Join us for a Utah astrophotography workshop in Arches & Canyonlands National Parks where we’ll capture our Milky Way over some of the most spectacular nightscapes in the Utah High Desert. We are running this tour during the best time of year to photograph the Milky Way in Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.
During this Utah astrophotography workshop, we will focus specifically on shooting nightscapes and the Milky Way over the most photogenic formations and landscapes of Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. You’ll see everything from giant arches and Martian rock formations to enormous canyons and majestic views. This is a high-desert area, located far and above other sources of light pollution, where we’ll enjoy ideal conditions for astrophotography.
We will help you capture the best possible images during this Milky Way astrophotography tour to Arches & Canyonlands. You’ll learn the best techniques to shoot the Milky Way, from the basics to the most advanced techniques, and we will also do some post-processing sessions 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, sunsets, and daytime images when the timeframe and conditions allow.
Our Utah 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 over the High Desert landscapes of Utah. In the spring, you can photograph Milky Way panoramas at the beginning of the night, and a diagonal Milky Way at the middle and end of the night. Nights get warmer from mid-April, and the skies are usually crisp and clear with ideal conditions for Astro.
We will also have the time to shoot daytime landscapes when the clouds roll by, show you how to scout and plan images in the field, and focus on post-processing sessions during the middle of the day when the light is harsh.
Our Utah Milky Way photo tour begins at the Wingate by Windham in Moab at 2:00 PM. This hotel is situated in an ideal spot at one of the shortest drives from the main shooting locations. It’s also very close to the best restaurants in Moab, and it will be our base camp during our stay in Utah.
After a meet and greet with the rest of the group and a welcome speech, we will do a first classroom session where we will talk about the best recommendations and settings for shooting the Milky Way, and we will check and prepare all your camera gear so everything is ready to shoot in the field.
At night, we will do our first Milky Way photography session if confitions allow. Our first location would be at Balanced Rock; one of the most photogenic rock formations in Arches that offers an ideal framing for both Milky Way panoramas and a more diagonal Milky Way in the sky.
After this, we’ll stop on a second location in the Courthouse Towers area where we will frame the Milky Way between some of the most spectacular walls in Utah just before the blue hour starts.
(*From 2020, Arches & Canyonlands National Parks no longer allow the use of light painting or low-level-lighting for shooting at night).
On the second day of our Utah astrophotography workshop, we will photograph some of the most impressive locations in the park, focusing especially on scouting and finding the best compositions for our night shoots. Shooting locations will include some iconic landmarks like Turret Arch, The Windows, Double Arch, and Garden of Eden.
We will photograph the walls of the famous Turret and Windows arches painted in red by the setting sun, and come back at night to shoot the Milky Way over some new locations.
The third day of our Arches astrophotography workshop will take us to other impressive locations in this national park.
We will start the day by doing our first post-processing session. During the class, we’ll show you examples of how we edit our images taken Milky Way photos captured during the previous nights, and also sit down with you to help you with your post-production as you edit your images from the trip.
For the shooting session, we will focus on one of the highlights of the trip: photographing the Milky Way over Delicate Arch. This location requires some hiking to get to it, so we will plan accordingly so we are there at the right time to shoot the sunset, blue hour, and early Milky Way. This arch is probably the most iconic formation in the entire state of Utah and features a perfect arch with the renowned La Sal Mountains in the background.
If you don’t want to take this hike, there is a plan B and one of our instructors will take you to a more accesible location to photograph the Milky Way in the park.
In the next afternoon of our Utah astro photo tour, we will start the day by doing another post-processing session, where we’ll continue showing you different workflows and editing tips and tricks; and also help you bring the images that you captured to life.
In the evening, we’ll visit a new area in Arches National Park around the area known as “The Fins” and Skyline Arch. The plan will be to scout and photograph the sunset over Skyline Arch.
If conditions are good for Astro, we’ll do a session in this area of the park. Skyline arch offers a beautiful framing for a Milky Way Panorama, and that’s where we will start the first session and then move to the fins once the Milky Way gets higher in the sky.
On the fifth day of the tour, we will start our Canyonlands photography workshop section. This national park offers some of the best dramatic views and overlooks of the Colorado and the Green Rivers.
We will start the day photographing Dead Horse Point State Park. This park is located on the edge of a 2,000 ft mesa overlooking the Colorado river, and It offers stunning vistas and one of the most impressive grand landscapes in the entire Southwest. Depending on the previous night shooting conditions, we’ll photograph either the sunsrise when the sun paint the walls of the canyons or in the morning when the light is still not harsh.
Once in Canyonlands National Park, we’ll photograph the most popular viewpoints in the area, like the Grand View in the “Island in the Sky” area, the popular Mesa Arch, and the Green River overlook.
At night, we will return to Dead Horse Point. This is also one of the best places for astrophotography in the area, so we’ll frame the Milky Way with some photogenic trees and different subjects.
On day 6, we’ll have the last post-processing session, where we’ll work with you on your best images of the trip.
We will also have a group discussion about the night images captured by the group and provide some insights so you can keep practicing and improving your editing skills.
We will photograph the sunset in one of the viewpoints of Arches National Park, and we’ll have a last group dinner in Moab.
If conditions allow, we will have a final Milky Way photography session in any of the previous locations if there were clouds that night or in a new location in Arches National Park.
On the last day of our photography workshop, we will have a final morning session where we will photograph the sun illuminating either the Colorado River or Arches National Park, depending on the previous night session.
After breakfast in our hotel, we will conclude our Arches & Canyonlands photography workshop.
Deposit: USD 1,000
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 January 14th, 2023. If the remaining balance is not paid in full by the due date, you will lose your spot.
*Capture the Atlas operates under a CUA (Commercial Use Authorization) with the National Park Service to run photography workshops on the park premises. Under this permit, all instructors and participants don’t require any of the new timed entry tickets that are mandatory to access the park since 2022.
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 Utah Astrophoto Tour
Daniel Gomez will be the tour leader of this Utah 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, composition, and post-processing for both day and night images.
Daniel has explored and led astrophotography workshops in Arches & Canyonlands National Parks 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.
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 timelapse. He will be able to help you find great compositions and help you with your night photography from the basics to advanced techniques like star-tracking.
John Byrn will be the co-leader of this Utah workshop. He has a background in photographing many different subjects, specializes in astrophotography, and focuses on strong compositions captured during the best moments of light and atmosphere.
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:
-20 mm f/1.8, 24 mm f/1.4, 28 mm f/1.4, 35 mm f/1.8, 40 mm f/1.4, 50 mm f/1.8
You can get them either from your camera brand or from third-party manufacturers like Rokinon or Sigma.
*This Utah 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 may be interested in this guide, where you can dive deeper into photography equipment for traveling.
Even though the sun makes temperatures very warm during the day, nights can be chilly on the Utah High Desert plateau, especially if there is wind.
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 from Moab. The closest airport is the Canyonlands Regional Airport, which is a 20-minute drive from Moab.
However, there aren’t many flights or rental car options there compared to other major airports, so the main options are Salt Lake City International Airport (3:30 approx. from Moab), Denver Int. Airport (5:30 approx. From Moab), and Las Vegas International Airport (6:45 approx. from Moab).
Airline ticket prices will depend on the airport you are flying from. We recommend reading this article if you want to find the best flights from your current location.
Transportation will not be included, and all the driving will be on paved, easy roads, so any type of vehicle is fine for this Utah 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.
Meals are not included, except for breakfast in our hotel.
Moab has grocery stores where you can buy food, drinks, and snacks. We recommend buying some groceries and snacks before the start of the tour since our schedule will completely depend on the shooting conditions.
We will try to go every day to a local restaurant either for lunch or dinner.
The Southeast Utah park pass to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks costs $55 and is valid for a week. You can get your pass in person at the kiosk before entering the park.
Since 2022, there is a timed entry reservation system to access Arches National Park from 6 AM to 5 PM daily. This doesn’t apply to us since we have a commercial authorization permit for the workshop, but bear this in mind if you want to visit the park before or after the trip. You can see more information here.
If you plan to visit more national parks within the following year after the workshop, we recommend getting the “America the Beautiful” annual pass, which gives you unlimited access to all national parks and some state parks in the country for only $80. You can get it online here.
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.
Generally, we won’t do any long or strenuous hikes, since most locations are a relatively short walk from the parking lot. Delicate Arch is the only exception. To reach Delicate, there’s a 3-mile hike with 630 ft elevation gain. We’ll most likely hike to this location at night, which can make the trail harder. There will be a plan B if you don’t want to take this hike.
Also, 90% of the shoots will be done at sunrise and afyter sunset, so bear in mind that we will have a nocturnal schedule during the workshop and some days we will have to sacrifice some sleep. For this reason, we recommend having good energy levels and being in good physical shape to enjoy this experience.
There is no age limit. This trip is perfect for anyone over 18 years old who wants to photograph Utah 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.
Since 2022, Arches National Park requires a timed entry ticket with a specific time slot in advance to access the park.
However, as holders of a commercial use authorization permit, you don’t need any timed ticket to access the park during the workshop. The only requirement will be having your National Park pass described above.
We have had the opportunity to work with and help countless photographers in Utah over the last few years. Sharing and teaching photography is our passion, and we love doing this both online and in the field.
The Utah High Desert is one of the most special places where I have photographed the Milky Way. There is something magical about being in a desert plateau away from light pollution and surrounded by a dark, starry sky with only the sound of coyotes howling in the distance.
In this vast area, you will find not only Martian landscapes and otherworldly arches, canyons, and rock formations, but also memories that will last a lifetime.
Let’s capture the Milky Way!