“Most people’s experience with imagery is in advertisements in magazines, and photos in newspapers, and in their own family photos,” says Kurt Budliger. “They see these great pictures in magazines, and then they see their own photos, and they don’t match up.”
For Budliger, a professional photographer working in the Northeast, this is a situation that can be corrected, and it’s a key element of his teaching at CCV.
“To be a great photographer is not so much getting the key to the secret lock, it’s time on task, it’s just hard work,” Budliger said. “You just have to devote yourself to making photographs everyday, all the time, to developing your eye and developing your vision.”
For over six years students taking Digital Photography I and Digital Photography II at CCV Montpelier have had the opportunity to learn from one of the state’s top working photographers. Budliger, who runs his own photography business and regularly publishes images in Eastern Flyfishing magazine and Vermont Life, has been published on National Geographic Adventure and was recently featured in an article in Outdoor Photographer. Those experiences, along with his time working the wedding circuit, stringing for newspapers, and selling stock and fine art prints have given him a broad base of experience to draw on and expose students to in the classroom and the field.
“I shoot a pretty broad variety of images, everything from nature and landscape, to photojournalism, editorial work, portraits, and weddings,” Budliger said. “And my students, they’re interested in a variety of different kinds of photography, so in Digital I we explore a lot of those genres throughout the semester. And I tell them ‘shooting action sports may not be your favorite, but it will give you good exposure, it’s going to let you dip your toe in those waters and it’s going to make you a better photographer.’”
And that’s what the coursework in Budliger’s classes is designed to do. In Digital Photography I students learn the basics of digital photography through fieldwork, in-class tutorials on technique, lots of looking at photographs, and regular shooting assignments followed by intensive critiquing sessions. In Digital Photography II, students are free to explore themes and genres that interest them as individuals and that will help them grow as photographers while building on their understanding of composition, exposure, and light.
And lots of those who’ve spent time studying under Budliger have left as better photographers – many Digital Photography I students fall in love with the art and return for Digital Photography II, and others, Budliger noted, take up photography as a career, like former student Brooke Kaltsas who launched TruckieLoo Photography after learning from him.
Despite the area being a small and relatively tight market for photographers, Budliger says he’s got no concerns about teaching those who might be future competition at some point. And there are a couple of good reasons for that.
“All of my mentors have always been really open and never really perpetuated that whole myth of trade secrets or the magician not giving up his secrets to the understudy,” Budliger said. “All of my mentors were really open in sharing their knowledge, so I feel like it’s kind of my duty to sort of give back in that way.”
And the second reason? Well, that’s one Budliger shares with most teachers in any field: the end result.
“It’s pretty rewarding and exciting to see them get excited about images that they’ve made.”