June 28, 2017 update:
Tioga Pass is scheduled to open to vehicles tomorrow, June 29! I’ve been up there multiple times already in 2017. Since I live nearby, I’ll continue to visit and monitor conditions as my workshops approach.
I wrote the book on landscape photography in California. Literally! After exploring California for over 30 years, I spent five more years of my life dedicated to researching and writing my 320-page guidebook “Photographing California Vol. 2 – South”. It includes 40+ locations in Yosemite National Park, if you want to chase the light most efficiently while you cover a park this large, there’s no substitute for real time guiding and feedback/instruction. I personally lead all of my workshops, so you can be sure that I’m planning every trip for a peak season or opportunity: wildflowers, Milky Way, meteor showers, and so on.
The National Park Service prefers that photography workshops not focus on the Yosemite Valley in the ultra-crowded summer months, but the High Sierra is stunning then, and we’ll be back in Yosemite Valley this fall.
Workshops including Yosemite’s Tioga Pass
Jul 17-20 – Yosemite Tioga Pass & Eastern Sierra / Mono Lake (4 nights)
For the Eastern Sierra workshop in July, we’ll meet mid-day Monday for a classroom session, then shoot though Thursday evening in the Eastern Sierra, including four nights of night photography in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine forest, Yosemite Tioga Pass area and Bristlecone Pine Forest, with daylight pursuit of landscapes and wildflowers. We may take short hikes to reach a good shooting spot, which is more strenuous than normal due to elevations of 10,000 – 11,000 feet in the Bristlecone Pines and Tioga Pass areas. We’ll rest Friday morning before starting a Bodie night photography workshop (a fifth night if you enroll for both together). New! $995
The June and July dates are best for Milky Way shots including arch panoramas.
Initial enrollment priority will be given to photographers who sign up for both workshops, July 17-20 plus Bodie July 21 ($395 value), then if there’s space left I may open them up separately:
Oct 8 – 12 – Eastern Sierra Fall Colors With Bodie & Death Valley (5 nights)
Start below sea level in Death Valley and end up at close to 10,000 feet in elevation on Tioga Pass!
In October we’ll have hours of dark sky shooting each night for a combination of Milky Way, light painting and star trails shots! Temperatures can get chilly late at night in the fall, but we’re moving a lot and with warm layers of clothing we tend not to have any problem enjoying the town like we have during four workshop sessions in October 2012 and 2013.
We’ll rest Friday morning before starting a Bodie night photography workshop (a fifth night if you enroll for both together). Initial enrollment priority will be given to photographers who sign up for both workshops, October 9 – 12 plus Bodie October 13 ($395 value), then if there’s space left I may open them up separately:
Yosemite Valley Workshops
Nov 1 – 5 – Yosemite Fall Colors & Full Moon Photography (4 days, $995)
It’s a toss-up whether this week in November or my spring workshop in May will be the best week for photography in Yosemite this year, or for the next several years. The full moon timing is simply perfect for both!
For more samples of the types of images we can pursue, take a look at my Yosemite Fall Colors album on Flickr. Since Yosemite is spectacular in addition to the fall colors, you might want to browse my Yosemite National Park album as well.
If you have my 320-page guidebook “Photographing California Vol. 2 – South”, you know that I know Yosemite, but you also know that I didn’t think it was entirely ethical to send crowds to trample many sensitive spots. There are many locations that a small group of photographers isn’t going to destroy, so I can show you many new locations.
There are a number of ways that taking a photography workshop from a qualified instructor can help you make the most out of your visit to Yosemite National Park:
Learn and master the terrain
Shoot in locations that you would not have found otherwise. Sunlight angles change dramatically from month to month in a deep valley such as Yosemite. We help you move about the park efficiently and arrive in locations just as the light is best, no matter what the season is.
Learn and master your digital camera
Sure, digital photography is analogous to film photography, but a different approach will be far more effective. There are some counterproductive and even downright dysfunctional practices carried over as hangovers from the film days. There are also many times when digital sensors do not act in ways similar enough to film for old film-era expectations to yield optimal results. As someone who learned digital imaging 20 years before digital cameras became popular, I have thoroughly shaken my faulty expectations from film photography and I have developed a superior workflow for the unique capabilities of digital imaging. I can help you do adapt to the paradigm shift too.
Learn and master landscape and night photography
The basic principles of composition and exposure for landscape photography are pretty straightforward, but roughly half of each 24 hour day is night. Few photographers live where it’s dark enough to truly master night photography, and few of those who do invest the hours required to develop deep knowledge and aptitude at it. I pursue not only common subjects like star trails and the Milky Way, but also the boundary cases like meteor showers, comets and night time-lapse video specifically to continually develop my knowledge and push the boundaries of my equipment and technique.
Learn and master post-processing
When you capture the image in camera, you’re only half done. My techniques have developed alongside my shooting technique to yield productive results as often as possible in those difficult-to-capture moments, when the light is best. I have a digital projector and portable screen so I can lead you through my workflow. Best of all, it’s fairly simple and fast.
Frequently Asked Questions:
How well do you know Yosemite National Park?
I’ve been exploring Yosemite since the mid-1970s, when we would visit for camping, hiking and backpacking. My digital photography in the park goes back at least to 2002. I lived in Sacramento starting in 2002, so it was an easy drive to the park when I wanted to try to catch Horsetail Falls or moonbows. I passed through Yosemite frequently as I switched to photography full time in 2006 went on the road. I moved to the Eastern Sierra near the northern edge of Mono County in 2010, Yosemite remains one of the local parks that I visit frequently. I gave it extra attention from 2010-2014 since the Yosemite chapter would be a cornerstone in my guide book to great landscape photography locations in California – South.
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 I can only issue refunds up to 60 days ahead of the workshop date (less transaction costs). No refunds within 60 days.
What cameras do you support?
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 and 70D. My co-instructor Lori Hibbet has been using Nikon for many years and has shot alongside me for the past four years, currently with the Nikon 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 36 megapixel Nikon D800, as well as models from other manufacturers such as Pentax and Sony. 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. If you shoot with a full frame camera, make sure that you take a workshop with instructors who do as well.
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 and experienced photographer when I met her. Having a flexible schedule in her business, she is in her fifth year spending a considerable amount of time with me on the road while I’ve been writing my guide to Southern California landscape photography locations. She is in her third year of helping me lead landscape and night photography workshops.
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 make sure that anyone you’re considering taking a workshop from can 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 truly know what they’re talking about. Also check for paid publishing credits and awards in major competitions… for example Outdoor Photographer Magazine, National Geographic, Astronomy Photographer of the Year, calendars, book covers, BBC, and so on. Anyone can publish anything on the Internet or in an ebook, but hardcopy books published by a major publisher can indicate professional status as well. My 320-page guidebook “Photographing California Vol. 2 – South” covers California from Yosemite through San Diego. Over one thousand copies have sold so far!
Are extensions available to add more days?
In most cases, yes. I may need some lead time to notify the relevant agencies managing the lands you want to visit.
Are lodging and food included?
Lodging runs about $200-500/night in and anywhere near Yosemite Valley! I leave that out so participants can choose whatever style of lodging they prefer, camping if they like, and everyone has their own food tastes and dietary preferences as well.
Do you have “Wilderness First Responder” certification?
No doubt that particular 72-hour training offered over a 6-day period, and certificate valid for 3 years, is an excellent program, but how fresh will someone’s knowledge truly be after a cram course, 2-3 years later? I took the 120 hour Outdoor Emergency Care course offered over 12 weeks by the American Red Cross. I believe that the longer semester format similar to a college course provides excellent learning opportunities, and I re-certified every year for many years. Most importantly, I treated actual injured people outdoors for many years with the National Ski Patrol at Squaw Valley, so my first responder experience is not limited to classroom dummies. All of the federal lands that I work with require proof of current first aid certification, but I think most people feel more secure with someone experienced with treating actual injuries than someone bragging about the paper certificate they paid to receive in a brief course, two or three years ago.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any additional questions!
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Anyone with reasonable experience in the area they’re leading workshops can show you a large portfolio from that region. Here are some of mine from Yosemite: