Big Sur is a place of legends, secrets and a mysterious allure that has drawn photographers for decades for its rich photographic locales. The Big Sur Workshop focuses on the oft-forgotten yet well-known coastal region of California’s Highway 1 through the dense redwood forests and along the coastal bluffs and beaches made famous by Jack Kerouac as well as serving as Ansel Adams and Edward Weston’s photographic stomping grounds. The entire stretch of the Big Sur coastline and mountains are simply a photographic retreat … a calming location where the workshop participants fall into a relaxed state while exploring each locale. Even the seasoned, fast-paced urbanites from major metro cities quickly slow down, both in awe and from the natural, relaxed atmosphere this region projects.

  WHEN: APRIL 7 -9, 2017
  TUITION: $995

Light-duty, trails w/noticeable inclines/elevation changes, time away from cars

  200-Level: Intermediate
Starting where our beginner courses end, academic principles in the intermediate courses push the level of learning, incorporating the visual with the technical.

COURSE CAPACITY: Minimum 3 students, maximum 5


The Big Sur workshop is a study in water motion where participants will learn the effects of timed exposures on varying water conditions, from babbling brooks to waterfalls to crashing ocean breakers, coupled with extreme natural light conditions that lead to a heavy emphasis in exposure control.

Understanding the methods and controls to manage your exposure beyond the camera’s meter.
Separation of the technical from the visual will be presented as a fine art approach.
With several locations focusing on water motion, extensive instruction and understanding of neutral-density (ND) filters, exposure controls and affects of long exposures is central to the workshop's curriculum.
Extreme lighting conditions will form the field exercises in reading, understanding and controlling the exposure of natural light
Integral to nearly every workshop location, extensive use and understanding of how ND filters work and practical application to create water motion blur of both creeks and the ocean waves breaking over rocks.

Nearly every location has water as a main or primary element, enriching each scene while participants capture scenes of stunning landscapes.

The workshop begins at 9am with a requisite working breakfast orientation and academic lecture, following with departure north along Hwy. 1 to our first of two shooting locations along creeks in redwood groves. Following a lunch break, we continue north to the final stop, transitioning into evening photography, is at the iconic McWay Cove Waterfall, one of the few waterfalls in the world that pours off a cliff for 80 feet onto the beach below.

The day starts with a gentle hike down a canyon trail that takes us into an under story of ferns and moss along with breaking waves over rocks and wonderful tide pools, incorporating all of the previous day's lessons. We then begin the visual exercise of reading light & scene as one on a road through old-growth forests, before wrapping the day at a secret beach location for water motion, tide pools and rare purple sand.

The final day of the workshop begins with a trek out to the Point Sur Lighthouse for elevated views of the coastline and spectacular architectural photography of a landmark lighthouse. Following lunch, we spend the rest of the day at Edward Weston's stomping grounds of Point Lobos, concluding the workshop post-sunset.

Light-duty, trails w/noticeable inclines/elevation changes, time away from cars
Some of the locations include light boulder-scrambling and log-hopping; one location entails a 300-foot gradual descent on a fire road, with an uphill return.

PlaceholderImage_1x400TransparentWORKSHOP PREREQUISTES
This intermediate-level workshop has specific prerequisites for all participants:

Starting where our beginner courses end, academic principles in the intermediate courses push the level of learning, incorporating the visual with the technical. All participants MUST have attended a prior HSW beginner-level course or have equivalent/comparable experience. Please contact your instructor to ensure you meet the workshop course prerequisites. EPISODES
All participants must watch the episodes of on content matter specific to this workshop course, as directed by their instructor. While the episode titles might reflect subject matter that is basic or rudimentary, all participants must watch each requisite episode as it is expected you will be knowledgeable and fluent on the concepts presented. (Each episode is comprehensive and short, about two minutes in length.)

"Logo_HSWtv_250x94pxBut I already know about exposure, your very first episode. It's the combination of shutter speed, aperture and ISO. Do I really need to watch it?"

That's the extreme basic misconception about exposure. If you come to the workshop with that premise and not what Episode #1 details, then you will be behind right from the start. All students need to be able to understand the instruction presented by the instructor, based off of the principles in the episodes listed below.

For this California's Big Sur workshop, your instructor has requested that you watch and familiarize yourself with the following episodes: SEASON ONE: Episodes #1 through #14

PlaceholderImage_1x400Transparent Michael Mariant is a travel & documentary visual journalist based in California. Following several years as a newspaper photojournalist and desk editor, Michael moved away from local and regional coverage and up to wire service photography. For over a decade, Michael has been a contract photojournalist for The Associated Press, responsible for coverage of the Central Coast of California along with sports and entertainment assignments in Los Angeles, notably anchoring the agency’s coverage of the Michael Jackson trial from 2003 to 2005.  Michael is also the consultant & multimedia coordinator for the Semester at Sea study abroad program, providing lectures & instructions to the college students while shaping the direction of the programs multimedia efforts in video & still photography through social media. While still taking on editorial and Associated Press assignments, Michael has shifted his shooting focus to commercial video & his B&W landscapes. Outside of shooting, Michael leads educational travel photography workshops as well as university & industry lecture engagements.

View Your Instructor's SlickPic Gallery  |  Your Instructor's Website

The Big Sur coastal region spans a large length of the California coastline, running roughly from Monterey Bay in the north to Morro Bay in the south. As the workshop ends post-sunset in the north end of the Big Sur region, we recommend an airport in the nearby region.

San Jose International Airport (SJC

Travel time from San Jose International Airport to San Simeon is about 3 hours via Hwy. 101 to Hwy. 46 to Hwy. 1. From the workshop's final location on Sunday night, the airport is about 1 hour away via Hwy. 1 and Hwy. 101.

San Francisco International Airport (SFO): To San Simeon via Hwy. 101/46/1 is 4 hours. From workshop final location to airport is about 1 hour via Hwy. 1/68/101
Monterey Airport (MRY): To San Simeon, via Hwy. 68/101/46/1 is 3 hours. From the workshop final location to airport is about 15 minutes.

Carpool arrangements will be reviewed and discussed in the workshop forum discussions

For the Big Sur workshop, there are two workshop bases: San Simeon for the start of the workshop (Thursday night) in the south end of Big Sur, and in Big Sur Village for the end of the workshop (Friday and Saturday nights) in the north end of Big Sur.

Motel 6
Courtesy Inn
San Simeon Lodge
Quality Inn
Days Inn
The Morgan at San Simeon

NOTE: Participants are welcome to use any lodging in Cambria, located just south of San Simeon.

Fernwood Resort (Note: Fernwood hosts live music on Friday and/or Saturday evenings that can be heard in the motel units.)
Big Sur River Inn
Big Sur Campgrounds and Cabins
Riverside Campgrounds and Cabins
Ripplewood Resort
Glen Oaks Motel
Big Sur Lodge

In order to balance the various individual meal and budget preferences, time is allocated for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day at one of the various dining establishments in the Big Sur region and near the workshop locations. While we will eat as a group, meals are the individual responsibility of each workshop participant. Each dining establishment is chosen to provide a wide variety of meal options to satisfy multiple dietary preferences.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. Q: How big is the group? How many students are there in the workshop?
    A: This workshop is strictly limited to only 5 participants, to ensure the one-on-one educational environment in our intermediate-level courses.
  2. Q: Is there a deadline to sign-up for this workshop? Does it sell out? Will you add more room if it does?

    A: No, there is not a deadline to sign up for the workshop. However, space is limited. And it does sell-out, as it is popular course! We inevitably receive emails from those who waited until it was too late, inquiring if more spots can be added. Unfortunately, to keep the small group size and to ensure the critical one-on-one educational environment between the instructor and student, we do not add additional seats.

  3. Q: Is there any special camera gear I need to bring?

    A: There is absolutely no requirement on which camera you bring. All cameras will work within the workshop curriculum.

    A sturdy, solid tripod is required. It can be anything from a Manfrotto aluminum tripod to the expensive carbon fiber tripods. We strongly advise against a “low-budget” tripod (in the sub $100 range), as they have never made it through any of the High Sierra Workshops. They are not designed to withstand regular tripod use, do not have the features and movements of higher quality tripods, and rarely if ever are solid and sturdy.

    As for lenses, we do not recommend a specific lens or set of lens for the workshop, as that is always dictated by one’s own personal preferences and budget.

    We do say that, in general terms, you will  need a wide angle lens to medium-length lens to long telephoto lens for the workshop. Essentially, something in the range from ~16mm on the wide side to ~200mm on the long side. How you choose to fulfill that is at your discretion. Would an 18-200 work? Absolutely. Would all prime lenses work? Absolutely. Do I need a 400/2.8 with a 2x tele-convertor? Not really, unless you like carrying that hunk of glass around AND have an idea for a shot you want to accomplish.

    In regards to carrying your camera equipment, a small photo backpack, waistbelt and/or chest harness (such as those from ThinkTank) is recommended as it will be much easier to carry your gear in this manner than with a bulky camera bag. When packing and choosing your gear to bring, remember one thing: keep it simple and light!

    IMPORTANT: One piece of equipment that is required is a neutral density (ND) filter of -6 stops. There are several options out there for ND filters, from varying density to gradated to the Vario-n-Duo. If you are new to ND filters, or only bring one, either a Fader/Variable ND or a straight -6 stop (not a graduated ND!) is a great starter, especially for the studies in water motion we will be doing during the workshop. The additional ND options that are available will only contribute to your photographic creativity, but certainly are not necessary for this workshop.

    Some details about ND filters:

    The workshop shooting locations necessitate a –6 stop ND filter at the minimum. This is confusing, as the most common rating system for ND filters is numeric, whereas .3 equates to one-stop of ND filtration. So a .9 ND filter is really a –3 stop ND filter.

    Some other filter manufactures use a proprietary system to rate their filter’s level of ND. The key is too look for the actual number of stops that the ND filter truly blocks. It is imperative that everyone has at least a –6 stop ND filter. Anything less and they will be left out of nearly all of the shooting locations.

    ND filters can be a tricky and expensive venture. One thing that does hold true is that you get what you pay for. I caution everyone to avoid Cokin ND filters as they produce horrible color casts. In fact, nearly all non-glass, low quality ND filters have this problem.

    One option for ND (and STRONGLY recommended) is to use a variable ND filter, where you can dial in your degree of ND from –1 to –8 stops, all in the same glass filter. The most popular brand (and pricey!) is the Singh-Ray Vario-ND filters, and also the Vario-n-Duo, which combines the ND filter with a polarizer filter. These can be found at B&H Photo.

    Another option to consider in addition to the Singh-Ray is the Fader ND from Light Craft Workshops. Several past workshop participants have purchased it and have been very pleased with the results. (Especially as the price is a fraction of the Singh-Ray!)

    Nothing, however, beats the quality of single-density glass ND filter, such as -2, -4 and -6 stop ND filters. B+W is the purest and cleanest. But then you are dealing with carrying multiple filters, and can be more expensive then a Singh-Ray!

  4. Q: What about non-photo gear? What do I need to bring?

    A: In the non-photographic equipment, a hat and sunscreen is a must.

    Good light-duty hiking boots with excellent traction are REQUIRED as we will be off-trail and might be doing some light boulder scrambling at times and good foot traction and strong ankle support is necessary.

    Another highly recommended item is hiking/trekking poles. Many workshop participants in the past have utilized the poles and commented that they couldn’t have done it all while carrying the heavy gear without the trekking poles.

    A flashlight/head lamp is REQUIRED if there is night shooting or sunset photography.

    NOTE: Everyone is required to bring at least 1 water bottle of 32 oz. capacity.

  5. Q: What is the workshop schedule like? How much hiking are we doing? How much driving?

    A: Each day will include a full-schedule of shooting in a variety of environments within the Big Sur region, from the waterfalls to gulches to the beaches. We will begin after breakfast and go to sunset each day, with some days going past sunset. None of the trails we are going on are of the paved variety. Some photo locations require light boulder hopping and/or fallen log hopping. As the length of the Big Sur coastline is quite long (roughly 90 miles) and very twisty-curvy, we will be taking our time traveling from one end to the other.

  6. Q: Will we be carpooling during the workshop?

    A: During the pre-workshop forum discussions, we will make carpooling choices to avoid having a caravan of vehicles with one driver in each vehicle! Two cars will easily support transportation needs each day. If there are members of this workshop group who have a vehicle ideal for carpooling and are willing to volunteer, we applaud you for your efforts.

    Note: On the first day, Thursday, everyone will be traveling in there own car as we move from San Simeon to Big Sur Village for our evening lodging.

Cancellation Policy:

In order to ensure availability for those on our waiting list, all workshop cancellations will have the following fees applied:

Cancellation up to and within 60 calendar days prior to workshop start date:
Full refund of workshop tuition; no cancellation fee (Refund applied within 3 business days of cancellation notice)

Cancellation up to and within 30 calendar days of workshop start date:
Refund of workshop tuition minus $100 cancellation fee (Refund/fees applied at conclusion of scheduled workshop; waived if workshop seat booked prior to workshop start date)

Cancellation up to and within 7 calendar days of workshop start date:
No refund of workshop tuition (Waived if workshop seat booked prior to workshop start date with applicable refund applied at conclusion of scheduled workshop)

Logo_DidYouKnow65px(transparent)Did you know that HSW offers GROUP DISCOUNTS? Groups of 3 or more participants receive a 5% discount on tuition, while groups of 5 or more participants receive a 10% discount on tuition.
Plus, intermediate and advanced-level workshops are limited to only five participants, so your whole group can exclusively attend a workshop course together!
CONTACT US TODAY to schedule your group on any of our workshop course offerings.