Picture Perfect Day at The Urban Deer Retreat

San Francisco’s summer gloom seems to have set in a little early this year. Thankfully, I had the pleasure of escaping misty, gray skies last Saturday to take in some much needed Vitamin D and basic digital photography skills at the Urban Deer’s first weekend retreat.

Urban Deer’s fabulous founder Victoria hosted a group of women for a weekend of outdoor skills workshops and relaxation on a gorgeous wooded compound — which featured a main house with a kitchen any chef would approve of, guest house with an outdoor shower, hot tub and plenty of space to sunbathe — in a tiny Sonoma County community called Cazadero.

 The cozy guest house.

The cozy guest house.

 The cabin, complete with an outdoor shower.

The cabin, complete with an outdoor shower.

On the day's agenda: A landscape photography lesson from San Francisco photographer Margot Moritz.

 Photo: Margo Mortiz /  Margo Mortiz Photography

Photo: Margo Mortiz / Margo Mortiz Photography

As excited as I was about learning from a seasoned pro, I have to admit, I was also quite intimidated. Margo's work — for magazines, tech companies, dance companies and more — is mesmerizing. While I’ve dreamed of honing my photography skills for years, my mission to purchase a DSLR has stalled time and time again for fear of dropping my money on one that’s too advanced, too limited, too heavy, etc. And if I finally settled on one, I worry that I’ll never figure out the advanced features and use it like a simple point-and-shoot.

But less than half-way through Margot’s workshop, I was already contemplating when I’d have time the next week to go buy my own DSLR. Her two-hour lesson focused on demystifying the two concepts that, she said, an amatuer photographer needs to know to confidently graduate to using their DSLR’s manual setting: exposure and shutter speed. With a solid understanding of how to adjust your exposure and shutter speed depending on your lighting situation, you’d be 80% there. 80%?! I was on the edge of my seat taking detailed notes the entire time.

After discussing the ins and outs of each concept and the inverse relationship between the two, watching a demo of how she adjusted the exposure and shutter speed on her own camera to take flawless photographs of subjects in the room and took a brief quiz, she set us loose to try out our new skills.

 Practice makes perfect!

Practice makes perfect!

 Ready for your closeup Buddha?

Ready for your closeup Buddha?

While none of my photographs will don the walls of a local gallery any time soon, my windy drive back to the city was filled with daydreams of scenic photo shoots.

Margot hosts regular weekend workshops in her Mission district studio; no matter how rough you think your digital photography skills, don't be afraid to check on out! We’ll also keep you updated on opportunities to practice your photography and other outdoor skills at future Urban Deer retreats.

The Urban Deer Retreat
Redwoods.JPG