My Magical Journey through The Arcanum

This article is reposted from Pamela-Reynoso.com.

My Magical Journey through The Arcanum

sunset landscape photo
© 2015 Pamela Reynoso All Rights Reserved


Life is hard and often unforgiving. It’s filled with uncertainty and misgivings…but sometimes, magic happens.

I began taking photography seriously as art and as a form of self-expression in 2010 when I purchased my first DSLR which I had little clue how to actually use. I began the process of self- educating not only on how to use the camera, but also in the art of photography in general. I spent copious hours reading, hours researching, hours watching tutorials. It seemed as though each new nugget of information led me yet deeper into the secrets and mystery that was photography. As soon as I felt I had a grasp of one aspect, another related topic would surface that needed further research and study. Being married to a practicing fine artist and Professor of Art was also a valuable asset in my journey, as was my own past experiences in art classes.  My husband’s trained eye looking at my work and his useful critiques were incredibly beneficial as were our many trips to galleries and art shows over the previous years. We would constantly discuss what was good, or lacking, in any pieces of art we would happen across. With these resources I was off and running. I had no idea where I was running to…but I was off nonetheless!

Having spent the previous decade raising and homeschooling my five children, self-directed learning was something I understood and valued.  Photography became a quiet spot in my day-to-day life. It allowed me to enter my own contemplative world away from the demands of a large family even if I went only so far as my own backyard.

In 2011 our family entered a sea of uncertainty, and not coincidentally amidst that uncertainty, the pursuit of my chosen art form picked up steam. In 2012, we family moved from our home of five years back to California and my husband entered a PhD program.  All of our children entered public school that year, except for our preschooler who entered the following year. During this time, my pursuit of photography continued. As I began familiarizing myself with contemporary photographers, Varina Patel stood out. Her beautiful work resonated with me and her informative blog posts helped to guide me.

The Arcanum is Born

In the spring of 2014, I began hearing about a new learning community through Trey Ratcliff’s Google+ posts, The Arcanum. I considered applying, but wasn’t sure. Then I saw that Varina Patel was going to be a Master. I watched her introductory Meet the Master video and I decided to actually apply, thinking that perhaps I’d be picked by someone at some point down the line.

Within weeks I received an invitation from a Master to be an Apprentice in what turned out to be the very first cohort…the invitation was from none-other than Varina Patel. I was shocked and elated. I could not hit “Accept” fast enough!

Why Did I Apply to The Arcanum?

In short, it was because I had reached a point in my work where I was not sure exactly how to proceed in improving my skills and knowledge. I had learned a lot, but I knew I needed more experienced eyes on my work, and I knew there was a lot that I didn’t yet know. I desperately wanted to have a person, or better yet, a community, that I could learn within and from, a place where I could ask questions and get continual support and feedback. My husband was a great asset from an artistic standpoint, but he knew little about the technical aspects of photography, and nothing at all about image processing.

Has the Arcanum Been Worth it?

Without a doubt, yes! I find it very hard to articulate all the many ways The Arcanum has benefited me as an artist, but they are many.

When one joins The Arcanum not only do they have immediate access to their Master through their cohort (or community), but they also gain access to the other Apprentices who have accepted their Master’s invitation. The community goals are to improve our art through the basics as well as post processing, all while being supported and providing support within a warm and welcoming ego-free environment. Within Varina’s cohort we all provided and received constant feedback on our images, allowing us to see if they have achieved not only technical competency, but also the fulfillment of our vision.

Online learning is often a one-way street, you consume the information and hope that the article or tutorial contains all the relevant information that you are seeking. I know I was often left with questions with this form of learning. A number of times, for instance, I’d be watching a Photoshop tutorial and suddenly find myself stuck as the creator left out a step, often the click of a button or the entering of a mysterious keyboard shortcut. I regularly found myself very frustrated and worse, with no one to ask. The Arcanum provided that community I had long sought. Within The Arcanum, I could move at my own pace. There was no timeline for me to follow, only assignments to complete and a requirement that I be available to provide feedback for other members of my cohort. Within The Arcanum, my only competition was myself.  I was soaking it all in and enjoying the journey. The Arcanum had brought magic back into my life that life had tried to strip away.

The Arcanum proved to not only enrich my artistry through its resources in the Grand Library, but it has also deeply enriched my life through friends I have made along the journey who share my passion.

If you are looking for a means to improve your photography and are interested in getting valuable and consistent ‘real-time’ input on your art, I encourage you to apply.

I am pleased to say that after graduating from The Arcanum and working through the necessary additional requirements I am now, also, a Master and am accepting my own Apprentices. The focus of my cohort is not only developing the technical, compositional and processing skills good photography requires, but also focusing on further identifying and developing your own unique artistic vision and voice.

Below, I have embedded my “Meet the Master” video and three video tutorials that I created for The Arcanum as a way for you to get to know me better. If you choose to apply and wish to be considered for my cohort, drop me an e-mail first so I know to look for your application! :) My e-mail is [email protected]
Feel free to e-mail me with any questions you may have.

Pamela Reynoso’s Meet the Master video

Working Through the Creative Process Tutorial

This video shows how I work through a composition as I photograph.

Tutorial- What’s the Big Deal about Background

This tutorial shows why the background matters and how it can affect the overall photo.

Bringing the Light Tutorial

This video discusses the importance of being prepared in the field and understanding the light.




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