2022 Death Valley Milky Way astrophotography workshop
Capture our galaxy at its best!
Join us for a Death Valley Milky Way astrophotography workshop where we’ll capture our galaxy over some of the most spectacular landscapes in the western US. We are running this tour from April 1st-5th, during the new moon and the best time of year to photograph the Milky Way arch in Death Valley National Park.
Our Death Valley astrophotography workshop will focus specifically on shooting nightscapes and the Milky Way over the most photogenic areas of this unique and diverse national park. You’ll see everything from salt flats and mud cracks to sand dunes, all with impressive, rugged mountains in the background. Death Valley has been designated the largest Dark Sky National Park in the country, so we will experience the perfect conditions to capture dark, starry skies.
I will personally help you capture the best possible images during our Milky Way astrophotography expedition to Death Valley. I will show you the best techniques to shoot the Milky Way with a star-tracker, and we will do some intense post-processing sessions so you can make the most of the images you capture in the field. The group is limited to just 5 people so we can have intimate and productive sessions and you can get the best hands-on experience.
This Death Valley astrophotography workshop is specifically aimed at photographers with a good foundation in Milky Way and night photography. We will focus on using star-trackers in the field and advanced techniques in post. If you are just starting out in Milky Way photography, I recommend joining our Death Valley & Alabama Hills photography workshop instead.
Death Valley astrophotography tour highlights
Photo tour from April 1st-5th, 2022
Group size: 5 participants + 1 instructor
Main topics: Advanced Milky Wayphotography
Main areas: Death Valley National Park
Best time of year to photograph the Milky Way arch in Death Valley
Daily dedicated post-processing sessions
Opportunity to use and try different star-trackers
Accommodation at The Ranch, the best hotel right in the heart of Death Valley
2022 DEATH VALLEY MILKY WAY ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP ITINERARY
Our Death Valley astrophotography workshop itinerary is flexible, and it will be adjusted according to the weather conditions so you can make the most of this trip.
Our workshop will be at the best time of year to capture the Milky Way arch over the Death Valley floor, when our galaxy is visible from around 01:30 AM to sunrise, so if there are clear skies, we will spend as much time as possible shooting at night.
We will sleep in the mornings, focus on post-processing in the afternoons, and scout in the evenings right before sunset to plan our night compositions.
While this is a dedicated astrophotography workshop, you’ll also have the chance to shoot the twilight, sunrise, and sunset during our scouting sessions if you like.
DAY 1: DEATH VALLEY ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP – APRIL 1ST
Our Death Valley Milky Way photo tour begins at The Ranch at Furnace Creek at 2:00 PM. This resort is the best accommodation in Death Valley and is located in the heart of the national park, only 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 scouting session to Badwater Basin, the lowest and driest place in North America. This location offers fantastic photo opportunities to capture the Milky Way arch with Death Valley National Park’s most iconic landscape features: the classic polygonal salt formations in the foreground and the rugged Amargosa and Panamint mountains 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 at night.
DAY 2: DEATH VALLEY ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP – APRIL 2ND
On the second day of our Death Valley astrophotography workshop, we will start the day with our first post-processing session.
Our editing sessions during the trip will take anywhere between two to four hours, and in them, we will focus on different topics. I will show you some advanced astrophotography techniques, help you edit your own images, and lead group discussions and photo critiques. Post-processing plays a key role in astrophotography and these sessions are an excellent learning tool that will drastically help you with your photography.
Right before sunset, we will scout a new area and look for mud cracks in one of the Death Valley drainage channels. Mud cracks change every year, but they are always a fantastic foreground element for your night images. At night, we will photograph the Milky Way arch over the Death Valley mud cracks.
DAY 3: DEATH VALLEY MILKY WAY PHOTO WORKSHOP – APRIL 3RD
The third day of our Death Valley photo workshop will take us to some of the best hidden locations in this national park.
We will start the day with a post-processing session in the afternoon, where we will work on the images that you captured the night before.
Right before sunset, we will move to another location, where we’ll find possibly the best salt polygons on the Death Valley floor. I’ve spent many days and walked many miles scouting the best formations, and these are, without a doubt, the most photogenic. It’s very likely that we will have this location to ourselves to shoot the Milky Way at night.
DAY 4: DEATH VALLEY PHOTO ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP – APRIL 4TH
On the next afternoon of our Death Valley astro photo tour, we will have our last post-processing session, where we will focus again on advanced techniques and some editing. We will also have a group discussion about the images that the group has captured during the trip,
In the evening, we will visit the most iconic dunes in Death Valley: Mesquite. Here, you will find infinite sand dunes of different heights surrounded by picturesque mountains. We will scout interesting compositions in the lower area of the dunes and return at night for our last Milky Way shoot.
DAY 5:DEATH VALLEY PHOTO ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP – APRIL 5TH
On the last day of the trip, we will have lunch together before concluding our Death Valley Milky Way photography workshop.
PRICE: USD 3,890
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 February 1st, 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 DOES THE PRICE INCLUDE?
Accommodation in shared double rooms with queen beds at The Ranch at Furnace Creek for 4 nights.
5 days of photo guide services by professional astrophotographer Dan Zafra.
Immersive instruction and hands-on experience in a small group of 5 participants.
Opportunity to use different star-trackers (Skywatcher/iOptron/MSM).
100% refund if the workshop is cancelled because of COVID-19.
Access to Dan Zafra’s full Capture the Milky Way Course (valued at $299) – includes a complete start-to-finish Milky Way post-processing tutorial of a Death Valley image.
45-minute private Zoom post-workshop lesson to help with questions/critique (valued at $99).
Transportation (including flights) to Death Valley National Park.
Transportation during the trip (we will arrange carpools when traveling to different locations).
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.
*Note: All participants must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to join any Capture the Atlas workshop or Photo Tour
*Capture the Atlas operates under a CUA (Commercial Use Authorization) with the National Park Service to run photography workshops in the park premises.
What will I learn during this Milky Way workshop?
This workshop is focused on advanced Milky Way photography. Considering you will already have a good foundation in this type of photography, you should progress very quickly during the workshop. Your instructor, Dan, is a professional landscape astrophotographer with extensive experience who will help you take your photography to the next level.
*Note: As soon as you sign up for this workshop, you will have access to Dan’s full Capture the Milky Way course, which will give you the perfect knowledge base before you join this astrophotography workshop.
All types of blendings (exposure, focal length, focus, etc).
Advanced star reduction.
Milky Way structure.
Extraction of the night sky’s natural color.
Your instructor on this death valley astrophoto tour
Danwill be the tour leader throughout this Death Valley Milky Way workshop and he will make sure that you get the best photography results and experience out of this tour. He will help you with composition, technique, and post-processing in your Milky Way images using advanced methods and star-trackers.
He is based in California and has explored Death Valley National Park in depth over the past few years. He is very knowledgeable, not only about the most well-known locations in Death Valley but also about the best hidden gems in the park.
Dan’s mission is to help others discover, learn, and master their Milky Way photography. He has spent years pursuing this passion, both online through articles, guides, and ebooks, and offline on his signature photo tours.
He’s also the creator of the popular “Capture the Atlas Milky Way Calendars,” which help 40,000+ photographers plan their shots around the world every year, and the creator and curator of “The Milky Way Photographer of the Year”, an award-winning annual list that inspires hundreds of thousands of people to go out and photograph the Milky Way.
You’ve probably seen Dan in…
WHAT TO BRING TO A DEATH VALLEY ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY TOUR
A complete list of everything that we recommend for this tour is sent to all participants upon sign-up. 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, from 14 to 35 mm.
A medium zoom lens, such as 35-50 mm.
A laser for doing polar alignment.
A camera bag to transport all your equipment.
Glow-in-the-dark tape for your tripod.
A laptop for the post-processing lessons.
*While zoom lenses are valid for this workshop, prime lenses are recommended for Milky Way tracking. Some of the best lenses in this range are the 20,24,28,35, 40 & 50 mm f/1.4 or f/1.8.
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.
Even though Death Valley is the hottest place in North America, temperatures are mild and pleasant at the beginning of spring, so there won’t be extreme heat conditions.
However, some nights can be windy, making the temperature feel a bit cooler.
For this reason, we recommend bringing the following clothing:
A system of layers to wear at night (base layer, windproof layer).
A good pair of breathable boots (to protect your feet and ankles while hiking in terrain like salt flats or sand dunes).
A light hat and gloves for the night photography sessions in case it gets cold.
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.
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 on difficult roads, some of them may be unpaved, so an SUV with all-wheel drive is recommended 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. The ones you can find are generally not cheap. 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.
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.
WHAT MAKES THIS DEATH VALLEY ASTROPHOTO TOUR UNIQUE?
You don’t need to be an expert astrophotographer to join this workshop, but a good foundation in Milky Way photography is recommended to be able to make the most of the experience.
You should be able to manage your camera comfortably at night, be familiar with the best settings, and know how to focus on the stars at night and edit Milky Way images.
It doesn’t matter if you have never used a tracker before; Dan will show you all the steps so you can start taking your first Milky Way tracked images.
If you are an advanced astrophotographer, you’ll learn some top-notch techniques from Dan to track complex Milky Way panoramas with different blendings and at longer focal lengths and work on some specific post-processing techniques.
While we won’t do any long or strenuous hikes, most shooting locations in Death Valley will require a relatively short 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 enjoy this experience.
Also, 90% of the shoots will be done at night, so bear in mind that we will have a vampire-like, nocturnal schedule rather than that of a normal person during the workshop 😉
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.
Dan has probably been one of the biggest supporters of my growth in photography everything from one-on-ones in the field to post-processing. I have not yet had the pleasure of taking an overseas tour with him yet but, from what I have seen, it is an epic adventure. I would highly recommend his services and would like to give Dan huge thanks
1 on 1 Post-Processing Training
We had a fantastic workshop with Dan working on shooting techniques. Dan is a wonderful guide, patient, funny and helpful. I have been waiting to invest in filters to understand what I really needed and Dan let me borrow his to get a feel of what I would need to invest in. We grabbed some fantastic shots.
Ricketts Glen Photography Workshop
When I started editing my star-tracked photos. I wasn't able to get the most from the raw files. Dan has shown me how to enhance the original details and recover the amazing colors of the night skies. Although these advanced techniques can be quite daunting, Dan makes them really easy to follow.
Jose Luis Cantabrana
1 on 1 Post-Processing Training
On my recent photo tour to Iceland, not only was I able to see the Northern Lights, but I also was able to photograph them thanks to Dan's tutelage and patience! I returned home with not only amazing pictures but also renewed enthusiasm for photography. Dan's passion for photography and landscapes is unequivocal.
Iceland Photography Tour
All the training sessions that I’ve taken with Dan have been highly instructive. We were able to adjust the program to my personal interests. Both the methodology and the logistics that accompanied each of the sessions have worked perfectly. Highly recommended.
1 on 1 Post-Processing Coaching
If you really want to learn how to improve your photography, I highly recommend Capture the Atlas. l had a private class with Dan, and he was very detailed explaining everything about my camera settings, lenses, and post-processing. His skills are superb and he’s always eager to share all his knowledge.