January, 2018 update:
I hope to have 2018 dates confirmed ASAP as the park confirms them in early February! Interiors were not accessible in 2017 following the late 2016 earthquakes, but we hope to offer interior access again in 2018, adjacent to our night photography dates for people who might want to do both.
We never know for sure if the workshop program will continue into the next year, but we hope to offer at least a couple of Bodie workshops again in 2018. We’re transitioning towards longer guided tours however, and it’s getting harder every year to get decent dates (of our first six dates requested this year, we got one), so this may be the best selection of options we’ll offer for Bodie in a season of workshops.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Why are Bodie night photography workshops so expensive?
The Bodie Foundation conducts them to raise funds for building stabilization projects at Bodie. In five seasons we have raised roughly $50,000 for the Bodie Foundation to help preserve the park.
Why are your Bodie night photography workshops less expensive than others?
I live only 50 miles from Bodie Road, so my costs are much lower: I don’t have to ship instructors all over the state or country. I don’t use workshop participants to pay for an art gallery or tour bus. The more accessible I make prices, the more people can came and the more funds I can help raise to benefit Bodie. Besides, it’s cool to visit and shoot in a ghost town at night… the more people I can bring out there, the more times I get to shoot there at night myself!
Am I confirmed the moment I sign up?
I try to set prices low to make Bodie access more accessible to more people, but the fees and other costs to access Bodie at night are heavily front-loaded with the first person I bring in, so the cost per person varies greatly. I haven’t had to cancel / reschedule a Bodie workshop since our first season when we were just figuring things out. By 2013 and 2014 I had enough Bodie workshops that I was able to cover any losses with other profitable dates. In the event of a change, I will of course offer an alternate date or refund.
What’s your cancellation/refund policy?
I lose the opportunity to fill your spot if you cancel too close to the workshop date. Photographers often plan 6 months in advance, so open spaces can be very difficult to re-fill on short notice (even a couple of months ahead of the date). I’ve reviewed competitors’ policies, and given low profitability of Bodie workshops and new non-refundable fees I pay, I can only issue refunds up to 60 days ahead of the workshop date (less transaction costs). No refunds within 60 days.
Can you offer a discount for my camera club?
Probably yes, if you can bring several people and I can adequately fill a workshop. I may also be able to schedule a new date or itinerary just for your group or club! I’ve researched every weekend’s moon phase and relevant rise/set times for the entire 2014 season, so you can pick exactly what ambient illumination conditions you want to shoot in. Contact me for details.
What cameras do you support?
Some people come with us to Bodie simply for the access, but if you come for instruction and help with your night photography, it’s critical that you have someone who knows how your camera performs. I’ve owned seven different Canon DSLRs over the past 10 years, both crop sensor and full frame sensor models, currently the Canon 5D Mark II, Mark III, 6D and 70D. My assistant Lori Hibbet has been using Nikon for many years and has shot alongside me for the past four years, currently with the Nikon D800, D600 and D7000 (the D40 before that). Of course we’ve had customers bring just about every imaginable model from the eight megapixel Canon XT from 2005 to the 50 megapixel Canon 5 DS, as well as models from other manufacturers such as Pentax and Sony. While we can usually figure out menus and controls, a very important factor is sensor size, since that affects many characteristics of your results such as depth of field and how ISO and exposure time affect noise.
What experience do your instructors have?
I took my first darkroom class in 1974-75. I learned digital imaging at the world’s largest color printing company from 1984 – 1990. I’ve owned 9 or 10 digital cameras since buying my first one in 2001. I went full time as a professional photographer in 2006, and night photography became a significant pursuit in early 2009. Lori Hibbett was a skilled photographer when I met here, and she is in her eighth year spending a considerable amount of time with me on the road since 2010, when I started researching and writing my 320-page guide to Southern California landscape photography locations. She is in her sixth year of helping me lead Bodie night photography workshops, so she knows the techniques, the town, and composition options, and as well as anyone, how the sky changes throughout our shooting season in Bodie.
Some workshop companies pawn customers off on weekend photographers with only a crop sensor camera, paying them as little as $150/day. There are many excellent professional photographers offering workshops, but I also see false and truly counterproductive advice presented as wisdom by workshop instructors on the internet. Your time and workshop dollars are too valuable to spend on people who haven’t invested the years of experience it takes to get past the basics and really learn what a sensor will do in challenging situations.
Night is a particular concern since the low light conditions push cameras to their limits, but also because we’re awake for so much less of the night, few people have invested the time to truly master it. Just about any landscape photography workshop should offer the opportunity to take some night shots, so anyone you’re considering taking a workshop from should show you hundreds of results, using a variety of subjects using a variety of techniques, to demonstrate that they have put in the hours required to experience in both shooting and post-processing night shots, to truly know what they’re talking about and to teach you.
Also check for paid publishing credits and awards… for example their books, magazine covers, Outdoor Photographer Magazine, National Geographic, Astronomy Photographer of the Year, calendars, book covers, BBC, and so on. Lori has had her work licensed for publishing in Audubon magazine, Nevada magazine, the Friends of Nevada Wilderness calendar and the Bodie Foundation calendar.
How well do you know Bodie?
I’ve been visiting Bodie since the mid-1970s. My digital photography there goes back at least to 2004 and multiple daytime and after-hours visits in 2005. In recent years I’ve been living in the Eastern Sierra. I moved to the northern edge of Mono County about 50 miles from the Bodie Road in 2010, and I’ve led about 50 special night or interior access workshops in the park in 2012 – 2016. We visited our local park at least 15 times in 2014 alone. If you’re going to visit Bodie in a photography workshop, you might as well go with the leaders!
Our success is attracting a lot of workshops to Bodie. One competing workshop licensed a night photo from one of our participants to have one to show their prospective customers! Know what you’re buying and review the instructors’ Bodie portfolios and ensure that the instructors have shot there extensively, especially at night! Another claimed that I was “disparaging others” by even mentioning this. Seriously? Nothing could be further from the truth. Serving as a whistleblower on shady business practices protects photographers who might otherwise be tricked into a less productive situation.
Shouldn’t credible workshops offering competent instruction and site knowledge be eager to highlight their instructors’ strengths? Digital photography experience directly relevant to what they’ll teach, site knowledge, and digital portfolios demonstrating both? I have great respect for the many photographers who have earned their place in the industry and “paid their dues” in digital photography, night photography and site experience. Anyone leading workshops who has a problem with the discussion of competence or with the demonstration of photographic and site experience only speaks volumes about themselves. I won’t name them; they call themselves out.
Are extensions available to add more days?
In most cases, yes. For 2017 I’m planning Easterner Sierra or Yosemite extensions for most of my Bodie workshops.
Do you have first aid certification?
Absolutely. I started taking first aid classes for outdoor recreation with a lifeguard course required for a summer whitewater raft guide job. Later I took the 120 hour Outdoor Emergency Care course offered over 12 weeks by the American Red Cross. The semester format similar to a college course provides excellent learning opportunities, and I re-certified every year for many years. Most importantly, I treated injured people outdoors for many years with the National Ski Patrol at Squaw Valley, so my first aid / first responder experience is far from limited to a cram course featuring classroom dummies.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any additional questions!
Note: If the PayPal registration buttons don’t seem to work from inside my blog posts, try the ones in the right column of my blog’s front page: http://www.JeffSullivanPhotography.com/blog
In summary, anyone with reasonable experience in the area they’re leading workshops can show you a healthy portfolio from that region. I’ve placed over 400 images of Bodie in an album on Flickr. Moon illumination changes every night, so for night photography it’s also important to demonstrate experience with the conditions specific to the night you’ll be there, so experience with night photography in Bodie is one thing, but what does the workshop teach? Do the instructors have extensive experience with various types of light painting, and what have they shot specifically on moonlit nights in Bodie? I do everything I can to ensure that you know exactly what our experience is, and what we can do for you. I hope that you’ll be able to join us.
A few unsolicited comments that our customers made after one of workshops in 2016:
For those that have not had the opportunity to photograph Bodie State Historic Park at night, I highly recommend signing up for one of Jeff Sullivan Photography workshops. He and Lori secretively did a rain dance early Friday and it pushed through just in time for us. It made for some amazing sunset, blue hour, reflection and Milky Way photo opportunities. A shout out to the others that attended, it was great meeting photographers who strive to capture nature at its best. And a special THANK YOU to Lori for putting up with me all night and finding a few gems. This photo was early Saturday morning with a few light tricks, I think we were the only ones on that side of town. Jeff also has other workshops if you are interested.http://www.
jeffsullivanphotography.com/ Jeff I am looking forward to the next one!It was a great workshop. I’ve visited Bodie many times and it is always interesting but is often frustrating for photographers because the park is not open early in the morning or in the evening when the light is good and there are often too many people in possible good shots. We were there after the park closed, with a spectacular sunset, puddles from a rain shower for reflections – and then crystal clear sky to photograph the Milky Way. Thanks Jeff and Lori.What a wonderful adventure with Jeff Sullivan and Lori Hibbett at Bodie last night! Made it out there in time for the fabulous sunset and didnt get home until after 3am. Good times!
If any of you have the opportunity to go to one of Jeff Sullivan’s workshops, DO IT! You will be so happy you did!
Link to check out all the workshops he offers:
jeffsullivanphotography.com/ blogIt was absolutely perfect! So thankful for the opportunity and for all of your and Lori Hibbett‘s help!A few pictures from Jeff Sullivan‘s Night Photography Workshop in Bodie yesterday. It was so much fun shooting in Bodie after hours. The puddles from the afternoon’s rain and hail storm made for great reflections. And the glow and color changes of the sunset – superb!I was on a tour last year the time just after that big rain. Was one of the best times I ever had. You gave great info and would love to try again.
Bodie State Historic Park, an album on Flickr.
Here’s a time-lapse video I’ve produced to show you how our Bodie night workshops were going in 2014 (including a few short clips from prior years):