Annual photography event leaves our art director with a different view.


Famed gallery owner Tibor de Nagy once wrote, “As a rule, artists are difficult—to say the least. Their emotions are more intense. Their egos are either enormous, or just the opposite, but they are never well balanced. Artists love and hate, and hardly ever feel neutral.” In my experience, photographers are no exception to this sentiment, and it’s part of why I’ve always been hesitant to join photography clubs or group outings.

This is why I was so remarkably and pleasantly surprised by my experience attending the Shooting The West photography expo in Winnemucca this past March. It’s not a new event—this was their 29th year—and I’d heard of it, but I hesitated to attend what I thought would likely be an egomaniacal group of people photographing dusty fence posts and sagebrush, which is really not all that appealing to me.

I’ve heard it said that nobody likes to be wrong, but I am extremely happy to say it. I was wrong!


Shooting the West is for anyone who loves taking photographs. Participants run the gamut from those who make their living behind a camera to those wishing to learn advanced techniques for personal use. All instructors were encouraging, supportive, and incredibly knowledgeable, and every attendee I met was friendly and eager to share their own experiences and yours. Photographers went out on unscheduled shoots together, they shared “secret” locations and techniques, and they laughed and learned. The organizers managed the event like a well-oiled machine.

In 2018, Shooting The West is celebrating its 30th year and it promises to be a remarkable event. While I can’t tell you who will be presenting or what subjects will be covered, here are some things you might expect based on this year’s event:

  • Portrait lighting techniques, including the latest equipment and how to use Learn all about the studio side of things, and then take the show on the road and practice outdoor lighting and portraiture.
  • Light painting What kind of lights should you paint with? How long should your shutter be open? What kind of results are you trying to achieve?
  • Photographing airplanes on location at the Winnemucca Municipal Airport. You might get the rare opportunity not only to photograph these pieces of history, but also to climb up inside of them and imagine yourself a World War II pilot, heading into battle.
  • Spend some time in nature, practicing the best means by which to photograph the You can spend a day learning techniques in a classroom environment and then spend your night out in the fresh air, putting everything you learned into play, in an astrophotography workshop.
  • Rise before the roosters and head to the dunes with an instructor helping you learn to frame the best sunrise shots, and then head back to the classroom for detailed instructions and suggestions regarding the processing of those photos.

As if the many workshops and classes aren’t enough, you get to spend two days at the convention center, engaging in presentations from wonderfully talented photographers. They visually take you with them on assignments and excursions from Nevada and around the globe, share processing ideas and techniques, teach you about the legalities and rights of being a photographer, and just generally offer you new perspective and inspiration.

Also, you will have opportunities to enter your work into contests with prizes awarded to the best of the best, and even more opportunities to network and converse with extremely talented and friendly photographers.


When the event came to a close, I felt like a child who’d gone to the best summer camp of their life, only to have to leave behind all those friends and return to “real life” back home. Fast friendships and encouraging learning have a way of wrapping you in a warm glow.

If you’re a photographer this event is, in my opinion, definitely something you should consider attending. If you have a photographer (or aspiring photographer) in your life, attendance to this event would make a wonderful gift. I’ve been shooting seriously for about 15 years now, and can say with no hesitation that every single workshop I sat in on, even if just for a few minutes, sent me away with some new nugget of information.

My best advice for attending this event? Stalk the website often, so you know when registration opens (usually sometime in January), because within a week most of the workshops will be already sold out! If that happens take heart—get yourself on a waiting list because people do sometimes drop out.



Tibor’s opening quote could be taken as a criticism of artists, but it continues on to say, “Their enthusiasm is exaggerated. They recognize beauty faster…Their intellect keeps them from ever being boring to other people… They give more than they consume. In short, if you want a smooth existence, keep away from the art world. But if you want to really live—meaning suffer and burst out of joy—become involved with artists.”

Just like that summer camp, Shooting The West offers photographers an opportunity to be involved, form lifelong friendships, and really live!


Shooting the West March 6-11, 2018
50 W. Winnemucca Blvd., #1
Winnemucca, NV 89445, 775-623-3501


Opportunities at Shooting The West are not limited to the official schedule.

Lee Molof takes a selfie with Linda Isbell, Kippy Spilker, and Martha Neel while trying his hand at piloting a drone for the first time. During the expo, I was talking with some people about my new DJI Mavic drone. With as much interest as there was in it, I held sunrise sessions for two of the days, out at the dunes and many people came out to try it. Some were afraid to fly it and only wanted to watch, but others tried and took to it very naturally, recognizing the opportunity to expand the equipment in their camera bag and the photos they could capture with a drone. I know at least one attendee who ordered a DJI Phantom 4 when he got home, after flying the Mavic around the Winnemucca sand dunes.

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