Join us for a Death Valley & Eastern Sierra photography workshop to capture some of the most dramatic landscapes in the western US. We are running this tours in March, 2023, during the best time of year to photograph landscapes and nightscapes, both in Death Valley and the impressive Alabama Hills.
Our Death Valley photo workshop will focus on the most photogenic areas of this unique and diverse national park, which range from salt flats where you can shoot spectacular patterns below rugged mountains to colorful badlands and giant sand dunes. We will shoot the most impressive landscapes during the best hours of light, including the stars and the Milky Way at night.
During our Alabama Hills photo tour, we will head to California’s Eastern Sierra, where we will enjoy superb views and photo opportunities of Mount Whitney and other dramatic Sierra peaks. These snow-capped mountains will form the perfect background for our landscapes. You will also find a photographer’s paradise full of natural arches, spectacular rock formations, barrel cacti, and more.
We will help you capture the best possible images during our photography expedition to Death Valley and the Alabama Hills. We will show you the best techniques to shoot day and night landscapes so you can return home with the best possible photos, a greater knowledge of photography, and, of course, unforgettable memories. It doesn’t matter what gear you have or what your skill level is – together, we will make the most of both.
Our Death Valley & Eastern Sierra Photo Tour itinerary is flexible, and it will be adjusted according to the weather conditions so you can make the most of this trip.
This workshop is highly focused on astrophotography and will take place during the best time of year to capture the Milky Way arch over the Death Valley floor when our galaxy is visible from 01:45 AM to sunrise. If the weather conditions are conducive to a productive night photography session, we might adapt the morning sessions so we can have enough hours of sleep.
Our Death Valley photo tour begins at The Ranch at Furnace Creek at 2 PM. This resort is the best accommodation in Death Valley and is located in the heart of the national park, a short drive from the main shooting locations. This will be our base camp during our stay in Death Valley.
After a meet and greet with the rest of the group and a welcome speech, we will venture on our first sunset photography session to Badwater Basin, the lowest and driest place in North America. This location offers fantastic photo opportunities to capture the most iconic landscape features in Death Valley National Park: the classic polygonal salt formations in the foreground and the rugged Amargosa and Panamint mountain range in the background.
We will hike about a mile into the Badwater Basin to find the best salt polygons before sunset and will return for our first Milky Way photography session if conditions allow.
On the second day of our Death Valley workshop, we will start the day by photographing the sunrise at Zabriskie Point.
Zabriskie is an expansive area of colorful badlands that will provide you with a fantastic opportunity to photograph some of the most impressive Death Valley geological features. The goal is to be here before sunrise, since the badlands are painted with beautiful colors during the blue hour. We will stay at this location until the sun rises enough to illuminate the badlands and the Panamint mountains in the west. This is a vast area, but Dan will show you where the best shooting spots are as well as the best lenses and techniques to shoot the badlands.
After Zabriskie, our next shoot will be at Artist’s Palette, another series of rocks and badlands where you can find unique pastel colors. From here and, depending on the timing, we will visit the Devil’s Golf Course, another area of the Death Valley floor that is full of tall, sharp salt formations.
Right before sunset, we will explore and photograph the mud cracks in one of the Death Valley drainage channels. Mud cracks change every year based on the winter precipitation, so we’ll scout the best patterns for our sunset session. If conditions allow, we will photograph the Milky Way arch over the Death Valley mud cracks.
The next morning of our Death Valley tour, we will photograph the sunrise at the location we used the night before with the sun rising over the mountains and illuminating the salt polygons.
Then we will drive and shoot across Twenty Mule Team Canyon, a short, photogenic drive full of interesting and colorful badlands. If our schedule allows it, we will also drive to Dante’s View, where you can enjoy one of the best panoramic views of the Badwater Basin and Death Valley mountain ranges.
In the evening, our goal is to photograph one of the most photogenic areas in Death Valley National Park: The Mesquite Sand Dunes. These are the most iconic dunes in the park for good reason. Here, you’ll find infinite sand dunes of different heights surrounded by picturesque mountains. This is a vast area and the shape of the dunes changes every year, but we will head to the area where you can usually find the best dunes to photograph them under the golden sunset light.
Deposit: USD 1,000
A $1,000 non-refundable deposit is required to reserve your spot for this workshop. You can also pay in full at any time. The remaining balance is due on December 16th, 2022. If the remaining balance is not paid in full by the due date, you will lose your spot.
A 100% refund is guaranteed if we have to cancel the tour because of COVID-19.
What you learn during the workshop will vary according to your goals and skills. Your instructors are professional photographers with extensive experience who will help you take your photography to the next level:
Some of the post-processing techniques that you can learn with our included tutorials are:
Your instructors on this death valley astrophoto tour
Joseph James will be the tour leader of this Death Valley & Alabama Hills workshop and he will make sure that you get the best photography results and experience out of this tour. He will help you with your photography, technique, and composition for both day and night images.
Joseph has explored and led photography workshops in Death Valley & the Alabama Hills in previous trips. He is very knowledgeable, not only about the most well-known locations but also about the best hidden gems where you most likely won’t see other people or photographers.
He will show you not only the best techniques, but also how to be more creative with your camera gear so you can learn to see new compositions and perspectives that go unnoticed by most photographers.
Below, you can find a summary of things we recommend for this trip:
You may be interested in this guide, where you can dive deeper into photography equipment for traveling.
Even though Death Valley is the hottest place in North America, temperatures are mild and pleasant at the beginning of the spring, so there won’t be extreme heat conditions.
However, during this workshop, we will experience many extreme environments. From the lowest point on the continent at Badwater Basin to the highest peaks in the contiguous US around the California Eastern Sierra, we will move through different climates and temperatures. We also have to consider that temperatures drop considerably at night, especially during the Alabama Hills workshop section of this tour.
For this reason, we recommend bringing the following clothing:
If you are traveling from outside the US, you may need a specific travel visa or an electronic travel authorization (“ESTA”) depending on your country of origin. We can help you with this process.
There are different airports within a relatively short drive to Death Valley. However, the closest airport and our recommendation is Las Vegas International Airport. From there, the drive to Furnace Creek is 118 miles (about two hours).
Airline ticket prices will depend on the airport you are flying from. We recommend this article to find the best flights to Las Vegas from your current location.
Transportation will not be included, and even though we will not be driving over difficult roads, some of them (like the Alabama Hills Movie Road) will be unpaved, so we recommend at least an SUV with all-wheel drive for this Death Valley workshop.
When traveling to different locations on the tour, we will try to carpool as often as possible. Some parking areas are small, and we would like to minimize our impact on the land and ecosystem as much as possible.
Meals are not included. Most of the days, we will try to eat snacks/picnic during lunch to speed up and maximize the photo shoot time.Even so, Death Valley is a remote national park and there aren’t many supermarket or restaurant options. The ones you can find are generally not cheap. We recommend buying any groceries in Las Vegas before the trip (there’ll be a small fridge in your room) and budgeting about $50-70 per day for meals.
The Death Valley National Park Pass costs $30 and is valid for a week. You can get your pass in-person at the Furnace Creek visitor center or online through the official Death Valley NP website.
Whether you are experienced or just starting out in photography, you are welcome, and I am convinced that you will progress quickly. Together, we will send you home with a thorough knowledge of many photography areas from the basics to multiple advanced techniques.
Once you sign up for the workshop, we will discuss your skills and goals for this tour, and I’ll organize a teaching plan so you can make the most of this experience
Most shooting locations in Death Valley will require a hike between half a mile and two miles, sometimes on uneven terrain like salt flats or sand dunes and at night when we shoot the Milky Way.
Some locations that constantly change depending on the weather, such as salt flats or mud cracks, often require some scouting and longer walks, so we recommend being in good physical shape to be able to enjoy this experience.
Most locations in the Alabama Hills area are either just by the parking lot or a very short walk away.
There is no age limit. This trip is perfect for anyone over 18 years old who wants to photograph the Death Valley & Eastern Sierra landscapes with us.
Capture the Atlas is drone friendly. However, drones are not allowed in national parks and you can’t fly your drone in Death Valley National Park.
The Alabama Hills is a BLM area and you can fly your drone there at your own risk. Dan is an experienced drone pilot and can help you with your drone photography.
From the lowest point in North America on the Death Valley floor to the highest peak in the contiguous United States in the California Eastern Sierra, this trip is going to take you to some of the most diverse, extreme, and dramatic landscapes in the country.
There are no words to describe the feeling of being surrounded by miles of pure wilderness where the landscape is constantly changing according to the forces of nature. No image can express the experience of photographing the full Milky Way arch under an endless sea of stars in the largest Dark Sky National Park in the country.
I instantly fell in love with these landscapes the first time I saw them, and since then, I’ve been obsessed with photographing them year after year. Today, we are grateful to have the opportunity to take you on this trip and to show you what the Eastern California landscapes have to offer!
I’ve had the opportunity to work with and help countless photographers over the last few years. Sharing and teaching photography is my passion, and I love doing this both online and in the field.