Winter time in Yosemite is peaceful serenity at its best: the least number of tourists in the Valley while a blanket of white snow covers the valley, dotting the trees while storm clouds charge through the blue sky, providing great contrast to the stark granite walls. Join HSW instructors Michael Mariant and Aaron Lambert for four days of stunning photography and comprehensive photo education like no other workshop offers. This highly-acclaimed and famous course is limited to only 10 students with two instructors, to ensure the best student to instructor ratio.

  WHEN: FEB. 13-16, 2017
  TUITION: $995

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 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, 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 Yosemite in Winter itinerary is designed to be fluid, and can change daily — even hourly! — due to lighting and weather conditions.

The workshop begins at 9am with the requisite orientation and academic lecture. Following lunch, the early afternoon shooting session is based in the snow-covered meadows applying the morning's lessons, before heading to the iconic 'Firefall' at Horsetail Falls.

The day starts just after sunrise with lessons in natural light, followed by a morning shooting along the rivers. Following lunch, the lessons in light and water motion continue before heading for night #2 at the iconic 'Firefall' at Horsetail Falls.

Just after sunrise the day begins with lessons in composition at an iconic Ansel Adams location, followed by a meadow session to continue the composition academics. Following lunch, the shooting begins encapsulating Day 1 & Day 2 before heading back to Horsetail Falls.

The final day of the workshop begins with a meadow session followed by a stunning river walk to another iconic Ansel Adams location photographing the granite monolith of Half Dome. The workshop wraps following a late lunch, allowing for a 2pm departure from Yosemite Valley.

Light-duty, trails w/noticeable inclines/elevation changes, time away from cars
Some of the locations could be snow-covered meadows that participants will be going through. Icy path conditions could exist.

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 Winter workshop, your instructor has 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; a 4WD rental is required for this workshop. If the road is snow-covered or icy, it can take up to 4 hours to get to Yosemite Valley.

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 Winter 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!

    We will be shooting the legendary “Firefall” at Horsetail Falls if Mother Nature cooperates, and you will need at the very least a 200mm lens to capture the scene. IF you have a 1.4 or 2.0 teleconvertor, it won’t hurt to bring it. But that doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy one

  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: 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.

    Also, for those that are arriving at the Fresno airport or driving from similar locations, we will also start a carpooling discussion forum just for getting to/from the workshop.

  6. Q: Will it be cold?

    A: Yes.

    Of course, some perspective is needed. If you live out here on the mild West Coast, it will be chilly. If you are from back East, you might find it downright balmy!

    The best recommendation we can give is to check the weather numbers specifically for Yosemite Valley (as recorded at the National Park Service weather station). On the weather page, select the link in the bottom right corner that says: “Daily YYV Data”. The daily temperatures are updated … daily. So keep monitoring it as we get closer to the workshop start date. And also monitor the weather forecast for Yosemite Valley, specifically for right in Yosemite Valley.

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

    A: Again, this will be based on your personal perspective, but obviously winter clothing is necessary.

    We recommend a good winter jacket, but no need for a down jacket as the temperatures in Yosemite Valley rarely get below 25 degrees during the day. Most winter days in Yosemite Valley the temperature is around 30 degrees, and that is a “warm” 30 degrees. We don’t have the bitter cold winters in Yosemite, especially at the 4000-foot elevation of Yosemite Valley.

    A simple winter jacket to keep the snow off, and similar pants, snow boots, gloves and a hat are a must. Gaitors would be at your discretion. The snow in February in Yosemite can range from just a few inches to several feet. And if a cold storm blows through, the snow can get deep in the valley.

    No need for snowshoes (as in the traditional sense), as we won’t be trekking anywhere like that. As the weather can be unpredictable, I would recommend wearing snow boots (such as Sorel or similar style) in case there is a snowstorm or fresh snow. Again, the use of gaitors would be at your discretion.

    As for anti-skid footwear, such as crampons, if the route is that slippery, where someone could slip and fall and possibly injure themselves or their camera gear, we won’t go there. Safety always comes first. If you have a fondness for trekking poles/hiking sticks that have snow baskets, you will find them VERY handy, but certainly not necessary.

    One thing to keep in mind is that the valley floor is at 4,200′ feet in elevation, so the weather can change from snow to rain quite easily. Also, snow in the Sierras is a heavy, wet snow… often referred to as Sierra Cement (or Cascade Concrete for you Pacific Northwest folks!). It is very rare to see light, fluffy, powdery snow.

    And one last thing on clothing, 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! One thing you might consider is an umbrella. Very handy to hold over you and the camera if it is snowing!

  8. Q: I’m arriving in Fresno the night before the workshop? 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 on dry roads. Get stuck behind a motor home or bus, and it can be almost 3 hours. If there is ANY snow in the forecast, we strongly recommend you stay in Yosemite Valley the night before.

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.