Join us for a Monument Valley astrophotography workshop where we’ll photograph the Milky Way over some of the most impressive nightscapes in the Southwest.
We are running these tours in May 2023, during the best time of year to photograph the Milky Way in the iconic Monument Valley.
During this Monument Valley photography workshop, we’ll focus on shooting nightscapes and the Milky Way over the most spectacular rock formations and landscapes in the park.
We’ll photograph the stars over the iconic buttes, the Milky Way galaxy moving across the Totem Pole, impressive, secluded arches, and locations that have been barely photographed at night.
To access these remote and private locations, we’ll be joined by a group of Navajo guides, granting us the opportunity to learn more about the culture of this Native American tribe.
During our Milky Way astrophotography adventure to Monument Valley, we’ll personally help you capture the best possible images. We will also show you the best techniques to shoot the Milky Way, from the basics to the most advanced techniques, and we’ll do a post-processing session so you can bring your captured images to life.
While this workshop is primarily focused on astro shooting at night, we will also have time to capture the sunrise, sunset, and daytime images when the schedule and conditions allow.
Our Monument Valley photography workshop itinerary is on a fixed schedule, but we can change some locations according to the weather conditions.
Our workshop takes place during the best time of the year to capture the Milky Way arch over the desert landscapes of Monument Valley when our galaxy is visible from around 11:00 PM to sunrise. If there are clear skies, we will spend as much time as possible shooting the night sky.
We will sleep in the morning, focus either on post-processing or scouting in the afternoon and evening, and shoot some fiery sunsets when conditions allow.
Our Monument Valley photo tour begins at Goulding’s Lodge at 12:00 PM. This historic hotel was originally a trading post and accommodated several actors while they shot some of the most famous Western films in the park. Also, the hotel is conveniently located just a short drive from Monument Valley, so it’s ideal for our workshop.
Goulding’s Lodge offers a nice view of the majestic buttes that characterize this part of the desert, and it will be our base camp during the first two nights of our stay in Monument Valley.
After a meet and greet with the rest of the group, we’ll do our welcome speech and orientation, followed by a general night photography talk and an individual gear review to make sure that everything is ready for the first night session.
Later, we’ll drive to the park to take our sunset tour. Monument Valley is located on Navajo land, and only a small fraction of the area is open to visitors. If you want to visit the best locations in the park, you need to go with a local guide.
We will take a sunset scouting and photography tour in the park with our Navajo guides. During this tour, we’ll scout out some of the most impressive locations in the park, some of which we’ll shoot later during the night sessions. We will photograph the last sun rays illuminating the iconic Totem Pole, and then head to another viewpoint to photograph the sunset.
At night, we’ll start our first astrophotography session, capturing a Milky Way arch panorama in the Totem Pole area, and later we’ll photograph our galaxy perfectly aligned with the Totem Pole, with the sand dunes as a leading line in the foreground.
After these two locations, we’ll wrap up the night in another secluded location, where we’ll have a privileged view of the buttes to capture either individual images with a diagonal Milky Way or a higher full arch with the most iconic “monuments” in the frame.
On the second day of our Monument Valley photography workshop, we’ll start the day with a post-processing session, editing the images captured during the previous night.
We will show you all the steps to make the most of the images you’ve captured in the field, so you’ll have Milky Way images full of detail and natural colors.
Depending on the conditions, we could do a sunset session in one of the open areas in the park.
At night, we’ll go back to photographing the Milky Way. We’ll start the night shooting a panorama over the classic monuments of West and East Mitten and Merry Butte. This is one of the most iconic compositions in Monument Valley, and we’ll show you some advanced techniques to minimize the light pollution that partially affects this area.
After this, we’ll go on a second private tour with our Navajo guides, this time shooting the night sky in different remote locations in the park.
The third day of our Monument Valley astrophotography workshop will take us to one of the most special locations in the entire Southwest: Hunts Mesa.
This place is located on top of an eroded mesa, and from here you can see one of the wildest views of the American desert; a grand landscape shaped by eons of water and wind forces.
This is also one of the most remote locations in the desert, and reaching this plateau is an adventure in itself. To make the most of this, we’ll take a fully outfitted overnight tour with our Navajo guides. They will drive us through this difficult terrain and prepare all the logistics for meals and for setting up our camp, where we’ll sleep in comfortable domo tents.
We’ll arrive in time for sunset, so we’ll photograph the sun painting this vast landscape in a breathtaking scene.
We’ll wake up early to photograph a final sunrise session in a different viewpoint of Hunts Mesa, where you can capture a variety of compositions using your telephoto lens.
The timeframe between Milky Way photography and the sunrise is very short, and there won’t be much time to sleep, but considering the uniqueness of this location, we’ll organize the shooting with our guides. That said, you can stay back and sleep for a few more hours if you prefer to be well rested for the remainder of the day.
After the morning shoot, we’ll recharge our batteries with a full breakfast cooked by our Navajo guides, before driving back to civilization and wrapping up our Monument Valley photo workshop.
A $1,000 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 14, 2023. If the remaining balance is not paid in full by the due date, you will lose your spot.
This workshop is mainly focused on night and Milky Way photography. However, we will also photograph landscapes during the blue and golden hours, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to learn about landscape astrophotography.
What you learn during the workshop will vary according to your goals and skills. Your instructor is a professional photographer with extensive experience who will help you take your photography to the next level.
Some of the photography basics you can learn during the workshop are:
Some of the advanced photography techniques you can learn during the workshop are:
Some of the post-processing techniques that you can learn with are:
Your instructors on this Monument Valley Milky Way Photography Tour
Dan will be the tour leader throughout this Monument Valley photography workshop and will make sure that you get the best photography results and experience out of this tour. He will help you take your Milky Way images to the next level, helping you with composition, technique, and post-processing according to your skills.
He is based in California and has explored the Monument Valley desert in depth over the past few years. He is very knowledgeable, not only about the best locations but also about the best time and lighting to photograph them. He has also collaborated with our Navajo guides on previous trips, exploring and photographing new locations in the park and designing this trip to provide the most immersive experience.
Dan is a renowned astrophotographer who enjoys educating other photographers about Milky Way photography in workshops and tutorials, and on photography trips. His images have been awarded by recognized organizations like NASA and the Royal Observatory of Greenwich, and this is the only astrophotography workshop that Dan will be leading in the U.S. in 2023, so it’s a great opportunity to join and learn with him in the field.
You’ve probably seen Dan in…
Daniel Gomez will be the co-leader of this workshop and will help you capture the night images that you’re envisioning.
He has explored and led multiple astrophotography workshops in the Southwest on previous trips, and he is an expert in photographing the night sky in this desert environment.
Daniel is based in Oregon and has been taking photos for the last 9 years. 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 star trails and timelapses. 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.
Ascen will be the co-leader on this workshop, and she will help you capture blazing night-sky images.
She’s been doing night photography over the last 7 years, and she has shot the Milky Way across the entire American West Coast and in many other areas around the world. She is the creator of the Capture the Atlas Milky Way Calendars as well as the curator of images for the annual “Milky Way Photographer of the Year” article.
Ascen also has a very trained eye for composition, and she will help you find and capture stunning compositions on this trip.
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:
Some optional items if you are focused on advanced MW photography are:
*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:
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 the sun makes temperatures warm during the day, nights can be chilly in Monument Valley, especially on the Hunts Mesa plateau.
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 you can fly into to attend this workshop. The main international airports are:
There are also some closer domestic airports:
Airline ticket prices will depend on the airport you are flying from. We recommend reading our guide on how to find cheap flights if you want help finding the best flights from your location.
Transportation will not be included except for the tours that we’ll take in Monument Valley with our Navajo guides.
You need to arrange your own transportation to Goulding’s Lodge and to the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park.
We will arrange carpools when traveling to Monument Valley from the hotel as well as organize rental car sharing in case other participants are interested in renting a car at a specific airport.
The road to Monument Valley is paved, but the road within the park is a dirt road, so we recommend a 4WD SUV.
Accommodation is included in a shared double room with queen beds at Goulding’s Lodge for 2 nights and a shared tent during the Hunts Mesa overnight tour.
Private rooms and tents are available on a limited basis according to the following supplement:
Meals are not included, except for dinner and breakfast on the Hunts Mesa tour.
This is a remote area and there aren’t many restaurants, but Goulding’s Lodge has a restaurant and offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
We also recommend buying groceries in a major city before the trip so you can stock up on food, drinks, and snacks for the next few days. Our mealtimes will vary depending on the shooting conditions, so we recommend having food in case the restaurant is closed.
The Navajo pass to access the land in Monument Valley is $8 per person per day. You can get your pass in person at the kiosk before entering the park.
Whether you are experienced or just starting out in Milky Way 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.
All locations are a short and easy walk from our home base in the park.
For some locations, like Totem Pole, we’ll walk for a bit over the sand dunes, but in all the others, the terrain is a flat desert landscape.
One exception is Spiderweb Arch; to reach the top of this arch, you need to scramble over a rocky slope. Our Navajo guides will help you by setting up some ropes so you can go up and down safely, but we don’t recommend this unless you are in good physical shape to scramble at night while carrying your camera gear. There is another easy location scheduled for the same night in Hunts Mesa in case you don’t feel prepared to reach Spiderweb Arch.
There is no age limit. This trip is perfect for anyone over 18 years old who wants to photograph the Milky Way in Monument Valley with us.
You don’t need a star-tracker, but you can bring one to the workshop if you have a good foundation in Milky Way photography and you’d like to focus on some advanced shooting.
We have had the opportunity to work with and help countless photographers over the last few years. Sharing and teaching photography is our passion, and we love doing this both online and in the field.
If you think about the “Wild West”, it’s very likely that a picture of the classic sandstone monument buttes of this region will come to mind.
However, Monument Valley goes beyond the three main buttes and the typical Western movie locations. This is one of the best hidden gems for night photography in North America, with surreal, otherworldly landscapes that have been barely photographed at night.
If you want to mix vast landscapes, glorious starry skies, Native American culture, and a small dose of adventure, this is the right experience for you.
Let’s capture the Milky Way!