Death Valley is regarded by some as desolate and empty, and it might be an appropriate name for what they see … but there is so much more. Desert lovers know that the beauty of the park lies not on the paved tourist road but in abundance away from the tourist spots. Framed by the Armagosa and Panimint ranges, the valley harbors a beautiful delicate and fragile ecosystem that changes spectacularly in front of your eyes from day to day, hour to hour. Here, timing is everything.

Eventbrite - Death Valley National Park Photography Workshop Course

  WHEN: MARCH 30 - APRIL 2, 2017
  TUITION: $995 (*Supplemental jeep rental charge not included)

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

100-Level: Essentials
Course topics include: Learning to read a scene, pre-visualization, compositional principles, technical & visual assessments

COURSE CAPACITY: Minimum 5 students, maximum 10


This essentials-level workshop course addresses these standardized curriculum topics:

The key to knowing what you are going to photograph is knowing how to assess what constitutes the photograph in the first place, and what in the scene before you justifies being in the photograph
Ansel Adams knew how he was going to print the photograph in the darkroom — down to every detail — before he even clicked the camera shutter. Learning the full pre-visualization methods ensures that your final image is what you intended the photograph to depict.
Sought by professional photographers to craft the powerful final image, these principles provide direction in the composition.
The core of the curriculum is learning to read the light for proper exposure and visual impact
A set of principles will provide the foundation of visual composition.
Separation of the technical from the visual will be presented as a fine art approach.

The Death Valley workshop itinerary is structured around the academic lesson at each location. (Zabriski Point is closed for 2015; alternate location in place.)

The workshop begins at 9am in the hotel classroom with the requisite orientation and academic lecture. After an early lunch, we head to the first workshop location, perched above Death Valley for the first field lesson, before going to a narrow canyon followed by sunset at Devil's Golfcourse.

The second day begins pre-dawn with departure to the Sand Dunes for sunrise photography, before heading to a nearby ghost town for continued lessons. Following lunch, we drive down a slot canyon for exercises in layering before heading to the iconic Badwater salt flats for sunset.

The third day begins pre-dawn at the classic location of Zabriskie Point before heading on the full-day trek for sunset at the famous Sliding Rocks at the Racetrack. NOTE: There is an additional charge as we use 4WD Jeep rentals to access the Racetrack; no private vehicles allowed.

The final day of the workshop begins pre-dawn with a return trek to the Sand Dunes for a culmination of the workshop's academic instruction. Following breakfast, we head up the slot canyon of Mosaic Canyon before heading back to the hotel for the workshop conclusion at Noon.

Light-duty, trails w/noticeable inclines/elevation changes, time away from cars
The walk to the sand dunes is fairly level and 1-mile in length; the walk to the sliding rocks is flat and 1/2-mile in length.

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

Requires understanding and fluency of camera operations, controls & functions, standard photography principles of exposure & composition. 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 Death Valley National Park workshop, your instructor has requested that you watch and familiarize yourself with the following episodes:
> SEASON ONE: Episodes #1 - #11

PlaceholderImage_1x400Transparent Paul Meyer has been a professional photographic educator for over 25 years. His passion for photography started even long before that. His first degree, from the University of Hawaii in Hawaiian Environmental Studies, brought his love of photography face-to-face with the incredible landscapes of Hawaii. He left the islands to get another degree, this time in Professional Photography from Brooks Institute. He ultimately got his Master’s degree and started teaching full-time at Brooks in 1990. In between his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees Paul spent nearly a decade working with some of the top commercial advertising photographers in NY and LA. He has participated twice on Semester at Sea as a faculty member and photographer, taught a workshop to professional photographers in Ooty, India, and is currently teaching part-time at Mount Saint Mary’s in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara City College. As the HSW Director of Academics, he is also instrumental developing and shaping the photographic curriculum here at HSW.

Aaron Lambert is the Director of New Media and a workshop instructor for High Sierra Workshops. As a former photographer and videographer for the State of California Chamber of Commerce, Aaron wore two hats simultaneously: photographing presidents, dignitaries and governors while editing video from the California State Senate and Assembly. Previously, Aaron spent 12 years as a photojournalist for several newspapers and magazines in California and Texas. His images have been published in newspapers and magazines around the world, including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Times of London, The Washington Post, USA Today, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Dallas Morning News and the San Francisco Chronicle.

Death Valley National Park is located in a somewhat remote area of California, though quickly accessible from Las Vegas.

Las Vegas-McCarran International Airport (LAS)

Travel time from Las Vegas-McCarran International Airport to the workshop hotel base is approximately 1.75 hours, via Hwy. 160 through Pahrump and Death Valley Junction. There are several car rental operations located on-site at the airport.

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), via Highways/Interstates 405, 5, 14, 395, and 190 is approximately 4.25 hours (not including any traffic delays in Los Angeles.)

Carpool arrangements, if needed, will be reviewed and discussed in the workshop forum discussions.

For the Death Valley workshop, all participants will be making their lodging reservations at the hotel listed below in Death Valley. Please do not make reservations at any other hotels, as travel time to/from other hotels will be excessive.

Please DO NOT make independent reservations; a booking code and reservation details will be posted in the workshop forum discussion.
Please DO NOT book lodging at Stovepipe Wells, Furnace Creek Ranch/Inn due to the excessive distance from the workshop base and classroom.

Longstreet Inn & Casino is the workshop base operations. Longstreet Inn has several lodging choices, including a Hotel and RV park, along with a full-service restaurant. A group rate and block of rooms for the hotel is set aside for workshop participants. Rooms start at approximately $59/night under the HSW group booking code.

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 Death Valley or surrounding towns.

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 12 participants with two instructors, to ensure the one-on-one educational environment.
  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: Yes, in order to finalize the logistics for the hotel and Jeep rentals, there is a deadline to sign up for the workshop, approximately three weeks before the workshop start date. 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: What will the weather be like? It’s a desert, so it’s going to be hot, right?

    A: The weather in Death Valley this time of year is actually quite pleasant. Down in the valley the daytime temperatures can run as high as in the 90s, but average in the mid- to high-80s. And, yes, it is a dry heat. However, as we move up to locations out of the valley, the temperature can drop quickly to the 50s during the day, and very windy at some locations. And the early morning or late evening sessions can find temperatures in the high-40s to low-50s. That can be a 50 degree change from morning to afternoon during the workshop!

  4. Q: What type of clothing will I need?

    A: This will be based on your personal perspective, but obviously a range of clothing is necessary. A jacket that can keep you warm in the pre-dawn and late evening chilly temperatures is necessary. Remember that you will be carrying camera gear that will be heavy. You will get hot quickly as we go from location to location. Dressing in layers is highly recommended. Remember a hat to cover your head is a MUST!

  5. Q: What will the terrain be like in the workshop? Are we doing much hiking?

    A: Nearly all of our photo locations are either just off trail or in fairly level locations. Some might require light boulder-scrambling for additional vantage points, if desired. Some of the locations that we will be shooting at are of high elevation, including over 5,000 feet. If you have concerns or reservations about this, please privately email the workshops director. 

  6. Q: What kind of footwear do I need?

    A: We will be doing walking/very light duty hiking for some locations and trekking through sand dunes. Light-duty hiking shoes/boots are required. DO NOT wear sandals, flip-flops or tennis/running-style shoes. For safety, participants wearing sandals, flip-flops or tennis/running-style shoes will not be permitted in the workshop course.

  7. Q: OK, it’s called Death Valley — how much water do I need? Are there water fountains there?

    A: You must bring enough water bottles (Nalgene or metal; not plastic grocery store, Arrowhead, etc.) for yourself for an entire day. Death Valley (note the park name!) has a very dry heat that dehydrates the body quickly. Experts say to plan on 3/4 – to – 1 gallon of water per day per person; that’s three or four 32 oz. Nalgene bottles. (I recommend bringing at least one but ideally two 32 oz. Nalgene bottles.)

    You will be able to refill the bottles each morning in your room and store them in the vehicles. We will never be more than 1-mile away from the vehicles at any location. And, no, there are no water fountains outside of the developed areas. 

  8. 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!

    > NOTE: One piece of equipment that we strongly recommend is a GRADUATED NEUTRAL DENSITY (ND) FILTER. There are several options out there for filters, varying from graduated to the Vario-n-Duo. The graduated ND filter that we would recommend would be either a 2-stop or 3-stop soft graduated filter. These help balance out the brighter sky to the dark foreground. This filter is not required but would be helpful. Can you survive without the grad filter? Absolutely.

    Some details about ND Filters:

    There are two options for these graduated neutral density filters: glass or plastic/resin. Glass is more expensive, but better quality, while some of the cheaper plastic/resin filters produce some horrible and unacceptable color casts on longer exposures. Stay away from the cheap plastic ones at all costs, if you can.

    Within these graduated ND filters, there are two types referred to as ‘hard’ or ‘soft’, in reference to the degree of gradation. Hard has almost a delineated line between the clear portion of the filter and the darker ND portion. Soft has a more gradual gradation and we recommend the ‘soft’ filter for first-time use.

    Note the the amount of ND is referred to in a decimal form, with every .3 being -1 stop of light. So a .9 would be -3 ND. For landscape photography, we would recommend a -3 stop soft graduated ND filter. (For the purpose of landscape photography, and especially the scenes we will find on our workshop as well as most landscape scenes, you WILL NOT need a “transition over full length of filter” ND filter, but rather one that has a ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ gradation, ideally a ‘soft’ for this type of landscape purposes.)

    ALSO: It is strongly discouraged from purchasing a screw-mount graduated ND filter, one that would screw on to the end of the lens. This doesn’t allow for any adjustment of the gradation, and you have to sacrifice your composition just to accommodate the filter.

    Note that these filters measure 4″x4″, 4″x4.5″ or 4″x5″ in dimension. They can be hand-held or (ideally) placed in a Cokin P-filter holder. This opens up another proverbial ‘can of worms’ as the P-filter holder attaches to the end of the lens on the P-filter adapter ring. So the ring goes on the lens, the P-filter holder goes on the adapter ring and the filter goes in the P-filter holder.

    NOTE: While Cokin makes a great filter holder, their ND filters can create color casts and we recommend avoiding them.

    > NOTE: It is suggested to bring a flash if you have one, as you might want to use it to ‘paint’ the foreground in the sunrise or sunset shots or in certain locations.

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

    A: There are several items in the non-photo gear that are required.

    > 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, primarily in the sand dunes, but also at Devil’s Golf Course.

    > A flashlight/head lamp is REQUIRED! If you have a flashlight or headlamp with red light, that will be very helpful during the astrophotography session, as your eyes will not have to adjust going from the darkness to the red light. Plus, the white light of a flashlight or headlamp is very bright and can contaminate the photograph, not to mention “blind” the other workshop participants!

    > NOTE: Everyone is required to bring at least 1 water bottle of 32 oz. capacity. It will be warm during the day and at some locations access to water is limited or nonexistent.


  10. Q: Will we be carpooling during the workshop? Do we need a 4WD vehicle?

    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! Three to four 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.

    In addition, if workshop participants are driving from the same areas, or flying into the same airport, we will facilitate discussion to organize carpools to and from Las Vegas or Los Angeles (or driving from other areas in California) for both before and after the workshop.

    NOTE: Four wheel drive vehicles (4WD or AWD) are not needed for the carpool. However, for the Saturday schedule, the workshop itinerary takes us to the Sliding Rocks at the Racetrack along a infamous and nefarious road that is prone to flat tires. For this day, we rent four-door 4WD Jeeps to completely alleviate risk to participant vehicles and the added security of off-road vehicles with qualified tires. This Jeep rental charge is a supplemental cost to the course tuition; participants will receive a separate Eventbrite “registration” to cover the Jeep rental expense.

  11. Q: Is there cell service in Death Valley?

    A: There is pretty much very little cell phone reception in Death Valley for any of the carriers, with exception for some random spots where you might get a good signal. Oddly enough, there is free wifi at Stovepipe Wells as well as at the Death Valley Visitor Center. There is also free wifi at our workshop base hotel.

  12. Q: Should we arrive in Death Valley Wednesday night for the Thursday start?
    A: Not necessarily. The workshop start at 9am is scheduled to allow for travel into Death Valley during the morning hours from Las Vegas.  You will have the option to reserve a room at the Longstreet Inn & Casino for Wednesday night if you wish to not have to drive early on Thursday morning. Please do NOT plan on arriving in Las Vegas on Thursday morning and driving in to the workshop.

Cancellation Policy:

In order to ensure availability for those on our waiting list, all workshop cancellations will have the following fees applied:
(Please note the cancellation policy for the Death Valley workshop course differs from all other HSW workshop course offerings due to required advance operational needs.)

Cancellation up to and within 90 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 60 calendar days of workshop start date:
Refund of workshop tuition minus $100 cancellation and no refund of Jeep Rental fee. (Refund/fees applied at conclusion of scheduled workshop; waived if workshop seat booked prior to workshop start date)

Cancellation up to and within 30 calendar days of workshop start date:
No refund of workshop tuition and no refund of Jeep Rental fee. (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.