Tricia Booker Photography

The Arcanum

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

The Arcanum, “the magical academy for the mastery of the arts,” was born. Well, not really. But, for some reason, when I first stumbled upon The Arcanum website and concept I was instantly reminded of the Star Wars movies.

As I delved deeper into discovering what The Arcanum was all about, I realized there indeed is a similarity to popular fantasy movies such as Star Wars and Harry Potter. The theme of the master and apprentice is the core of The Arcanum. In Star Wars, Jedi Master Yoda takes young Luke Skywalker under his wing and helps him to become a Jedi Knight and eventually save the universe by destroying the Death Star.

OK, maybe there’s not such a dramatic ending in The Arcanum, although developers Trey Ratcliff, Peter Giordano and Curtis Simmons are no doubt still working on the script, so I don’t believe anyone really knows how it will end. In fact, The Arcanum is in its infancy and the beta testing stage, and I was fortunate to be invited to become one of the first apprentices.

As an apprentice, I’m taking a journey to grow my creative artistry through working with my master and fellow apprentices in our 20-member cohort. As we learn and grow, we “level up” via challenges and critiques that are increasingly demanding, educational and enriching, until perhaps one day we graduate to become a master and educator to others.

An internationally acclaimed wildlife and nature photographer named Laurie Rubin chose me to be in her first cohort after reviewing my Arcanum application and discovering my affinity for animals and photography. I couldn’t have received a better master to take me on this journey into expanding my abilities in wildlife photography. Laurie’s work is amazing, and her passion for animals and the natural world is prominently displayed in her work.

I remember the first time I saw the Nature’s Best Photography exhibition at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. in the mid-1990s. The winning images just blew my mind, and I hoped one day to be able to achieve that level. Well, Laurie won first place in the Zoo & Aquarium Category in 2012, so my dream is one huge step closer!

Last night I had my first one-on-one critique with Laurie via a Google+ hangout, where  she went over five images I’d selected and edited with the help of my fellow apprentices from throughout the world. I’ve never had another professional photographer spend so much time with me, taking each image and analyzing its strengths and weaknesses. It was so educational and inspiring!

I’d also received feedback from the apprentices, which was vital and helped me to fine-tune my photographs before the critique. Having others offer their candid opinions and honest viewpoints is invaluable to growing as an artist, and I’m so grateful to them for taking the time to comment.

Being a member of Laurie’s cohort in The Arcanum is an honor. I’m thrilled to be a part of this new journey into artistic knowledge and enrichment. While I’ve had wonderful photography teachers over the years and professional photographers as my best friends, I’ve never had an educator to work with in this capacity.

If you watch Trey’s introductory video, you’ll get an idea of this “new/old” concept and where The Arcanum visionaries plan to take it, thanks to today’s modern technology. I’m not sure how many countries are represented in our cohort, but juggling time zones for live hangouts has a whole new meaning when 16 hours separate us.

I’ll keep you all posted with updates as I continue on my journey. The five images in today’s blog post are photographs I’d taken previously but reprocessed with input from Laurie and my fellow apprentices. My next challenge is to present them with 10 new images, with the bulk being animals I’ve never photographed. Next stop, the zoo!


  1. Sue

    What an amazing experience. I’ve never heard of any of this, so your post was quite interesting. Thanks for including the links, so I can read/view more about it. Are these photos some of your critiqued ones? I’m curious what sort of reviews of them you received.

    • Yes, Sue, totally amazing! These are the images Laurie critiqued and that I reprocessed based on her suggestions. The scores used are 0-3, with 0 being you didn’t really understand the assignment and 3 being an image to put in your portfolio. I received two 3s for the Owl and the Hummingbird photos. She liked the Egret photos but had editing suggestions, which I implemented on these. I centered the splash photo to make it an even reflection on top and bottom and selectively lightened the egret catching the fish to show the feather detail. She gave those scores of 2 and also the landscape image, which I also cropped to create an even reflection. It was all very educational, and I know I’ll be thinking about her critiques as I process my images in the future.

      • Sue

        Thanks — all very interesting. I would love to hear more about this, as you engage in the workshops and mentoring sessions.

  2. What a pleasure it was to have our Critique the other day. I love how you implemented some of the suggestions and are open to listening and learning. Looking forward to seeing more of your beautiful work!

    • Thank you so much, Laurie! I plan to add these images to my portfolio now that they’re much improved. It’s very cool to see how even the little edits can make such a big difference in the impact of an image. I will certainly use your suggestions on future photos and think about the nuances as I work in the field and at the computer. I look forward to our next meeting!

  3. David Hodgins

    And as a fellow cohort, it’s great to have you as part of the journey! Looking forward to my own upcoming critique with Laurie. Not expecting the results you got the first time around, but as it progresses I plan on chasing your results.

    • I appreciate your stopping by the blog, David! It’s going to be even more fun to get to know everyone as we continue, and I look forward to having a hangout with you down the road! Also, I’ll look forward to watching your critique; I’m sure it will be great. Your big cat images are awesome!

    • Thank you Brittany! Watching all of the critiques has been so helpful, especially after following the comments and ideas provided by the apprentices. It’s really fascinating to see how many of the photos transform into true works of art via all of the input.

    • It’s really pretty amazing. Initially, I wasn’t sure how it would all work, but now I see it’s a brilliant idea and so educational. I’ve taken lots of workshops and online classes, but really getting to know a small group of peers as well as your master who offer different ideas and viewpoints is so much more. I’m so very glad I took a chance and submitted that application!

    • Hi Trey! Thanks for stopping by 🙂 I’m so glad to be a part of this experience and, yes, it’s more than I could have imagined from the description. I look forward to the many remaining chapters and where you all lead this wonderful journey!

  4. Hi Tricia,
    Congrats on your successful entry into the Arcunum and thanks for helping to explain to folks the concept behind this exciting, new addition to the world of photography education. The photos at the top of this post are all excellent and the composition in the Magnolia Gardens landscape at the top right of the page is simply amazing. ‘As Above, So Below’.

    • Hi Glenn,
      Thank you for stopping by for a visit! The Arcanum has been so much fun. I’m a little bit behind in updating my blog due to work deadlines, but will get back on this weekend to catch up. I appreciate your kind words on my photos! I feel as if I’ve already stepped up my game from these initial images since joining The Arcanum It’s a truly a great way to learn!

  5. Hello fellow Arcanum apprentice. I really enjoyed watching your critique. Like you I was thrilled to be chosen to be in one of the beta groups for the Arcanum. Ron Clifford is my Arcanum master and he has been a real inspiration for everyone in my cohort. He has helped me see the art of photography in ways I had never imagined and my photography has benefited as a result. Perhaps the best part of the Arcanum is the friends we develop in the cohort. Our cohort spans the world from Ontario, Canada then across the U.S.A. and then across the big pond to Australia.

    Thank you so much for this blog post. It has heoped me to reflect on what the Arcanum means to me.

    • Hi Larry! So nice to meet another Arcanum apprentice! I appreciate that you stopped by my blog to visit. I’ve been so busy with work that I haven’t had much time to spend in the Arcanum, but now that I have a short break I plan to get back in and watch some videos and critiques. I’ll be sure to check out yours, too. I’m glad to hear that you’ve had a great experience as an apprentice as I have. It’s been a fun adventure, and I’m looking forward to continuing my education for years to come.

  6. Pingback: Asheville, NC Rocks The Arcanum! | Asheville Visions Photography Blog

  7. Annette Vesely

    I just stumbled upon the Arcanum today. I love Trey’s work and was so excited to learn about the Arcanum. Thank you for sharing your experience. Although I am passionate about my photos, I consider myself to be a beginner. I am going to apply to the Arcanum and hope a master will accept me as an apprentice. Thank you again for your inspiration!

    • Hi Annette! Thank you so much for the note and I’m so glad that you’ve found the Arcanum and applied. I’ve had a great experience so far and plan to continue on with my artistic journey in the future. I’m now at Level 25 and have met so many amazing people who share a love of photography and art. Best of luck, and I hope to see you there soon!

  8. Hi Tricia! Been a while since I’ve touched base and wonderful to see you still out there doing amazing work. I just came across The Arcanum form and it really sounds intriguing. Are you still involved in this mentoring program? Would love to hear more about it – email me

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