John Muir dubbed the Sierra Nevada mountain chain as the "Range of Light." This incredibly beautiful and vast region is one of the most photogenic places on earth. Comprised of nearly 40,000 square miles, one could spend their entire life photographing these mountains. Located just east of Yosemite National Park, the Eastern Sierra is even more rugged and remote with only a fraction of the visitors as Yosemite. This Sierra Nevada horseback photography workshop will take you into the heart of one of the most beautiful places in the world!
This year's backcountry photography workshop will take us into the rightfully named Ansel Adams Wilderness. There, we will spend five days photographing alpine lakes, lush creeks, rugged peaks, and wild flowers. If we are lucky, we'll experience an afternoon thunderstorm or two, as July is the start of the monsoon season. Don't let the possibility of a storm scare you though. Storms offer great lighting conditions and usually do not drop too much precipitation despite their moniker.
Who This Workshop is For
This workshop is for landscape photographers who want to take incredible images of places that are completely off the radar of most other photographers. It is also for photographers who have a sense of adventure and love to explore with a small group as well as on their own. It is recommended that all participants are somewhat comfortable using their camera and tripod since I will not be able to be by everyone's side at all times due to the immense scale and variety of compositions that some of the shooting locations offer. We'll scout out shooting locations in advance whenever possible so you're ready for the shot when the light gets good.
What To Expect
Get ready for the experience of a lifetime in the setting of a small group photography workshop! The group will have a maximum of six participants which allows for a comfortable shooting experience and will help prevent others from getting in your shots. Best of all, we'll be riding into the backcountry on horseback to photograph the Ansel Adams Wilderness! Photographing the backcountry by horseback will save our backs from having to lug heavy gear deep into the mountains allowing us to save our energy for creating beautiful images. No horse riding experience is required since we will have a professional packer with the group at all times.
We'll shoot sunrise and sunset on every full day of the workshop, with the opportunity to do a little astro photography on two of the nights. (weather permitting) The workshop has been deliberately scheduled around a dark sky so we'll be able to see the core of the milky-way very clearly once the sun has fully set. Since our schedule will have us up early in the morning and rather late at night on some nights, we'll take large breaks in the middle of the day for napping, swimming, and personal exploring. I recommend bringing a small book to read or journal for our down time. Should a mid-day thunderstorm happen upon us, we'll break out the cameras and shoot that as well.
The weather in the Sierra Nevada is very unpredictable. It can go from very hot and sunny to near freezing with rain or snow within minutes. It is very important to be prepared for just about every type of weather condition when photographing in the mountains. A bathing suite or jogging shorts with a light shirt are great options for when the sun is blazing, but you'll also want a light jacket accompanied by a heavy-duty puffy jacket so you can layer up for night when the temperatures can drop into the 40's and possibly colder. Thunderstorms can build very quickly in the Sierra Nevada so a rain jackets is a must.
No camping experience is required. Please let me know if this workshop will be your first time camping in the backcountry though so I can make sure that you have all of the proper gear and can answer any questions that you might have. Small one or two person backpacking tents are recommended for this trip in order to save space and weight for the other items that we will be taking into the back country. REI offers affordable equipment rentals should you need something that you do not already own.
While the horses will be doing the hard work of getting us and our gear into the backcountry, we will still need to do a small amount of hiking to get to our shooting locations from our base camps. Some of the shooting locations will be located between one and two miles from our camp. The terrain that we will be crossing varies from easy and flat to moderate with switchbacks. The longest distance we will have to travel to a shooting location is on flat ground. Participants are more than welcome to sit out any hike that they do not feel comfortable doing since there will also be shooting options near our base camps as well. Should you decide to stay back at any point, I'll make sure to point out some compositions before hand.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner will be provided on every full day of the workshop. Breakfast will consist of my famous backcountry oatmeal. This stuff is not the bland chalk that you might think of when you think of oatmeal. My oatmeal is loaded with with nuts and fruit that create an explosion of flavor in your mouth. During the middle of the day we will snack on delicious tuna sandwiches with various flavor choices including Deli style, jalapeno, buffalo style, lemon and more. For dinner we will an assortment of backpacker meals to choose from. I will also have trail bars to help tie you over throughout the day. Please let me know if you have any soft of dietary restrictions well in advance of the workshop and I will do my best to accommodate.
Orientation: Meetup the night before to discuss gear and itinerary.
Day 1.Meet up at Red's Meadow pack station at 7:30am. Pack into Thousand Island Lake. Set up camp. Sunset Shoot
Day 2. Shoot sunrise at Thousand Island Lake. Midday break. Sunset at Thousand island lake.
Day 3. Shoot Sunrise at Thousand Island Lake. Pack up camp. Transport to Ediza with lunch stop at Garnet Lake. Setup camp at Ediza Lake. Shoot sunset in the Ediza Lake region
Day 4. Shoot Sunrise at Ediza lake. Sunset and night shooting at Iceberg lake.
Day 5. Sunrise at Ediza Lake. Pack out.
• Professional photography guide and instructor
• Horseback transportation through the backcountry
• Local Pack Guide
• Backcountry Meals
• Virtual Post Processing session after the workshop has concluded
WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED
• Airfare & airport transportation
• Vehicle transportation to pack station
• Packer Gratuites
• Travel Insurance
• Photography Equipment
Sometimes life can get in the way of a good a thing. Hopefully that doesn’t happen during this workshop, but if it does the following cancelation policy applies.
• 90 days or more – Full refund minus a $200 cancelation fee
• 60 days or more – 50% refund
• 60 days or less – no refund
Should have to cancel and I find a replacement for your space, I’ll refund your full payment minus the $200 cancelation fee.
I strongly encourage “cancel for any reason” travel insurance. Check out Square Mouth for more details on trip insurance.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will there be mosquitoes? That depends on how much snowfall we receive in the winter months. If it was a wet winter the mosquitos can be quite invasive. If it was a dry year they may not be too bad. Bug spray and a head net are great items to bring along with you just incase the mosquitos get bad at any point.
What elevation will be at? We will be between 9,000 - 10,000 feet for most of the duration of the trip.
What Lenses will I need? A wide angle lens is going to be your best friend in the backcountry. I recommend a 16-35mm on a full frame camera. or a 10-22mm on a crop sensor. A 70-200mm lens can sometimes be useful as well but you'll mostly be shooting wide for the entire trip. I recommend bring a maximum of two lenses do to space and weight restrictions.
What Camera Gear should I bring? It is very important to bring only the gear that is absolutely necessary. This includes
• One camera body
• A lens or two
• a PL filter and a solid screw on ND filter if desired
• A lens blower and cloth
• A spare battery for every day on the backcountry. I recommend a minimum of 4
• Any tools that you might need to tighten tripod screws.
How do I pack and transport my camera gear in the backcountry? I like to pack my camera with the lens attached into a Navin sling bag by f-stop bags. I then place that into a 20L dry sack with the rest of my spare items and pack that into my hiking backpack. When in the field I like to use a foldable backpack to store my camera gear and water in while hiking. When it come to the tripod, I imply carry it in my hand when doing a day hike.
What Camping gear do I need to bring? You will need to bring the following items:
• A small backpacking tent. (Not a large Coleman tent that you buy at Target)
• A small sleeping pad
• A warm sleeping bag ( I recommend a zero degree bag if you can get your hands on one.) While the night temperatures are typically in the 40s-50s in the summer, freak snowstorms can happen.
• Waterproof Hiking Boots
• A water container that can hold a minimum of 40 liters (I recommend a bladder system that can be placed in a backpack or strapped around your shoulder as you hike.)
• Bright Headlamp with spare batteries.
• A reusable bowl and spork.
• Dry sack for camera gear.
• Foldable Backpack for day hikes
• Bug Spray