What is The Arcanum?


When I started my journey into photography, more than 10 years ago, there was two new things going on in the industry. The first was the digital revolution that took us from film to .raw and the second which came on the heels of the digital revolution was HDR. The digital revolution did many things for photography but the biggest thing it did was bring photography to the masses. With no access to a dark room and no one to teach me I let my interest in photography slide. However, when I got a glimpse of the new Canon Digital Rebel my interest was peaked. With my small knowledge of photoshop and no need for a darkroom, I dove head first into the digital photography world and I haven't looked back since. It was, however, not that easy to be actually good at photography and for the first few years I struggled. There were many things I didn't understand about photography and the neat little digital invention I would carry around with me, but as I started learning and digging through google I discovered something called HDR. HDR, High Dynamic Range, is a form of photography where you take multiple exposures and combine them through a software to get a scene more true to what your eye sees. Simple enough right, yeah not really. I'll be honest when I first discovered HDR, I felt as though it was a shortcut. I could just point the camera at a scene take 3 shots and let the software figure it out. Oh man, I couldn't have been more wrong and my first lesson in creating good photography was had, "There are no short cuts in photography!" I really liked HDR and didn't want to give up on it, and that is when a friend of mine said check out Trey Ratcliff's website, www.stuckincustoms.com, so I did and my world has never been the same. One of the first photographers to take HDR out of the gutters and into the mainstream, Trey's site quickly became my go to website for photography help, tutorials, and every newbie's dream, presets.  It is very good possibility that had I not discovered Trey Ratcliff, my career in photography would be much different than it is today.Trying to make a name for yourself in the vast industry of photography is next to impossible for "self-taught" photographers who have no connections to the industry. And since I came into this world as a digital photographer, I got rejected time and time again by film guys who would laugh and tell me they were looking for "real" photographers! I knew that mentors existed in the photography world so I started searching out and all professional photographers in my area. Then one day I stumbled upon a mentor program run by someone out of New York City and as I read the website I started getting excited. This is exactly what I needed, a working professional looking to take his time to mentor people not only in the art of photography but also the business. Perfect, sign me up, I'm in! Wait did you say $2,000 a day? Ok I get it you're a working professional, and in NYC so $2,000 for 8 hours of your time, seems expensive but reasonable. Wait it's not 8 hours, what do you mean it's 4 hours split into two different days, oh shit nevermind! I found many other programs just like this all over the internet, NYC, and beyond but there was no way I could ever make sense of how much it cost. There is where Mr. Trey Ratcliff comes in.While working in any entry level photography job I could fine, I continued to refine my skills and learn whatever I could about photographing landscapes and as my passion kept growing I decided it was time to fulfill a different life long dream. 3 years ago, I left my home state of NJ for the beauty of Colorado with one goal in mind, take my photography to the next level and fully support myself with my passion. I took a desk job to help with the bills and one day while at that desk job an email from my favorite photography website, stuckincustoms.com, would set me on a course I could never have imagined. My love for HDR brought me to Trey Ratcliff, but my desire to learn as much as I could about photography kept me coming back to Trey's website year after year. Trey was different than the old guard of photographers I had experienced in NJ, "self-taught" himself, Trey simply gives back to the photography community in order to better it and help photographers like myself achieve the dream he already has. The email that came to me that day was Trey simply taking it up a notch and announcing, The Arcanum. I immediately went to the site to check it out. I couldn't believe my eyes a mentorship program started by Trey and at an amazingly reasonable price. I filled out the application and waited. When I finally got my invitation to The Arcanum, I was excited as hell and believe it or not after a year in The Arcanum that excitement still rings true. The Arcanum is more than just a mentorship program, it's a community of like minded talented individuals all there to help bring out your artistic talent and help you succeed. The way it works is simple, there are different mentors for different photographic subjects and each mentor has their own group or "cohort." Each cohort has a select number of apprentices under the guidance of the mentor and while the mentor plays an important part of the program, the apprentices in each group are really the heart of every cohort. Every growing photographer needs support and guidance and in The Arcanum you get both, support from your peers and guidance from your mentor.The Arcanum journey started for me when A.D. Wheeler, theexplorographer.com, took me in and made me a member of House Lightbender. Here I found not only a great mentor, but one of the best cohorts in The Arcanum and my life has forever been changed thanks to all of them. Under the guidance of A.D., our community was built into a place where you can go to get honest feedback, support, and most of all friends! At the heart of The Arcanum and the learning path you take is something every photographer needs, critiques! Every few steps along the way each apprentice gets a one-on-one with his mentor, where they critique your image and give you some tips or tricks to help you take that next step. How does this help, you ask? Have you ever taken a picture and thought man that is a great photo and it might really have been, but why? Critiques are at the heart of The Arcanum not because we all need to know what is wrong with our picture, but because by dissecting a picture with someone you respect you learn not only why the picture is good but also why it is bad. With this information you are now armed with facts to help improve your photography and every time you go out to shoot you will see improvements. More importantly as you go through the critiques, you are learning what makes a good photo and what can ruin a photo, thus training you to help your fellow cohort members and creating an environment for art to thrive! What Trey Ratcliff and the entire team at The Arcanum have produced here is an environment that you can learn and grow as not just a photographer, but as an artist. My photography has grown leaps and bounds in just one year, and now this blog grows every day thanks to the support of The Arcanum and my HLB Family!Help your photography friend or family member get to the next step, give the gift of The Arcanum this year and watch them flourish by visiting www.TheArcanum.com.