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2025 Death Valley & Alabama Hills Photography Workshop

Dramatic Landscapes and Milky Way

Join us for a Death Valley & Alabama Hills photography workshop to capture some of the most dramatic landscapes in the western US.

We are running this tour in March & April, 2025, during the best time of year to photograph landscapes and nightscapes, both in Death Valley and the impressive Alabama Hills.

Death Valley Photo tour with professional photographers


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, showing you the best techniques to shoot day and night landscapes so you can return home with the best possible photos and a greater knowledge of photography. It doesn’t matter what gear you have or what your skill level is – together, we will make the most of both!

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    • Photo tours from March 23th– 29th, and March 30th– April 5th, 2025
    • Group size: 10 participants + 2 instructors.
    • Accommodation at The Ranch, the best located hotel in the heart of Death Valley.
    • Main topics: Landscape & Night photography (Salt flats, badlands, sand dunes, Milky Way).
    • Main areas: Death Valley National Park the Alabama Hills (California Eastern Sierra).
    • Best time of year to photograph Milky Way Panoramas at these locations.
    • Post-processing sessions during the trip
    • Photograph both the lowest and highest points in the lower 48.

Download the Official Death Valley & Alabama Hills Photo Workshop Brochure

Death Valley photography workshop brochure

2025 Death Valley & Alabama Hills Photography Workshop Itinerary

Our workshop 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 it’ll 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 after midnight to sunrise. If the weather conditions are conducive to a productive night photography session, we will adapt the morning sessions so we can have enough hours of sleep.


Our Death Valley photo tour begins at the boarding meeting room at the Inn hotel at 2PM

After a meet and greet with the rest of the group and a welcome speech, we will do the check-in in our hotel at the Ranch. This resort is the best accommodation in Death Valley and is located in the heart of the national park and at a short drive from the main shooting locations.

After a short break, we will do an individual gear review so we can check your equipment and make sure that everything is ready for the night outings.

For the first shooting, 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 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.

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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 offers fantastic opportunity to photograph some of the most impressive Death Valley geological features. We will be there before sunrise when the badlands are painted with beautiful colors during the blue hour. This is a vast area, but our guides 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.


Artists Palette Death Valley day trip from Las Vegas

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On day 3, we will start the day by photographing the sunrise from the mud cracks with the sun rising just above the mountains.

In the afternoon, we will have our first editing session, where we’ll show you the entire process to bring your night images to life, from the first steps to the best tips and tricks.

You’ll learn how to edit images in Lightroom, how to stitch panoramas with different software, and some advanced techniques in Photoshop.

Right before sunset, we will explore the Cottonball Basin, the Northern section of the Death Valley floor where you can find unique patterns with white salty pools surrounded by thick brown borders. These formations change every year depending on the rainfall so we will take the time to scout and find the most photogenic patterns.

Artists Palette Death Valley day trip from Las Vegas

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The next morning of our Death Valley tour, 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 afternoon, we will run our second editing class. For this session, we will show you new editing techniques, and we’ll also help you as you edit your images of the trip with your laptop.

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.

At night, we will photograph the Milky Way at Mesquite Sand Dunes if conditions allow.


On the last morning of our Death Valley workshop, we will photograph the Mesquite Sand Dunes again during the morning twilight and sunrise. This location offers endless photo opportunities, so we will explore a different section of the dunes where the light can create conditions for excellent photos.

After our morning session, we will drive to our next destination, where we will have our Alabama Hills part of the workshop. The drive from the Mesquite Dunes to the town of Lone Pine is relatively short, approximately 80 miles (about 1.5 hours).

Lone Pine is a historic town located in the foothills of the California Eastern Sierra, and it will be our base for the next two days. We are staying at The Dow Villa, which is located at the entrance to the Alabama Hills and within walking distance of the best restaurants in town.

After checking in and taking a lunch break, we will visit the rugged landscape of the Alabama Hills, where we will photograph the jagged peaks around Mount Whitney (highest point in the contiguous US) with some interesting features in the foreground.

If conditions are good for night photography, we will photograph the Milky Way from one of the main arches, such as Mobius, Boot, or Cyclops.


On the first full day of our Alabama Hills photo tour, we will do a sunrise photoshoot from Cyclops Arch, where we will enjoy an incredible view of the Sierra peaks and a plethora of rocks, arches, and barrel cacti in the foreground.

Once we shoot the sunrise, we will move to the Mobius Arch Loop, doing many stops along the way on the Alabama Hills Movie Road to photograph the beauty of the California Sierra Nevada. Once on the loop, we will take a short hike to photograph some of the most famous formations in the area, like Mobius Arch framing Mount Whitney, Lathe Arch, or the Heart Arch.

After these shoots, we will have a break in town before returning for our sunset session from a vantage point around the Eye of Alabama Hills Arch. If there are clear skies, we will have a final Milky Way photography session in one of Alabama Hills’ spectacular formations.


On the last day of our photography workshop, we will have a final morning session where we will photograph the sun illuminating Mt. Whitney and the Sierra Nevada peaks from another of the spectacular Alabama Hills formations. After breakfast in town, we will conclude our Death Valley and Alabama Hills photography workshop.

PRICE: USD 3,890

Deposit: USD 1,500

A $1,500 deposit is required to reserve your spot for this photo tour. You can also pay in full at any time. The remaining balance is due 120 days before the start date of the tour. If the remaining balance is not paid in full by the due date, you will lose your spot.

What does the price include?


    • Accommodation in shared double rooms with queen beds at The Ranch for 4 nights.
    • Accommodation in shared double rooms with queen beds at The Dow Villa for 2 nights.
    • 7 days of photo guide services from professional photographers.
    • Instruction in a small group of 10 participants with a 5:1 ratio (5 students per instructor).
    • Night photography sessions throughout the entire workshop, including star-tracking instruction.
    • Two editing & post-processing sessions during the workshop.



    • Transportation (including flights) to Death Valley National Park.
    • Transportation during the trip (we will arrange carpools when traveling to different locations).
    • Single room accommodation – $650 supplement (subject to availability)
    • Death Valley National Park entrance fee.
    • Health/travel insurance (We can help you purchase the best travel insurance according to your needs).
    • Personal expenses, tips, and any other service not mentioned in the “INCLUDED” section.

*Capture the Atlas operates under a CUA (Commercial Use Authorization) with the National Park Service and the Bishop BLM to run photography workshops in these public lands.

Upcoming Death Valley Photography Workshops 





Dana Westfall
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The Death Valley and Alabama Hills tour was exceptional. James and Dorian were so knowledgeable. They were super encouraging when I had some frustrations. Highly recommend this photo tour.
Edward Borosky
Edward BoroskyFUN TOUR!
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The Capture the Atlas tour leaders were extremely knowledgeable and the rest of photographers in the group were great to be around which made for a fruitful and fun tour.
Pat Worley
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I found Dan's ability to share his techniques on how to create multi layer panoramas of the Milky Way utilizing a star tracker thorough and effective. Each day was a progression of learning new skills.
Sharon Lindsay
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Capture The Atlas, with Dan Zafra, offers excellent photography workshops for those who want to learn Milky Way photography in detail. Dan and Daniel were knowledgeable and considerate instructors who competently worked with participants of different skill levels, making all feel included.
Hiram Shaish
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The trip to Death Valley & Alabama Hills exceeded my expectations. Not only were Dan and Daniel extremely knowledgeable about techniques and locations, they were also great to hang out with.

What will I learn during this Death Valley workshop?

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:

  • Getting comfortable shooting different types of landscapes and photos in manual mode
  • Adjusting the best camera settings in each situation
  • Familiarizing yourself with the basics of night and Milky Way photography
  • Enhancing your compositions with the best techniques 
  • Designing your own shooting workflow to be more effective in the field 
  • Photographing daytime and night panoramas
  • Creating powerful compositions that tell a story and engage the viewer.
  • Building a connection between your photography and your vision.
  • Becoming a master of light: learn how to enhance it and keep it under control.
  • Advanced night & Milky Way photography techniques like stacking and Panoramas.
  • Advanced bracketing and exposure blending to capture the best dynamic range.
  • Using wide-angle distortion and focal length blending to create powerful images.
  • Focus stacking to capture tack-sharp images with interesting foregrounds.

Some of the post-processing techniques that you can learn with our included tutorials are:

  • How to start using Lightroom and Photoshop (all the basics).
  • Preparing your images in Lightroom/Adobe Camera Raw to start on the right foot.
  • Stitching panoramas using different software like Lightroom, Photoshop, or PTGui Pro.
  • Stacking night images using Starry Landscape Stacker or Sequator.
  • Reducing the noise in your night images using Topaz Denoise AI.
  • All types of Blendings (exposure, focal length, focus, etc.).
  • Light shaping and Dodge & Burn in your landscape images.
  • Advanced Milky Way techniques like star reduction, structure, natural colors, etc.

Your instructors on this death valley astrophoto tour

James McGivern will be the tour leader of this Death Valley astrophotography workshop.

He is a professional astrophotographer and an expert in capturing all types of images, from wide-field nightscapes to deep-sky imaging. He has dedicated the past few years to perfecting his photography skills and his astronomy knowledge. 

James is based in Southern California and has led workshops for Capture the Atlas in some of the best places for Astro in the US, including Death Valley, Utah, Monument Valley, etc.

His extensive knowledge in both photography techniques and theoretical knowledge has led him to teach in night photography workshops at Sky’s the Limit Observatory and is an active member in several outreach programs at the observatory, where he shares his passion for the night sky.

James can help you with your night photography, from the basics to advanced techniques like star-tracking.

Dorian Sanders will be the co-leader of this workshop and will help you capture the night images that you’re envisioning.

He is a skilled astrophotographer who also has extensive experience, having led workshops in many destinations including Death Valley, Utah, Acadia, Monument Valley, etc.

Dorian will help you learn how to master your Milky Way photography, how to compose scenes for the most dramatic images, and how to process your night images.

He is based in Vermont and has been taking photos for the past decade.  He’s an expert in the main subjects that you’ll be photographing on this trip, including landscape photography techniques like bracketing, focus-stacking, etc.

What to bring on a Death Valley Astrophotography Tour?

You will receive a complete list of everything that we recommend for this workshop upon completing your registration for the trip. Below, you can find a summary of things you might need:

    • A mirrorless or DSLR camera.
    • A sturdy tripod and a remote shutter.
    • A wide-angle lens, such as 14-24 mm.
    • A medium zoom lens, such as 24-70 mm.
    • A telephoto lens, like a 70-200 mm lens.
    • A camera bag to transport all your equipment.
    • A headlamp for the night shoots.
    • Glow-in-the-dark tape for your tripod.

You may be interested in this guide, where you can dive deeper into photography equipment for traveling.

Some optional items, if you are focused on advanced Milky Way photography, are:

    • A star-tracker.
    • An astro-modified camera.

*While zoom lenses are acceptable for this workshop, prime lenses are recommended for Milky Way photography. Some of the best lenses in this range are:

    • 14 mm f/1.8
    • 20 mm f/1.8
    • 24 mm f/1.4
    • 35 mm f/1.4

You can get them either from your camera brand or from third-party manufacturers like Rokinon or Sigma.

*This astrophotography workshop focuses on Milky Way nightscapes and not on deep-sky imaging. However, you can bring a telephoto/telescope and take your own deep-sky photos if you like.

You can find more information in our list of best lenses for the Milky Way and best cameras for astrophotography.

Travel and photograph Patagonia, Capture the Atlas


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:

      • A system of layers to wear during the day and night (base layer, insulation layer, windproof layer, and a hard-shell layer).
      • A good pair of breathable boots (to protect your feet and ankles while hiking in terrain like salt flats or sand dunes).
      • Thermal pants, gloves, hat, and a neck gaiter/scarf for the night photography sessions.

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.


During this Death Valley workshop, we stay at a couple of the best hotels both in Death Valley and Lone Pine. Accommodation is included in shared double rooms with queen beds. A limited number of private rooms are also available for an extra supplement.

The workshop presentation and editing classes will be hosted at the Inn, the sister hotel located at a 5-minute drive from the Ranch.


What expenses should you consider for this Death Valley Photography Workshop?


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. Death Valley is a remote national park and there aren’t many supermarket or restaurant options. We recommend buying 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.

We’ll schedule a daily group dinner in the local restaurants at the Ranch.


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.


If you prefer to have a single room during the workshop, there is a supplement of $650. (This is subject to availability)




Our workshops are completely centered on photography: finding the best moments of light during the day and at night and creating an intensive experience that is conducive to learning and taking the best images.


Our workshops are limited to small groups with a ratio of no more than five students per instructor. This is also an important factor for providing the attentive instruction you need during the tour.


During this workshop, we will photograph the famous locations in Death Valley as well as some hidden gems that we have discovered while hiking and exploring in the past that are rarely visited or photographed.


We will discuss your goals before the tour so we can create a dedicated instruction plan for you. It doesn’t matter your age or skills; we will design your plan and provide you with materials before, during, and after the workshop so the learning process is not limited to just the tour.


We have spent years designing national and international photo tours with successful results, helping photographers with everything from the simple task of getting off Auto to the ambitious goal of capturing complex images. Dan’s online courses have also helped more than 400 photographers over the last few years.


Beyond the photography, our photography workshops help build strong bonds that last forever. After our trip, you’ll feel like you have been with a group of friends rather than on a standard tour. We are thankful to have plenty of repeat clients who keep traveling and learning with us.

Frequent questions about our astro workshops

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.

Non-photographer companions are welcome to join the tour, and they need to book a spot under the same price and conditions as any other participant. (We don’t allow non-participant companions tagging along with the group). We have had plenty of non-photographer companions over the years and all of them enjoyed an amazing experience. As long as they enjoy nature, beautiful landscapes, and are a bit patient with the schedules of a photo tour, joining the trip can be a great experience regardless of the shooting.

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.

Our Happy Students!

We’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.

I recently tried a photo work shop with Capture the Atlas in Death Valley, CA. This was an amazing experience and as a novice, did not know if I could accomplish the dream. However, with the knowledgeable guidance of James and Dorian- who were enthusiastic and patient with me, and the others on the trip, I did get the shot! I truly gained the knowledge to repeat this type of photography on my own.
Jayesh Patel
2024 Death Valley & Alabama Hills Photo Tour
Had a wonderful photography tour to Death Valley and the Alabama Hills with Capture the Atlas! James and Dorian were excellent instructors (and amazing astrophotographers), and they provided detailed support throughout the process of taking and editing our photos. Even though the weather wasn’t the most cooperative, they maximized our experience and were always willing to offer feedback and suggestions during and between our sessions. Highly recommend a tour with Capture the Atlas for anyone looking to improve their astrophotography skills!
Katie Smith
2024 Death Valley & Alabama Hills Photo Tour
Had a great time and, despite the weather challenges, the guides James McGivern and Dorian Sanders)had alternate plans that worked quite well. Highly recommend a Capture the Atlas workshop for anyone interested in astrophotography! Learned quite a bit, especially about composition. Will definitely book another workshop with Capture the Atlas.
Mark Niles
2024 Death Valley & Alabama Hills Photo Tour
Death Valley and Alabama Hills was my intro to astrophotography, and the preparation provided before the trip as well as the support during the workshop exceeded my expectations. We had opportunities to get unique shots of the landscape thanks to our guides James and Dorian. I'm already signed up for another trip with Capture the Atlas and will definitely keep repeating.
Renate Johnson
2024 Death Valley & Alabama Hills Photo Tour
Dan made certain everyone had the best experience and opportunity to capture photos that will long be enjoyed. His knowledge of choosing locations to make the best use of the time available and his recommendations for camera settings was greatly appreciated. Great job! I plan on going with Dan on future trips.
Glenn Mohs
2022 Death Valley & Alabama Hills Photo Tour
Dan is an amazing instructor! I went to one of his workshop in Death Valley and Alabama Hills. I learned a lot. Dan spent time with everyone in the group and gave us a lot of recommendations and tips. From how to find the perfect composition, to how to edit the pictures. The locations were perfect and the entire trip was perfectly planned. Dan is an expert in night photography. He shared with us his techniques, recommendations and process to capture the night sky. I highly recommend to anyone who is interested in diving much deeper into night photography and landscapes.
Federico Ponte
2022 Death Valley & Alabama Hills Photo Tour
What an experience! I took the Death Valley & Alabama Hills Workshop with Dan and Capture the Atlas and WOW! Between the breath-taking landscapes and incredible Milky Way views offered by the area and the sincere and approachable teachings and guidance of Dan and his team, I was blown away. I think my favorite part was that I left feeling excited and inspired to get out and shoot more. I HIGHLY recommend Dan and Capture the Atlas if you're looking to get into landscape or astrophotography or if you're already into it and want to learn/explore more!
Lauren Laspisa
2022 Death Valley & Alabama Hills Photo Tour
I already had relatively high expectations after going through Dan's excellent milky way post processing course online. The trip to Death Valley & Alabama Hills exceeded my expectations. Not only were Dan and Daniel extremely knowledgeable about techniques and locations, they were also great to hang out with. By the end of the workshop I was able to track a full milky way arch panorama at 35 mm. The locations that we visited would have taken me months to find on my own and were spectacular.
Hiram Shaish
2022 Death Valley & Alabama Hills Photo Tour
I went on the Death Valley & Alabama Hills trip this past April and had a great time. This was my first attempt at doing Milky Way photography and was not sure exactly what to expect. Dan has a great course on photographing the galactic core and got me off to a head start prior to the trip. Dan and his assistant Daniel did a great job in checking in on how I was doing. All in all it was a successful trip and I would seriously consider doing another trip with Dan.
Richars Simmons
2022 Death Valley & Alabama Hills Photo Tour
Dan Zafra's Capture the Atlas workshops are simply the best ones if you want to learn Milky Way photography from beginners to advanced. I have been to several workshops with various instructors and Dan is by far the most thorough and well organized. His online course is also an absolute must if you want to learn how the professionals really take the pictures as well as what equipment they use and how to post process with professional results. I wholeheartedly recommend him.
Charles G.
2022 Death Valley & Alabama Hills Photo Tour

Join the expedition


This tour is governed by these Terms and Conditions.

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!