It was the rain that made Christiana Childers rethink her business.
For years she and her husband had been teaching small groups of beginning photographers how to operate their cameras while taking in the sights of Seattle. Then one March day in 2012, as Childers was planning another outing, she checked the forecast: It was bad. Forty-five degrees and persistent rain bad.
“Oh, this is gonna suck,” Childers recalls thinking. “But they were all local ladies, so they didn’t need a tour of Seattle. Instead we just decided to go to a winery, and we just had the best time.”
The winery experience sparked something in Childers. Soon after, she started splicing photography classes at wineries into her city tours. It wasn’t long until she and her husband went all-in and launched Cork &Click, offering a different kind of instructional experience to would-be photographers—one more relaxing and less intense than your average photo-class experience.
Childers knew all about that experience. She had come to photography somewhat late in life, picking up a camera during her two daughters’ early years. Seeking to develop a skill set that would allow her to capture their young lives in a meaningful way, she signed up for a beginners’ photography course, and soon found herself packed into a classroom with dozens of other struggling shutterbugs, staring at a screen as the instructor showed photo after photo and rattled through a lecture on tools and technique. Childers had questions, but didn’t dare ask them.
“There were so many people there, and I just thought they would think my question was dumb,” she says now. “I couldn’t really find anyone who could explain things to me in a way that didn’t make me feel like an idiot, like I’m supposed to already know these things.”
At Cork &Click, questions are encouraged. Childers keeps her classes small and intimate enough that no one feels dumb asking what ISO stands for. And even if they do, the wine is there to help. For two years, Cork &Click has called the Patit Creek Cellars in Woodinville home, and while Childers is clear that the wine is not the main point—that non-drinkers have had great experiences as well—the six or seven tastings that take place throughout the comprehensive four-hour class help to lower defenses, open conversation, and let creativity flow.
“There is something about sitting around a table where everyone is sharing an experience, and wine really does make it feel like, ‘OK, I can relax a little bit,’ ” she says. “It takes the pressure off.”
In this relaxed, intimate atmosphere, Childers spends the first two hours teaching her beginners’ course. Instead of showing her students what flawless photography looks like on a projector, she runs them through the basics—aperture, shutter speed, and ISO—as well as terms and techniques, and then allows them to wander about the winery and experiment. Unlike the traditional class setting that sends students home to apply the day’s lesson, Cork &Click allows students to ask Childers questions while they are fiddling with all those buttons and levers on their cameras.
Students who sign up for the comprehensive course spend another two hours learning about the artistic side of photography, exploring composition, lighting, and portraiture. And of course, there’s a little more wine to be had.
“Really what I wanted is for people to feel comfortable,” Childers says. “To feel comfortable asking questions and hopefully feel like they are at my house. We’re having a glass of wine, let’s talk about it, it doesn’t have to be anything serious.”
Find Cork &Click classes at Connect2Classes.com.