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Watch and Learn: John Greengo on the Road with Art Wolfe

by John Greengo
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Watch and Learn: John Greengo on the Road with Art Wolfe

source: John Greengo

Imagine riding in a van in the Pantanal of South America with Art Wolfe, when he calls for the driver to stop, you know it’s because he’s seeing something that he wants to photograph. You scan the windows quickly, trying to see what Art sees.

Watch and Learn: John Greengo on the Road with Art Wolfe

source: John Greengo

Now imagine this happening over and over again, watching the process from start to end as you travel around the world. You gain muscle memory from all the scanning, from all the anticipation of capturing something breathtaking.

This was my post collegiate classroom. The boots on the ground experience for any photographer is far different from that in the classroom. But with Art Wolfe, it was exceptional. The two years I spent working with Art, who at that point had produced 75 photography books, and had just landed his new PBS show Travels to the Edge, were the most valuable in my education as a photographer.

Watch and Learn: John Greengo on the Road with Art Wolfe

source: John Greengo


Experience the artistry and vision of Art Wolfe for yourself.  Learn more.


Watch and Learn: John Greengo on the Road with Art Wolfe

Travels to the Edge crew source: John Greengo

I stepped away from that opportunity with a clear vision of the entire process that a photographer encounters. Two key lessons come to mind.

Watch and Learn

Every time that van stopped, I was watching Art’s every move. Part of my job was to anticipate what he wanted to do and getting the equipment ready for him. I had to figure out what his subject was and get the camera in his hands as soon as possible. As I started to understand his style, I improved my reaction time and started to see his frames better. Art’s goal is always a beautiful composition and everything played second fiddle to that. The lengths that he would go to realize his vision was enlightening.

Watch and Learn: John Greengo on the Road with Art Wolfe

source: John Greengo

On the other hand, Art also knows when to let go. While he always sets himself up for success in timing and in location, he’s quick to adjust and make radical changes on short notice to solve whatever problems he encounters.

This tenacity mixed with flexibility taught me about the balance of finding the right course of pursuing a subject.

Examining a Full Body of Work

The opposite extreme of traveling the world was the unexciting task of managing and working with Art’s image collection. My specific job was to review tens of thousands of Art’s digital images from particular trips and find the best ones for stock. These photographs showed me Art’s process of working an image from an idea to a final composition. It was like seeing all the outtakes from an Alfred Hitchcock film. When you see the final result and add in all the missed steps along the way, you put together a story of how an image was worked to perfection. Seeing story after story meticulously worked through taught me about color, composition, and other lessons that I incorporate into my own work and has helped influence the content of my classes.

Watch and Learn: John Greengo on the Road with Art Wolfe

source: John Greengo

Watching the steps that Art Wolfe took to improve an image taught me that anyone can take steps to improve their own images. There’s limitless potential for improving your work. Learn the technical, have it down pat, so it doesn’t get in the way. Concentrate on the final image and work it until you get there.


Experience the artistry and vision of Art Wolfe for yourself.  Learn more.


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