Summer Intensive 2016 – Week 1 Recap

It’s a wrap! Week 1 of Summer Intensive kicked off beautifully, and we couldn’t be happier to meet and introduce our style of photography education to this year’s amazing group. Excited students from 23 different states took the leap with the usual broad range of ages – from 16 to 66! New in 2016, RMSP offered our very first High School Scholarships to eligible seniors and five of our current students deservedly earned this award – congratulations to them all! Additionally, there are seven students attending because of their hard-earned Veterans Administration education benefits by way of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. RMSP is quite proud to have veterans honor us with their trust to help propel them into a whole new opportunity with photography. Actually, the same goes for each and every one of our students!


On Orientation Day, the students were greeted by the RMSP staff and instructors in the school’s lobby. They were individually offered their information packets, name badges, last minute paperwork to sign, and not to mention our Customer Services Coordinator, Melanie Wright’s delicious home-made muffins, snacks and beverages. A big thanks to Melanie for putting her usual love into all of this! (Check out her very own creative photo blog all about sweet treats!) This initial coming together is the very first time for the students to introduce themselves to each other and meet face-to-face the very people who will be instrumental in their growth as a photographer. The experience has begun!

Next up, the students were seated in our utilitarian “Studio B” space to watch a looping slide show of collective professional images created by the RMSP crew of instructors and this year’s assistants in the program. Much thanks to our staff member Alyssa Johnson for producing this for us each year. She’s pretty darn good at it! Then RMSP’s patriarch, instructor and founder, Neil Chaput de Saintonge, initiated the ceremonies in his usual friendly and welcoming way. This involves him running down a brief history of Summer Intensive – his brainchild – and the school in general – also his baby. Or one of them, anyway. More on this later. He also provides a bit of interactive activity by having the students stand up and sit down after asking a series of questions of them like where they are from, if they are of a certain age group, their level of education, their photography background, and about other diverse categories. This gives the entire group a very visual understanding that they are almost never alone in any one category. From high school seniors to great-grandparents, we see them all in SI each year. After his opening remarks, the students were formerly introduced to all of the staff & instructors present by Co-Director and an instructor herself, Sarah Chaput de Saintonge, Neil’s daughter-in-law.


Following this, the entire group was given a full rundown of the program logistics and what to expect – and what’s expected of them – throughout Summer Intensive. This was adeptly handled by Co-Owner/Business Manager and Neil’s wife Jeanne Chaput de Saintonge and their son and Co-Director/instructor, Forest Chaput de Saintonge. Are you beginning to see a pattern here?! This special place practically has the word “family” written into its DNA!

Break out sessions followed for the two groups of the larger group. Each year, students are designated into individual sub-groups on separate schedules in order to accommodate everyone comfortably in our teaching spaces. Group A stayed in Studio B with Neil to hear from him all about where to shoot (photograph!) in Montana – we’re careful with that word around here. Group B followed yours truly and one of our capable assistants for a tour of RMSP’s wholly unique classrooms, studio spaces and offices throughout the historic Higgins Building where it’s located in downtown Missoula. Believe me, it can seem like a maze initially, so it’s always a good thing to help the newbies find their way around. With classroom names like The Quarry, The Darkroom and The Blue Lab, it takes some getting used to knowing where to be. The tours concluded with each student having their head-shots taken for student IDs by the assistants plus an ever-so-brief video clip of each person. Here’s why!

In the afternoon, bear expert Jamie Jonkel spoke to the group about how to stay safe while photographing in bear country. Many questions were asked, a few laughs were had, but most importantly, Jamie’s message got through. Then a brief walking tour of Downtown Missoula to help students get their bearings a bit in this wonderful community.

RaynorKristin-9739After Monday, students had a computer-set-up day, and jumped right into both Adobe Lightroom training in the Edit portion of the curriculum and covering the basics of exposure in Photo Studies. Also, Gabriel Biderman arrived in town to represent B&H Photo Video, the B&H EDU program and Manfrotto. He gave them a highly informative presentation on many things gear and accessory related since photography is definitely a gear-heavy endeavor. We’re lucky to have such great and dedicated educational partners to support our students year after year.  Lastly, a pizza party was thrown for the students in a local park on the same day, Friday.


Along an optional review of basic exposure by Neil on Sunday, the week was both full and fulfilling with everyone looking forward to new things to come. We’re off and running with SI and Career Training 2016! Stayed tuned for weekly updates throughout the summer.