Death Valley Backcountry Workshop
February 27 - March 4, 2018
Based out of Stovepipe Wells, CA
Recommended to fly into Las Vegas(See 'How to Get There' section below)
With rugged and raw landscapes, Death Valley is full of dynamic and beautiful scenes to photograph. Get away from the crowds, and join us as we explore, photograph and camp in the more extreme, adventurous, lesser-traveled parts of the park and the surrounding Eastern Sierra. We will explore the dramatic Eureka Sand Dunes, (the highest dunes in California, and second highest in the U.S.) and a remote valley with massive mud cracks surrounded by soaring peaks, along with the Eastern Sierra and Alabama Hills with its unique granite formations and a backdrop of Mt. Whitney. We will photograph and camp among the large and more intimate scenes. Let us help you find your creative vision while photographing mud cracks, sand dunes, Joshua trees, rock formations, and snow-covered mountain peaks. We will take care of the driving and meals so that you can focus on your photography. Come along, and let us show you some of our favorite places to photograph in one of our favorite National Parks!
If you are looking for a unique and rewarding photo workshop, this is perfect for you. David and Jennifer went out of their way to find great shooting locations. There was plenty of time to scout out shots and they were always available to answer questions and give input, they clearly put their clients first.
During the workshop, they were completely focused on instructing us without taking any pictures of their own - we basically had one-on-one instruction, and they patiently answered my many questions with precise practical answers.
David and Jennifer were excellent teachers, they focused their attention on the students, not on shooting their own photos which most other workshop leaders do based on my experience.
What You Will Learn
In the Field
- How to read a scene to create compelling compositions using shapes, lines, visual mass, texture, and more
- Reading weather and lighting conditions to know when to go out on your own in the right light
- How to use apps to scout out your own locations and plan your next shoot
- When and how to use lenses to bring focus to your subject
- How and when to use a polarizer to make colors pop
- Depth of field and hyperfocal distance to help you create sharp photos
- Achieving maximum sharpness using focus stacking
- Creative use of ND Filters to create motion in clouds and water
- Creating panoramas without using expensive equipment
- How to take correct exposures for bright skies; to be later used for exposure blending
- Identifying the best light and how to expose correctly
Post Processing for Beginners
- Making dull RAW files pop in Lightroom and keeping files organized
- Use of local adjustments for dodging & burning, and many more creative opportunities
- Using white balance to create mood in your images
- Properly sharpen and reduce noise for maximum image quality
- Stitching panoramas easily in Lightroom
- Exposure blending using HDR for natural looking results
Post Processing for Advanced users
- Exposure blending using luminosity masks to create balanced, natural looking images
- Focus stacking using Photoshop and/or Zerene Stacker for maximum depth of field
- Blending different focal lengths to correct for wide angle diminishment
- Creative burning and dodging techniques to bring focus to your subject
- Using the Orton Effect to add glow to your highlights
- Creating drama with Light Bleed
- Using Midtone Contrast to make images pop off the screen
- Sharpening for web and print
We encourage you to find your unique style of creativity with focused training based on your style and skill level. You will experience a rigorous learning experience in the field and the classroom to take your photography to the next level.
Our passion is seeing you grow in your photographic journey. We put your interests ahead of our own. Early on in the workshop, we will not photograph at all. Our focus is your learning experience, and we will not run off to chase the light and leave you behind. As the workshop progresses, we will take a few photos in a limited manner. This is so you can see how we approach a scene, demonstrate techniques, and create comradery with the group. Our focus will always remain with YOU.
We understand everyone comes to workshops at different points in their photography journeys. We will be there to guide and help you, whether you are a beginner or advanced shooter. There is always something to learn about photography, and we will do our best to help you find your creative vision.
Above all, we want this to be a fun experience for you. With our small group size, we get to know our clients very well, and we feel like they are part of our extended family. We do this for the love of photography, and there is nothing that gives us greater joy than seeing our clients grow and find their artistic vision.
This workshop will involve short hikes of 2-3 miles, many of them will be in sand dunes and strenuous. Being in good physical condition is a requirement for this workshop, if you have any doubts please contact us before signing up to discuss further.
What is Included
What Is Not Included
How To Get There
We recommend flying into Las Vegas, from there it is a 2.5 hour drive to Stovepipe Wells.
Please visit this site for detailed directions. GPS can be unreliable so be sure to print out a map/directions.
We recommend using Google Flights to find the best option for where you are coming from.
Frequently Asked Questions
All locations are selected based upon the best time of year to visit the area, whether that is to see the best wildflowers, fall colors, or dramatic weather. We have done the research and planning to give you the best possibility of walking away with an incredible photograph.
During our drives we will discuss weather, how to find dramatic light, planning, etc. This will be more than a photo tour, it will be a learning experience. Out in the field we will instruct you on the proper techniques to create sharp photos, balancing exposure, composition, focus stacking, how to incorporate movement, long exposures and more.
The workshops are limited to 6 participants or less to ensure you get the attention you deserve.
We will provide you with an itinerary, but know that landscape and night photography is all about flexibility, especially being flexible to changing weather conditions. You will learn how to read the weather and select the perfect time and location based upon this.
What about night photography? Most workshops will include at least one night of night photography unless noted otherwise. Again, this will be dependent on the weather, this is the advantage of doing both. If we have clear skies we can change our plans to shoot at night when clear skies are preferred.
The 5 day workshops will be focused on one area rather than quickly moving from one location to the next. We will visit many different locations in this focused area. To understand the weather patterns in an area, you must spend some time there.
Is transportation provided?
Yes! Many of the locations selected require a high clearance 4x4 to reach. All of the participants will ride in our 4x4 vehicles. You will all get to share the experience together without worrying about the logistics. You only need to get to the hotel via taxi, shuttle, or rental car, the rest is taken care of. You are welcome to drive your own vehicle if you prefer.
Is lodging provided?
Unless noted otherwise, no. We typically hold a block of rooms at a discounted rate for the group.
Are spouses/partners welcome?
Yes, but seating is limited. If they come out on location you will have to provide your own transportation, or pay the full price for another seat.
Are these workshops run on the up and up?
We work hard to ensure the workshops are run within all the requirements of the law. We are an authorized permittee with the National Park Service, Forest Service, BLM, etc. We also strive to to keep you safe in such remote locations, David is a certified Wilderness First Responder so you can feel safe no matter where we are.
Will I have cell signal during the Workshop?
Cell signal is extremely intermittent in most of the locations, you should not expect to be connected all the time, at certain locations you may be offline for long periods, enjoy the silence.
Will the instructors take photos during the Workshop?
Early on in the workshop we will not photograph at all, our focus is on you and your learning, we will not run off to make our own photographs. As the workshop progresses, we will take a few photos in a limited manner, this is so you can see how we approach a scene, create comradery with the group, and to show you the same type of images you will be taking for our post-processing session. Our focus will always remain with you.
Will weather cancel the Workshop?
Dramatic weather is when the best photographs are created! Unless there are very dangerous conditions the weather will not stop us, in fact it will encourage us! No rain checks will be given for any weather related circumstances.
What is the cancellation policy?
- If you cancel 90 days prior to the workshop we will refund your initial payment minus a $100 fee.
- 90 days before the start of the workshop, we will refund your initial payment only if we can fill your spot.
- The full balance is due 60 days before the workshop. There will be no refunds on the full amount owed. We will attempt to fill your spot, if filled there will be a $100 administrative fee charged and the rest of your payment will be refunded.
There are NO EXCEPTIONS TO THIS POLICY, even for medical emergencies. All cancellation requests must be in writing and received either by US mail or E-mail. We encourage participants to purchase refundable airline tickets and trip cancellation insurance. We strongly recommend trip insurance to protect you in the event of an unexpected situation that prevents you from attending the workshop. We recommend Travelguard or World Nomads.
We reserve the right to cancel any workshop if the minimum student enrollment is not met. In the event we cancel a workshop, participants will be given the option to reschedule to a later date or receive a full refund. we are not, however, liable for expenses incurred such as airfare or accommodations, and for this reason we also recommend the purchase of trip insurance.
What to bring?
- Your DSLR, nothing specific is required, although we do have a list of recommended gear.
- Lenses - Extreme wide angle is recommended (16-35 range on full frame or 10-20 range on a cropped sensor), a mid range zoom, and a telephoto of at least 200mm. If the workshop includes night photography you will want to take a look at our list of recommended gear for night photography.
- Tripod - A sturdy tripod is necessary, David uses Feisol tripods, but also recommends Really Right Stuff, Induro, and Gitzo.
- Filters - A circular polarizer is the only requirement, but we recommend neutral density filters (10 or 6 stops).
- Misc. - Bring extra batteries and memory cards.
- Clothing - Temperatures before sunrise are the coldest of the day, bring layers of clothing to quickly change for the conditions. If the workshop involves night photography plan on bringing even more warm clothes.
- Food - Snacks will be provided out in the field, for other meals we will go to local restaurants together and enjoy the comradery of the group. If we have a long day in the field we will stop at a grocery store for everyone to pick up something.
Our Code of Ethics
We are proud members of the League of Landscape Photographers, which is a group of artists committed to behaving in an ethical manner wherever we are photographing, and encouraging others to behave as stewards of our environment. Our clients must abide by these ethics in our workshops.
Our Code of Ethics:
- I inform myself about all rules and regulations relating to photography when visiting a natural area or public attraction.
- I do not knowingly step onto private property without permission even if the property appears abandoned.
- I stay on designated paths and trails. If there is no trail, I follow proper etiquette by educating myself on the principles of Leave No Trace.
- I aim for authenticity by photographing plants and animals in their natural habitat engaging in their normal behaviors.
- I inform myself about the plants and animals I intend to photograph. I avoid photographing them if they exhibit distress signals, and during times of physical strain or breeding seasons. If my presence is causing stress, I leave the area immediately.
- I help to protect the environment by picking up trash I find when in the field.
- I work to improve my photographic skills by using all my tools when making a composition. I do not move objects, pull plants or otherwise ‘tidy’ a scene. I move my position or wait patiently rather than attempt to influence an animal’s behavior or posture.
- I refrain from baiting (including sound baiting), or placing attractants to entice wildlife or influence their behavior. Also, I remove all artificial attractants I find in wild places that were placed there by others.
- I treat wild animals living in an urban environment, such as songbirds, with the same respect that I accord to those living in the wild. I consider their safety and well being before putting out seed. If I do, I research the proper natural organic food and follow proper procedures to ensure the cleanliness of the feeder to minimize the risk of disease. I locate the feeder to avoid cover for predators as well as potential in-flight collisions with reflective house windows.
- I keep rare species safe and intact by not broadcasting the location of a fragile area, plant or animal. I remove GPS data from my images before sharing them with others.
- I treat all people with respect.
- I am patient and courteous with non-photographers visiting a scene. I am creative and can adjust my expectations of the images I planned to make. I am open to new ideas as they present themselves to me.
- I am aware of my position and how it may interfere with the ability of the photographers and non-photographers around me to enjoy a scene.
- If someone wanders into my scene, I am courteous and will wait for them to move. I will consider adjusting my own position, or kindly asking them to move when they are ready.
- If I see someone violating the Code of Ethics, I will consider talking with them about the possible effects of their behavior. I will only do so if I do not perceive any threat to my personal safety. As an alternative, and if their behavior is particularly egregious, I will consider documenting the situation and reporting them to the appropriate authorities.
- I adopt this Code of Ethics and strive to adhere to these important principles.
- I am an ambassador of ethical conduct in the industry through my own behavior and by sharing these principles with other photographers and the public.
- I know and respect my physical limitations and keep myself out of harm’s way by avoiding situations where my health and safety or the health and safety of others could be put at risk by my actions.
- I educate myself about the weather, terrain, culture and potential hazards before visiting a new area.
- If I am leading a photo group, whether commercially or not, I ensure that the group members are informed about the Code of Ethics, potential hazards and other safety concerns, and that the group size is appropriate given the sensitivity of the place we are visiting.
- I am always forthcoming about my post-processing and refrain from representing my photographs as something they are not.