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Photojournalism | Oct. 23 - 27

Abigail Dollins, a junior in the photojournalism program at WKU, takes advantage of the early morning light on the last day of the Mountain looking for sunrise feature pictures. | Nina Greipel

5 Days

of inspiration, learning and intense immersion into your craft


Early Bird Registration | $800 after Aug. 31, 2018

Jul 1

Registration Opens

MT. STERLING, KENTUCKY   |   OCTOBER 23-27   |   2018


Do you think your images lack that “special something?” After all, you understand exposure, composition is a skill that is becoming second nature, and light is something you see and use whenever you can. Yet your images still do not stand out. This is where we come in. With a coach-to-student ratio of approximately 1:6, the Photojournalism Workshop can bring you to a new level of story telling, one you never thought you could reach. You will get closer to your subject than you could ever imagine, get up early and stay out late, get down in the mud with the subject, and ultimately climb into his or her heart.

Mountain is all about building relationships and using meaningful photographs to tell a story. If you want to be a photojournalist, your coaches – some of the best visual professionals in the nation – will give you a motivating push in the right direction. To complement your days and nights of shooting and editing, each evening includes inspiring presentations by the coaches, as well as critiques of a selection of images taken that day. If you find any down time it will be spent soaking up the knowledge of your passionate coaches and maybe sleeping a little bit.



"There is a spirit here that lifts people up and pushes them toward successes in their photography that they might not have achieved on their own."

Rick Loomis, Independent Photojournalist   |   Photojournalism Coach




Each October, a group of visual journalists set up shop in a different community in Kentucky to document life and culture in a way that is rarely attempted. Raw and live, it’s all about the people and their stories, not the institutions. It’s called the Mountain Workshops, and dozens of students and professionals from around the country swoop in for a week every year to garner new skills and fresh inspiration.

It’s a crash course in visual journalism.

Participants can choose from one of five options for the week. Photojournalism, the original workshop at Mountain, has always been a big hit, but Video Storytelling is increasingly in demand. If you wish to increase your knowledge in other visual skills, the Mountain Workshops can deliver. Picture Editing pushes a traditional skill set of image selection and book design into the digital age, while Digital Storytelling takes us into a world of multiple forms of media and collaborative cooperation on a single topic.

A special workshop for K-12 educators is hosted by Dataseam, a Louisville-based nonprofit that provides resources for Kentucky educators. The Dataseam Teacher Track workshop is designed to help high school teachers looking to develop their students’ communication skills to tell their own stories.

Five workshops held in one location, in one week, with a constant flow of new ideas and one-on-one guidance by the top professionals in their fields, all add up to an intense five days of high-octane education in visual communication and storytelling.

A sneek peak behind the Mountain





Gateway Regional Arts Center
101 East Main Street, Mt. Sterling, Ky. 40353
Please park in lots #1, #2 or #3 located on South Wilson St., just one block south of the Arts Center.


TUESDAY, OCTOBER 23   |   all times are EDT


7:30 AM   |   Registration opens

8:00 AM   |   Vendor’s tables open

9:00 AM   |   Session #1: Large group introduction: Overview of workshop and small group assignments

9:30 AM   |   Session #2: Break into small groups with coaches

10:30 AM |   Planning and equipment checkout

11:00 AM |  Lunch (provided)

12:30 PM |   Session #3: Opening ceremony for all participants and hat draw (story ideas)

1:30 PM   |   Meet briefly with coaches in small groups; fieldwork

6:00 PM    |    Dinner on your own

7:30 PM   |  Session #4: MWS evening presentations (all participants)

9:30 PM   |  Session #5: Meet with coaches in small groups

Midnight   |  Lab closes for the night


WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 24   |   all times are EDT


Sunrise, AM   |   Fieldwork, shoot features and story; meet with coach during the day  

12:00 PM   |   Lunch on your own

Afternoon, PM   |   Continue shooting features and story; write story and captions; meet with coach

6:00 PM    |    Dinner on your own

7:30 PM   |  Session #6: MWS evening presentations (all participants)

9:30 PM   |  Session #7: First story critique (Photojournalism workshops participants only)

10:30 PM  |  Session #8: Meet with coaches in small groups

1:00 AM   |  Lab closes for the night


THURSDAY, OCTOBER 25   |   all times are EDT


Sunrise, AM |   Fieldwork, shoot features and story; meet with coach during the day  

12:00 PM   |    Lunch on your own

Afternoon, PM |   Continue shooting features and story; write story and captions; meet with coach

6:00 PM    |    Dinner on your own

7:30 PM   |  Session #9: MWS evening presentations (all participants)

9:30 PM   |  Session #10: Second story critique (Photojournalism workshops participants only)

10:30 PM |  Session #11: Meet with coaches in small groups

2:00 AM   |  Lab closes for the night 


FRIDAY, OCTOBER 26   |   all times EDT


Sunrise, AM |   Fieldwork, shoot features and story; meet with coach during the day  

12:00 PM    |    Lunch on your own

Afternoon,  PM   |   Continue shooting features and story;; write story and captions; meet with coach

6:00 PM    |    Dinner on your own

7:30 PM   |  Session #12: MWS evening presentations (all participants)

9:30 PM   |  Session #13: Second story critique (Photojournalism workshops participants only)

10:30 PM |  Session #14: Meet with coaches in small groups

3:00 AM   |  Lab closes for the night (first draft of story/final presentation edit due)  


SATURDAY, OCTOBER 27   |   all times EDT


Sunrise, AM   |   Fieldwork, shoot features and story; finish written story and captions  

Noon        |   Ceremonial close of content and group photo

Lunch on your own

4:30 PM   |   All photo story edits, captions, story and headlines complete; checklist review with coach

5:00 PM    |    Dinner on your own

6:30 PM   |   MWS closing ceremonies and presentation viewing

9:00 PM   |   Vendor sponsored pizza party

Midnight   |   Workshop closes




The nearest airports are Lexington (LEX), 45 miles; Cincinnati (CVG), 117 miles; Louisville (SDF), 107 miles or Huntington, WV (HTS), 107 miles. We have found drastically different rates depending on where you are coming from, so be sure to shop around for the best deals. You will need to have a vehicle for the workshop and there are car rental places at all of the airports. Our headquarters for the Mountain is about 2 miles from the nearest hotel. If you are in the Picture Editing workshop you may be able to share a car rental with others in that workshop. Once you apply and are accepted to the Mountain, you will be invited to a private Facebook group where you can coordinate with others about the possibility of car and hotel room sharing. Keep in mind that the video, photo and digital storytelling workshops will require driving and it is best to have your own car during the week.




You are required to provide your own hotel and dinning arrangments. We suggest that you book your room when you know that you are accepted as there are a limited amount of hotels in this rural area of Kentucky. Be sure to book your hotel in Mt. Sterling, most hotels are located at the Maysville Rd. exit off of I-64.

"I stared at my laptop screen on October 4. I had one day left to get a portion of my money back if I canceled. [Three weeks later] as I seemingly sailed across I-71, my spirits started to lift as I passed through the hills and the beautiful autumn colors. After I [arrived] in Paducah, I started to question again. It had been a long time since I had created anything I loved, anything I connected with, [my] work has grown stale and assignments have been few and unrewarding, my outlook was grim. I found myself sitting on the living room floor of the Lynn family home, having a conversation and nearly being overwhelmed with emotion. Gratitude, humility, curiosity, gratefulness. I had connected with a family in their part of the world and they trusted me to tell their story. As photojournalists, it's our responsibility to do our job ethically, truthfully and wholly. Mountain has enabled me to find the wonder in what we do again. To believe in what we do. To enjoy what we do."

Tim Galloway, Detroit, MI, A Good Hearted Woman, 2016 Paducah Participant



"I knew I wanted to do Mountain when I first read about it while researching undergraduate Photojournalism programs around USA, three years ago sitting on my bed in India. Thus, to have finally done Mountain once is a massive achievement for me. I loved each and every second on this workshop, even when two of my given stories fell through.

Through the week (which by the way felt as short as two days) I feel I learnt so so so much more than I could in years. Just the amount of talent, knowledge and creativity in the room was fantastic.

What was more amazing were my coaches. You know that your mentors are after all human beings when they joke with you, make fun of you and at the same time praise you and catch you tight when you fall. They did that for me. Just doing that and believing in me and my story made me a better shooter within a day.

All in all I could not ask for a better way to spend a week than making images and telling compelling stories."

Srijita Chattopadhyay, India/U.A.E, Just a Wheelchair, 2016 Paducah Participant





"I just got home from the The Mountain Workshops and am deliriously tired, but feel I have to say before I pass out, that I feel absolutely exhausted and energized in every way - physically, emotionally, artistically and spiritually. I just pushed myself to the max this week and I got so much out of every single second of it. I learned how to see patterns and think about what my photos are saying, instead of just reacting."

James BuckHeart of Old Hickory, 2013 Owensboro Participant




"I couldn’t help but push myself and work harder as a photographer at The Mountain. All of the coaches want to see you succeed, and I’ve learned lessons from each and everyone one of them. I’ve seen so much improvement in not just my photos, but the way I shoot and the way I emotionally connect with stories.  It’s an intensely creative atmosphere and I can’t wait to experience it again."

Taylor Irby, Independent Photographer, Northwest Indiana, Catching Up With Life, 2016 Paducah Participant




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 have experienced an incident of gender-based or sexual harassment, domestic or interpersonal violence, sexual assault, abuse of power or any sexual misconduct while attending the Mountain Workshops, we ask that you promptly report the incident to the director of the Mountain Workshops either verbally or by email at director.mountainworkshops@wku.edu.

You can also file a report of the incident here. If you file the report anonymously, the case is not subject to the Title IX process, but the director may conduct an investigation to remedy the situation. The complaint will be treated in a confidential manner and any concerns raised will be immediately addressed. The safety of all our participants, coaches, staff, vendors and our host community is of the utmost priority.




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., 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 or the Mountain Workshops MAY be able to assist with ground transportation in-town if you are staying at one of our recommended hotels, but mobility may be very limited. 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 airline, 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.



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 Journalism & Broadcasting and its associated events.



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 archives@wku.edu.


Frequently Asked Questions


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 mountainworkshops@wku.edu or mail a hard copy to:

Miranda Pederson
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. Photography participants write captions and stories in our writing area that is provided with a number of shared workstations. 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 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 digitl 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 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 in 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 faculty 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 amount 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, if you wish to shoot RAW files you will need to shoot both RAW and JPEG. We will ingest the JPEGs into our workflow and you will be responsible to save your own RAW files for later use.

Ready to Apply?

The application process starts July 1, 2018 and will continue until all seats for each workshop sells out.


Interested applicants must fill out the online application to start the process to be considered for the 2018 Mountain Workshops. Photojournalism participants are required to present a portfolio of at least 10 images that represents an example of your current work. Once accepted, you will be notified by 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.

Apply Now

What You Create

Images that will be considered for use in the Mountain Workshops book, website and gallery

A visual and written story, along with captions, that reveal your subjects true character

Moments of learning that rapidly propel your skills forward

A network of friends, colleagues and connections that will remain a part of your life forever

Who Should Come

Pre-professional or early professional visual storytellers looking to increase their knowledge in the art of storytelling

Any visual journalist or commercial videographer in need of inspiration or a week away to experience visual immersion to rejuvenate their passion

College students interested in documenting communities and the people who live in them