In 1897, the mining town of Ballarat burst to life amidst the dry Death Valley landscape. Drawn by a hopeful glint of gold, hundreds of prospectors flocked to the desert, only for the town to shutter less than a decade later. But the bones of the settlement still remain—an old jailhouse, a morgue, a few abandoned trucks overtaken by rust—in a state of spectacular decay. On this photography exploration, focused on after-dark composition, we’ll venture through the remains of Death Valley’s bygone mining past to capture the spirit of the abandoned towns that still haunt the expansive desert. Shot by shot, we’ll excavate the forgotten history of each site by day and, come nightfall, photograph them under moonlight. Beneath a bed of stars and a full moon, Death Valley’s abandoned past comes back to life.
Workshop participants must have at least basic photo skills, know their cameras well, and be comfortable shooting RAW in manual mode with a DSLR or high-end mirrorless camera. Night photography experience is not necessary, but even folks with extensive experience shooting at night will find this class challenging, stimulating, and inspiring. For more advanced night photographers, we can offer a portfolio review, specific challenges and goals, and guidance in the field based on your areas of interest.
You will need to bring a DSLR/mirrorless camera, a wide and fast lens, and a tripod. A full list of recommended gear will be provided once you sign up! Over the course of our five-day workshop, we aim to increase your comfort and confidence with night photography. Daily lectures on night photography, post-processing, and image review will take up a good portion of our days. At night, we'll roam within the industrial landscape and help you focus, compose, and paint with light—and push you to take full creative control over your images. Come ready to dive into many hours of education, exploration, feedback, and hands-on experiences.
You should plan to arrive at Stovepipe Wells by 2 p.m. on November 11, and depart after 2 p.m. on November 16. If you’d like to extend your stay before or after the workshop, we’re happy to help arrange extra nights.
Keep in mind that this workshop is mainly outdoors and fairly active. You should feel comfortable walking a cumulative one to three miles each day and remaining outside and on your feet for long periods of time, especially after dark. We’ll be walking on desert sand, dirt paths, rocky slopes, and other uneven surfaces.
For the five nights of the workshop, our group will be staying at Stovepipe Wells Village Hotel. Alternatively, if you’d like, you’re welcome to set up a tent or RV at the adjacent campground, at a reduced trip cost. The campground is overseen by the park, and is first come first serve, with a registration kiosk at the Ranger Station about a quarter-mile down the road. The campground is not much more than empty ground, with no shelter or water, albeit with beautiful views over the valley and sand dunes. Campers can purchase a pool/shower pass from the hotel for $4.
Transportation during the workshop will be a combination of self-drive caravans (two days) and backcountry jeeps (three days) driven by your trip leaders. Death Valley National Park covers an expansive area, and all days will involve at least two cumulative hours of driving, and in one or two cases, as many as five. Note that the backcountry jeeps will be traveling on bumpier roads—an exciting ride but not very smooth ride!