Morro Bay, US
This posting provides FAQ details and a Q&A opportunity about the workshop for those who have signed up as well as for those interested in signing up and wanting more information. !
"Well, Michael has done it again, What an awesome trip! I had been on the prior 2 ANPAT trips to Yosemite and Denali and knew how well Michael prepared, organized and ran his trips. But working with our small group in a one on one workshop was even better. His extensive knowledge of photography and the Death Valley location was even more impressive in this type of learning environment.
Coming from the East Coast from CT, I was not looking for your typical trees and flowing river scenery. I was not disappointed. Death Valley is unlike any place I have visited. Every location we went to was a new sight for me. Michael's lessons built on an artists use of light and layering to help with photo composition. Each location was used to help build up our vision using these techniques. He always made sure each of us was doing well by looking at our LCD results and making thoughtful suggestions to improve on the scene.
Thanks Michael and Nikonians."
A a quick summary of the workshop locations:
- Badwater (lowest point in the Northern Hemisphere, and a sprawling delicately patterned salt flat where we learn about HDR: High Dynamic Range photography)
- Devil's Golf Course (jagged salt formations framed against the Panamint Range)
- Dante's View (located 5,000-feet above Badwater, providing a sweeping vista of Death Valley and the surrounding mountains, where we work on stitching panoramic scenes)
- Golden Canyon (bizarre rock formations of strong color in a narrow canyon, where we translate the "painter's principle" to our photography)
- Sand Dunes (a large complex of dunes, where we spend two mornings overwhelmed with shooting opportunities while we discuss and apply modified exposure techniques and composition, inspired by the iconic photos of Ansel Adams, Johm Sexton and Edward Weston)
- Rhyolite ghost town (a classic yet undisturbed ghost town where we could take part in CLS Speedlight lighting exercises in the town and nearby original cemetery)
- Zabriski Point (a colorful and unusual collection of rocks and geological folding that is a special moment just as the sun rises, where we continue the application of the "painter's principle")
- Star trails (Right in the middle of Death Valley where the inky blackness reveals the Milky Way in all its color and splendor)
- Sliding Rocks at the Race Track (this is the true finale location for many landscape photographers, where we also culminate our entire workshop education into our final location.)
- Additional locations including towering box canyons, marble canyons and possible opportunities in macro photography.
Because of the limited lodging choices in Death Valley and resulting difficulty in securing rooms, this workshop INCLUDES ALL LODGING at the historic Stovepipe Wells Village, adjacent to the towering sand dunes complex.
One surprising aspect of these travel/landscape photography workshops for nearly all attendees is the level of education provided. There is a comprehensive photographic curriculum integrated into the workshop, with each location providing an exercise in technique and application. This workshop focuses not only on the 'where' to take the pictures, but also on the 'how' to take pictures, incorporating that photographic education at each location, building on the previous location’s techniques and lessons to culminate in a comprehensive class in composition, modified exposure, light controls, and High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography to name just a few.
You get more than pretty pictures — you leave with a far more solid understanding of the principles and techniques that will elevate your abilities in landscape photography. It's like a having an intensive, classroom-based four-day workshop in photographic education... but on location in a spectacular location!
Space is limited on these workshops, kept to only 10 attendees to ensure that I can provide one-on-one interaction with each Nikonian, further enhancing the educational experience by focusing on each participant's individual areas of study. You tell me what you what to practice and learn — and we focus on that for the four days in conjunction with the workshop's curriculum.
Here is the pre-workshop checklist, FAQ and details in getting ready for the workshop.
For planning your arrival to Death Valley:
1) If you are flying to the workshop, the airport of arrival & departure should be McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas; driving time from Las Vegas to Furnace Creek Ranch is 2.5 hours.
McCarran airport hosts nearly all rental car companies. It is recommended to rent a vehicle with a high ground clearance. (Leave the Kia at the airport.) A 4WD drive is not necessary but certainly helpful. (Note: Being Las Vegas, the most popular and most numerous 4WD rental vehicle is a Hummer!)
Warning about Rental Vehicles:
Most vehicle rental agreements restrict vehicles to paved roads. Check your contract and be aware that the rental company can charge you for damage to the vehicle outside of the contract agreement specifications. Be sure that your rental vehicle has a good spare tire, that the tire is accessible and not “locked” into a keyed holder, and that the tools to change the tire, including jacks and wrenches, are in the vehicle and accessible. Driving a sedan or similar low-profile vehicle on the dirt roads in Death Valley National Park can cause damage to the undercarriage of the vehicle.
2) If you are driving to the workshop, there are multiple routes into the park, all leading to Furnace Creek Ranch in the center of the park.
3) The workshop begins at 11:00am on Thursday, November 17. This start time allows for travel to the park in the morning from either Las Vegas (to the east) or either Lone Pine or Ridgecrest (from the west). This allows for arrival to the area on Wednesday evening, and then driving to the park in the morning. If you choose to drive to the park on Wednesday, then you will need to secure your own lodging in the park. Outside of the park, to the west, the closest cities are Lone Pine and Ridgecrest. To the east, Las Vegas and Pahrump have ample lodging choices and are a short drive to the park.
4) If you need to rent a car, I will be starting a carpool discussion on this forum thread in the week's ahead to attempt to consolidate the number of vehicles we have in the park, in addition to providing carpool arrangements from Las Vegas.
Here is the projected itinerary:
Day 1 (Thurs, Nov 17) - We will begin at 11:00am with a workshop orientation at the Furnace Creek Ranch. We will be meeting in the courtyard directly in front of the Furnace Creek Store/Gift Shop. This orientation details the workshop schedule and shooting locations, a discussion on survival in the desert (water, weather and common sense), a brief history and understanding of what is Death Valley, and a review on shooting techniques/concerns in the desert. We will follow with a quick lunch at the Wrangler Buffet at Furnace Creek and then depart via carpool up to Dante’s View, over 5,000 feet above the valley floor, followed by a late afternoon trip to Golden Canyon and concluding the day under the towering Panamint Range to photograph the jagged weathered salt forms of the Devils Golfcourse at sunset.
Day 2 - The day starts with a pre-dawn trek out to the sand dunes near Stovepipe Wells for sunrise on the unmarred and wind-sculpted dunes. While the peak photo moment is right at sunrise, location is everything and we will enter the dunes from a pre-determined location away from the public to access the pre-scouted prime shooting spots. Photography in the dunes will continue for some time after sunrise, followed by breakfast at Stovepipe Wells. We will travel outside the park to the ghost town of Rhyolite, before heading back into the park via Titus Canyon, a large drainage that continually shrinks in width as canyon walls rise until it culminates into a slot canyon exit. We will then head back to Furnace Creek to capture sunset at Badwater (the lowest elevation in the U.S. at -282 below sea level), again under the towering Panamint Range, to photograph the surreal salt flats.
Day 3 - The morning will start by capturing a beautiful, photographer's-favorite scene of sunrise at Zabriski Point, a dynamic location. We then begin our driving trek up to Ubehebe Crater before heading back down through a Joshua Tree forest to an expansive playa known as The Racetrack. We will stay for late afternoon and sunset photographs of the large playa, the Grandstand outcropping and, most importantly, the mysterious Sliding Rocks and their weathered tracks in the playa. We then head back to Ubehebe Crater for an exercise in astrophotography and star trails of the Milky Way.
Day 4 - Our final day begins with another sunrise trip to the sand dunes followed by breakfast at Stovepipe Wells and culminating in a short, easy hike to a Death Valley photographer's favorite location: Mosaic Canyon. We will have a final farewell lunch to conclude the workshop at Noon, allowing for evening departures from Las Vegas.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) of HIGH importance:
Q: What kind of footwear do I need?
A: We will be doing walking/very light duty hiking for some locations and trekking through sand dunes. Light-duty hiking shoes/boots are required. DO NOT wear sandals or tennis/running-style shoes.
Q: What type of clothing should I pack?
A: Weather in Death Valley can be inclement, but mostly warm. Forecast calls for highs in the low-90s and lows in the high-50s. This can change quickly and the temps can rise easily in to the 100s. Please bring clothing for all temps, from the pre-dawn setup cold to the heat of the day. Remember a hat to cover your head is a MUST!
Q: OK, it's called Death Valley — how much water do I need? Are there water fountains there?
A: You must bring enough water battles (Nalgene or metal; not plastic grocery store, Arrowhead, etc.) for yourself for an entire day. Death Valley (note the park name) has a very dry heat that dehydrates the body quickly. Experts say to plan on 3/4 - to - 1 gallon of water per day per person; that's three or four 32 oz. Nalgene bottles. (I recommend bringing two 32 oz. Nalgene bottles.) You will be able to refill the bottles each morning in your room and store them in the vehicles. We will never be more than 1/2-mile away from the vehicles at any location. And, no, there are no water fountains outside of the developed areas.
Q: What are the meal/eating plans?
A: With the exception of one lunch, we will be eating all of our meals in established restaurants. If you have special dietary needs, please plan accordingly and do not depend on the dining facilities to make accommodations.
Q: Is there cell service in Death Valley?
A: There is pretty much no cell phone reception in Death Valley for any of the carriers, with exception for some random spots where you might get one bar. Oddly enough, there is free wifi at Stovepipe Wells, where we will be staying. There are no phones in the rooms at Stovepipe Wells. There is also free wifi at the Visitor Center in Furnace Creek. Time is scheduled in the itinerary for stops at the Visitor Center to allow for internet access.
Q: Are there any special pieces of camera gear I need?
A: This workshop is designed for all levels of photographers and we really don't focus on specific, specialized techniques that would require any special equipment. A tripod, though, is required. If you have flash(s) that you can bring, we could do a couple exercises in CLS/flash lighting techniques in the field, if you wish to pursue this shooting technique after the exercises.
Two pieces of equipment that could be very beneficial (and an excellent part of your regular, landscape photography set-up) but not required during the workshop would be:
1) A cable/shutter release that allows for off-camera trigger of the shutter as well as controlled long exposure in the 'bulb' setting. This allows you to have exposures beyond the 30 second limit of most Nikon cameras; this is very helpful during the astrophotography/star trails session. A simple cable release that just 'trips' the shutter will fall short for the astrophotography session. You will need a shutter release that can hold the shutter open for longer than 30 seconds.
2) A graduated ND (neutral-densisty filter). We will have sunrise and sunset locations each day and a graduated filter will help enhance and balance out the bright sky from the darker foreground.
Q: Which lenses should I bring?
A: Everything! It would be impossible to say exactly which lenses you would need as that choice is a reflection of your creative vision in how you see the scene. I can say that you probably wouldn't need any long lenses beyond 200/300mm. On the wide end, the wider lenses will be great for some of your creative options in many of the locations.
Take a look at the gallery from last year's workshop for a sense of the type of shooting options and subjects.
And as is the case with all my workshops, I encourage an open discussion here in this forum about what gear everyone is planning on bringing, as others might remind you or have a good suggestion for an item you didn't think about!
Q: What non-photographic things should I bring?
A: A flashlight and/or headlamp is a must. We will be arriving at our sunrise locations in the dark and leaving our sunset locations in the dark, so the extra light is a must. As mentioned earlier, a hat is required also.
Q: Will we be carpooling?
A: Yes! During the workshop orientation on the first day, we will set-up carpools to minimize the number of vehicles used daily. If you have a big car that you are driving/rented and are willing to carpool, please reply here in the forum stating as such.
If you are interested in carpooling from the Las Vegas airport, for those that are flying, here on the forum post is where I will start the discussions on setting up carpools with your fellow workshop participants.
This is a hugely popular workshop and sells out every year.
Hop on over to the Academy site and register while space is still available: Click here for Death Valley workshop
And be sure to check out a gallery from previous Death Valley workshops: Click here to see the gallery
And feel free to post questions here, both for those who have signed up already and for those who are curious about the workshop.
See you in the outdoors!
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