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*** What a Fifth Grader from Texas and a Travel Agent from Florida Learned about Great Photography
*** An AWAI Exclusive — Pet Photography DVDs with Ren Netherland and Shelly Perry
*** Practical Writing Prompt of the Week: Writing about a Fish Out of Water Experience
*** Reader Feedback: What Our Workshop Attendees in Hershey, PA. Had to Say about Our First-Ever Pet Photography Workshop

Dear Reader,

For the first time ever, we had a 10-year-old attend one of our live workshops. Ellen, Ben’s mom, signed him up as her guest, hoping that this would be something they could do together — start a pet portraiture business.

I think Ellen and I both thought Ben would be most interested in working with the animals — Ben would become the “pet wrangler” while Mom snapped the pictures. But what unfolded surprised us all.

Ben got some of the best pictures there. The only real problem he had was that the camera proved a little too heavy for him. (When Ellen goes to buy their first camera, she’ll want a lighter model.)

What’s Ben’s secret? Well, I think the biggest part of it is that Ben wasn’t afraid to “try”. So many adults worry first. And they’re so afraid of failing that they never try.

Take BH, for instance. BH was another one of our workshop attendees at this same event. On the second day, I caught her trying to weasel out of the live animal shoot because she didn’t want to use Ren’s camera.

“I don’t know how to work that fancy thing,” she said. “Someone else can take my spot. I don’t want to waste anyone’s time.”
“Nonsense,” I told her (and I blocked the door so she couldn’t squeeze by). “Just try it. And if you don’t like your pictures, I won’t show them to anyone else. I promise.”

She did… reluctantly, of course. And she took 5-10 shots that made her proud. Plus, the client chose one of hers to purchase.

The lesson here is that sometimes success isn’t a matter of natural talent or years of practice. Sometimes you just have to put yourself “out there” and try your hand at something. Ben certainly wasn’t studying up before he arrived. And BH never dreamed that one short camera lesson could make working an SLR so easy.

Here are a few of Ben’s best shots, see what you think!
(click here to see the pictures)

The next time you find yourself saying you can’t do something or secretly wishing you didn’t have to learn anything new, stop. Just try it. You may surprise yourself.

Here’s the note we got from Ellen this morning about the experience she and Ben had…

[This workshop] was so much fun, and Ben and I both learned so much! Ren is a hoot!

Ben loved working with the animals, and he was just agog over all the equipment. He’s begging me now to buy a set of lights and a camera just like Ren’s, but we’re not nearly ready for professional portraiture yet. One of the best parts of the conference, though, is that I came away with some great ideas for what sorts of equipment we do need right away.

For example, during the breaks I got some excellent advice from Shelly, Rich, Ren, and a few other attendees about shooting Ben’s gymnastics meets. (Those meets are a real challenge — indoors, no flash allowed, long distances across the gymnasium to the athletes, intense activity…) So now I know we need a DSLR, and what sorts of available settings and lenses to look for.

It’s going to be fun to get a good camera and actually know what to do with it for a change, or should I say, for a start. I’m changing around Ben’s art curriculum for this year so that he can focus more on photography and keep up the enthusiasm from the conference. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes. We’re really looking forward to learning more and more.

Oh, and one more thing. Ben just glowed when he got a certificate at the end of the workshop and when he actually got paid for one of his own shots! But the best part was when Lori presented him with an iStockPhoto hat for his help with handling the animals. He’s hardly taken the hat off to sleep since he got it. He likes to turn it around backwards so that it looks more artistic, like a beret. It’s so cute. Thanks so much to Lori and Shelly for that extra thought. It was really sweet of them…

We’ll keep you posted!

P.S. Ben’s friends are having a hard time believing him about selling a photo — especially when he tells them it was a photo of an alligator! Wish you could have watched the interaction among all the boys yesterday at the gym.

“How far away were you from the alligator?”
“You mean it was alive?!?”
“How big was it?”
“It was inside a WHAT? — a picnic basket???”

You could just see their eyes getting wider and wider as Ben tried to answer all their questions at once, and the parents were no different. I got so tickled…

One of the moms said, “Sounds like a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” and I heartily agreed. Thanks so much for helping to make it all happen. We had a great time!

Don’t forget to scroll down to today’s writing prompt. Sometimes these “fish out of water” experiences make for great travel articles — a story about an inexperienced photographer taking an intense photo safari… an article about dance lessons when you have two left feet. Scroll down for advice from freelance travel writer Stan Sinberg on writing these types of stories for magazines…

Take care,

— Lori
Lori Allen
Director, Great Escape Publishing

[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]

PRACTICAL WRITING PROMPT OF THE WEEK: Writing about a Fish Out of Water Experience

Writing humorous travel stories can be tough but freelance travel writer, Stan Sinberg, has the art down to a science.

Re-read his article: How to Write Humorous Travel Stories: Seven Ways to Ensure Something Goes Wrong on Every Trip in our archives at:

… and on your next vacation, plan to do something you wouldn’t normally do. Go camping if you’re more of a luxury gal… try rock climbing if you’re not an adventurous sort… take dancing lessons if you’ve got two left feet. Or, for that matter, give it a go someplace near home.

If you’ve already had one of these experiences, write it up this weekend and send it to the Travel Post Monthly. You never know who might buy your article there:

READER FEEDBACK: What Our Workshop Attendees in Hershey, PA. Had to Say about Our First-Ever Pet Photography Workshop

“Ren is obviously very well versed in his knowledge of subject matter. His presentations are humorous as well as informative. He truly ‘makes learning fun.'” — Sharon Karr

“Shelly’s presentation is so informative and helpful. She not only answers your questions about stock photography and websites, she actually teaches you how to recognize what you need.” — Ellen Kissinger

“Rich is always fantastic; clear and concise and stays on point; a great teacher! He knows just what to include in his presentations without bogging us down with too much info.”
— Agnes Rapoli

“This workshop covers every aspect of this business. Someone could go home and get started up within a very short time.” — Yvonne Johns

“Ren has an unbelievable amount of knowledge — I don’t think you could ask for anything more — and his personality (with a good dose of humor) makes for a lively and fun presentation.” — Barbara Mistic

“The workshop was well done in every way and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to photographers (even hobbyist and amateurs). I will definitely be interested in taking other AWAI workshops.” — Pam Spivey

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