Adult Programs

Nature Photography Workshop: Mastering Gesture (in person)

Create masterful photographs by learning to capture the essence of nature in this advanced photography workshop at The Morton Arboretum.

Content Detail

Create masterful photographs by learning to capture the essence of nature in this advanced photography workshop at The Morton Arboretum. 

Master photographer Jay Maisel defined a concept he called “gesture.” According to Maisel, ”Gesture is at the heart of everything we shoot. It gives you a visual story of the essence of what you are looking at.” 

This class will explore the concept of gesture, making the argument that every successful photograph has gesture in one form or another. Similar to the concept of finding your “flow” or being “in the zone,” achieving gesture in a photograph is the moment when everything comes together. The result is an intangible essence that commands a viewer’s attention, elevating a shot from a picture to a photograph.

Gesture can be expressed in different ways. It may be a unique composition where all the elements “fit” perfectly. It may be a moment of extraordinary light. It may be an elusive “decisive moment” to trip the shutter.  By attempting to articulate what gesture is and by studying examples, nature photographers can become more artistic and intentional. 

This class will include three classroom sessions and two field sessions, giving participants a chance to practice achieving gesture under the guidance of their instructor. 

 COVID-19 Precautions:

Program participants must abide by the Arboretum’s safety guidelines

  • Held indoors and outdoors. Limit 16
  • Bring a notebook and pen to the first session. Instructions for the Saturday field session will be provided at the first session.


This is an intermediate/advanced level class. Participants should have foundational understanding of the manual controls on their camera.

Will Clay, nature photographer

Former Professor of Botany, Willard Clay has been a full-time photographer since 1982. Specializing in large format photography, he has been the primary photographer for nine coffee table books and has been published in a myriad of calendars, magazines, books, and advertising agencies. Portfolio consists of large format film and high-resolution digital files ready for publication. Teaching credits include teaching at The Morton Arboretum since 2005 as well as The Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont since 1985 and classes/seminars at many venues in the country.


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