Eastern Sierra and The Owens Valley

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Come with us to one of the hidden photographer's gems in California

Workshop Dates: September 24-27, 2015

California's Eastern Sierra, a jagged and prominent escarpment rising over 10,000 feet above the Owens Valley, is one of the hidden photographer's gems in California

Many prominent landscape photographers, including the late Galen Rowell, have called Bishop and the Eastern Sierra home and their base for their photographic expeditions into the stunning surroundings

No other region in the country offers the dramatic granite peaks, glacier-carved valleys, dense foliage and roaring mountain streams. And the Fall Season is the time of year prized by all Sierra photographers, as the colors of the Eastern Sierra explode into a visual contrast against the stark gray of the granite, bleached white of the mountain glaciers and the deep blue sky


Learning to Read a Scene, Pre-Visualization Methods, Balanced Composition Principles, Understanding Natural Light, Core Visual Components in Photography, Technical vs. Visual Assessments


Requires understanding of camera operations & functions, standard photography principles of exposure & composition

"What a remarkable workshop, what a fantastic job by Michael, and what a learning experience.

The variety of locations - it was truly multi-dimensional. We covered the length and breadth of the Eastern Sierra¹s and Owens Valley ... at elevations of between 4,000 to 10,000 feet, and beyond, if you take into account the fantastic Astrophotography location.

The variety of subjects which included fall colors in mountain, river and lake settings, the Bodie Ghost Town, Petroglyphs, the Tufa Towers at Mono Lake, Bristlecone Pine Forests, rock formations and the night sky.

And time of day. We saw every sunrise and sunset on location. This variety created a very wide range of shooting opportunities to fully explore the lessons of composition and technique, including (for my part) lens choice, filters, white balance settings, lighting, flash photography and night shooting.

At each location Michael explained the significance and history of the location, and tracked us down to make sure we understood the lessons, reviewing our images, answering questions and pushing us to experiment to take us to the next level. And who needs sleep and oxygen anyway!"

-Nikonian 'Mike6453'

A rare and special treat, exclusive ONLY to the Eastern Sierra & Owens Valley workshop, is an evening at a Deep Space Satellite Dish Array Complex to photograph star trails and the Milky Way, while surrounded by giant satellite dishes. Each workshop participant gets to pick out their own satellite dish on the pad to use in the foreground of their astrophotography. Past workshop participants remark that this is the highlight of the entire workshop!

Capture the vibrancy of the Eastern Sierra 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, and High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography to name just a few.

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

NOTE: This workshop sells out fast every year, due to the incredible diversity of shooting locations coupled with the extraordinary astrophotography session. The workshop is limited to only 10 participants; it is highly recommended to sign-up as soon as possible.


The Eastern Sierra and Owens Valley is an incredible diverse area with more shooting locations than we can utilize. While this sample itinerary lists some of the highlights of the workshop, additional locations and destination options are integrated into the regular workshop itinerary.

Day 1 - Following a breakfast orientation session at the meeting location reviewing the workshop schedule, safety, photographic concerns and techniques, followed by departure to the first location for our first exercise in pre-visualization, composition and layering. We move on to our second location, climbing in altitude to 10,000 feet, capturing the scene up the Rock Creek drainage as we head to the high sierra, granite-walled meadows. We then drop back down from the glacier-studded high sierra throught the volcanic tableland to capture sunset in a secret, rocky slot canyon, followed by post-sunset photography capturing the infamous alpenglow of the high sierra.

Day 2 - The day begins at sunrise deep in the Alabama Hills beneath Mt. Whitney and the jagged Sierra crest. Extensive exercises in composition, layering, filtration and optional High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography will be part of this locale, complemented by the rounded rocks surrounding us up to the sheer wall of Mt. Whitney. We then swing across Owens Valley to the top of the White Mountains and into the home of the unusual and dramatic Bristlecone pine forest, illuminated by the warm setting sun. Just after sunset, we begin in instruction in astrophotography with a hands-on tutorial before we head back up to the trees to apply the astrophotography methods against the Bristlecone Pines. This session works as a preparatory session before Saturday evenings grand astrophotography.

Day 3 - Heading north from Bishop, we begin the day before sunrise at Mono Lake, capturing the alpenglow of the Sierra Range over the still waters of the lake, with the towering and bizarre tufa spires illuminated by the rising sun. Following breakfast, we head deep into Lundy Canyon, one of the strongholds of fall color in the Eastern Sierra, as we head to Lundy Lake and up Mill Creek to the beaver ponds and aspen forests. We take an afternoon break (or you can head out for independent travel) before we depart for our unique pre-sunset location. As the sun drops down, we head up to Convict Lake for alpenglow over the mountains, reflected in this beautiful lake. Following sunset, we head to what has been hailed as the highlight of the Eastern Sierra & Owens Valley workshop: the astrophotography session at the deep space research station, capturing the stunning star fields and the gases of the Milky Way.

Day 4 - The day begins back deep in the canyons of the Eastern Sierra, this time up the Bishop Creek drainage, the favorite of the local photographers and a fitting end for the workshop. We start with sunrise over one of the several High Sierra lakes, capturing the alpenglow, white mountain-top glaciers and the emerald blue colors of the lake, followed by a slow meander down the canyon to capture the endless photo opportunities of fall color against the stark granite. We move on to one last High Sierra location for our final shooting session before heading down to Bishop for a farewell lunch and our goodbyes.


For the Eastern Sierra & Owens Valley Workshop, it is recommended workshop participants make their lodging reservations at one of the hotels listed below (in no particular order), in Bishop, California.

• Best Western Bishop Holiday Spa Lodge

• Best Western Plus Creekside Inn

• Comfort Inn 

• Days Inn

• Holiday Inn Express

• Motel 6

• La Quinta Inn

• Ramada Limited

• Vagabond Inn


The recommended airport for arrival and departure is the Mammoth/Yosemite Airport (MMH). Travel time from Mammoth/Yosemite Airport to Bishop is approximately 45 minutes. Inquire with car rental companies about availability PRIOR to booking any flights.

Alternate airports for arrival/departure: San Francisco International Airport (SFO); Sacramento International Airport (SMF); Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO); Las Vegas-McCarran International Airport (LAS); Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Driving time from nearest major city: 

From San Francisco to Bishop: along Highways 80, 580, 205, 120, and 395, is approximately 5.5 hours. NOTE: This route from San Francisco travels over Tioga Pass through Yosemite National Park; check road conditions prior to travel. Entrance fee required for travel through Yosemite National Park.

From Sacramento to Bishop: along Highways 50, 89, and 395, is approximately 4.5 hours. 

From Reno to Bishop: along Highway 395, is approximately 3.5 hours.

From Las Vegas to Bishop: along Highways 15, 95, NV374/CA190, 136, and 395, is approximately 4.75. 
From Los Angeles to Bishop: along Highways 10, 405, 5, 14, and 395, is approximately 5 hours.

NOTE: Several of the workshop locations are at elevations in excess of 10,000 ft. At that altitude, our short hikes with camera gear will feel like an attempt on Mt. Everest. While the workshop terrain is not strenuous, the altitude combined with the multitude of locations can lead to this workshop being classified as 'physically demanding'.

Nikonians Academy is operating this workshop under a special use permit with the Inyo National Forest.

In accordance with Federal law and U.S. Department of Agriculture policy, this institution is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.)

To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, Room 326-W, Whitten Building, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (202) 720-5964 (voice and TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

  • You will learn

    • Landscape photography ...
    • In the desert and mountain environments.
    • 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 -unless it is a Nikonians cap), 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; suggested filters: polarizer filter, gradated ND filter; sturdy tripod 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
    • For the Eastern Sierra & Owens Valley Workshop, it is recommended workshop participants make their lodging reservations at one of the hotels listed below (in no particular order), in Bishop, California. 
(Click a hotel name to link to their web site.)
• Best Western Bishop Holiday Spa Lodge
• Best Western Plus Creekside Inn
• Comfort Inn
• Days Inn
• Holiday Inn Express
• Motel 6
• La Quinta Inn
• Ramada Limited
• Vagabond Inn
  • Venue Information

      Please check your venue by specific city area location.


Improve your landscape photography in a wonderful location, in a splendid season, and with a professional instructor!

Cancellation policy: If you cancel more than 30 days before the workshop, we will refund your tuition except for a $125 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 offer no refund.


Eastern Sierra and The Owens Valley workshops are provided in the following locations:

City Area Date Instructor Price (Member) Price (Non-Member)
Bishop 15-OCT-2009 Michael A. Mariant $895 $925 Sold out
Bishop, CA 09-AUG-2012 Michael A. Mariant $895 $925 Sold out
Bishop, CA 03-OCT-2013 Michael A. Mariant $895 $995 Sold out
Bishop, CA 18-SEP-2014 Michael A. Mariant $895 $985 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.