Death Valley in the Spring

City Area Date Instructor Price (Member) Price (Non-Member)
Death Valley, CA 14-MAR-2013 Michael A. Mariant $895 $896 Sold out

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Amazing landscapes, beautiful astrophotography and sand dunes in North America's most famous desert.

Workshop Dates: Thursday, March 26th - Sunday, March 29th, 2015

Workshop cost: $995

Death Valley is regarded by some as desolate and empty. But the desert lovers know that the beauty of the park lies not on the paved road but in abundance away from the tourist spots. Death Vally might, to some, be an appropriate name for what they see; but there is so much more. Framed by the Armagosa and Paniment ranges, the valley harbors a delicate and fragile ecosystem that changes spectacularly in front of your eyes from day to day. Here, timing is everything. We will see breathtaking cliffs inside box canyons, remote ghost town dwellings, salt flats and bizarre formations, the infamous 'Sliding Rocks' of The Racetrack, and towering sand dunes that are constantly evolving, never photographed the same twice.

And in this once-a-year Spring offering, we are in Death Valley during the estimated prime desert wildflower bloom, which transforms the stark landscape of this locale into an explosion of colors!

Capture the vibrancy of Death Valley during shooting sessions throughout the day interspersed with extensive specialized instruction in landscape photography. This workshop focuses not only on the 'where' to take the pictures, but also on the 'how' to take pictures, incorporating photographic education throughout the workshop at each location, building on the previous locations techniques and lessons to culminate in a comprehensive lesson in composition, modified exposure, light controls, Nikon Creative Lighting System (CLS), and High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography to name just a few.

And exclusive to the Death Valley workshop, an evening session of astrophotography of the Milky Way is included in the workshop schedule, capturing the vibrancy of the stars and the colors of the galaxy's gasses, all with our standard DSLR cameras!

This truly is a collaboration of extensive, comprehensive landscape photography education coupled with a dynamic location.


Day 1 - We begin mid-day (1:00p) following lunch with a workshop orientation at the Furnace Creek Ranch, detailing 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 then depart our lodging accommodations via carpool up to Dante's View, over 5,000 feet above the valley floor to begin our photography and lessons, starting with composition and the layering. After Dante's View, we head down for a late afternoon trip through Golden Canyon for continued exercises in layering but adding modified exposure to the lesson plan while documenting the vibrant colors in the warm afternoon light. We conclude the day under the towering Panamint Range to photograph the surreal salt flats and jagged weathered salt forms of the Devils Golfcourse.

Day 2 - The day starts with a pre-dawn trek via carpool out to the sand dunes near Stovepipe Wells for sunrise on the unmarred and wind-sculpted dunes. The first of two trips to the Sand Dunes, we work in-depth on the modified exposures and landscape composition. We will travel outside the park to the ghost town of Rhyolite for a lesson in Nikon's CLS and utilizing our Speedlight flash units for supplemental, modified remote lighting. We will then head back into the park via Titus Canyon, a large drainage that the continually shrinks in width as canyon walls rise until it culminates into a slot canyon exit, providing several opportunities to begin application of the previous two-day's lessons as well as learn the techniques of High Dynamic Range photography. We will then head back to Furnace Creek and beyond to capture sunset at the dry lake bed at Badwater (the lowest elevation in the U.S. at -282 below sea level).

Day 3 - The longest day of the workshop, both in shooting and driving time. The morning will start by capturing sunrise at Zabriski Point, further application of the layering, composition and modified exposure techniques. We then begin our carpool trek up to Ubehebe Crater before heading back down to The Racetrack for late afternoon and sunset photographs of the large playa, the Granstand outcropping and, most importantly, the mysterious Sliding Rocks and their weathered tracks in the playa. The grand finale of the day is when we return to Ubehebe Crater for a session of astrophotography of the Milky Way.

Day 4 - Our final day begins with another sunrise trip to the sand dunes followed with a short walk in a Death Valley treasure: Mosaic Canyon. The workshop concludes after Mosaic Canyon and a farewell lunch.


The workshop pricing includes the training and resources, lodging (at Stovepipe Wells Village) but does not include lodging and food. We will be carpooling to our shooting locations each day. The airport of arrival & departure should be McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas; driving time from Las Vegas to Stovepipe Wells is ~3 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.

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.

  • You will learn

    • Landscape photography in the desert environment
    • Astrophotography
    • Evaluative composition
    • Pre-visualization of final image,
    • From exposure through post-production
    • To presentation
    • Alternative digital processes/approaches
  • What to bring

  • Required

    • Water bottles, at least two of at least 32oz capacity. (Not bottled water but bottles that can be filled with water, such as Nalgene.)
    • Sturdy hiking boots, light-weight long-sleeved shirts, light-weight pants, hat (ideally a wide-brimmed, no visors or ballcaps), rain or all-weather jacket. (Prepare for cool nights and warm/hot days. Layered clothing is ideal.)
    • Camera equipment should include the full range of lens from ultra-wide to zoom, macro lens (for wildflowers), filters (highly recommended a polarizer filter and a graduated ND, such as a 3-stop soft), sturdy tripod (a must) and cable release (capable of keeping the camera shutter open longer than 30 seconds). Usually our shooting locations are far from our venue, so spare memory cards and batteries are a must.
  • Optional

    • Laptop computer/download device or hard drive for downloading cards/editing images. (This workshop will be an intensive shooting workshop with little time spent indoors at the venue. Bringing the laptop into the field while shooting is highly discouraged due to the extreme low humidity, dry air and dusty conditions resulting in the potential static discharges on the computers circuitry.)
  • What is provided

    • Guidance by our professional photography instructor
    • Training materials from the workshop
    • Amazing photo opportunities
    • VENUE INFORMATION: Lodging is not included in the workshop fee.
    • We have a block of rooms held for the workshop. After course registration, you will receive an email with the booking reference code needed to complete your reservation. Please do not make any reservations until you receive this booking code.
    • Cancellation policy: If you cancel more than 30 days before the workshop, we will refund your tuition except for a $150 fee. If you cancel less than 30 days before the workshop, we will refund 50% of the tuition. If you cancel less than 15 days before the workshop, we cannot offer a refund.
  • Venue Information

      A venue for this workshop has yet not been locked down.


Come to most famous desert in North America. Find out how good a photographer you can be in this scenario with the close personal guidance of your instructor, while making new Nikonians friends. Class size limited to only 10 participants.


Following Death Valley in the Spring workshops are organized in Death Valley, CA:

Date Instructor Price (Member) Price (Non-Member)
22-MAR-2012 Michael A. Mariant $895 $925 Sold out
14-MAR-2013 Michael A. Mariant $895 $896 Sold out
13-MAR-2014 Michael A. Mariant $895 $995 Sold out
26-MAR-2015 Michael A. Mariant $995 $1095 Sold out

Other workshops in Death Valley, CA:

Topic Date Instructor Price (Member) Price (Non-Member)
Death Valley National Park: Sand Dunes and Landscape Oddities 14-NOV-2014 Michael A. Mariant $895 $975 Sold out

Member prices are only applicable to Nikonians Silver, Gold and Platinum Members. Non-members can register as Nikonians members here. Nikonians Basic members can upgrade the membership level here. Membership payments help sustain the growth of the Nikonians community and its services such as the Nikonians Academy.