ONE YEAR ON....
As we sail gently past our first year in business, it seems timely to pen a few words of appreciation and share some thoughts about our ideas for the future. Although we have only been in business a very short time, we are constantly examining our business model and looking for ways to fine tune it for the benefit of as many people as possible. We juggle continuously with myriad issues and prudent revisions to the way we work.
We are committed to keeping our group sizes at ten (although there have been a couple of exceptions - classroom-based workshops for example), so for that reason alone, our prices are always going to be significantly higher than if we were taking 15 people.
When it comes to choosing accommodation, there seems to be two schools of thought. Some feel it’s just a place to sleep and nothing more. We tend to view it as being of the utmost importance and make our choices carefully. The selection process becomes a meticulously managed balance between affordability and creative appeal. As well as seeking out properties with creative interest we try to find those with a connection to the arts. If they happen to be located in a Tuscan vineyard, then so much the better. This approach has served us well, and while doing the research can be very time-consuming, we have been rewarded with incredible hospitality and have had the great good fortune to stay in some memorable places. It is helpful that we can make our images anywhere and so the need to be close to certain honeypot locations doesn’t apply.
Many of you will know, through frustrating first-hand experience, that we are currently in the extraordinarily fortunate position of having our tours sell out in hours. Sometimes minutes - Giverny was a record three-quarters of an hour. As I type, our recently launched Creative Growth tour to Tuscany has filled up in a couple of hours, despite the high price point. However, we also wish to provide tours that are affordable to as many people as possible.
We both think it is important to offer clients as much choice as possible - not everybody has the means nor, indeed, the desire to stay in a Michelangelo-designed villa just outside of Florence and so for that reason we offer a tour with a similar structure to Tuscany in the Cairngorms, which is almost 50% cheaper. The content is virtually identical however there are (unfortunately) considerably fewer vineyards.
Managing costs, locations, accommodation (not to mention our carbon footprint – more of that below) is but one part of the equation. Obviously, all this counts for naught if the content isn’t there. The most rewarding change we have put in place in recent months is the introduction of our Creative Growth program. It has become apparent that people desperately need to develop as artists and simply setting forth with a fistful of techniques is only (a very small) part of the equation. Classroom-based photography workshops are not the norm in the UK, but we believe that discussion and interaction is crucial to the development of ideas and direction and it is this that we hope to facilitate with these tours.
We have also decided that the time has come to work with other leaders. Not only has our workload become unmanageable, but we feel it is important for all of us not to get stale and fall into tried and tested ways of working. One way we might hope to avoid this is for both of us to teach with other people. Terry Gibbins who teaches for Light and Land and leads London workshops with Charlotte Gilliatt and Denis Hocking of Hocking Photographic are both creatively gifted and excellent teachers and already well known to many of you. Their approach differs slightly to ours, but one objective unites us – the challenge of seeing the unseen. We feel confident that their valuable input will help expand our vision and offer greater diversity for our clients.
Perhaps the most important change that we have implemented is our commitment to help preserve the planet. It is a cruel irony that in our quest to capture the diverse elements and hidden beauty of our planet, we are actually helping to destroy it. After careful consideration we have decided to include a £10 carbon offset fee to the cost of all tours (one day workshops excluded). This is a voluntary donation and we will cover the contribution for those who wish to opt out. We will make an annual donation to Solar Aid – an international charity that helps combat poverty and climate change. You can read more about their objectives here.
We feel this is of the utmost importance and we have left it far too look before implementing it. Obviously we hope that all our clients feel equally committed and will support our initiative.