Death Valley Photography Workshop Details
What to Expect
Death Valley Photography Workshop Itinerary
Day 1, Thursday
Participants arrive in Death Valley and are free to explore the park on their own. After sunset we will meet to introduce the group, talk a bit about the workshop, and give a brief overview of Death Valley and its unique wonders. Then we turn you loose to get a good night’s sleep.
Day 2, Friday
Up early to catch the sunrise at Badwater Basin, followed by a morning shoot at the Devil’s Golf Course or Natural Bridge. Then we’ll take a break for lunch. We reconvene in the early afternoon to shoot the warm light on the Mesquite Sand Dunes. An hour or so before sunset you’ll see the dunes come alive as the low light from the setting sun creates a vivid display of patterns and textures. We’ll stay at the dunes for sunset. Depending on conditions and the group’s energy level we will head out again after dinner to experiment with moonlight photography, star trails, and light-painting. Or we may stay in and talk a little about post-processing.
Day 3, Saturday
Up early to catch the sunrise at Zabriskie Point, followed by a morning shoot in Golden Canyon. Both of these places display an awesome array of folded earth patterns. After that we’ll once again take a break for lunch and to recharge our batteries. Then we’ll head out to a little-known seasonal spring to catch the sunset.
Day 4, Sunday
On our last day we’re up early again to shoot the sunrise at Dante’s View, a sweeping vista of the entire Death Valley basin. Then we head back to Furnace Creek in time for a late breakfast. We typically return to FC around 10 or 11 am, early enough to eat breakfast and pack up before check out.
This Death Valley photography workshop is organized to take advantage of the best and most interesting locations the park has to offer. However, the exact itinerary and places we visit may change depending on the group and weather conditions. Please note that at this time we do not visit the Racetrack or the Eureka Dunes because of their extreme remoteness, along with the additional levels of support and permitting needed to visit these wilderness areas. However, we are hoping to add these locations to the itinerary in the future.
Our Death Valley photography workshop is conducted in fall and winter in order to take advantage of pleasant temperatures and a greater chance of dramatic skies. From November through March Death Valley typically enjoys beautiful weather, with daytime highs in the 70’s and 80’s and nightly lows in the 40’s. However, the desert climate can often be surprising and it’s not unusual to see temperatures as high as 90°F or as low as 32°F. Also, one of our shoot locations is Dante’s View, which is 6,000 feet above the valley and can be extremely windy and cold. Don’t be surprised to encounter below-freezing conditions here. In addition, Death Valley gets most of its tiny amount of precipitation in the winter, making these months the best for interesting photography.
Most participants will be comfortable with a jacket and hat for the mornings and evenings, and pants and a long-sleeved shirt during the day. Depending on your personal preferences you may also be comfortable in shorts and a t-shirt. For our shoot at Dante’s View, we HIGHLY recommend a very warm jacket, hat, and gloves as this location can be cold and windy. A wide-brim hat, sunscreen and sunglasses, and a large water bottle will also be indispensable.
Death Valley Photography Workshop Topics
This multi-day Death Valley photography workshop will help photographers create memorable photos of the fascinating and beautiful features of Death Valley National Park. The workshop focuses on understanding your camera’s settings in order to break into new creative realms. There is a strong emphasis on producing striking and powerful compositions, as well as telling a story with your photos. The workshop will cover shoot planning and how to be in the right place at the right time. Depending on conditions, the workshop will introduce participants to aspects of night photography and light-painting. This workshop is limited to 8 participants. We will discuss:
• Transforming your artistic vision into memorable photographs
• Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO – their relationship to one another and how to change them for exposure control
• Metering and getting a correct exposure
• Histograms, how to read them, and how to fine-tune exposure
• Creative depth-of-field effects using aperture control
• White balance and creative coloration
• Creating perspective, depth, and a sense of “being there” in your photos
• Creating powerful compositions with impact
• Composing to control your viewer’s attention in your photos
• Composition: balance, tension, and visual flow
• How to use filters to capture dramatic light or create long-exposure effects
• Low-light and night photography
• How to capture stars, the Milky Way, or star trails
• Light-painting experiments
• Shoot planning and how to be at the right place at the right time
What You Need
• Digital SLR camera
• Lenses. Wide and ultra-wide angle lenses are highly recommended
• A sturdy tripod
• Comfortable footwear with good traction (hiking boots or running shoes recommended)
• Creativity and a positive attitude
• Warm clothes in layers, gloves, a warm hat, and a rain jacket
• A wide-brim hat and sunscreen
• A one-liter (or larger) water bottle
Highly recommended items
• Filters (ND, Grad ND, Polarizers)
• Remote shutter release
• Camera rain sleeve
This Death Valley photography workshop is appropriate for photographers of moderate fitness levels. We will walk approximately 5 miles over the course of each day of the workshop. This includes walking on sandy, rough, and slippery terrain. Walking in sand dunes and other desert landscapes can be strenuous. All participants are expected to be able to carry their own camera, personal gear, and water during the workshop.
• $1,495 per person (includes hotel lodging)
• $1,295 per person when you sign up with a friend and share a room (save $200 each)
• $1095 for campers or those who don’t need lodging
A deposit of $295 is required to reserve your spot. The balance is due 60 days from the start of the workshop. Workshop tuition includes hotel lodging for 3 nights and is based on single occupancy. Sign up with a friend and save $200 each; use code “friendDV” during checkout. 2 person price is based on double occupancy lodging option only. If you are a solo participant interested in sharing a room, let us know and we will do our best to accommodate you.
Camping is available at a number of campgrounds within a 5-minute drive of our meeting point. If you would prefer to camp, please let us know when you register.
• Quality, professional, 1-on-1 photography instruction on par with your level as a photographer
• 8 – 10 hours per day of in-field shooting and instruction
• Water and snacks throughout the workshop
• A fun, positive, interactive learning environment
• Small class size of 8 participants maximum
• 3 nights hotel lodging at Furnace Creek Ranch
What’s Not Included
• Transportation. While participants need to provide their own transportation during the workshop we will be carpooling as much as possible
• Park entrance fee
• Meals, though the group often eats together throughout the workshop
Travel / Lodging
Getting to the workshop
Getting there: Death Valley is located in the south-eastern portion of California, sandwiched between the Sierra Nevada mountains and Nevada. The closest and easiest access to the park is from Las Vegas, which is about 2.5 hours east of the park via highway 160. Alternatively, Death Valley is about 5 hours north of LA via highways 395 and 190, or approximately a 9 hour drive from the San Francisco Bay Area.
Transportation during the workshop
Transportation is not provided. While participants need to provide their own transportation during the workshop we will be carpooling as much as possible.
This workshop includes 3 nights of hotel lodging at the Furnace Creek Ranch in Death Valley. This will be our meeting point throughout the workshop. The workshop price is based on single occupancy. Couples or friends sharing a room simply pay a supplemental workshop fee for the second person. If you are a solo participant willing to share a room, let us know and we will do our best to accommodate you.
Testimonials About This Workshop
“This was an outstanding trip for multiple reasons. The cost was reasonable, and the instructor to participant ratio was perfect! You guys do a great job at reading our levels and “feeding” us at the right pace….POSITIVE support with great tips and encouragement. I would definitely take another workshop.” ~ Andrew M.
“I was totally impressed by both Josh & Jim’s dedication. Also thoughtfulness on bringing snacks, helping each person, scouting even at 3am, setting a great mood for the group. Very positive. I didn’t know specifically what I was going to get to shoot, but had a blast. The dunes were simply awesome, but I also loved all the salt flats, esp. the wet & the hexagonal, but the circles were cool too. [They did a] very good job letting us know what was going to happen, getting to all photographers for 1-on-1, working off what I was already doing, giving new info in small enough doses to be absorbed & utilized.” ~ Kathy K.
“Since getting home from Death Valley, I’ve been working and traveling like a fiend. I finally had a chance to open up my workshop pictures and I’m blown away by the story they tell. As the group’s official beginner, all of my first day photos were of endless exposures of the same compositions. By the end of the second day, you can see that the exposures and technical issues are starting to resolve and the composition elements are coming together too. While I was still following you both around on the third day, I felt I had a real foundation that I could take anywhere. You both are infinitely patient, extremely informative, funny and born teachers. Thank you so very much.” ~ Susan F.
“The one on one time from both Josh and Jim is individually tailored (it seemed to me) to each participant’s specific needs. So it was good for me. For me it’s all about looking at a scene and seeing the compositions. I advanced my ability to do that. I also learned a little more about my camera that I didn’t know before! This is the third workshop I’ve taken with S2S and the first multi-day workshop. Each one has been well-run and has delivered on its promise. These are quality workshops that deliver value for money and a fun and easy-going experience. I highly recommend them.” ~ Andy P.
“[This workshop] exceeded my expectations, I had a really wonderful time. [Josh and Jim] researched locations to photograph and matched them nicely with the time of day, [they were] very friendly and full of useful knowledge, [and] indicated an extreme interest in helping every attendee.” ~ Mark D.
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