It's interesting how people learn differently. Some say they're visual learners; they want to be shown what to do through images, video, etc. Others say they learn better through words, both written and spoken. Some people learn better in groups; others, by themselves. Personally, I think that we all learn a little bit by all of these methods. I can watch someone do something and learn how to do it, as well as read a manual to perform the same task. I learn when I'm by myself, and I learn with a group of others seeking similar knowledge.
My experience in Italy Within the Frame with David duChemin and Jeffrey Chapman bears this out, at least for me. A typical day for us started with some breakfast conversation about what we shot the day before and what we were going to shoot today. We would then go out for the first part of the day's shooting, sometimes as a group and sometimes on our own. We'd meet up again for lunch and talk of the morning's images, then head out again for a few more hours. There were late afternoon image critiques in which we all participated—either giving or taking criticism—and more shooting before dinner, again either together or alone. On occasion, a few of us would hang out after dinner, reviewing the images of the day on our laptops and talking about some of our favorites. Most of the days followed this pattern, mixing up the amount of interaction or solitude as we wanted.
Personally, I thrive in this kind of situation. I enjoy learning together—talking about a specific shot I was after, picking David's and Jeffrey's brains about an angle or a look, and generally working together to share our knowledge and gain more. However, I also need time to absorb the new information and thinking from these discussions and to figure out how to apply the lessons to my own photography. As a result, I would sometimes head out by myself to play with the stuff I'd learned and see what worked for me. Being alone, I could concentrate on practicing my craft, sifting through all I'd seen and heard previously to find those nuggets that would make me a better photographer.
It certainly helped that David and Jeffrey purposely kept the workshop group small; eight participants in all. This intimacy helped us not only to get good chunks of their time, but kept it easy for us to interact as a group. Too many more people and we would have probably fragmented into smaller groups. In addition, David's and Jeffrey's teaching styles allowed us to explore things on our own, but they were nearly always available to us when we had questions, or if we just wanted to talk about something—photography, wine, pasta, life in general. This type of organic teaching style can be a little daunting if you're not used to seeking out your instructor(s) and asking pointed questions. I did come back with a few unanswered questions, but only because I didn't ask them.
Italy Within the Frame was such a good learning experience for me—both personally and photographically— that I'm making plans to spend more time with David and Jeffrey.