Welcome to Your Next Adventure!
Death Valley is one of the most surreal landscapes imaginable featuring massive salt flats, sweeping sand dunes, and dramatic mud cracks hidden across the landscape. The desert here is simultaneously inhospitable and yet bursting with unique life. This diversity means that Death Valley is rich with photographic opportunities, and there are few accessible places in the United States where you can truly experience pristine desert wilderness with such intriguing subject matter. This adventure will also feature the iconic Alabama Hills where we will stand in the footsteps of the master Ansel Adams. Seeing Mount Whitney at dawn is an experience you truly won’t want to miss! At the end, we will unwind in exciting Las Vegas – a dazzling playland of lights and surreal environments to photograph and explore by night.
This workshop will take you on an epic adventure from Badwater Basin (the lowest point in the United States) to the foot of Mount Whitney (the highest point in the lower 48). The focus will always be on being in the right location at the right time to catch the best light for every vista. Uniquely, this is one of the only photo workshops that will include a visit to one of the most remote and yet most stunning areas of Death Valley – Eureka Dunes!
As many of you know, my personal focus has always been on making travel affordable and attainable for others and this workshop is no different. I pledge full transparency regarding the cost, and at the end of this page you can view an itemized side-by-side comparison of cost between this workshop and my competitors. To keep costs low, there will be no formal classroom time; however, at each and every location I will be there to provide guidance on composition and settings as necessary.
January is pleasantly comfortable both day and night and offers some of the best weather for Death Valley. Furthermore, this workshop is strategically planned when the moon is at its fullest, so we will have many opportunities to photograph the moonlight over the sand dunes and mud cracks. There will be countless opportunities to photograph the stars above the desert, and I will teach techniques for long exposures and light painting to create otherworldly images. Below is a tentative itinerary, but because the emphasis is on finding the right light for every subject the schedule may change to achieve this.
January 12 – 18, 2020
January 6 – 12, 2020 (SOLD OUT)
Why You Should Reserve Your Spot Now:
✓ Small group ✓ Individual attention ✓ Cheaper than going alone ✓ Expert guide
✓ Because sometimes in life, you should just say yes!
We will meet in Las Vegas at a prearranged location and depart for Death Valley no later than noon. Traveling in a spacious passenger van, we will arrive in Death Valley with plenty of time to settle into our charming ranch rooms and have a quick orientation before driving the short distance to Badwater Basin for sunset. Badwater Basin, simply put, is one of the most surreal landscapes you will ever witness. The hexagonal formations on the salt flats create whimsical patterns on the pure white surface which reflect the colors of the sunset. This is the perfect place to break out the wide angle lens and get creative with your foreground. The light in Death Valley is especially incredible this time of year, and with any luck we will experience an incredible sunset over this alien landscape. Following sunset we will return to the ranch for dinner, but if the sky is clear and the moonlight is strong we will return to Badwater Basin to capture the moonlight on the salt formations.
We will wake before the sun and drive a short distance to see the iconic sunrise at Zabriski Point. This is one of those images that you just have to have from Death Valley and it will be immediately clear why it’s so popular with tourists and professional photographers alike. From this view point, dozens of colors meld together in time-worn patterns creating a kaleidoscope before your eyes. Once the sun is up, we will explore some of the other nearby areas before the light becomes too bright. During mid-day the light can become quite harsh so this time will often be used for you to rest or participate in optional location scouting.
During late afternoon we will take advantage of the softer light to visit the beautiful Artist’s Palette formation. At this location, vivid colors of teal and purple explode from the earth creating a truly dream-like landscape. This is an ideal location to explore more abstract compositions as you follow trails through the maze of colors. Before sunset, we will make the short trip to some of the mud cracks to take advantage of the dark and dramatic shadows in the cracks. As with the previous night, if the sky is clear and the moon is bright we will have an optional adventure for those of us who are night owls to play with the moonlight.
Sunrise will be spent capturing the alpenglow on the mountains and making use of unique foregrounds like the gnarled trees, salt formations, and mud cracks. After breakfast, we will check out of our ranch and embark on an awesome journey deep into the remote north of Death Valley. Along the way we will be accompanied by vast stretches of mountains and visit epic volcanic craters. After passing through a jaw-dropping mountain pass we will descend into a valley to discover the impressive Eureka Dunes nestled into the imposing desert mountains. This is a remote area that is rarely visited by tourists but it features one of Death Valley’s most impressive features. The Eureka Dunes stand nearly 700 ft. tall and are among the tallest sand dunes in North America. The wind sweeps them into graceful arcs and because of their remote location there are rarely any footprints to disturb the slopes. The afternoon light will draw long shadows against the dunes and creates intriguing patterns in the ripples of sand. During sunset, the fiery sky reflects its colors against the cool sand. We will explore these dunes until the last light fades before driving the remaining distance to Lone Pine – home of the epic Alabama Hills.
We will wake early in the morning to get in the perfect position for the iconic sunrise over the Alabama Hills. When the first light brushes the tops of the mountains, it will bee immediately apparent why this location drew the master Ansel Adams to photograph it. Today, we will stand before the highest point in the lower 48 states just a few days after standing at the lowest! After sunrise we will explore fun compositions with the surrounding whimsical rock formations before heading into the charming town of Lone Pine. Lone Pine feels uniquely stuck in a wilder and more simple time of the pioneering west, and it is a joy to walk through. There are an abundance of mom and pop style restaurants for both lunch and dinner.
For sunset, we will head to the famous Mobius Arch where the imposing Mount Whitney is perfectly visible encircled in a stone window. If the sky is clear and the moon is bright, we will also have an optional opportunity to photograph the moonlight on Mount Whitney which is always a pleasure.
For sunrise, we will explore different sunrise locations among the Alabama Hills to test out new compositions. Following breakfast, we will begin our journey back into Death Valley. This drive is truly breathtaking and will take us through impressive mountain passes with sweeping views across the desert. After checking into our rooms, we will explore the iconic Mesquite Dunes for golden hour and sunset. This night features a full moon and if the sky is clear it’s a perfect opportunity to photograph the moonlight over the dunes. These photos are particularly great in black and white and allow you to explore abstract interpretations of the shapes and lines before you.
For sunrise I will guide you to my favorite location at Mesquite Dunes which will take you away from the crowds of people and trampled dunes to a pristine area perfect to capture that golden morning light. As the sun glitters off the sand, we will soak in our last magical morning in Death Valley. After breakfast we will check out of our hotel and drive back to Las Vegas stopping along the way to enjoy the remaining sights.
Las Vegas, for all its ostentatiousness, is a great location for us to gather together and share some laughs and memories over dinner. Our hotel is right on the strip in a prime location, and Las Vegas is quite a lot of fun to explore and practice urban night photography. After dinner, you will be on your own devices to explore the city as you wish.
In the morning I will gladly drive you to the airport if it is prearranged, or you may use the hotel shuttle service if you wish.
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Talor Stone is an award-winning landscape photographer with extensive experience in the American Southwest and the Arctic and she enjoys introducing others to these wild places she knows and loves. In addition to her professional photography, she is also completing a PhD in International Relations.
Melissa Jones is a professional photographer and storyteller based in Portland, Oregon. She has photographed her way around all 50 states and 47 countries and has compiled her travel knowledge in her book “Women with Wanderlust: A Guide to Roaming.” Melissa will be co-leading the January 12 – 18 workshop with Talor.
Price and Dates
January 12 – 18, 2020
January 6 – 12, 2020 (SOLD OUT)
If you do not require a hotel in Las Vegas due to a late night departure on January 11 or 17, please let me know and the price can be adjusted accordingly.
Payment and Cancellation Policy:
Because my goal is to make travel accessible and affordable to ALL adventurers, I am offering two options for flexible payment.
Option 1: Pay a 50% deposit at the time of booking. The remaining balance is due 90 days before the start of the workshop. After this date the deposit becomes nonrefundable in the event of a cancellation.
Option 2: Design a payment plan. Pay a deposit in an amount you choose no less than 10% of the full price at the time of booking. The remaining balance can be paid in monthly installments that we agree on. If you choose this flexible option, the deposit and payments are nonrefundable.
What is Included:
- Transportation in a spacious van with both AC and heat.
- Accommodation for the duration of the workshop. Rooms will be double occupancy (single occupancy may be available in some locations for an additional fee, but this cannot be guaranteed).
- Breakfast each day which will consist of fruit, bagels and other light fare (except for in Las Vegas January 12). Other breakfast options are available for purchase.
- Light lunch during the days visiting Racetrack Playa and Eureka Dunes.
- Field guidance and instruction for finding good composition and foregrounds as well as managing your camera settings.
- Individual attention and assistance as necessary and feedback upon request. It is my intention to help, but not hover.
What is Not Included:
- Airfare to and from Las Vegas (McCarran International Airport).
- Lunch and dinner each day (though snacks will be available some days).
- Snacks are very important for maintaining your energy throughout the day (before departing for Death Valley we will stop at a grocery store so you may purchase snacks for the trip).
- Alcoholic beverages.
My Transparency Pledge
The table below is an honest cost comparison of this workshop against competitors. My goal is to make travel accessible for everyone! This means I am experience-driven rather than profit-driven.
Please plan your flights carefully! You may need to fly into Las Vegas the day before the workshop begins so you can rest and not risk missing our departure time. If you choose to do so, I am happy to suggest a number of hotels but this accommodation will not be included in the workshop price. Regarding departure, if you wish to skip the last night in Las Vegas and take an evening flight home, please communicate with me so I can ensure you make your flight. In this event, the workshop price can be adjusted to pass the savings on to you.
Disclaimer and Weather
My goal is for you to return home with amazing images of all the incredible subjects Death Valley has to offer. However, I cannot control the weather. Although rain is very rare and the skies are typically clear during this time of year, I cannot guarantee perfect weather for the duration of the workshop. Though inclement weather may present a challenge, it may also present great opportunities to capture interesting light and weather events and to think creatively.
The climate is generally comfortable in Death Valley during January with a daytime high around 67°F and a nighttime low around 40°F. The Alabama Hills can be a bit colder with daytime highs around 50°F and nighttime lows around 28°F. Your accommodations will always be climate controlled as will the van which provides ample opportunities to warm up. Check the “What to Bring” section for more helpful tips.
The schedule above is only tentative and may change and adapt to accommodate the weather and pursue ideal lighting conditions. If conditions are unsuitable for shooting, we will use that time constructively to work on editing and feedback together. No time will go to waste and, although I cannot be responsible for the weather during this workshop, I will make every effort to ensure you capture some incredible images and leave with fond memories.
Fitness and Health
Although all shooting locations can be viewed in short proximity from the van, some moderate hiking will be required to take full advantage of the landscape at both Mesquite and Eureka Dunes. It is possible to create fantastic images from outside of the dune fields; however, you will likely wish to explore them on foot. Walking in the dune field can be challenging, so it is important that you never work alone and always carry water.
Some days will have long shooting hours and the remote nature of Death Valley means that there are no available restaurants. It is important that you have snacks prepared and I will do my best to have sandwiches available. Please understand that the remote nature of where we are shooting means that fully prepared restaurant-style meals are not always going to be attainable.
Road and Communication Conditions
This workshop features multiple stretches of unpaved roads. While these roads are generally well maintained, some jostling should be expected. Please bear this in mind and ask me for more information if you are concerned the off-roading may be challenging for you.
Death Valley has almost no cell signal and the Wi-Fi is highly unreliable. This escape from the world is welcoming, but can be challenging at times. Please temper your expectations regarding communication and ensure your family and friends are aware you may be out of touch for a few days. Then, kick back and relax without the pressures of the world, the constant emails, and the looming presence of social media and take this opportunity to truly live in the present!
What to Bring
- Comfortable layers both top and bottom that can be added or removed as needed (there is a wide swing in temperature between night and day, so be prepared for both environments).
- A wind-breaking outer layer to help control the sand.
- A warm jacket, hat and gloves for at night (Lone Pine can be particularly windy and cold).
- A warm outer layer of pants for night time shooting.
- Sturdy hiking boots.
- Casual clothing for dining.
- A camelback or way to carry water.
- Sunscreen and sunglasses.
- Optional swimsuit: our accommodation in Death Valley has a warm natural spring-fed pool you may enjoy.
- A DSLR or Mirrorless camera which can be operated manually.
- Spare batteries, memory cards, and charging system.
- Lenses. I recommend a wide angle to capture the foreground and a mid-range zoom. A telephoto can also be useful at times.
- Filters. A polarizer will help cut glare during mid-day and an ND filter is useful for long exposures to create more dramatic skies.
- A sturdy tripod.
- A laptop and/or external hard drive to download and backup images during the trip.
- A headlamp for shooting at dawn, dusk, and night.
- Important: Drones are not permitted in the areas we are visiting.