The Digital Journalist
Canon Know How
The Platypus Goes to Maine
September 2004

by Dirck Halstead

Just as I was getting prepared to go off to the Democratic Convention in Boston, I got last-minute e-mail from David Lyman, the director of the Maine Photo Workshop. He had a last-minute cancellation from an instructor who was going to teach a two-week Digital Video course, and he wanted to know if I could fill in.

The prospect of cool breezes, sparkling water, and lobsters sounded a lot better than going through the maze of security in Boston, so I accepted. We would do a Platypus Workshop for him.

Photo by Dirck Halstead
However, when, on the first day, I asked the eight students who had signed up for the course how many of them were working photographers, I was stunned when only one hand went up. The basic concept behind the Platypus was that we were working with professional photographers, who already knew how to shoot pictures. In this group, there was only one photographer, Lynn Butler, who had decided at the last minute to add video to her skills, after I had interviewed her the week before for the cover story we did on her last month. The rest of the group was a hodgepodge of curious people who just wanted to learn to shoot video. There were two grade-school teachers who wanted to be able to teach their students about video, a doctor, an international nonprofit communications officer, a producer from Reuters in London, and a couple of people who weren't quite sure why they were there themselves, but like me, thought doing anything in such a beautiful place was a terrific idea.

So, I figured we were going to have a rough two weeks.

Photo by Dirck Halstead
But I noticed they were taking notes. Lots of notes. And they dove into their Canon GL 2 packages with glee. Step by step over the next two weeks, they began to get the routines down. They explored the countryside and checked the local newspapers for leads on stories, then got to work.

Somehow, they pulled it off.

At the final presentation of their work on the big screen in the workshop theatre, they simply aced the other classes, some of which were advanced filmmaking workshops. At the end of their show, they got a standing ovation from the 300-plus other students.

I can honestly say that as a group, they produced the finest stories that any Platypus class has ever done.

I think their work is a testimony to how well the Platypus concept works.

We thought we would share their work with you in our theatre.


Lynn Butler
Professional photographer, New York

Final Project:
Lobsters with Music

Cristiana Falcone
Communications officer, Geneva, Switzerland

Final Project:
Coming Out Of My Shell

Emil Jansson
Stockholm, Sweden

Final Project:
The Boat: Jenny Norman

Peter Kaplan
Doctor, New Paltz, New York

Final Project, with Vanessa Romeo:
Ian Dryer, The Littlest Lobsterman

Vanessa Romeo
Producer, Reuters, London

Final Project, with Peter Kaplan:
Ian Dryer, The Littlest Lobsterman

Nancy Smith
School teacher, Machiasport, Maine
Final Project:
Joel's Boxcars

Kevin Ross
School teacher, Blue Hill, Maine
Final Project:
Flags for Iraq

Barbara Noble
New York
(Project in progress)

P.S.: It is not too early to apply for the next workshop. Contact me at for more information.

Platypus theater is brought to you by Canon Video. Send Canon a message of thanks.

© Dirck Halstead
Editor and Publisher of the Digital Journalist