The premier season for photographers in Yosemite Valley is spring, with over a dozen waterfalls pouring over the towering cliffs of the valley’s rim, dropping thousands of feet in sheer free-falls, staircased steps or series of cascades. This course is limited to only 15 students with two instructors, to ensure the best student to instructor ratio.

Join HSW instructors Michael Mariant and Aaron Lambert on the NEW itinerary featuring several secret and exclusive locations that you will not find in any guidebook!

  WHEN: Mon, April 24 - Thu, April 27, 2017
  TUITION: $995

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

Trails w/significant inclines/elevation changes, possible high altitude, possible full day from cars


COURSE CAPACITY: Minimum 5 students, maximum 12


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
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.
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.

Yosemite in the Spring is not about finding the locations, but all about the timing as the the light changes quickly, turning a dull location into something spectacular, sometimes only for a few minutes. As several of the locations on this workshop course are secret locations, we can't disclose too much info!

The workshop course starts at 9am with the requisite orientation and starting academic instruction. Following lunch, we head off to the first of several water-based locations to implement the academic lessons, before shooting sunset at the first of many secret locations!

The day starts after sunrise at an iconic spot made famous by the Yosemite legend himself, Ansel Adams, followed by lessons and exercises at two secret locations, before wrapping up at a stunning sunset spot.

The third day of the workshop starts pre-dawn as part of the full-day hike (See the FAQ for more details) that provides for strategic and breathtaking viewpoints of four waterfalls, concluding the day at one of the most awe-inspiring spots in all of Yosemite Valley.

The final day of the workshop starts just after sunrise at a secret location, before heading to a timeless workshop favorite river walk, before concluding in the early afternoon.

Trails w/significant inclines/elevation changes, possible high altitude, possible full day from cars

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

Requires understanding of camera operations & functions, standard photography principles of exposure & composition

All participants must watch the episodes of HSW.tv 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 HSW.tv episodes listed below.

For this Yosemite in Spring workshop, your instructors have requested that you watch and familiarize yourself with the following episodes:
> HSW.tv SEASON ONE: Episodes #1 - #7, #9 - #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

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.

Yosemite is located in the central part of the Sierra Nevada mountains, easily accessible from several major cities as well as the closest city of Fresno.

Fresno-Yosemite International Airport (FAT)

Travel time from Fresno-Yosemite International Airport to Yosemite Valley is approximately 2.5 hours. There are several car rental operations located on-site at the airport.

San Francisco International Airport (SFO), via Highways 80, 580, 205, and 120, is approximately 4 hours.
Sacramento International Airport (SMF), via Highways 99 and 120, is approximately 3.5 hours.
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
, via Highways 5, 99 and 41, is approximately 5.5 hours.

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

For the Yosemite in Spring workshop, workshop participants need to make lodging reservations at either Curry Village or Yosemite Lodge inside Yosemite Valley, or at one of the two hotels located in El Portal, immediately outside of Yosemite Valley.

Curry Village or Yosemite Lodge: Located in Yosemite Valley
Yosemite View Lodge: Located on Hwy. 140 right at the park boundary.
Cedar Lodge: Located further down Hwy. 140 away from the park boundary.


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 Yosemite Valley.

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 always limited to only 15 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: 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!

    NOTE: At the minimum, bring a plastic trash bag (with no holes) to wrap your camera in to protect it from waterfall spray on the Mist Trail. You do NOT need rain gear for your camera, as we won’t shoot in the water spray. Just a trash bag (if you camera bag doesn’t have a rain cover or is waterproof) to protect your bag on the way down the trail.

    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 two (2) water bottles of 32 oz. capacity. It will be warm during the day and at some locations, especially on the full day hike, access to water is limited. As a matter of safety, anyone not carrying two of these bottles of water will not be permitted to join the group on the full day hike.

  5. Q: I’ve read about the Day 3 Hike. What is this? Is it difficult?

    A: One day of the course includes a full-day hike of either: 1) 1,500-ft elevation rise/fall over 5 miles, or 2) a 800-ft gain over a 3,200-ft drop over 9 miles. Weather conditions at the 7,000-ft level along with water/trail conditions dictate which hike we will be doing. This decision isn’t made until usually a week before the workshop begins.

    NOTE: While the hike takes participants to some of the most stunning springtime locations, participants wishing to not partake in the hike are given an alternate itinerary for the day.

    Both hike options (as well as other locations on this workshop course) include vantage points of high elevation that could cause vertigo. Both hike options include descending the steps of the Mist Trail, which usually has a spray from the waterfall at your back. Please read the photo gear FAQ question in regards to easy “weather-proofing” of your camera bag.

    Hike Option #1: John Muir Trail to Mist Trail

    The shorter hike of 5 miles is all uphill via switchbacks on the John Muir Trail to the point of 1,500-ft in elevation gain, then downhill on the Mist Trail. The elevation profile for this hike, along with the hike route:


    Hike Option #2: Panorama Trail to Mist Trail

    The longer hike of 9 miles is mostly downhill on the Panorama Trail from Glacier Point, with one spot of of 800-ft elevation gain on switchbacks. This hike joins the shorter hike at a point 7 miles in. Here are elevation profiles for this hike:



    Participants will be notified via the discussion forums approximately one week prior to the start of the course which of the two hike options will be used on the Saturday.


  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! 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.

  7. Q: I’m arriving in Fresno the night before. What should I do?

    A: The workshop begins at 9am, so we highly recommend staying in the valley the night before. However, if you can get up early and drive up from Fresno, there is a Holiday Inn and a Picadilly Inn directly across the street from the Fresno International Airport, less than a 5 minute walk from the terminal. Keep in mind that it is at least a 2-hour drive from Fresno to Yosemite Valley. Get stuck behind a motor home or bus, and it can be almost 3 hours.

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.