman.

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Due to popular demand and many “I didn’t know about this!” proclamations, FOCUS 2 was held just months later, on November 7, 2017, in the third floor meeting room of the Nevada Legislature building. The number of registered attendees grew by 60% and we were once more packed in.

This event was a full day of presentations, with lunch catered in by a local sub shop. Neil Lockhart revisited light painting with a live demonstration, Kaitlin Godbey walked everyone through Instagram and explained why photographers should use the social media platform, and Michael Horsley and Jerry Fenwick, members of the Reno Photography Club, shared some tips for wildlife photography out in the field and in your own backyard. Kristen Kabrin, Dennis Doyle, Susan Koppel and Lee Molof walked us through quick “How did you do that?” presentations on black & white photography, long-exposure shooting, taking successful photos at zoos, and post-processing techniques. Art Director Kippy Spilker shared  some tips to better photographers’ chances of being published in Nevada Magazine.

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After every FOCUS event, we send out anonymous surveys, and the responses we receive are taken into account when planning future events. Everything from speakers, time management, food, venue … all of it. FOCUS 3 was held at probably our most popular venue yet – the Brewery Arts Center in Carson City. We switched to banquet seating rather than lecture seating, and this allowed for easier chatting amongst photographers during breaks. Held on June 22, 2018, we planned a BYO lunch and afternoon group outing at Silver Saddle Ranch in Carson City, having no clue it would be the middle of an intense heat wave. This understandably caused some folks to drop out, but those who persevered seemed, by survey responses, to have had a fantastic time.

Another full day event, split into two parts, this one came with lots of laughs! As it grows in size, attendees have come to understand that the environment at these events is one of great learning but also great camaraderie and friendship. M.D. Welch, UNR and TMCC photography instructor, held a live and interactive demonstration on the science of lighting. Cindy Whitaker shared how she shopped for a “home” galley, Rick Mosher showed us the Photoshop magic behind the creation of his woodland spirits, Larry Neel extolled the virtues of revisiting your past work and Kristen Kabrin explained how she got out of her creative rut and encouraged photographers to journey outside their comfort zones. Nevada Magazine Art Director Kippy Spilker presented her own experiences volunteering as a photographer and encouraged attendees to consider it themselves. The brown bag lunch was enjoyed by many, and then Larry Burton and Mark Vollmer led tours of Silver Saddle Ranch, in the afternoon. Larry’s tour focused on primarily macro/flowers/insects, etc. while Mark’s tour focused on landscapes. Tours were given twice, to allow people to enjoy both if they wanted to.

Lunch at the Carson River Park, right next to Silver Saddle Ranch.
© Mark Vollmer

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Our first time in Las Vegas but, thanks to an overwhelmingly positive response from follow-up surveys and conversations, not our last! FOCUS 6 will be back in Vegas in 2020. A not-quite-full-day event held at the beautiful Nevada State Museum, right next to Springs Preserve. Lunch was catered in by Opportunity Village, allowing us to enjoy good food and support a great cause without leaving the premises, so there was more time for socializing!

Live drone demonstration at lunchtime.

And our most excellent speakers. There aren’t as many crowd shots because after the beginning introductions, I was flying solo and got a little caught up in other details, forgetting to take pics of the crowd. Next time!

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Focus 5 was full of experimentation and some of it worked, some of it didn’t. It had more of a “business of photography” slant to it and included an anonymous critique and light-painting workshop with a live model. We likely won’t be doing the critique again – it was an awful lot of work for very little reward, as I don’t know how much people really got out of it. But the point is we keep trying things based upon survey responses and requests, so every event will be different! We have pretty much reached full capacity at this Carson City venue, as you can see here, so we may end up with waiting lists in the future.

The light painting workshop, once it got going, was great, and some really excellent photography came from it. If you want to see samples, you’ll have to join us on Facebook to see the shared album from all the photographers. Here are a few photos of the setup, though.

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Back in Las Vegas, our venue this time around was the wonderful National Atomic Testing Museum, where they welcomed our group with open arms, and allowed all attendees free entry to the museum itself! There aren’t a lot of photos of this particular event, but we will have videos of all presentations uploaded to our Facebook group page soon! An extra bonus to this event was the private tour of Gold Butte the following day, led by Site Steward, Friends of Gold Butte member, and FOCUS presenter, Steve Dudrow. A great time was had by all, and much interest was expressed in future outings of this sort, so we will be exploring those options going forward.

FOCUS attendees in Gold Butte © Steve Dudrow
FOCUS attendees in Gold Butte © Steve Dudrow

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FOCUS is a unique networking and learning opportunity. You learn from your peers, and form relationships (if you want to) that can last a lifetime. If you have any further questions about these events, please email Kippy Spilker. And don’t forget about the FOCUS Photographer Symposiums Facebook Group!