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2024 Death Valley WINTER Milky Way astrophotography workshop

Capture our galaxy at its best!

Join us for a Death Valley Winter 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 workshop in February, during the best time of year to photograph the Winter Milky Way arch in Death Valley National Park.

Overview

Our Death Valley Winter 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 is 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 this workshop. I will show you the best techniques to shoot the Milky Way with a star-tracker, including models like the Benro Polaris. We will teach you how to capture complex multirow tracked panoramas, and the best tips to make the most of your Astro modified camera.

We will also do some intense advanced post-processing sessions, where we will use top-notch techniques to bring your night images to life. 

The group is limited to 10 advanced astrophotographers so we can have productive sessions and you can get the best hands-on experience.

Death Valley winter astrophotography tour highlights

  • Photo workshops from Feb 2nd-6th  & Feb 7th-11th, 2024
  • Group size: 10 participants + 2 instructors
  • Main topics: Winter Tracked Panoramas, Star-trackers, Astro modified cameras
  • Main areas: Death Valley National Park
  • Best time of year to photograph the Milky Way arch in Death Valley
  • Daily advanced post-processing sessions
  • Accommodation at The Ranch, the best hotel in the heart of Death Valley

Is this Death Valley workshop the Right experience for me?

This Death Valley astrophotography workshop is specifically aimed at advanced photographers with a solid foundation in Milky Way and night photography.

We will focus on using star-trackers in the field and advanced techniques in post. Having previous experience with star-trackers and some editing techniques like blendings is a must. 

Having an astromodified camera is not mandatory, but we strongly recommend it. The winter part of the Milky Way is very rich in hydrogen alpha regions, and a considerable part of the workshop will be aimed at capturing and editing those beautiful regions. You can learn more about where to astro modify your camera below. 

If you are just starting out in Milky Way photography, I recommend joining our Death Valley & Alabama Hills photography workshop instead, which is aimed at all levels. 

2024 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 winter Milky Way arch over the Death Valley floor, when the Orion constellation and our galaxy are visible. 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 and sunset during our scouting sessions if you like.

DAY 1: DEATH VALLEY ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP

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, a short drive from the main shooting locations. This will be our base camp during our stay in Death Valley.

For the first shooting, 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 winter Milky Way arch with Death Valley National Park’s most iconic landscape features: the classic polygonal salt formations in the foreground and Telescope peak, the highest mountain in Death Valley, 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

On the second day of our Death Valley astrophotography workshop, we will start the day with our first post-processing session.

Our editing sessions are immersive and will focus on different topics. I will show you 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.

Some of the advanced post-processing techniques that you will learn are multirow panorama stitching, new star reduction methods, h-alpha color extraction, and h-alpha color integration with images taken with a narrowband filter. 

Right before sunset, we will explore the Cottonball Basin, where you can find unique patterns with white salty pools surrounded by thick brown borders. This is one of the best hidden gems in Death Valley where you feel like being on another planet. These formations change every year depending on the rainfall, so we will take the time to scout and find the most photogenic patterns to photograph them at night. 

DAY 3: DEATH VALLEY MILKY WAY PHOTO WORKSHOP

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. I will be seating with you and help with challenging steps, recommendations, and tips so you can bring spectacular night images to life. 

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 winter Milky Way at night. 

 

DAY 4: DEATH VALLEY PHOTO ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP

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 editing. We will also have a group discussion about the images that you have captured during the trip.

In the evening, and, depending on the conditions, we will visit either the Mesquite Sand dunes or the Mud Cracks for our last Milky Way shoot.

 

DAY 5: DEATH VALLEY PHOTO ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP

On the last day of the trip, we will have lunch together before concluding our Death Valley Milky Way photography workshop.

PRICE: USD 3,490 

Deposit: USD 1,500 

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

WHAT DOES THE PRICE INCLUDE?

INCLUDED

  • Accommodation in shared double rooms at The Ranch at Furnace Creek for 4 nights.
  • 5 days of photo guide services by professional astrophotographers Dan Zafra, James McGivern, and Dorian Sanders
  • Immersive instruction in a small group of 10 participants with a 5:1 ratio (5 students per instructor).
  • Star-trackers, tracked panoramas, and astromodified cameras instruction 
  • Dedicated daily advanced post-processing sessions.

*BONUSES

NOT INCLUDED

  • 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.

*Capture the Atlas operates under a CUA (Commercial Use Authorization) with the National Park Service to run photography workshops in the park premises.

 

Dates

GUIDES

Dates

GUIDES

5/5
Pat Worley
Pat WorleyGREAT TOUR!
Read More
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
Sharon LindsayEXCELLENT WORKSHOP
Read More
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
Hiram ShaishEXCEEDED MY EXPECTATIONs+S
Read More
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.
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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.

  • Astro modified cameras white balance calibration
  • The best advanced star-tracking techniques
  • Benro Polaris star-tracker workflow for auto tracked panoramas
  • Tracked Winter Milky Way panoramas
  • H-Alpha+RGB imaging with a narrowband filter
  • Creating powerful nightscape compositions that engage the viewer
  • Designing an effective workflow for shooting at night
  • Creating blue hour and long exposure blends to capture more quality
  • Focus stacking close foregrounds to bring out all the details
  • Image preparation in post-processing
  • Stacking using Starry Landscape Stacker.
  • Advanced panorama stitching using PTGui Pro
  • Noise reduction techniques and plugins
  • All types of blendings (exposure, focal length, focus, etc)
  • Astro modified cameras editing workflow and color adjustments
  • Advanced star reduction techniques, including Pixinsight
  • Extraction of the night sky’s natural color and h-alpha nebulae
  • RGB + H-alpha integration techniques

Your instructor on this DEATH VALLEY WORKSHOP

Dan will be the tour leader throughout this Death Valley photo workshop. He will make sure that you get the best photography results and experience out of this tour, as well as help you with composition, technique, and post-processing in your Milky Way images using advanced methods and star trackers.

He is an experienced astrophotographer with years of experience and has had his work published by renowned organizations such as National Geographic, Forbes, NASA, and more.

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 astrophotography tours.

He’s also the creator of the popular “Capture the Atlas Milky Way Calendars,” which help 50,000+ 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.

James McGivern will be the co-leader for the first group of this workshop. He is a proficient astrophotographer and an expert in capturing all types of images, from wide-field nightscapes to deep-sky imaging.

James is based in Southern California and has explored and photographed some of the best places for Astro in the US, including Death Valley, Joshua Tree, etc.

He has taught night photography workshops at Sky’s the Limit Observatory and has volunteered for several outreach programs at the observatory.

James will be able to help you with your night photography from the basics to advanced techniques like star-tracking.

Dorian Sanders will be the co-leader for the second group 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 focusing on how to use star trackers, how to compose scenes for the most dramatic images, and how to process using a plethora of digital platforms.

Dorian 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, and he can also help you with other topics like landscape photography. He will show you how to find great compositions and help you with your night photography, from the basics to advanced techniques like star-tracking.

You’ve probably seen Capture the Atlas in…

WHAT TO BRING TO A DEATH VALLEY ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY TOUR

Below, you can find a summary of things we recommend on this workshop:

PHOTOGRAPHY GEAR
  • A mirrorless or DSLR camera (preferably astro converted)
  • 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 star-tracker.
  • A laser for doing polar alignment.
  • A camera bag to transport all your equipment.
  • Glow-in-the-dark tape for your tripod.
  • A headlamp.
  • A laptop for the post-processing lessons.
  • A narrowband H-alpha filter (optional)

*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 14, 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 Sigma or Rokinon.

*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.

CAMERA AStRO MODIFICATION

You can perfeclty take part in this workshop and capture beautiful images with a stock camera. However, to capture the highest quality and all the prominent colors in the h-alpha regions, we recommend having an astro converted camera.

It doesn’t matter if you have never shoot with an astro modified camera before; we will walk you through the entire process from customizing your white balance to all the techniques, tips, and recommendations to make the most of it.

To get an astro camera, you can either send a second body for a conversion or purchase a brand new astro modified camera. You can astromodify almost any camera model, but some of the models I recommend if you are getting a new astro camera are the Sony A7III and A7IV, Nikon Z6II, and Canon EOS R6.

There are many labs where you can do a conversion. Please make sure that it is a professional and reputated Astro lab to avoid possible issues. If you are based in the United States, we recommend Spencer’s Camera

The main modification we recommend is a Visible+H-alpha conversion. You can optionally install a heat reduction system but it’s not a must. I recommend watching this masterclass on astromodifications if you are planning to do a conversion. 

You can get $50 off your order if you join the workshop by using the code “CapturetheAtlas” at the checkout.

CLOTHING

Even though Death Valley is the hottest place in North America, temperatures are cold in the winter. Also, 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 ,shell).
    • A good pair of breathable boots (to protect your feet and ankles while hiking in terrain like salt flats or sand dunes).
    • A wool hat and gloves for the night photography sessions.
DOCUMENTATION

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?

FLIGHTS

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

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

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.

ENTRANCE FEE

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?

Immersive

Our astrophotography workshops are completely centered on photography : finding the best moments to shoot at night, running dedicated post-processing sessions, and creating an intensive experience that is conducive to learning and taking the best Milky Way images.

intimate

This workshop is limited to a small group of ten students. This is a key factor for providing the attention you need during the tour and for shooting comfortably without the hassle of noise, headlamps, and the general inconvenience of larger groups.

exclusive

You’ll learn how to best operate a star-tracker as well as the most effective post-processing techniques. The instruction and the setting in an exclusive group of advanced astrophotographers make this astrophotography workshop unique and distinct from standard night photography tours.

dedicated

We will discuss your goals before the tour so we can create a dedicated instruction plan for you and you can make the most of this experience. Once we know about your background, we will provide you with materials before, during, and after the workshop, so the learning process is not just limited to the tour.

proven

We have spent years designing national and international photo tours with successful results, helping photographers with different types of night images like the Northern Lights and the Milky Way. Dan’s online Milky Way courses have helped more than 800 photographers over the last few years

unforgettable

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

You don’t need to be an expert astrophotographer to join this workshop, but a solid foundation in Milky Way photography is recommended to make the most of the experience.

You should be able to manage your camera comfortably at night, be familiar with star-trackers and some editing techniques like blendings.

It doesn’t matter if you have never shot tracked panoramas or used an astromodified camera before; Dan will show you all the steps so you can start taking your first Milky Way tracked panoramas

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 with h-alpha. 

While we won’t do any long or strenuous hikes, most shooting locations in Death Valley will require a hike between half a mile and two miles, sometimes on uneven terrains like salt flats or 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 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 😉 

There is no age limit. This trip is perfect for anyone over 18 years old who wants to photograph the Milky Way at Death Valley with us.

While not mandatory, having a star-tracker is highly recommended if you want to get the most out of this experience.

You can see our list of recommendations in this best star-trackers list

You can perfeclty take part in this workshop and capture beautiful images with a stock camera. However, to capture the highest quality and all the prominent colors in the h-alpha regions, we recommend having an astro converted camera.

It doesn’t matter if you have never shoot with an astro modified camera before; we will walk you through the entire process from customizing your white balance to all the techniques, tips, and recommendations to make the most of it.

To get an astro camera, you can either send a second body for a conversion or purchase a brand new astro modified camera. You can astromodify almost any camera model, but some of the models I recommend if you are getting a new astro camera are the Sony A7III and A7IVNikon Z6II, and Canon EOS R6.

There are many labs where you can do a conversion. Please make sure that it is a professional and reputated Astro lab to avoid possible issues. If you are based in the United States, we recommend Spencer’s Camera

The main modification we recommend is a Visible+H-alpha conversion. You can optionally install a heat reduction system but it’s not a must. I recommend watching this masterclass on astromodifications if you are planning to do a conversion. 

You can get $50 off your order if you join the workshop by using the code “CapturetheAtlas” at the checkout.

Our Happy Students!

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.

Glenn
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
Federico
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
Lauren
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
Hiram
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
RichardSimmons
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.
Richard Simmons
2022 Death Valley & Alabama Hills Photo Tour
CharlesG
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

TERMS AND CONDITIONS

This tour is governed by these Terms and Conditions.

The Milky Way is one of the most spectacular things to see and photograph from our planet, but it’s still overlooked by most photographers during the winter time, when you can capture Orion and other spectacular constellations, nebulae, stars, and objects that are not visible during the rest of the year.

Death Valley offers some of the most dramatic nightscapes in the country, with formations where you’ll feel like being on another planet. Pair this with a beautiful winter Milky Way arch in the sky, and you’ll have all the elements to capture unique images. I want you to experience this, to chase and capture the stars at night with a group of enthusiastic photographers, to learn and share, and to enjoy a trip with unforgettable memories where we’ll take your astrophotography to the next level. Let’s capture the Milky Way!

DAN ZAFRA