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Information, policies and FAQ's

Our Mission

The Mountain Workshops gather storytellers from around the world to document the diverse communities within the Commonwealth of Kentucky through visual and written narratives. We seek to educate and inspire those participating in the workshops as well as those in the communities we document. We believe in the power of human connection through storytelling, and we create and preserve a valuable cultural archive of Kentucky life.

Who we are

As the leaves fall annually, the Western Kentucky University's School of Media Photojournalism Program’s Mountain Workshops draws together a team of dedicated teachers and determined participants for a week of compelling storytelling in Kentucky. Together they explore the richness of these communities, the lives of the people who live in them, and the beauty of the landscapes. Participants of the Mountain gain hands-on experience telling stories in the documentary tradition. In return, the community receives a unique document of their county through both compelling visual imagery and written stories.

To date, an unprecedented 38 counties in the state of Kentucky have been documented in a historically significant way. In its early years, the Mountain Workshops also documented five communities in north-central Tennessee, part of the Cumberland Gap region the two states share.

Beyond the educational experience that the Mountain Workshops provides, a 100-plus-page photo book is published, as well as a website containing all of the stories documented during the week.  In addition, a 50-picture exhibition is printed and framed and is available to the community.

What we do

The Mountain Workshops currently houses five concurrent educational experiences during the five-day program.

  • The PHOTOJOURNALISM workshop focuses on still photography, as coaches and participants tell stories about the community through the lives of the people who live there.
  • The VIDEO workshop challenges participants to record sound and shoot video, then they use digital and online tools to spin these threads into stories that captivate.
  • The PICTURE EDITING workshop draws on the design sensibilities and electronic publishing expertise of its coaches to help participants learn to weave photographs and text together into memorable narratives.
  • The DIGITAL STORYTELLING workshop debuted during the 2018 Mt. Sterling workshop and focuses on a collaborative approach to storytelling using still photography, video, data visualization, alternative forms of visual acquisition, and writing.
  • The K-12 EDUCATORS workshop is designed to serve primary and secondary school educators who are identified by Dataseam, a sponsor of the Mountain Workshops. Through observation, hands-on projects, and critiques, these K-12 educators learn storytelling skills at the Mountain Workshops that they can bring back to their classrooms.

Our educational mission

Since its beginnings, the Mountain Workshops has been at the heart of the WKU Photojournalism program’s educational mission. It remains the program’s best example of what can be achieved in journalism education outside of the classroom with the support of journalism professionals donating thousands of hours of their time and expertise, generous sponsors, and a dedicated staff of WKU Photojournalism teachers and students. Though the Mountain runs just five days every fall, it takes a year of hard work to plan and execute the program successfully. When planning each year’s workshop experience, the WKU staff relies heavily on the support that it receives from the communities it documents, the journalism professionals who come from across the United States to contribute, and the sponsors who make the workshops a success.

Our core values

  • Create a secure environment that encourages learning and creativity.
  • Foster collaboration and cooperation between participants, faculty and staff.
  • Respect the values and traditions of the communities we document.
  • Practice ethical behavior in the storytelling process.
  • Inspire participants to continue developing their storytelling skills.
  • Preserve the unique culture of Kentucky through images and words.

Our policies

Code of conduct

The Mountain Workshops does not and shall not discriminate on the basis of age, race, color, gender, national origin, religion, disability, protected veteran status, political affiliation, genetic information, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation, in any of its activities or operations. We are committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for all members of our staff, faculty, volunteers, subcontractors, vendors, members of the host community and participants.

Western Kentucky University and the Mountain Workshops complies with Title IX of the Educational Amendments Act of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in all programs and activities (including sexual harassment and sexual violence) in the University’s educational programs and activities.  Title IX states: No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. Title IX also prohibits retaliation for asserting or otherwise participating in claims of sex discrimination. Discrimination, sexual harassment and misuse of power or position will not be tolerated at the Mountain Workshops. We remain committed to providing a quality educational experience in a safe and professional environment.

If you experience gender-based or sexual harassment, domestic or interpersonal violence, sexual assault, abuse of power or any sexual misconduct – or suspect such conduct has occurred - while attending the Mountain Workshops, you must promptly report this information to the University’s Title IX Coordinator:

Andrea P. Anderson Assistant General Counsel - General Counsel, Wetherby Administration Building 103, 1906 College Heights Blvd. #11070, Bowling Green, KY 42101 270-745-5398

Non-Discrimination Policy

The Mountain Workshops is an extension of the School of Media's Photojournalism program and is part of Potter College at Western Kentucky University. It is a registered tax-exempt 501 (c) (3) program and does not discriminate on the basis of age, race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender expression or transgender status, marital status, religion, creed, ancestry, national and ethnic origin, veteran's status, physical, mental handicap or other legally protected classification in any of its policies or procedures – including but not limited to those related to admission, advancement, story selection, volunteer selection, the provision of educational services, vendor approval and the granting of scholarships – or in its services, facilities, privileges or benefits in compliance with and to the limits of applicable state and federal laws.


Seats fill quickly. Your participation is only secure after payment is received in full. Acceptance does not guarantee a seat. It is best to make your payment as quickly as possible once you have been notified of your acceptance. If a workshop sells out before you pay, we will start a waiting list and contact you based upon the order of your initial registration date if any openings occur. You will have 24 hours to pay once we contact you via your registration email to secure a wait-listed seat. After that we will contact the next applicant on the list.

Cancellation and refunds

  • If notified by August 31, full refund minus $100
  • If notified by October 1, full refund minus $200
  • We cannot offer any refund if notified after 12:01 a.m. CDT, October 2

We understand that life happens and there are reasons that you may have to cancel your participation after you have paid. We will do what we can to assist you in your cancellation but the Mountain Workshops is not responsible for cancellations due to family or medical emergencies. If, for some reason, we have to cancel one of our workshops due to inadequate enrollment or other situations beyond our control, we will reimburse all funds paid directly to us. We cannot be responsible for hotel or non-refundable airline tickets.

Transportation food and lodging

A car/transportation is required for the photojournalism, video and digital storytelling workshops. For picture editing it is possible to secure rides with other participants in the same workshop. It is best to communicate with us before paying tuition if you intend to not have a car at the workshops. You are responsible to obtain your own travel, hotel reservations and meals as well as transportation to and from the airport to the workshop community.

Subject to change

Our coaches are professionally in high demand and sometimes a listed coach is unable to participate because of a last-minute change in their schedule. If we need to replace a coach, we will do so with a person of similar credentials in the business.

Copyright and archives agreement

In order to preserve the longevity of the Mountain Workshops content, and to realize the importance of this collection of images, stories and videos about the Commonwealth of Kentucky, we have partnered with WKU Archives to manage and archive your edited work from this week.

  • You keep your own copyright of everything you collect.
  • The Mountain Workshops may use content or your likeness to promote the workshops.
  • The WKU Archives is accessible to WKU faculty, students and staff for research only.
  • If an interested party wishes to use an item beyond research, the WKU Archives can sell the content, but you will be contacted first.
  • If you want to sell the image yourself, WKU Archives will provide you with a contact of the interested party.
  • After 25 years from the date on this contract, all rights to your collection will transfer to WKU Archives unless you specify otherwise in writing to the Archive office.

Mountain Workshops agreement

I retain the copyright to my own work obtained during the Mountain Workshops and I agree to allow the Mountain Workshops to use my photographs, video, audio, words, design or interactive graphics and all other materials, as well as my likeness taken during the workshops, without compensation, for promotional products such as websites, social media, broadcast dissemination, books, multimedia, digital distribution and exhibits related to the Mountain Workshops or Western Kentucky University’s promotion of the School of Media and its associated events.

WKU Archives Agreement

I own the personal property and original art gathered at the Mountain Workshops and desire to give said personal property to the WKU Archives. As copyright holder I do hereby give and transfer to the WKU Archives the full use and limited rights, title and interests, including limited copyright, trademark and related interests, in and to the described property for educational use by WKU students, faculty and staff. I do hereby agree to inform WKU Archives of changes in my contact information. After a period of 25 years from this date or upon my death, I hereby grant that all rights will irrevocably and unconditionally transfer to WKU Archives unless requested otherwise by written communication to WKU Archives.

WKU Archives will digitally store and have available for academic research by WKU faculty, staff and students, the photojournalism participant's final edit as well as the video storytelling participant's final published video. You will be notified via email (your registration email) for any request for use other than research. You will have an option to approve or deny the request. If you deny, WKU Archives will make available to you the requesting party's contact information and it becomes your responsibility to pursue the business exchange. If you approve the request, WKU Archives will make arrangements for the sale and collect all monetary gains from the sale. You are required to keep your contact current with WKU Archives by communicating with WKU Archives at 270-745-4793 or

Waiver and release of liability

In consideration of the risk of injury while participating in The Mountain Workshops (the "Activity"), and as consideration for the right to participate in the Activity, I hereby, for myself, my heirs, executors, administrators, assigns, or personal representatives, knowingly and voluntarily enter into this waiver and release of liability and hereby waive any and all rights, claims or causes of action of any kind whatsoever arising out of my participation in the Activity, and do hereby release and forever discharge Western Kentucky University, located at 1906 College Heights Blvd, Bowling Green, Kentucky 42101, their affiliates, managers, members, agents, attorneys, staff, volunteers, heirs, representatives, predecessors, successors and assigns, for any physical or psychological injury, including but not limited to illness, paralysis, death, damages, economical or emotional loss, that I may suffer as a direct result of my participation in the aforementioned Activity, including traveling to and from an event related to this Activity.

I am voluntarily participating in the aforementioned activity and I am participating in the activity entirely at my own risk. I am aware of the risks associated with traveling to and from as well as participating in this activity, which may include, but are not limited to, physical or psychological injury, pain, suffering, illness, disfigurement, temporary or permanent disability (including paralysis), economic or emotional loss, and death. I understand that these injuries or outcomes may arise from my own or others' negligence, conditions related to travel, or the condition of the activity location(s). Nonetheless, I assume all related risks, both known or unknown to me, of my participation in this activity, including travel to, from and during this activity.

I agree to indemnify and hold harmless Western Kentucky University against any and all claims, suits or actions of any kind whatsoever for liability, damages, compensation or otherwise brought by me or anyone on my behalf, including attorney's fees and any related costs, if litigation arises pursuant to any claims made by me or by anyone else acting on my behalf. If Western Kentucky University incurs any of these types of expenses, I agree to reimburse Western Kentucky University.

I acknowledge that Western Kentucky University and their directors, officers, volunteers, representatives and agents are not responsible for errors, omissions, acts or failures to act of any party or entity conducting a specific event or activity on behalf of Western Kentucky University.

I acknowledge that this activity may involve a test of a person's physical and mental limits and may carry with it the potential for death, serious injury, and property loss. The risks may include, but are not limited to, those caused by terrain, facilities, temperature, weather, lack of hydration, condition of participants, equipment, vehicular traffic and actions of others, including but not limited to, participants, volunteers, community, faculty, event officials and event monitors, and/or producers of the event.

In the event the Mountain Workshops is unable to perform its obligations under the terms of this Agreement because of acts of God, strikes, equipment or transmission failure or damage reasonably beyond its control, or other causes reasonably beyond its control, such party shall not be liable for damages to the other for any damages resulting from such failure to perform or otherwise from such causes.

I acknowledge that I have carefully read this "waiver and release" and fully understand that it is a release of liability. I expressly agree to release and discharge Western Kentucky University and all of its affiliates, managers, members, agents, attorneys, staff, volunteers, heirs, representatives, predecessors, successors and assigns, from any and all claims or causes of action and I agree to voluntarily give up or waive any right that I otherwise have to bring a legal action against Western Kentucky University for personal injury or property damage.

To the extent that statute or case law does not prohibit releases for negligence, this release is also for negligence on the part of Western Kentucky University, its agents, and employees. In the event that I should require medical care or treatment, I agree to be financially responsible for any costs incurred as a result of such treatment. I am aware and understand that I should carry my own health insurance.

In the event that any damage to equipment or facilities occurs as a result of my willful actions, neglect or recklessness, I acknowledge and agree to be held liable for any and all costs associated with any actions of neglect or recklessness.

This Agreement was entered into at arm's-length, without duress or coercion, and is to be interpreted as an agreement between two parties of equal bargaining strength. Both the Participant (undersigned) and Western Kentucky University agree that this Agreement is clear and unambiguous as to its terms, and that no other evidence will be used or admitted to alter or explain the terms of this Agreement, but that it will be interpreted based on the language in accordance with the purposes for which it is entered into.

In the event that any provision contained within this Release of Liability shall be deemed to be severable or invalid, or if any term, condition, phrase or portion of this agreement shall be determined to be unlawful or otherwise unenforceable, the remainder of this agreement shall remain in full force and effect, so long as the clause severed does not affect the intent of the parties. If a court should find that any provision of this agreement to be invalid or unenforceable, but that by limiting said provision it would become valid and enforceable, then said provision shall be deemed to be written, construed and enforced as so limited.

I, the undersigned participant, affirm that I am of the age of 18 years or older, and that I am freely signing this agreement. I certify that I have read this agreement, that I fully understand its content and that this release cannot be modified orally. I am aware that this is a release of liability and a contract and that I am signing it of my own free will.


How do I submit my photos, videos and resumé for my application?

You can either put the URL of your work online on the application form, email images or videos (under 8 megs) to or mail a hard copy to:

Workshops Logistics Coordinator Western Kentucky University The Mountain Workshops 1906 College Heights Blvd. #11070 Bowling Green, KY 42101-1070

Can I attend any or all of the workshops?

Yes, you can, but only one at a time. Workshops all run at the same time, so you can only take one workshop per year. However, each workshop has its own educational component, and coming back each year for a new workshop will result in an entirely new experience. There is no suggested order for taking the workshops; just choose whichever order that makes the most sense to you in your educational training.

Can I attend any of these workshops even though I am not a student?

Yes, the workshop is open to anyone who wants to improve his or her storytelling abilities. We have had participants from major newspapers and magazines as well as freelance visual storytellers who run their own business and see the workshops as a way to give them an edge over the competition.

If I am a student but not at Western Kentucky University can I attend any of the workshops?

Yes. In fact, almost half of our college-age enrollment comes from universities other than Western Kentucky. We welcome graduate students as well.

What do tuition fees for each workshop cover?

Tuition covers educational costs only. You will need to pay for your hotel, travel and food costs during your stay.

Do I need to bring a laptop?

The Mountain Workshops has a network of Macintosh computers for participant use. If you are in the video storytelling or picture editing workshop, you will have a computer set up for you with all the necessary software. If you are in the photography workshop you will view your work on your coach’s workstation. All the images from the photography workshop are archived on our servers, but if you wish to archive your own images and take them with you, you should bring a laptop and card reader and download your images throughout the week. If you are in the digital storytelling workshop you are required to bring your own laptop for individual use but "team" computers will also be available.

Do I need to write as a part of this workshop?

Visual stories also need words. In the photojournalism workshop, each image selected for use (website, social media, book, gallery, etc.) must have an accurate, well-written caption. Each photo story is accompanied by a written story of about 300-400 words. (See examples on the website from previous years’ workshops).  To help you with this, each team will have a writing coach as well as a photo coach. The writing coaches are experienced professional journalists who are there to help advise you on reporting and writing your story and captions. Participants are responsible for their own story and captions, and all writing must be completed before the end of the workshop. Digital storytelling, photo editing and video participants also will have full access to writing coaches, as needed.

Do I need to bring an external hard drive?

Whichever workshop you enroll in, if you wish to take your content home with you, you will need to bring a hard drive. We recommend at least 400 GB of free space for video storytelling workshop, and 250 GB for the other workshops.

Do participants need to provide their own equipment?

We expect all photography, video and digital storytelling participants to have their own camera bodies, lenses, tripods and lighting system. For many years, camera company representatives have been at the Workshops with a wide range of loaner gear, but nothing is guaranteed. Our audio equipment sponsors provide a limited amount of audio gear, and various vendors may supply a limited number of tripods for participant use. Every year the Mountain Workshops depends on sponsor support, for which we are deeply grateful. However, we encourage all participants to bring as much of their own equipment as possible.

Do I need a car?

Yes. Covering your story and shooting features will require that you’re able to travel to different locations in the county throughout the week. The picture editor and digital storytelling participants spend most of their day at the headquarters. However, you are responsible to get yourself to and from the hotel and also to get out for dining purposes. It is possible to share rides, and in some instances, it is possible to walk. But verify the headquarter location to your selected hotel before you choose the walking options. These communities are small and many do not have taxi or Uber/Lyft service. Please communicate with us if you do not intend to not have a car on location before paying your tuition.

Who will the coaches be?

Each year we select coaches based on their professional experience and their ability to mentor participants and support their learning and growth. We usually announce the final roster of coaches about a month before the Workshops begin, often sooner. You’ll find the announcement on our web site and also on our social media outlets.

Do I get to pick my coach?

No. We pair coaches and participants based on a variety of factors. You will be assigned to one coach, but you are also encouraged to meet with other coaches during the week and take advantage of their insights and suggestions.

Do I have to find my own story?

No. We have story researchers scouring the county well in advance of the workshop.

How are stories assigned?

Names, descriptions, and contact information for story subjects are put into a hat, and each participant randomly draws an assignment at the opening of the workshops. After drawing your assignment from the hat, you will discuss the story with your coach and then go out and try to secure the cooperation of your subject. Every person has a story, and the coaches and staff at the Mountain Workshops will come together to help you find a compelling way to tell that story.

Can I shoot as much as I want and in any format that I want?

In the Photojournalism workshop we limit the number of images you can take. Your coaches will work with you about how each photograph is made. Our educational philosophy is to slow down and concentrate on moments. Turn off your motor drive and connect with your subject. Our workflow is in JPEG format but you will shoot in RAW + JPEG large and we will we will ingest the JPEGs into our workflow and archive the RAW files for later use.


The application process starts on July 1 and will continue until all seats for each workshop sells out or by September 28, whichever comes first. Acceptance into the each workshop will be based on various factors, including your portfolio, résumé and additional information you may supply.

Interested applicants must fill out the online application to start the process to be considered for the Mountain Workshops.  Once accepted, you will be notified by your registration email and instructed on how to pay to reserve your spot. This workshop can sell out. Your seat is not confirmed until you make your payment. Registration and acceptance alone does not guarantee a seat.