Death Valley Backcountry Adventure

Update: As you probably know, Death Valley was very hard hit by Hillary several weeks ago. The Park remains completely closed, and they have yet to estimate when even the major roads will be repaired.
Capture the spectacular textures and patterns of pristine salt flats, vast mud playas, and dunes on this Death Valley Backcountry Adventure!

Death Valley National Park is the largest national park in the United States and one of the most exciting places to photograph. Featuring the lowest, driest, and hottest locations in North America, the park is surrounded by mountains that rise to over 11,000 feet. Yet, most photography workshops barely scratch the surface of what this fantastic park has to offer. Many of the park’s “best” locations are only accessible using 4×4 high-clearance vehicles on rough backcountry roads.

Using our 4×4 vehicles, we’ll trek to three of the most remote and spectacular areas of the park that seldom get seen: the Racetrack Playa – the only place in the world where the “sailing stones” are found; the Eureka Sand Dunes – the tallest dunes in California and possibly North America; and the Ubehehe Crater – a half-mile wide volcanic crater located in the northern half of Death Valley. We’ll photograph these unique locations at sunrise and sunset as the light creates stunning landscapes and abstracts. We’ll also visit some of the iconic Death Valley locations near Furnace Creek, including Zabriskie Point and Golden Canyon, the Mesquite Sand Dunes, Dante’s View, Badwater Salt Flats, and Cow Creek.

The desert can appear colorless and lifeless in the day’s intense heat and harsh light. But during the sunrise and twilight hours of the day, the rich textures and patterns of the canyons, dry washes, and dunes come alive in the golden light.


Itinerary & General Information

  • Arrival – Arrival at the hotel in Furnace Creek / 5 PM Meet-and-Greet and group dinner.
  • Day 1 – Our first day will start with sunrise at Zabriskie Point, where we’ll capture the rich textures and patterns of the canyons and dry washes. After breakfast, we’ll move to Dante’s Point, perhaps the most dramatic overlook of the entire Badwater Basin. After lunch, we’ll review our images from the morning, make a day trip to the Mesquite Sand Dunes, and then focus on preparing for our big day the following day.
  • Day 2 – Our second day will start very early as we drive through the dark to get to the Eureka Sand Dunes for sunrise. We’ll spend several hours capturing the abstract textures and formations of the Dunes as the sun rises over the mountains. After breakfast at the Dunes, we’ll stop at the Ubehehe Crater on our way to the Racetrack Playa, where we’ll spend the remainder of the day and sunset. We may stay to shoot the stars depending on how tired the group is.
  • Day 3 – We’ll use the morning of the third day to review our images and relax from the previous day. After lunch, we’ll spend a leisurely afternoon in the Badwater Basin, shooting the salt flats and the Devil’s Golf Course. We’ll capture the golden colors of the desert with sunset at the Mesquite Sand Dunes.
  • Day 4 – On our last full day, we’ll visit several iconic locations near Furnace Creek, some of which may include the Artist’s Palette, Mosaic Canyon, Cow Creek, 20 Mule Team Canyon, and Harmony Borax Works. We’ll end the day with a group dinner.
  • Day 5 – We’ll spend our final morning critiquing our images in the classroom before concluding our adventure.

John Bosma Fine Arts Photography is an Authorized Permittee of the National Park Service.

What to Expect

The majority of our days will start early, before sunrise. After a quick coffee or tea, we’ll be off to get into position at a location in the best light of the day with breakfast in the field to maximize our shooting time. We’ll often continue until mid-to-late morning before heading back to Basecamp.

Back at Basecamp, we’ll have time for off-loading memory cards, classroom lectures & instruction, working on our images, one-on-one guidance, or time to relax. Then, in the mid-to-late afternoon, we’ll head out again to capture the evening skies, getting the most out of the sunset and shooting the stars in the night sky.

More important than just getting you to some of the best and most remote locations at the best times of the day, this five-day landscape photography workshop will teach you how to visualize an image, how to plan your shoot, how to capture your image in the field, and how to bring your image to life using a variety of post-production techniques.

In the Field:

We’ll learn how to scout and visualize a scene, compose a ground/sky/sea landscape to show scale and tell a story, how to manage complex highlight and shadow scenes, how and when to use filters, how to plan your images for a blended blue hour composite, how to focus your camera at night to capture pin sharp stars and foreground, and how to use apps like PhotoPills to plan a shoot. We’ll also use techniques such as dynamic bracketing and exposure blending, focus stacking and focal length blending, neutral density filters, and stacking for noise reduction.

In the Classroom:

We’ll spend time developing your post-production workflow – learning when Lightroom is enough and when you need to move your work into Photoshop. We’ll learn how to use techniques such as luminosity masks to create and solve contrast, color, and blending issues; how to blend multiple images together in Photoshop to create blue hour blends, focal length blends, and exposure blends; how to use start stacking to create pin sharp starry night skies; how to create Orton glows and sharpen your final image; and how to use apps like ProPanel to increase your efficiency.

You’ll benefit from hours of capture time in the field with an instructor by your side, and classroom instruction as you learn new techniques and strategies for creating dynamic images.


Tuition & Payment Terms

What’s Included in Your Tuition:

  • 5 nights lodging / 4.5 training days
  • Field meals and snacks
  • All ground transportation during the workshop
  • Workshop course materials
  • In-the-field photographic training
  • Online prep & orientation classes prior to the workshop
  • Post-production classes and techniques during the workshop
  • Online post-production classes after the workshop

What’s Not Included in Your Tuition:

  • Transportation to/from your home to Basecamp
  • Lodging beyond the 5 nights included in the workshop
  • Meals
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Travel Medical and Trip Cancellation Insurance
  • Personal expenses, gratuities, and anything not listed as included



What to Bring and How to Prepare for Your Workshop

Please see our How to Prepare For Your Workshop page for guidelines on workshop prep, gear, and packing. Approximately 90 days before your workshop, you will be sent a PDF with more specific instructions.

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