The hardest part of planting a seed is waiting to see the growth of what that seed will produce.
During a trip to Nicaragua with The Giving Lens, a group of nine photographers were on board to teach students of Empowerment International the craft and skills of photography and plant seeds that will hopefully produce a great crop in the future.
We were in Granada, Nicaragua, for only a week, but in that short time we grew strong, life-long relationships as we honed their skills and techniques with cameras and by processing their images.
By the middle of the week we had climbed two volcanoes, Masaya and Mombacho, took a sunset tour on the water, practiced street photography in one of the local markets and returned to the barrio for a personal tour of the lives of the photography students.
These volcanoes are vast. They grow from the ground and don't stop until they are literally in the clouds.
Even though they see the volcanoes on their horizons, none of the students had ever made the journey in their own backyard where others have traveled thousands of miles to do so.
When we finally got to the top, we were met with heavier winds, much cooler temperatures and a visibility of about 100 feet to go with the rainy mist dampening our clothes.
The visiting photographers with The Giving Lens knew where we were going and dressed for it.
The students hiked the volcanoes in what they had which meant flip flops, second-hand dress shoes, thin T-shirts and maybe a borrowed extra shirt by someone who brought a spare.
We stopped at plants and flowers that caught a ray of sunlight, if just for a few moments, and showed the students how to use their cameras like magnifying glasses to create macro photos.
At an altitude of 4,400 feet we taught them to create interesting scenic landscape images by including a foreground element such as a unique rock, tree or other object on the hiking trail around the volcano's rim.
Another excursion took our entire group on two separate small boats zig- zagging Lake Nicaragua's sights during the prime late afternoon light and its connected, long late afternoon shadows.
Lake Nicaragua is speckled with hundreds of islands, some not much bigger than the singular house that sits upon them.
We wove between the islands with the help of an experienced boat guide who pointed out birds, monkeys and landmarks in Spanish.
It was thrilling to watch the students discover their new surroundings while also showing them how to capture and preserve them.
Due to some bad weather we were held back from taking a trip to another barrio where Empowerment International works with a smaller group of students in a very remote area. I was sorry to have missed meeting more of the group. Instead, the mid-afternoon rainstorms, much like Florida's, forced us inside to work with the students on organizing and editing images in the computer.
Images that are created only have value if they can be accessed and found later with an easy to navigate filing system.
After going over those basics and a few Photoshop and Lightroom skills to make the images pop, it was clear to see their understanding of these new concepts was making a difference in their workflow as photographers.
This time together ended up being the highlight of this journey second only to the family style meals we shared.
While several groups were working on the computers, another was setting up a gallery of framed images made by the students for an upcoming showcase of their work.
"For four years now I have dreamed of creating a tour where photographers could come and shoot alongside our kids and explore Nicaragua in unison, with the idea of an equal co-learning experience," said Kathy Adams, EI founder and executive director.
"For this to finally happen is a dream come true. The kids have not stopped talking about the tour and the participants that came seem to have been extremely impacted in a positive way. There is no doubt it was a win-win situation," she said.
As our days together were winding down we knew it would be difficult to say goodbye.
We ended our time together as it began, with public affirmations of what we all got out of our time together except for one difference. This time there were tears.
We came to plant the proverbial seeds of photography and these will grow, like any plant, with nurturing.
I saw the changes we made in a week. I look forward to additional growth in the next month, year and more.
If you want to be part of making a difference while also having them make a difference in you visit www.empowermentinternational.org and tell them The Giving Lens sent you.
Mitch Kloorfain is chief photographer for Hometown News. This is the last of a three-part series.