Death Valley Trip – Group Travel | Atlas Obscura Trips
Photo Credit: Tim Cook
Photo Credit: Chris Nicholson
Photo Credit: Tim Cook
Photo Credit: Chris Nicholson

Moonlit Ghost Towns: Night Photography in Death Valley

from $3,210 USD per person for 6 days, 5 nights
See Dates
  • 12 People Maximum
  • Easy Activity Level
  • Outdoor Expedition
See Dates
Trip Overview

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.

  • Workshops with expert photography instructors
  • Private excursions through secluded ghost towns
  • Nighttime desert shoots beneath a full moon
  • One-on-one photography mentorship
  • Local history and ecology


Itineraries and daily schedules are subject to change. We expect to do everything listed in the itinerary, though the order may be rearranged based on weather or other local conditions.
National Parks at Night
In Partnership with National Parks at Night

Trip Leaders

Chris Nicholson
Chris is an instructor for National Parks at Night, the author of Photographing National Parks, and a Manfrotto Photography Ambassador. A former magazine editor for 10 years, Chris has worked independently since 2004, with his cameras focused primarily on nature and sports. He has also worked as a book editor for National Parks Traveler, an editorial consultant for Chimani national-park travel guide apps, and a writer for various photography websites. Chris has taught for CreativeLive, is a regular presenter at the B&H Event Space, and he speaks at photography conferences around the U.S.
Tim Cooper
Tim is a photographer, author, and educator who can’t imagine a better way to spend time than basking in the beauty of the natural world while sharing his love of photography with others. While teaching at the Rocky Mountain School of Photography, he also worked as a commercial photographer for The North Face, The Ritz Carlton, Vasque boots, 3M, and The International Heart Institute. Tim is the author of several training videos and e-books, including The Realistic HDR Image and The Magic of Light Painting, and his work has appeared in Travel & Leisure, New York Times Magazine, Outdoor Photographer, Fly Rod & Reel, Modern Luxury, and Private Clubs.
Sherry Pincus
Sherry is a certified Wilderness First Responder with 35 years of experience in backcountry exploration and photography. She has ventured into the depths of the Pacific Northwest, particularly in the Olympics, Mount Rainier (including the Wonderland Trail), and North Cascades. She also has backpacked and photographed the Grand Tetons and the Wind River Range in Wyoming; the Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho; Lake O’Hara, Banff, Jasper and Mount Robson in Canada; Torres del Paine and El Chalten in Patagonia; Milford Trek and The Routeburn in New Zealand; and the Tour Du Mont Blanc in Europe.

Additional Info

Pricing & Single Accommodations

The total cost of this trip is $3,210 (or $2,770 if selecting the camping option). For those traveling by themselves, single accommodations can be provided, subject to availability, at an additional cost of $455. Please contact us to request a single room.


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!

Activity Level

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.

Photo Experience & Gear

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 the 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.

Arrival & Departure

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.

  • Instruction and mentorship by two talented photo leaders from National Parks at Night.
  • Daily workshops, photo instruction, and post-processing.
  • All meals during the trip.
  • Transportation for three of the six days in the itinerary in backcountry jeeps.
  • Five nights of hotel accommodation.
  • A great group of fellow Atlas Obscura fans and photographers, excited to explore all that the night sky has to offer!
  • Transport to and from Death Valley National Park.
  • If choosing to camp rather than stay in the hotel, you must provide your own camping gear or RV and register directly with the park.
  • Additional meals and alcoholic beverages.
  • Photography equipment and gear. (We'll send a list of what you'll need once you sign up!)
  • Travel insurance (recommended).
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