Lines In The Sand – Death Valley National Park
Death Valley has a number of unique distinctions, such as being the lowest, driest and hottest place in North America. While these accolades may at first glance not seem very appealing, they do make for an extreme geological display, that yields otherworldly, stunning photographic opportunities. Many of these imaging opportunities are solely unique in this country and even visually scarce world wide.
Jan 4, 2018
Jan 9, 2018
Salt pans, cracked earth tableaus and sand dunes, provide the textured, leading lines that make this region a compositional dream. In our multiple day workshop, we help photographers to not only up their technical game, but we spend significant time learning to see the stark beauty that exists within these scenes. Over the course of our multiple days here, we will thoroughly explore the natural beauty that lies within the desert landscape and learn new ways to capture these scenes so that we may share our observations artfully with others.
Our workshop will focus on two primary goals:
- Exposure:Our first goal will be to understand the typical prevailing light that we will be working with while in Death Valley. We will consider ways by which we can leverage the digital medium that most of us will be using to capture that often pastel light in the best way possible.
- Composition:Our second goal will be to explore the elements of design and rules of composition that can be leveraged to achieve striking and powerful compositions that go far beyond simply words telling a story of the desolate beauty that exists within the park.
As conditions allow, we will explore imaging at all hours of the day and night, working on capturing scenes in as many varied lighting conditions as possible.
Information about this workshop…
Day 01 (January 4th , 2018) (R,S)
Yay! The day has finally arrived and we will all be gathering in Death Valley CA, to get ready for our six (6) day exploration into Death Valley National park.
Our base of operations for this workshop will be:
Hotel Address Phone
Hotel rooms will be prepared and ready for check-in at 4:00 p.m. and our plan is to meet in the lobby of the hotel at 5:30 p.m. for a quick briefing and orientation. Following our 5:30 meeting we will head to a local restaurant for some dinner and socialization. Over dinner we can discuss the plans for the next five (5) days and get to know one another a little better.
At that time, the workshop guide(s), will discuss camera settings and setup for the next day, answer any questions that participants might have and will try to get an overall sense of the varying technical and compositional skills that each participant is bringing to the workshop. As our goal is to send you home with some of the best images of your life, this is a great time to ask questions, voice concerns and set the stage for specific areas of photography that you might need / want help with.
Day 02 (January 5th, 2018) (R, B, L, S)
- Badwater Basin
- Golden Canyon
- Processing Seminar
- Sunset / Blue / Night
- Mesquite Sand Dunes
Day 03 (January 6th , 2018) (R, B, L, S)
- Zabriskie Point
- Lower Badlands
- Lower Badlands
- Processing Seminar
- Sunset / Blue / Night
- Hidden Springs, Natural Bridge
Day 04 (January 7th , 2018) (R, B, L, S)
- Cottonball Basin
- Processing Seminaer
- Eureka Dunes
- Sunset / Blue / Night
Day 05 (January 8th , 2018) (R, B, L, S)
- Racetrack Playa
- Racetrack Playa
- Sunset / Blue / Night
Day 06 (January 9th , 2018) (B)
- Workshop Review Session
NOTE: We use the following single letter codes to indicate that the associated meals and / or services are included as a part of the workshop price.
- R - Room / lodging
- B - Breakfast
- L - Lunch
- D - Dinner
- S - Snacks
- C - Camp outfitting (Basecamping)
- T - Local Transportation
This workshop has been given the following conditions rating code: 33342
Please see the tab(11) Conditions / Fitness Ratingin the sectionInformation about our workshops in general...for an explanation of our Conditions Rating Code system.
Workshop Cost Information
Cost Of This Workshop:
At Soft Lite Studios we try to bundle as many of the on-location costs as possible into the workshop price. The cost for this workshop is:
- $2,995.00 per person, double occupancy (PPDO)
- $3,295.00 per person, single occupancy (PPSO)
Before we go into specific details of what is and is not included in the workshop cost, we would like to share some observations we have made and the decisions they have lead us to:
- We do not bundle the cost of transportation from your home location to our chosen destination city. It has been our experience that most folks like to book their own travel for this segment of their journey. Whether it be flexible dates, add-on days before or after the trip, frequent flyer miles, etc., we find that the vast majority of the time, participants prefer to manager this portion of their journey themselves. If you need a travel agent, please let us know, we will connect you with the travel service that manages all of our logistics.
- We do not manage transportation from the arrival airport, or to the departure airport, for our participants. More often than not, we find that participants want the freedom to come and go as they please, often time electing to get their own rental car. We can and will connect participants together for purposes of ride sharing, but it is between those participant as to the arrangements they decide to agree upon. Typically our guide(s) are busy do pre-shoot scouting or managing other pre / post workshop concerns, so they are most times not available for pre-workshop transportation concerns.
- You will find, that except for rare circumstances (which are specifically spelled out in that workshop's itinerary section) all lodging is included in the workshop price. This lodging is provided based on a per person, double occupancy rate. Single supplement lodging, on a first come first served basis, may be available for your workshop. A single supplement price, if available, will be listed above in this section. Please inquire at time of booking to ensure that this option is still available, as these rooms often sell out early.
- Our workshop itineraries are typically dictated by two factors, location and time of sunrise / sunset. As this is the case, our dining schedule will be dictated by that itinerary and will often times be an atypical schedule at best.
- Keeping the above point in mind, the vast majority of our workshops include breakfasts, lunches, beverages (coffee, tea, juices, water) and healthy snacks throughout the day. Our itineraries and shooting distances often mean that these dining options are made available as mobile foods. We attempt to honor special diet request, when they get to us early enough in the planning process. It is important to keep in mind that sometimes our base of operations can be remote and supplies can be somewhat limited in these locations.
- More often than not, we do not include dinners in the price of our workshops, unless specifically noted in the itinerary. This decision is based primarily on the fact that we tend to try to go to restaurants each evening for dinner. Our experience has been that our participants want to order a variety of appetizers, main courses and potentially alcoholic beverages with their meals. Rather than try to do a fixed price dinner arrangement with the restaurant, we find it much easier to allow our participants to directly order and be responsible for their own dinner checks.
Included In The Cost:
This workshop includes the following dining and / or services options in the workshop cost:
- All lodging costs during the scheduled workshop (unless specifically noted in the itinerary)
- All workshop field guidance
- All workshop technical instruction
- All workshop seminar instruction
- All local contract guide services (as needed)
- All gratuities and tips to service providers that are paid for in the workshop cost
- Meals as indicated in the itinerary
- Snacks as indicated in the itinerary
- Beverages as indicated in the itinerary
Specialty Services Included In The Cost:
- None at this time
Not Included In The Cost:
This workshop does not include the following dinning and / or services options in the workshop cost:
- Transportation to and from your your selected
- Transportation to and from the
destinationcity (first lodging location)
- Local transportation during the workshop, unless specifically called out in the itinerary
- All meals that are not specifically indicated in the itinerary
- Alcoholic and / or specialty beverages
- Specialty activities not specifically included in the itinerary or that are noted as having a separate cost
Your workshop guide(s) will meet you in the destination city (in this case Death Valley, CA) at the prearranged accommodations (both of which are listed below and have corresponding Google Maps links provided), at the time listed in the itinerary. You are responsible for transportation to the destination city from wherever you might be coming from. We find that most of our destinations offer a variety of airport and transportation options (ranging from shuttle service, to taxi, to rental car). We have listed some of those options below for your convenience.
Typically our workshop guide(s) has / have arrived at the destination in advance to get things set up for the workshop, as well as do a little pre-workshop scouting, assessment of local weather forecasts and other factors that might affect the itinerary. This may or may not make the guide(s) available for airport pickups, especially when the airport is located some distance from the destination city. Please plan for transportation from the airport to our accommodations for the workshop.
Most typically our workshop participants want the flexibility of their own rental car and naturally this offers the most amount of freedom in planning your schedule outside of the workshop itinerary. At the same time, many participants will want to car pool, to keep rental costs down and we are happy to connect workshop participants so that they may work out the sharing of transportation and associated fees.
The following information should prove to be useful in planning your travel to this workshop:
Where You Want To End Up (Death Valley, CA):
Death Valley, CA
Our Accommodations While In DestinationCity:
The Ranch at Furnace Creek, Death Valley
Death Valley CA 92328
1 (760) 786-2345
Driving Directions From Major Cities Nearby:
- Start out going east on Wayne Newton Blvd
- Take the ramp toward Airport Exit/I-215/I-15/Rental Car Return
- Merge onto Paradise Rd
- Merge onto I-215 W toward Las Vegas/Los Angeles/Salt Lake City
- Take the I-15 S exit, EXIT 12B, toward Los Angeles
- Merge onto NV-160 W
- Turn left onto E Bell Vista Ave
- E Bell Vista Ave is 0.2 miles past E Bonita Ave If you reach Interceptor Dr you've gone about 0.2 miles too far
- E Bell Vista Ave becomes Bell Vista Rd (Crossing into California)
- Bell Vista Rd becomes State Line Rd
- Turn right onto CA-127
- Take the 1st left onto CA-190
- Turn left onto Death Valley National Park
- Death Valley National Park is 0.3 miles past Airport Rd If you reach Mustard Canyon Rd you've gone about 0.9 miles too far
- Keep left at the fork to continue on Death Valley National Park If you reach the end of Death Valley National Park you've gone a little too far
Airports In The Vicinity Of Our Accommodations
McCarran International Airport (code: LAS)
5757 Wayne Newton Blvd
Las Vegas, NV 89119
Information about our workshops in general…
Frequently Asked Questions:
- On average how many guests are at any given workshop?
- What is the average age of your workshop participants?
- What level of photography skill do I need to have?
- What if we experience bad weather?
- Are non-photographers (spouses / significant others / friends) welcome?
- What types of accommodations are offered on your tours?
- What type of local transportation will be utilized?
- Can my dietary needs be accommodated?
- Do you have a cancellation / payment policy?
- What is included in the price of a workshop?
- Do you offer equipment rentals at a workshop?
- What is your smoking policy?
- How can I get in touch with about additional questions I may have?
- How quickly do your photography workshops fill up?
- Is travel insurance a good idea?
We strive to offer workshops that offer some of the smallest group sizes in the industry. We don't have one generic group size that we limit all of our workshops to, rather we make sure that the group size is appropriate to the area / subjects that we will be shooting. All of our workshops feature a minimum of two guides and we have never exceeded a ratio of five participants to one guide. Our focus (yes, pun intended!) is to make sure that we provide a superior workshop experience and that our participants go home with new knowledge, new images and new friends. Return to Top
Typically our workshop participants are between the ages of 40 to 70 years old, but we have had participants that have been either younger or older than that average. By policy we don't allow anyone under the age of 18, unless they are accompanied by a parent or chaperon. Participants under the age of 18 are interviewed to ensure that they have the proper patience and interest in the techniques, topics and schedule that we are going to deliver. As we see each of our workshops as not only photographically oriented, but a networking event as well, we expect all participants to engage in group sessions throughout the course of the workshop. Return to Top
All we require is a passion for photography! Whether you are just getting started with photography or a seasoned professional, we have something to offer for everyone and we are quite adept at tailoring our messages and lessons to each shooter's level. We see a wide range of equipment, technical mastery and knowledge of composition in our varied participants. In very short order we can talk with each participant to understand their goals and needs during a workshop. While our normal itinerary has us both in the field and in seminar sessions, our number one emphasis is getting you to that shot that you want, so you can go home with something to shows for your efforts and investment. Return to Top
We say awesome! Okay in all seriousness, for the most part we embrace inclement weather as it provides unique texture, mood and color to our images. Some of our guide's best images have been taken in the worst weather. Please review our "Photography Gear / Processing Recommendation" section for information in regards to camera protection items you may want to consider for those "not so perfect" days in the field.
At the same time we always have an eye on developing weather systems, to ensure that we don't get caught in the field in an unsafe situation for our participants. In the rare event that this turns our to be the case, we will elect to find an alternate, altogether much more pleasant location to spend some time working on our editing and processing skills. At our workshops we can always find something to learn and do.
Lastly, and this is important, while we encourage all the participation, in the workshop, that you can muster up, we also understand that during a multiple day workshop, that you might want to take a day off. That's okay with us, it's your experience, make the most of it! Return to Top
Short answer is, of course! Some people like to get away at our workshops and others couldn't imagine traveling without a companion. We are good with whatever works best for you. As we plan our itineraries as group experience we hope that your traveling companion will be good engaging with our group of new-found friends. A fresh perspective is always welcome at the "viewing" table and we always appreciate the input of a non-technical viewer, you'd be amazed and the different points of view that exist and how they can help the way you see things. Return to Top
That's a tough one to generically answer, but what we can say is, we strive to find quality, clean, safe and welcoming places to spend our nights. Each location is a little different and so is the lodging that we might find available there. If a location is remote, or less visited than say a larger tourist town, our accommodations could be simple, but certainly ample. We are always look to maintain a balance between photography locations that not everyone has been to and serving the needs of our participants. Return to Top
Over time we have found that, more often than not, our participants are happier when they have their own vehicles and can come and go as they please. We will and have connected participants together, prior to a workshop, so that ride sharing and rental cost can be split up, but those arrangements are the responsibility of those involved. Our guides typically arrive in advance of a workshop start date and are doing scouting / preparation for the upcoming workshop itself, as such our guides are not available until the meeting date / time at our destination lodging.
For workshops that require specialty transportation, for example snow coaches in the Winter, or 4X4 vehicles in the desert, Soft Lite Studios will contract for and provide that necessary local transportation service. This will be specifically called out in the itinerary for a workshop when such transportation is included in the cost of a workshop. Return to Top
Short answer is yes, we will do our best to do just that. When you are filling out our registration form, please indicate special dietary needs that you might have. As indicated in our itineraries, our shooting schedules will often time necessitate "mobile" meals and you find that we arrange for food to be available either during our transit time or out in the field while we are shooting. Breakfast and lunch are the meals that are most often offered on the move, as it were, and we have complete flexibility over the items that we purchase and bring along.
Often times dinners are the best time for our group to sit down, relax, enjoy being waited on and reflect upon the day. Other than when they are specified on the itinerary as included in the cost of the workshop, dinners are typically the responsibility of the participant and in those cases dietary needs would need to be discuss with the restaurant directly. Return to Top
We do! Please refer to the section "Money Matters / Policies" for specific information on how we handle deposits, payments and refunds. Return to Top
Each workshop is custom tailored based upon the location we are visiting, the prevailing cost of lodging, food, etc. at that location and local resource fees that we might have to pay (access costs, local guide fees, local transportation, etc.). Additionally length of workshop, meals, etc. all have a bearing on the cost. Please review the "Workshop Cost" section, of the workshop you are interested in, to determine what is and is not included and the overall cost of that workshop. Return to Top
Unfortunately we do not. The logistics of transporting gear, even just the guides' gear is fairly complex and comes at a relatively high cost. Managing rental gear is simply not feasible on a workshop by workshop basis. You will find that we typically have some sample items available (filters, etc) that we will try to let participants try.
Those interested in a rental, should contact a provider such as BorrowLenses.com to see their selection of gear that is available for short term rental. Might be the ideal way to try that new lens before making the financial jump. Return to Top
We are getting ready to go out into the great outdoors and smelling that fresh clean air is a thing of beauty. We do not allow smoking in the vicinity of our guides or other participants at our workshops, it's simply the respectful thing to do. You may choose to go off on your own and smoke if need be, as long as you are abiding by the local laws and regulations of the park, hotel, motel or establishment we are visiting. Return to Top
Please feel free to contact us at any time with any questions and / or concerns that you may have. Your inquiry can be addressed to:
or we may be reached at:
1 (614) 565-7900
It is important to remember that our primary business is teaching photography workshops and as such we may be in the field for extended periods of time. If you don't hear from us immediately, it doesn't mean that we don't care about you, or aren't listening...we may simple be in a remote location. Return to Top
Spots in our workshops don't last long from the time they are announced to when they are gone. We are currently planning 2 years in advance and fully expect that most slots will be gone about a year in advance of a workshop date on the calendar.
Of course the best way to get a spot, for a specific workshop, is to sign up as soon as you can. We do maintain waiting lists, for workshops, but we find that once people sign up, they are committed to making that event happen. Return to Top
We are currently working on finalizing a contract with a travel insurance provider. Return back to this information for an update on that arrangement. Return to Top
Soft Lite Studios has one mission, to deliver the best, most comprehensive destination workshop possible. This mission is only made possible by having some of the best, most dedicated imaging professionals out in the field with you, the participant.
Your primary guide will be international, award winning photographer Tim Neumann. Tim has spent years in the field, capturing everything from scenic landscapes, to wildlife photography, to underwater vistas and even some of the most dangerous sea dwelling macro species on the planet. Tim's images have placed him as a winner of the prestigious International Digital Shootout multiple times. With a passion for nature photography, a keen outdoor skill set and unparalleled exposure and post production skills, you are sure to be in great hands with Tim providing not only field guidance, but abundant post-production pointers.
Tim, an Information Technology professional in a past life, has a natural connection to the inner workings of the digital world. With that natural connection to the underpinnings of digital photography and today's editing tools, Tim is able to make complex tasks easy to understand and conceptually clear. Participants will be shown straight forward workflow management, editing approaches and output methods that will garner high quality, print worthy results.
Your secondary guide will be the multi-talented, nature, fine-art and portrait photographer Lorie McQuirt. Lorie joined Soft Lite Studios in 2016, as she realized her true passion was found in wildlife and landscape imaging. Lorie has a deep love of the outdoors and her outdoor skill set, coupled with her unending stamina allow her to reach locations that many have dreamed of, but that few have had the energy to achieve.
Lorie has a passion for composition that translates well into practical observations of the scenes around her and she is always excited about sharing that perspective with workshop participants. Her naturally outgoing, "loves people" personality makes her an ideal workshop leader and the perfect social "hub". Her never ending energy is contagious and will surely push participants, to new limits in going out and getting "the" shot.
Many Opportunities To Learn
At Soft Lite Studios we have put a lot of thought into the information that we would like to share with you, the locations that we would like to take you to and the techniques that we would like to show you. As we considered each of these points, we kept one thing in mind, what could we do, to enable you to come home with images in your possession that are some of the best you have ever taken. It's easy to build a list of these ideas, because they are ideas that are near and dear to our hearts and we have used them to achieve the same goals for our own personal portfolios.
There is, however, one learning opportunity that you won't see as a time slot on the itinerary, or in a printed handout or PDF file and that is the value of networking with the workshop guide(s), local resources, and your fellow workshop participants. Photography is a journey without a destination, a never ending learning experience if you will. The very best photographers out there are constantly connecting with other photographers and seeing what they are doing. You find these constantly evolving professionals don't categorize other photographers as better than they are, or even as less talented, they simply see them as different points of view. Photography is all about how you see the scene, how you interpret the elements in front of you and in the end how you render the final image. There is HUGE VALUE is seeing what others are doing with the same scene, what does their point of view say to them and what might that point of view say to you.
We treat every workshop as a group learning environment, for truly the sum knowledge of the group far exceeds that of any of its individuals, the guide(s) included. Come prepared with an open mind, a willingness to try new things, and a desire to see things in a new way. It will serve you well.
All of our workshops are field based, meaning we get out into the field, to capture wildlife and nature as we find it. As such we spend time addressing working in the field, tools needed to make your field work experience that much more enjoyable and the knowledge needed to apply these lessons to your own independent field work in the future.
Half the battle in field photography is geting to where the shot is, at the right time, to capture the light, in its ideal form. As we work our way through the itinerary of the workshop, we will share with you the thought processes and tools that we use in selecting each of our shooting locations and the times that we chose to be at them. Some of the selections will be self evident, but nothing can beat some inside knowledge of local routes, topographical considerations, and keeping a keen eye on developing weather.
Our choice of location and schedule for a workshop is not a hap hazard occurrence and a number of tools exist to help us intelligently make those decisions. These applications and the available web data also prove invaluable while out in the field, for making realtime choices. We are happy to share with you the tools we like best.
Seems simple, take the camera to the field and press the shutter release. If you are at the right place, at the right time, the rest should take care of itself. But often times it doesn't, there are a number of considerations for taking your camera and its associated gear out into the field. We have a number of field tested techniques that we use for lugging all the gear around in the field, caring for it in the elements and at the same time staying nimble so you can move quickly as the shot develops. Nothing beats eliminating the "will I be ready for the shot" question from the field shoot equation.
We will spend a fair amount of time, throughout the course of the entire workshop, discussing exposure techniques that we employ to achieve high quality images. Careful attention will be paid to the typical DSLR's exposure modes and which one(s) we recommend for which types of scenes.
We will also explore the notion of not trusting your camera's meter and preview screen and provide techniques that will allow you to know that the exposure you are getting is the best one possible, given the available light. You'll likely never trust your preview screen again and actually come to love the histogram!
Lastly we will address some specific techniques for dealing with differing qualities and volumes of light. We will give you the necessary insight to ensure that your raw images allow you the latitude you need in post-production to realize the envisioned image in your head.
We realize that likely your number one priority, after you have traveled all that distance, is to be out shooting the vistas and wildlife of our chosen workshop location. That being said, we still try to work in some seminar sessions that allow our guide(s) to share their knowledge on post-production techniques. We make every effort to slide these mini workshop sessions in between shooting times on the itinerary.
Certain workshops, due to timing and / or geographical challenges, may make inserting these mini workshops into the middle of the day. However we are very flexible and we will make the time to cover any of the topics that participants are interested in. It is not unheard of to find our participants all huddled around a couple of laptops at the local bar and / or restaurant. There could be worse ways to edit!
Ask any photographer, that shoots a reasonable volume of images and they will tell you that managing all of those images is a critical skill. The ability to quickly import your images into some form of organized catalog will serve you well and furthermore getting those images quickly edited and efficiently exported, for their respective audiences, is a process that we know well and will readily share. We have a number of insight on end-to-end workflow and we will be happy to share those pearls of wisdom with you.
Lightroom Editing Techniques
Under the category "de-facto workflow software", you will find Adobe's Photoshop Lightroom leading the pack. This product has become the industry standard for quickly cataloging images, providing a management interface for finding previous works and most importantly an excellent tool for Adobe Raw based editing. It is the editing tool of choice for photographers that quickly want to perform both global and batch edits. We will share with you, some of the tools that we think are the best in Lightroom and will get you up to speed with this application in no time.
Where Adobe's Photoshop Lightroom is the workflow engine of choice and the ideal global editor when it comes to localized editing, compositions and retouching, nothing comes close to the power of Adobe's Photoshop. Closing in on almost three (3) decades of being an industry leading editing product, Photoshop has unbelievable power packed into its interface and is the tool that many, many photographers use to turn ordinary images into extraordinary works of art.
We will focus on some of the tools that we think will have the biggest, most dramatic impact on your images as well as spend some time showing you how to make Adobe's Photoshop Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop play well together.
A voluminous number of plugins exist that are compatible with Lightroom, Photoshop or both packages. We have a number of favorites, that we routinely use and we would be happy to spend some time providing you with some insight into the programs that we like best. From presets to plugins, it amazing what tools exist in the marketplace and we'll whittle the list down to our favorites, for you.
Photography Gear Recommendations
We recommend you spend a little bit of time reviewing the information below, particularly if you are uncertain of what camera gear to bring, or if you feel you lean towards the beginner side of the spectrum in your technical skills.
Our guides don't have a specific brand of model of camera that they recommend. They have enough experience in the market place that they have seen lots of different brands and models and they have come to the conclusion that it's the photographer, not the camera, that gets great pictures. You'll find that most of our guides shoot more than one brand and / or model, finding that certain features work better in specific circumstances and they appreciate that ability to chose the tool that best fits the situation at hand. More often than not, when talking to long term shooters, you'll find that their allegiance is more tied to their glass investment than it is a specific brand.
What we will do here, is list a set of features that we think are important to have in the camera you might bring, or one that you might be considering buying. Not only would it best if your chosen gear supported these features, listed below, but you should know how to find them on your camera. That doesn't mean you have to know the features inside and out, that's what we are here for, but at the very least you MUST bring your camera manual with you to the workshop. Doesn't necessarily have to be in print form, could be on your phone, tablet, computer, but at least somewhere where we can look up feature information when we need to.
Manual Exposure Mode: Our guides all believe in the value of knowing and being able to use "Manual Mode" on your camera. Now this doesn't mean we think you have to shoot in this mode all the time, in fact a high percentage of the time we don't, but being able to use "Manual Mode" conveys that you have a fundamental understanding of an exposure and have the ability to selectively control and override what the camera's meter is telling you. You'll find that a lot of professional / technically competent photographers actually shoot in
"Aperture Preferred Mode" most of the time, taking advantage of the speed of the camera's decision making process in this mode, yet still being able to creatively control composition on the fly. If this is a new concept to you, don't worry we'll be talking about this throughout the course of the workshop.
You'll also find that we are pretty much against using "Program Mode" or "Automatic" as we don't want our cameras making "average" exposure and correspondingly "average" composition decisions for us. Long story short, don't give away creative control or sacrifice your understanding of exposure selection.
Bulb Mode: In all reality it's best to think of "Bulb Mode" as an extension of "Manual Mode". "Bulb Mode" essentially is the control that allows you to get to extended exposure times and begin to work with creative filters and / or light reducation filtration on a much more controlled basis. Most modern DSLR's, in "Manual Mode", have a limitation of a 30" (30 Seconds) exposure as the longest built in exposure time. "Bulb Mode" allows the usage of much longer shutter speeds, which allows for much wider creative latitude in terms of long exposure and specialty lighting / filration. We will spend a reasonable amount of time in our workshop, employing and leveraging these longer shutter speeds to create significantly more impactful images of landscape scenes.
One thing worth considering, while using "Bulb Mode", is the triggering mechanism you are going to use. Certainly a contact cable release is fine, but that requires you to be the time. In our experience, photographers are much happier, when doing copious amounts of long exposure work, using remotes that support the setting and tracking of exposure time. If you have any questions about this, please let us know.
Manual Focus Mode: No we are not going to make you shoot in "Manual Focus Mode" for the entire workshop. Sure purists have their say here, but the reality is the "Autofocus" capabilities, within most modern DSLR's, for exceeds are ability to focus as fast as reliably. That being said, there are times, during almost all of our workshops, where the exposure techniques we will be using (long exposure, focus stacking, dynamic range management) where "Manual Focus" is preferred, it's really a necessity. Luckily most camera manufacturers recognize this desire and have factored that into their designs. For you, it's good if you know how to quickly go in and out of "Manual Focus" on your camera and / or lens.
Histogram Display: Ah yes, the histogram, you all them, right? We maybe you do, maybe you don't, or just maybe we just started spouting Greek. No matter your level of knowledge we are going to spend a lot of time thinking about the histogram. It is important that we readily understand how to interpret that data that's beeing presented in that tiny little graph, but we also want to know when and why we want to utilize that information. By the time one of workshops are done, you are going to clearly understand that proposition as well as become hooked on the advantages that that data provides you while shooting, editing and preparing output.
Some additional camera thoughts...
Here are some additional features that we think come in handy. It's important to understand that not every camera body may have all these features and that's okay. While these features are handy, we can also make these approaches to exposure work manually as well. If your camera has them, study up, if not don't sweat it we'll make do. At the very least get yourself a rough idea about what we mean when we are talking about the features below. We will covet them in the workshop for sure.
Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB): Some of the scenes that we are going to encounter will raise issues with our camera's dynamic range capabilities (without getting too technical here, we see more range of light than our camera's do, so this is one mechanism for combating that shortfall).
Focus Stacking There are just some scenes that call for more depth of field than you can squeeze out of your lens and maintain an acceptable image quality. In these situations, the ability to progressive move the focal plane, at an ideal aperture setting, provides just the component images needed to create an exquisitely detailed resulting picture.
This is likely a penetrating glimpse of the obvious but, memory cards are where your pictures are stored. No memory card, no photographs...sound ominous enough? Seriously bring more than one, heck bring three (3) or four (4) and bring them in something that protects them (i.e. waterproof, dust proof, etc.).
Some things to consider as you are thinking about memory cards for your camera.
Speed: As far as memory cards go, the faster the better and in more ways than one. Faster memory cards empty the camera's temporary buffer faster, and get you back to shooting faster. In a lot of cameras, the speed of memory card effects the frame rate of the camera. Yes I know we are not shooting sports here and burst rates of 14 frames per second aren't a common need, but high dynamic ranges sequences almost always benefit from a speedy frame rate. Not to mention, as that bear is walking by, do you want to wait for your camera to save that last image? Not us!
Capacity: When it comes to memory cards, size does matter. More often than not, this decision comes down to overall capacity of a card versus its cost, but with memory card prices continuing to spiral downwards, the should be getting to be a bit of a no brainer. Long story short a couple of big cards can be great, but a handful of smaller cards can cost less. Hey it's your wallet!
So here's the long and short of it: Memory cards can and will fail, it's only a matter of time. In a lot of cases even with a card failure you can still rescue the vast majority of the pictures. What you can't do, is find a place to by another memory card out in the wild and some of the towns that we stay in might not have them readily available. This is a problem that is easy to avoid and be prepared for, bring a spare or two or four.
Sometimes this can be a question that's hard to clearly (yes, we know the jokes are getting worse...) answer. Camera lenses come in all shapes, sizes, capabilities and most importantly price points. We'll provide some recommendations here and tell you what we like to use and then you have to let your conscience, your wallet and your other half decide. You don't have to bring the sames lenses we do, this isn't a contest. What you do have to do is love the lenses that you have, get to know them well and we'll make them do great things while we are out in the wild.
A quick venture into the generic part of the lens discussion will have us making a couple of over-arching observations. One we tend to stick to what is called "faster" glass. All this means is, when considering lens choices, you will find most of our guides select lenses with bigger apertures when they can. This allows for more light gathering ability, equating to faster potential shutter speeds and ultimately less images sacrificed to movement / blur that can happen at lower shutter speeds. This is a little bit of a sticky conversation, because tripods, image stabilization, etc. can mititgate this issue, but by and larger the "faster" the glass the more exposure options you have at your finger tips.
The other feature that landscape photographers tend to look for, is that of lenses that do "internal focus". Essentially this means, that focus is obtained by components within the lens construction doing the necessary movement, while the outside, or external, elements do not move while focus is obtained. This may sound like splitting hairs, but if you are using polarization fileters, you will greatly appreciate this design feature.
Wide Angle: Throughout the course of the workshop, your wide angle lens is likely to be your "go to" lens and for good reason. Our workshops are designed around scenic vistas, sweeping landscapes and iconic scenes that require a wide ranging field of view to take it all in. The typical choice for this lens will be a 24-70 f/2.8 lens. This particular combination of focal length range and the corresponding wide, constant aperture, makes this one of our "goto" lenses. It provides a compelling field of view and its wide open aperture capability can help in the creating of some outstanding out of focus background elements.
Standard: While we are out in the field, there may not be much call for a "standard" focal length lens (when we say standard focal length we mean 50mm for a full frame camera and 35mm for a crop sensore camera). This standard focal length lens for most cameras is the lens that closely approximates the field of view that your eye would normally see. Portrait images are generally viewed as being more aesthetic at this focal length, than their wider focal length counterparts as the human brain more nautrally relates to the representation of the objects in the scene. All that being said, we generally always tend, as photographers, to have at least one lens along, in this focal length, for impromptu street shooting and / or people shots.
Telephoto: Telephoto lenses have the distinct advantage of bringing far away things in closer. Sometimes this can make the difference between a compelling wildlife shot and an image that has a critter in it somewhere. The down side to longer focal length / telephoto lenses is that they naturally are bigger and weigh more. It can be a challenge to travel with such lenses and they typically require some addtional support mechanisms as well. On the other hand, if the workshop is likely to see lots of wildlife. The we recommend the longest lens that your back and wallet can manage. In recent years 150mm-500mm and 200mm-600mm lenses have become more popular, have seen significant increases in quality, couple with significant decreases in price.
Macro: You will never have a macro lens with you when you see the perfect macro subject in the field, at least that's the way it seems. Sometimes going out to shoot for the day, meanse picking a lens or two and living with the capabilities you have included in your camera bag for the day. However if you are interested in macro and you have the capacity to carry it, bring a macro lens along can open up another line of imaging for you while out in the field. Workshops that are in the Spring and Fall tend to offer more impromptu macro opportunities and having a macro lens along for these can open you up to some great images.
Night Sky: If the workshop you are going to attend specifically calls for a number of night and / or star trail shoots, then you will want to specifically consider a lens for that type of imaging. Basically speaking wider focal lengths (something in the 15mm - 35mm range) are called for in capturing those wide sweeping views of the sky and wider apertures save the day with exposure times (consider lense with apertures of f/2.8 or wider as your best tools in this quest). See the specific workshop description for a run down of the lenses that we think we appropriate for that workshop.
During the course of almost all of our workshops we will be talking about advanced exposure techniques that are made possible by the use of specific filters. Don't worry about the word "advanced", that doesn't mean they are difficult, just that we haven't explained them to you yet. By the time you are done, shooting in the field with us, you'll have these advanced techniques nailed and you will be making them a part of your regular repetoire'.
A good set of filters can be invaluable in the field. Not only should the quality of the filters be considered, but the way that they attach and detach from your lens is an important consideration as well. Read on for our recommendations on both systems and the filters that are used with the.
Filter Systems / Holders:
Before we talk about filters, let's take a quick look at filter holders. Traditionally filters have screwed onto the end of the lens, using threaded rings that mimic the thread pitch on the front of the lens itself. While this provides a secure mounting mechanism, it also confines that filter to only be used on a lens with a matching thread pitch for mounting it. In more recent years filter system have become all the rage and these systems allow the filter holder to be moved from differing lens sizes via a series of correspondingly sized adapter rings.
We are all in favor of this type of system, as while it has a little bit higher up front cost, it does offer a lower overall cost when it's used across multople lens front ring sizes. Make sure, that if you go that route, the system you select allows for simple connection and removal of the holder from the front of the lens. Ideally something that gently snaps on and snaps off is best, as it tends to have less chance of shifting the focus of the lens.
A polarizing filter not only provides some level of control of off angle light, but it can also significantly impact the contrast in your images. Long know for creating more dramatic, impact skies, the polarizer is a perennial favorite of almost all serious landscape photographers.
A neutral density filter works exactly as it names implies, applying density which cuts light out of the seen and doing it neutrally so that color is not shifted with the reducation of light. This is where the simplicity ends. While neutral density filters aren't necessarily hard to use, it can sometimes be a little difficult to get dialed into higher quality options. There are lots of inexpensive neutral density filters available in the marketplace, but care should be observed when selectin them for your use. Do some research via Google, or the search engine of your choice and see what previous buyers have to say about the one you are considering. Avoid ones that are noted for introducing color shifts into your images, your post production editing time will thank you.
Cable Release / Remote
This conversation is a pretty quick one and bascially our purposes here is to keep your hands off the camera body. Why, because some of the techniques we will be exploring will utilize exposure techniques where movement of the camera, even the slightest amount, will ruin the image you are taking. Long exposure, high dynamic range and focus stacking images all benefit dramatically from solid camera support and no movement while the frame(s) are being captured.
Okay, so what do we recommend. Ideally a remote release that's both a timer, intervalometer and works wirelessly is best, but then those cost more. Good cable releases that offer timing and intervolemter functionality, but need to be connected cost less. A cable release that is simply a contact button, will get your where you need to be, costs almost nothing, but requires you to be the timer.
It is worth noting, cell phones apps are available that provide a lot of the above mentioned functionaliy and they can be good choices as well. But take it from our guides, make sure that you understand if your cell phone battery dies, your specialty exposure opportunities our over until that battery gets recharged.
Tripod selection is a topic that requires some good supporting information (yes...groan, but we couldn't resist). A solid tripod for almost all of our workshops, is a necessity, as the exposure techniques we will be exploring require a rock solid camera support. Our intention, as we are shooting in the field, is to think through our images, maximizing the scene in front of us, so a tripod is a critical element in this contemplative process.
There are lots of tripod brands out there and we, over years of use, have setteled on the ones we like best (just ask we'll be happy to share our thoughts with you). Generically speaking we favor tripods that can end extended to heights a foot or two above the user (just wait till you're standing on a hill, it will all become clear then), are more or less opposed to ones that have center columns and really look for tripod solutions that allow quick release of the camera and swaps from portrait to landscape perspective with ease. Typically these are tripods that offer a l-bracket type solution with a clamp based attachment to the head of some type.
It seems as though every photographer must know the sinking feeling of having a shot in front of them and even worse a dead camera to go with that shot. Don't forget to throw any extra batter pack or two in your camera bag / backpack. Keep this in mind, there may be times when another photographer can help you, but for the most part battery packs are becoming more and more proprietary so you may end up out of luck in the field if your battery dies and you don't have a spare.
Another thought, worth sharing, cold weather (if you are at a workshop with cold weather, can really zap a battery pack a lot quicker than normal. If you are in the outdoors and it's cold out, keep your extra batery packs close to your body. Inside pouches and pockets work best, as they allow the battery to stay closer to your body heat and potentially last just a little bit longer. It's even possible that that battery pack, that you thought was drained, can have just a little more juice in it when warmed up a tad.
Camera Bag / Backpack
For the most part this discussion is going to be mostly about camera backpacks, mostly because from our point of view that's the most practical approach to wlidlife and landscape photography. Not we're not saying a backpack is the only way to go, but to us it seems to offer the greated amount of flexibility and comfort all at the same time.
Some general things to keep in mind:
- The larger the backpack the more stuff you will put in it. This is not a horrible thing, but it is important to keep in mind, that weight will seem heavier and heavier as the day wares on. Try to consider the likely shots you will encounter on a given day in the field and keep your gear down to a list that meets the shooting requirements for that day. It will always come down to this; you will bring stuff along you don't use and you will forget something that you wish you hadn't. Make the best of what you have with you!
- Try to select a pack that allows you to bring along some other essential items. You won't be planning to spend longer in the outdoors than you originally thought, but being prepared came make a huge difference. Snacks, layered clothing options and hydration can go a long, long ways. Make sure you consider some room for those items.
- Last but not least, if you hate backpacks and like a shoulder based camera bag, who are we to tell you no. Do what works best for you, but remember we are here to offer guidance if you are interested in our opinions and experience.
Some of our workshops will have varying degrees of exposure to humidity and / or water. This can range from on-going mists and rain, all the way up to and including hikes that involve multiple water crossings to get to our shooting location of choice. Refer to the workshop's itinerary and description to determine if a workshop that you are considering might involve this type of exposure.
In the event that you are attending such a workshop, you should definitely consider pickup up some dry bags to put inside your camera bag or backpack. Dry bags allow you to easily drop contents into the bag, much like a stuff sack and then provides a roll down opening that provides a fairly water tight seal.
Dry bags are by no means perfect and for the most part they are generally not designed to be submerged for any period of time, but they do server their purpose well for that occasionally burst of rain or that poorly place footing that lands you in the river bed.
You'll find dry bags in varying sizes and even differing colors. Our guides use smaller dry bags that allow them to easily get to one piece of bagged equipment at a time, preferring this approach over larger dry bags where they have to dig for their desired item. One typically approach is a dry bag for the camera body, big enough that it allows a lens to stay attached. Each additional lens has its own dry bag and then maybe an additional couple of dry bags for things like cable release and other electronic items. If it doesn't get bothered by moisture then those items are just place in the backpack normally.
One other consideration, one configuration, that is favored by seasoned landscape and wildlife photographers is a tripod setup that allows the photographer to hike with the tripod over their shoulder with the camera attached. This setup allows instant access to the camera and a fairly nimble ability to move quickly from scene to scene and shot to shot. These photographers, when involved in shooting with potentially humidity and moisture, will utilize a dry bag that's not only big enough for the camera and attached lens, but with enough additional slack that the bag itself can be sandwiched between the camera and the tripod clamp. Ideal for moving quickly in the rain or river crossing, but flexible enough to get the camera out rapidly when needed.
As important as photography is to our workshops you'll find that we place an equally important emphasis on post-production concerns. A wonderful raw capture is exactly that, raw. In order to bring out its true potential that raw file will require the benefit of subtle and not so subtle editing steps.
In order to take advantage of everything that our workshop offers, we recommend that our participants bring laptop computers, with the following software installed:
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC
Adobe Photoshop CC
If any of the above software titles are foreign to you, or items that you have previously not consider owning, don't get to worried about it. We can and will get you up to speed with them quickly and if you are still on the fence about purchasing them, all the titles are offered in 30 day trial versions. So you can try each application without the commitment of expense until you are sure you like them.
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom
Many photographers think of Lightroom as the leading choice for imaging workflow. The software provides a host of tools that allow for ingest, review and culling of recently captured images. These capabilities make rapid collection of images and their corresponding assessment much easier to manage. The organized filtration by exposure metadata allows for timely assessment of previously selected exposure settings and gives unparalleled assistance in post shoot exposure evaluation. This review and evaluation can prove to be invaluable in diagnosing and correcting technique shortfalls on a timely basis.
Early on, in our workshops, we like to take some time out to look at the images that our participants are capturing. We find that this early assessment allows us to make course corrections for the shooter and guide them to better images. Nothing worse than attending a workshop for five to side days, only to get home and find that you were plug by some minor technical difficultly throughout and came home with nothing that makes you happy about your experience.
Once we have a handle on using Lightroom's workflow tools, we will move on to exploring Lightroom's Develop Module features. The Develop Module, in Lightroom, features Adobe Camera Raw based non-destructive editing, which is a wonderful way to try different editing steps on images, knowing that going back to the original raw image is always possible. A number of the global editing features present in the Develop Module give the editor rapid, effective methods for dialing in image crop, white balance and overall tonal adjustments.
Our guides will share, with you, carefully considered workflow strategies, that they have discovered through many years of editing, which provide for an optimum image editing experience and at the same maintain the integrity of the image's histogram and quality. There is a specific optimized order to fine art image editing and we will share that flow with you and explain the benefits, to you, of doing so.
Adobe's Photoshop, after decades, still reigns supreme as the digital image editor of choice for almost every professional, serious and even amateur photographer. Its host of adjustment, filter, retouching and composite editing features are unrivaled in both quantity and quality. The wealth of publications, tutorials and helpful presets in existence, often times free of charge, make this application's capabilities accessible to most everyone.
Our guides have extensive experience with Photoshop and even offer Photoshop based curriculum to camera dealers, user groups and educational institutions near there home bases. They have become extremely proficient at using the application most effectively and are more than happy to share this knowledge with our participants. During all of our workshops we carve out time to spend exploring editing some of our recently captured images in a group setting.
Our guides purposely break image editing into a number of distinct steps:
In pre-editing we are typically concerned with two specific steps:
- Image crop
- White balance / color temperature
In global edits we concern ourselves with image edits that effect the exposure and tonality of the image as a whole, with a constant subjective eye on the entire frame and the histogram as our quality boundary. It is worth noting that we don't always make, or even recommend, these global edits. It is important to differentiate between an effective edit and one that sacrifices one region of the image for another.
- White point
- Black point
In local edits we concern ourselves with image edits that effect specific areas of the image, while at the same time avoiding other image areas that we don't want to effect. If we apply these localized edits as additional image layers, we can carefully construct a final image as a set of interactive adjustments that can be both modified and undone as desired. Our overall goal here is to still maintain the approach of non-destructive image editing, even though that's not a constraint enforced by default within Photoshop. Our guides will teach you a finelyt tuned editing process that you will be sure to adopt as your own.
Close to being one of our final editing steps, we consider the benefits of image sharpening and the effect that it will have on various output paths. We have a number of observations, in regards to image sharpening, that we will be happy to share with you.
Noise reduction is an interesting post-processing step, in that it both smooths out some of the inherent roughness in a digital image, while at the same time reducing sharpness. Our observation here is that it becomes a bit of a balancing act. Our guides will share with you some thoughts on where this balancing point should be and how output intentions effect that. Additionally there are some very compelling reasons, that we would like to share with, why this should be your last editing step.
Third Party Plugins
Our guies are familiar with and regularly use a number of Third Party Plugins and they are happy to share their experience with these products with you the workshop participant. While there are tons of presets and plugins available in the marketplace, the ones most popular with our guides are:
- Google's NIK Collection
- Topaz Labs
- OnOne Software
Generically the things that most plugins can do are achievable in Photoshop directly, however these plugins allow these effects to be delivered much faster, in a focused manner requiring less steps by the editor of the image. Let our guides, share with you the editing shortcuts they have learned with these valuable and sometimes even free tools.
So, not trying to be anyone's mom here, but we do have a fair amount of outdoor and back-country experience, which we can hopefully translate into making it easier for you to select clothing items and prepare for your photographic adventure. The appropriate outdoor gear and clothing can make your time in the back-country enjoyable and fun, while the wrong selections can make for a long miserable day.
The paragraphs that follow, below, are not intended to be a shopping list, rather a checklist of sorts, that gets you thinking about what to pack and the effects of the environments that we might be visiting.
Secondary to the camera itself, likely one of the most important pieces of gear, you will bring with you, to an outdoor photography workshop / expedition, is good footwear. You can potentially log many miles trekking to photo locations, coupled with significant time on your feet, standing by your tripod. It’s funny how we take our feet for granted when everything is going well and not so funny how quickly things fall apart when foot problems crop up. So here are some thoughts on keeping your feet happy and how to do so:
A good pair of hiking boots is a thing bliss, a bad pair of hiking boots is a thing of blisters. Don’t fall victim to the riggers of trekking many miles in a pair of ill-fitting boots, you’ll thank us for this advice later. Proper fit and an appropriate break-in period for a pair of boots are critical considerations. The hiking boot industry, is loaded with brands, designs and varying technologies. What follows is a primer for those of you who are overwhelmed by the selection of boots at your local outdoor store or online retailer:
Types of Hiking Boots
There exists a large range of hiking boot solutions, targeting activities such as light hiking, hiking, backpacking and even more arduous pursuits. Consider your intended activity and exposure when selecting a specific type of hiking boot. It is not unusual, for those avid in the pursuit of multiple outdoor activities, to have more than one type of hiking boot in your footwear arsenal.
Hiking Shoes: Are typically low-cut around the ankle, with more flexible mid-soles, considered to be excellent for day hiking. It is not unusual to see ultra-light backpackers using either hiking shoes or trail-running shoes for their longer distance adventures. These are typically lightweight and easily broken-in, but are considered to lack the ankle support needed for rougher trails and / or heavier loads.
Hiking Boots: Are typically medium cut to high-cut around the ankles, with stiffer mid-soles, considered to be more suited to rougher trail conditions and medium loads. Targeted at the weekend or short-term backpacker, they usually require less break-in time and offer a reasonable amount of flexibility. While not designed with extended back-country trips in mind, nor heavier backpack loads, they do offer upgraded protection from rougher trails.
Backpacking Boots: Are typically high-cut around the ankles, often providing a full wrap of the ankle. Backpacking boots offer both significantly better support for the ankle, as well as protection against impacts to the ankle area. Coupled with typically stiff mid-soles, this style of boot is designed for carrying heavier backpack loads and extended hiking through the back-country. Targeted towards to serious backpacker, these boots are generally stiff all around at purchase time, require a much more careful fit and an extended break-in time.
Mountaineering Boots: Are typically all about ankle and mid-sole support, with stiff supporting and protective materials being utilized throughout their construction. Design to accommodate heavier than normal loads and potentially accept the application of crampons, these boots are designed for the serious mountain explorer and have capabilities for dealing with temperature concerns, ice and snow management and a high level of durability. Typically one of the more expensive boots available, they require cautious fit and serious break-in time.
Hiking Boots Features
Hiking Boot Uppers
The upper part of a hiking boot is designed to protect and support the foot with an all-around snug fit and in some cases to provide additional support and protection for the ankle. As you will see below a wide variety of materials are used in the creation of hiking boot uppers.
Full-grain leather uppers offer excellent durability, coupled with pretty serious abrasion resistance. More commonly used in heavier backpacking boots, a full-grain leather upper is typically stiffer, requiring an extended break-in period.
Split-grain leather is made by splitting away the rougher inner part of the cow-hide from the smoother, softer exterior. The exterior leather is then typically combined with nylon, or nylon-mesh, making a lighter, more breathable upper. Considered to be lighter and less expensive to make, these boots are generally less abrasion resistant when compared to full-grain leather designs.
Nubuck leather is a full-grain leather that has been buffed so that it resembles suede. Considered to be very durable and water resistant, boots made from this material will require ample break-in time before extended hikes.
Synthetic leather as well as polyesters and nylons are commonly found in boot construction. One of the benefits of these materials is that they are less rigid and generally require less break-in time. While their reduced drying times and breathability are considered pluses, they do tend to wear quicker than the previously mentioned choices.
Waterproof boots feature uppers typically constructed with waterproof membranes sandwiched between their inner and outer layers of material and can be beneficial in keeping feet warm and dry. In warmer climates the reduce capacity for the boot to breathe, due to the waterproof membrane, may encourage feet to sweat. Additionally waterproof boots may not be the best choices for situations where river crossings are going to guarantee water entrance at the top of the boot.
Boots designed for colder temperatures and / or mountaineering applications often involve the addition of insulation layers in their design as a way to combat colder temperatures and / or ice and snow contact for extended periods of time.
Hiking Boot Midsoles
A boot's midsole is the structural heart of the footbed, providing cushion, insulation from shock and all around stiffness to the boot's sole. While a stiffer boot may not sound like a good idea, the boot's stiffness provides stability for the foot and by connection the ankle, as well as providing a platform that keeps your foot from fatiguing easily on uneven ground and trails. The most commonly used materials are found listed below.
Ethylene Vinyl Acetate:
More commonly known as EVA (I'll bet your glad you know that...) is frequently used in boot midsoles as it's cushier, lighter and less expensive than its counterpart. The thickness of the EVA will be altered in areas requiring more or less support.
Generally considered to be firmer than EVA, Polyurethane is a firmer (therefore stiffer), more durable and more expensive midsole material. Polyurethane is usually found in heavier extended backpacking and mountaineering boots.
Hiking Boot Support Components
These 3–5mm thick inserts are sandwiched between a boot’s midsole and outsole to add load-bearing stiffness to the midsole. They vary in length; some cover the entire length of the midsole, while others only cover half.
These thin, semi-flexible inserts are positioned between the midsole and the outsole, and below the shank (if included). They protect feet from getting bruised by roots or uneven rocks.
Hiking Boot Outsoles
Rubber is used on all hiking boot outsoles. Additives such as carbon are sometimes added to backpacking or mountaineering boots to boost hardness. Hard outsoles increase durability but can feel slick if go you off trail.
Other outsole considerations:
Lugs are traction-giving bumps on the outsole. Deeper, thicker lugs are used on backpacking and mountaineering boots to improve grip. Widely spaced lugs offer good traction and shed mud more easily.
This refers to the clearly defined heel zone that is distinct from the forefoot and arch. It reduces your chance of sliding during steep descents.
Hiking Boot Rands:
Found on some waterproof/breathable boots, a rand is the wide rubber wrap encircling the boot (or sometimes just the toe area) where the upper meets the midsole. It offers extra defense against water penetration on wet, mucky trails. It also protects boot leather from rocks and abrasion.
Your boot type ultimately tells you what options you have in crampon binding systems. Boot and crampon compatibility is essential for performance and safety.
Have nylon webbing straps that secure the crampons to your boots. While these take longer to attach than other systems, the beauty of the strap-on style is that it can be attached to nearly any boot. For more flexible footwear, such as hiking shoes, hiking boots and backpacking boots, make sure the crampon’s center bar is compatible with the flex of your boot.
Feature a wire bail that holds the toe in place while a heel lever attaches the crampon to the heel of your boot. This is the easiest, most precise and fastest attachment system, however, it can only be used with specific boots. To use crampons with a step-in binding, boots need to have rigid soles and at least a 3/8 welt or groove on the heel and toe. Step-in crampons are typically compatible with heavy-duty mountaineering boots, but not lightweight mountaineering boots, hiking boots or backpacking boots.
Hybrid crampons are a blend of strap-on and step-in crampons. They feature a heel lever and toe strap, and they require a boot with a stiff sole plus a heel groove or welt to hold the heel lever. The toe strap, however, doesn’t need a welt to fit securely. Hybrid crampons go on very quickly and easily and are compatible with most lightweight mountaineering boots and some backpacking boots, but typically not with hiking boots.
Hiking Boot Fit Tips
Hiking boots should fit snug everywhere, tight nowhere and offer room to wiggle your toes. Try them on at the end of the day (after feet swell) and with the socks you plan to wear on the trail. Stroll through the store, up and down stairs or an inclined surface. If you detect a bump, seam or pinching in the forefoot, the boot’s not right.
Know your size. It’s best to have your foot measured on a Brannock device at REI. You can also measure your foot length (in inches or centimeters) and use the online sizing charts found on each REI.com boot page to find your boot size.
Try on boots at the end of the day. Your feet normally swell a bit during the day’s activities and will be at their largest then. This helps you avoid buying boots that are too small.
If you wear orthotics, bring them along. They impact the fit of a boot.
Wear appropriate socks. Familiar socks can help you more quickly assess the fit and feel of new footwear. However, try to make sure the thickness of the socks matches what you intend to wear on the trail.
Spend some time in the boots. Take a stroll through the store. Walk up and down stairs. Find an inclined surface and walk on it. If you detect an odd bump or seam, or a little pinching in the forefoot, the boot’s not right.
When shopping online, consider a brand you have worn before. Most boot companies tend to use a consistent foot model over time, so the fit is likely to be similar.
Consider aftermarket insoles (a.k.a. footbeds). Insoles come in models that can enhance comfort, support or fit—or all three. See our Expert Advice article, Insoles: How to Choose.
Just like boots, socks can make or break your foot comfort for the day and series sock issues can lead to blisters that can ruin more than one day. Sock technology has evolved over the last 10 or so years and we are now seeing socks that have thicker weaves in strategic areas to avoid pressure spots, anti-microbial treatments to avoid / eliminate foot oder and are generally more comfortable and last longer.
Things that we look for in a hiking sock:
Yes it's true, a thicker sock means more padding and theoretically a longer day on your feet before fatigue starts to set in. Conversely the thickness of the sock can alter the fit of the boot. There is only so much space available within your boot and your foot plus a sock are competing for that value. Make sure that the socks you are bringing on a trip have been tried on before the trip and that you are satisfied that the combination of that sock and your foot are an appropriate fit for the boot being used.
We tend to favor socks that have variable thickness throughout the design of the sock. Thicker weaves in the toe, ankle and heel areas, with maybe a touch thinner area underneath the middle of the foot to promote your foot being able to
breathe. This additional padding also seems to luckily be right in the area of the most pressure and wear, so we find these socks last a little longer than their generic counterparts.
Hate to say it, but your feet sweat, I know, I know not yours; yes they really do. The best thing you can do for your foot and the rest of your body is to get that moisture away from your skin. Your foot is more comfortable when it's dry, less likely to run and blister, less likely to get cold and less likely to be a location for heat loss for the rest of your body. Look for socks that offer the best wicking ability. Cotton socks are a definitely no, where wool and wool blends do the job quite nicely. A happy for is a warm, dry foot.
- Gobi Sock Liners
For people that have feet that tend to get cold easily and / or those folks that can't deal with Wool touching there skin, a Gobi Sock liner is the way to go. These liners are typically ultralight, don't have much thickness to them and go between the foot and a normal hiking sock. They offer protection from the itching and discomfort of wool, provided additional wicking benefit and tend to leave the foot much warmer than just a pair of hiking socks alone. Again, be careful that your foot, gobi and hiking socks all fit into your boot, but if they do this can be a good solution for some.
We wouldn't categorize the recommendation below as a hard fast requirement for a workshop, but at the same time you want find any of our guides out in the field without a good pair of hiking pants, especially on longer days where moisture and / or cold are looming possibilities. If you are getting ready to consider some new hiking pants take a look at our thoughts below:
Technical hiking pants are an investment that pays itself back over and over again. There combination of comfort, ability to deal with moisture quickly and their adaptability to varying conditions are hard to beat. Lightweight, comfortable, wicking, venting, utilitarian and adjustable are all traits to look for in a hiking pant.
The material in technical hiking pants is typically lighter than a similarly styled pair of cargo pants. This material is generally more flexible than its counterparts while at the same time being more resistant to rips and tears (a serious concern and benefit when the trail gets rougher and less defined).
A lot of time the comfort in technical hiking pants not only comes from the fabric used, but construction can be a big factor in comfort as well. You'll find that many of the leading hiking pants manufacturers implement gussets, stretch panels and reinforcements in joint and bend areas with a hiking pant. Your photography gets a lot better when you easily able to stretch, sit down, kneel and all those things we do to get in the right position for that perfect perspective.
Let's face it, into everyone's life a little rain must fall. We're not sure why it always has to fall on us while we are out taking pictures, but it seems to work out that way. Hiking pants that facilitate wicking that moisture away from the skin and dry out quickly are worth their weight in gold. Anything that keeps you from staying wet while out in the field and drys quickly is worth being considered.
No this is not where we get to talk about others, sorry! Technical hiking pants usually have vent areas designed into them. These areas usually include a zipper to open up the vent and a corresponding mesh that protects the vented area. This is a great way to let off some body heat, without have to zip off part of the pant, or changed into something else. Venting, not only in hiking pants, but in general, is an ideal way to regulate body heat without having to remove layers and/ or items as your level of effort ebbs and flows throughout the day.
The notion here is more about minimalistic design rather than just design for design's sake. What we are really talking about here, is a design that meets the requirements of the field, but doesn't have to have lots of bells and whistles attached. Imaging you are hiking through brush, or some similarly constricted area, pants that don't have a lot of loops, pockets and other features sticking out are less likely to snag and cause issues. Sleek and streamlined is the look that's ideal here. You can apply that thought process to just about all outdoor clothing, but down here (below that waist) is where more of the incidental contact happens.
There are a couple of thoughts where adjustable comes to mind. First and foremost, for most of our guides, the notion is about being able to adapt quickly, while on the move, in the field. The number one feature that most of us look for is the ability to convert the pants into shorts very easily. Most of your major hiking pants manufacturers have at least one or two design that include zip off legs. As a feature this offers two benefits; one, simple conversion when temperature changes call for it and two, overall you have to carry less clothes with you in a trip. Two pairs of convertible pants equals four different clothing options on the trip.
Let's start off in a simpler place and then work towards some things that we think you might want to consider. This does not mean you have to have one of the shirt types we recommend, plenty of people get by with what they already have and are comfortable with. We simply want to leave you well informed and then you can take it from there.
For the most part you will find our guides in their normal day to day shirts when they are out leading workshops. It's what they are used, what they feel comfortable in and most of all, what they already own (likely more than just one). From time to time though, you will see our guides switching to a different shirt type and / or material when the conditions call for it.
There are numerous products out there to consider and we don't want to do a rundown of them all. What we would like to do, below, is offer some generic thoughts.
- Long sleeve, collared hiking shirts (Summer / light weight)
These shirts are usually made specifically for hiking in the outdoors and any good outdoor store will have a variety to choose from. Look for some of the following attributes when select a shirt or two for yourself.
Today's newer hiking shirts are using materials that wick moisture away from the body quickly, while at the same time promote faster evaporation. These are great shirts for hikes and / or photo shoots where you might be spending significant time in the sun. Some of the newest materials boast sunscreen capability and even anti-microbial treatments that reduce odor magically (your fellow workshop participants will love that feature!).
Our guides tend to look for some of the following, in how the shirt is made. Button up collars, that facilitate being able to protect the neck and back of the neck from the elements and direct sun. Torso to arm attachments that offer gussets for ease of mobility and potentially even some venting functionality to allow the shirt to
breatheeasier on hotter days. Lastly consider the cuff; how tight is it, can it easily be done and undone and lastly does the shirt offer some methods for not only rolling up the sleeve but securing it in place when rolled up.
- Short sleeve, collared hiking shirts (Summer / light weight)
Pretty much the same considerations as above, but with less focus on sleeve design and an obvious lack of concern over the cuff design.
- Long and Short sleeve, collared hiking shirts (Winter / heavy weight)
Believe it or not, most of the material and design concerns from above, translate pretty directly into cooler weather concerns. Wicking, venting and comfort are all critical in this category as well. The notable exception being, that typically heavier weight materials are being used and these materials are being selected on the basis of their potential heat retention. Flannel still is a leading contender in shirts designed for cooler weather and newer higher
loft materials (think thicker) are becoming more and more popular.
Generically speaking, when consider any outdoor shirt, especially when thinking about spending the day in the shirt, with potential layering on top of it and the potential of a camera backpack, selecting something that fits well and does its job is important. The agitation of having to take your backpack and coat off to continually adjust fit can be exasperating and take your mind off a composing images. A shirt that's too small, can be equally limiting and frustrating.
Think of outerwear as strategically thought out layers and you'll be on the right track. All of our guides have adopted this approach, as has most of the serious outdoors community and they can now happily adjust as the weather and conditions demand, without the need to carry tons of clothing into the field.
By and large, when the weather might possible go from normal to damp and / or cold, it's best to have a number of layers that you can deploy as needed. In thinking through this layered approach, what you are wanting to accomplish is a system that can deal with wind, color and moisture independently or all at the same time. Let's take a look at the layers in the system and the purpose of each one:
- Base Layer
This is the layer that is closest to the skin, or in this case your hiking shirt and / or pants. This layers job is to help regulate body temperature by wicking moisture (read, sweat) away from your body, but maintaining warmth at the same time.
The ability to keep dry helps you to maintain a cool body temperature in the Summer and avoid colder, hypothermic temperatures in the Winter. Anyone who has ever experienced a cotton based shirt under a coat that doesn't breathe remembers the soggy, clammy feeling all too well, even though that moisture didn't come from the weather, rather from your body.
For a base layer consider fabrics such as fleeces, wools, synthetics such as Polartec, Patagonia Capilene or for less active use silks. Avoid cottons and similar fabrics that don't wick moisture well. Wicking is what you're looking for and as a result, when you sweat that moisture is moved from your skin quicker and your core temperature is much better regulated.
Choose a base weight that's appropriate for what the expected conditions are. Thinner base weights in the Summer and heavier base weights as the temperature and seasons start to change.
- Insulation Layer
This is the layer that's responsible for retaining the heat that you generate and keeping it trapped close to your body. This desired effect is usually achieved by a combination of some light fill material and a combination of air space between the fill elements to
trapthe heat. Usually natural fibers such as wools and down (in particular goose down) are the insulators that are used. Wool offers continued protection even when wet, but not everyone likes that weight or feel of wool. Goose down is one to the best insulators being offered, but must be kept dry in order to be effective (that's where the protection layer comes in).
Synthetics are effective as well and fabrics such as Polartec Fleece or Thermal Pro are offerings good insulation ratings with more resistance to moisture based failure in trapping heat. They tend to dry faster, are lightweight and breathable, with the one potential drawback being that they are more susceptible to being permeated by wind and not quite as warm as down.
Again the weight of this layer has a direct correlation with its warmth retention, so thinner weights are more appropriate in mild temperate settings and thicker insulation layers are called for when the temperatures drop lower.
- Protection Layer
This is the layer that keeps you and the elements apart from one another. Design with wind, rain and snow in mind, this layer is your
little bubbleto steal a phrase from one of our friends. A protection layer, or shell as it's more commonly known, can range in price from higher dollar mountaineering jackets, to lower priced waterproof coats. Most allow for some method of venting moisture from within and provide some form of treatment that keeps rain and snow out.
A shell is an important tool in bad weather and its technical design can truly be appreciated when wind and precipitation are all happening at the same time. Its capabilities to deal with all these elements, can make a huge difference in keeping you warm and dry, while at the same time allowing your perspiration to escape. A delicate yet critical balance at times.
The technical concerns aside, which we will describe shortly, the fit of a shell is important. We know for some (we won't be sexist here, not our style) a sleek, streamlined fit is the desired look, however when buying a shell, make sure there is ample room for your insulating layer and base layers, and at the same time fluid movement while you are hiking and / or taking pictures.
We typically place shells into one of the following three (3) categories:
- Waterproof / Breathable Shells:
These are typically the most functional and correspondingly, expensive shells available. Being best for wet, cool conditions and alpine based activities. These jackets offer laminated membranes such as Gore-Tex that offer breathability and wind / exterior moisture barriers all at the same time. Available as rain-gear in lighter weights and mountaineering gear in heavier more durable weights.
- Water-Resistant / Breathable Shells:
These are typically a little less functional than their counterpart mentioned above and of course correspondingly less expensive. Their construction typically does not involve the expensive membranes mentioned above, in favor of less expensive tightly woven fabrics, that may offer a lesser degree of water and wind protection to the wearer.
- Waterproof / Non-Breathable Shells:
These are typically even less functional than their two counterparts listed above and correspondingly are the least expensive choice of the three. They are typically constructed of coated nylons or polyesters and while they often provide good moisture and wind resistance, their coatings preclude the function of wicking moisture from the wearer. Not necessarily a good choice for days where ambient temperature and / or activity of the wearer is variable.
- Waterproof / Breathable Shells:
For those really cold days, you just can't be a thermal layer underneath your regular outdoor clothing. This layer provides one additional method for keeping in heat and at the same well designed choices wick moisture outward from the body helping to maintain its regular temperature. Our guides tend to prefer thermal layers that are thin and stretchy and more or less conform to the shape of the body. This closer fit keeps the thermal layer from sagging and / or bunching up, leading to a more comfortable, day long wear experience.
Thermal layers that use technology like Patagonia Capilene, tend to be thinner overall and do a generally good job of wicking moisture. Our preference leans towards upper body thermals that have full length sleeves and a smaller v-neck, preferring to avoid a neck with a collar and / or turtle neck for comfort reasons. In lowers, we look again for snug fits, opting to go with brands that offer shorter legs, so that we don't have to have the bulk of the thermal interfering with boot fit. It is not unusual to see thermal layer legs cut shorter for just this reason.
Miscellaneous Packing Recommendations
While this list is not intended to be all inclusive, the following represents a collection of items that we have either wished we had along, have heard others say they had forgotten, or have helped our participants locate while they were at a workshop location:
- Prescription Eyewear / Sunglasses
- Let's face it, photography is a visual pursuit and it's pretty hard to be in pursuit when you can't see what you are pursuing. When it comes to prescription eyewear, replacement prescriptions can be difficult to find on location, so making sure you pack these can be a fairly important consideration. For remote locations a spare pair of glasses can prove to be and has proven to be a valuable asset.
- As a photographer, your eyes are pretty important to you. Long hours in the sun and staring at potential scenes can take its toll, not to mention wind, sand, rain, etc. Don't forget that giving your eyes a break from the harsh light can be a good thing and having a pair of sunglasses along can be the best way to do just that.
- Beyond having the normal aspirin, or whatever your choice of pain reliever is, don't forget to bring your prescription medications along. Nothing ruins a trip faster than having your day to day health be off kilter. In today's prescription based world, a little foresight here can go a long ways. Prescriptions can be a tricky thing to get filled while traveling, especially in some of the more remote places we will be photographing. Make sure you have an adequate supply of any drug(s) that you might be taking. A quick side note here; due to liability reasons, we can not dispense any over the counter medications to our workshop participants.
- Bug Spray / Bug Clothing
- While nature's insect species can make for wonderful macro subjects, they can also be pesky when in the great outdoors. We will call out, in the workshop packing checklist, locations that have heightened bug spray requirements. Generally speaking, we try to recommend and use bug sprays that are effective and have a minimal chemical footprint on the ecology.
- There are some locations, particularly in Northern climates, where summer flies and mosquitos can be extremely irritating, not too mention plentiful. In these cases, we recommend bug clothing be worn. The clothing items (in particular bug shirts and bug pants) have fitted openings that close down to prevent bugs from entering into your clothing and also typically contain fitted, mesh hoods to protect your hairline and face. These bugs aren't dangerous, or even large, but they exist in such sufficient quantity that they can be quite maddening.
- Sun Screen
- Of course sun screen is all the rage these days and why wouldn't it be, it's a wonderful front line defense against all sorts of sun related cancers. It doesn't have to be a bright and sunny day in the desert to warrant sun screen. A number of our workshops are held in the bright reflective light of snow covered landscapes, as well as at altitudes and locations that place us "as photographers" closer to the direct light of the sun. Sun screen, in general, is always a good idea and we highly recommend it any time that we are going to be spending extended periods of time out in the outdoors.
- First Aid Kit
- This is the one item that you hope you'll never need and be beyond thrilled to find it's in reach when the chips are down. No one plans to go out and get hurt, but lots of people fail to plan to be ready in case they are. Any field photographer, that is worth their salt, will tell you that they have a minimal first aid kit in their camera bag / backpack. A few simple items; some band aids, medical (gaffer) tape, pain relievers, etc., can go a long way towards making complex situations simpler when need be.
- Emergency Supplies
- Along the lines of a first aid kit, it is worth pointing out that a few other emergency supplies tucked into your bag or backpack is not a bad idea. Here are just a few ideas for things that can be invaluable items to have with you when the going gets tough:
- Space blanket
- Water purification tablets / filtration system
- Signaling mirror / whistle
- High energy snacks
- Extra socks
- Along the lines of a first aid kit, it is worth pointing out that a few other emergency supplies tucked into your bag or backpack is not a bad idea. Here are just a few ideas for things that can be invaluable items to have with you when the going gets tough:
- Hydration System
- Staying hydrated is quite literally the single most important survival skill there is. Long story short, lack of water is an impending worst case scenario. Now we are not trying to paint a doom and gloom picture here, but we do want you to think about drinking (and hey after spending time with us, you probably will be thinking about drinking...no wait that's another topic all together...) lots of fluids. Oddly enough, while soaring temperatures can be good indicators of potential dehydration risk, it's not the only kind of weather that can have that affect.
It is important for our workshop participants to both know and plan for the conditions they are about to encounter. Hardly fair to send someone off to a wet, humid environment and not prepare them in any way to deal with that. To make sure we took that pre-planning notion to heart, we developed the "conditions rating" code.
The conditions rating code, provides a visual shortcut, if you will, allowing participants to look at any itinerary to determine what they can expect when attending a specific workshop at a specific time.
The conditions rating code is a 5 digit number, made up of five distinct position values. Below is an example of a conditions rating code:
We would break this code down as follows:
Hike Rating (Position One): 2
Elevation Rating (Position Two): 3
Temperature Rating (Position Three): 3
Humidity Rating (Position Four): 4
Moisture Rating (Position Five): 4
Essentially, the code above is describing fairly easy hikes, not much in the way of altitude and / or exposure concern, normal temperatures, an environment that's a little more humid than normal and some potential water exposure for the participant and / or gear (by the way, a perfect description for a workshop at Olympic National Park).
Below you will find the condition categories that we considered when we put a conditions rating code together for a workshop and / or a portion of its itinerary.
Hike Rating (Position One):
1 - A walk in the park
Basically level trails, with almost no elevation change along the way. None of the trails are exceedingly long. If the participant is capable of normal day to day walking around the neighborhood, these trails should be a walk in the park (see what we did there...).
2 - A walk around the park
The trails might be a little bit longer, or they might be some slight elevation changes thrown in. If the participant walks on a regular basis in his or her daily life, they should be good to go.
3 - A walk between two parks
A little bit more serious walking here, in the roughly 5-7 mile range per day. May be some elevation changes to deal with as well. The average person, who is in average health should be able to power through a few days of type of hiking.
4 - A walk between multiple parks
The hikes are longer in length running in the up to 10-12 mile range and / or have enough elevation thrown in to challenge that blood pressure and stamina. If you are generally athletic, then these conditions should be okay for you. If you are not, you may want to consider some pre-trip training.
5 - A walk to parks that we don't even know where they are
These hikes are testing the stamina of the normally fit active individual, either in length, elevation changes or both at the same time. If you are not a normal off-road hiker you want to consider both the training and the potential gear needed to successfully complete these treks.
Elevation Rating (Position Two):
1 - It's all downhill from here
These outings have very little altitude and / or exposure to be worried about. Hikes are on flat ground, with no exposure whatsoever. An easy, carefree experience is a given.
2 - Pretty much flat
There might be a smidgen of altitude (in the 5,000 - 7,000 foot range) and / or a little more exposure to be worried about. Still an easy, carefree experience should be had by most.
3 - Just the right amount of rock and roll
Were starting to add either a little altitude here (in the 7,000 - 9,000 foot range) and / or there is starting to be some exposure on the hikes. Manageable by most, except those with abnormal fear of heights and / or breathing issues.
4 - More roll than rock to this one
Okay, now we are getting up there, our altitude has become a concern for some (in the 9,000 - 12,000 foot range) and / or the exposure potential has gone way up with large scale drops close by not directly underfoot. If you have pulmonary issues and / or fear of heights, this would be one to talk through first.
5 - Where's the elevator
Things are getting serious here, the altitude is a very real concern for some (in the 12,000+ foot range) and / or open exposed heights are a very real and closely present issue. Any pulmonary issues and / or fear of heights are a disqualification for this experience.
Temperature Rating (Position Three):
1 - Pretty darn cold
This is likely a workshop being done in the snow, or in conditions that are constantly cold and unrelenting. A workshop of this nature has itineraries that call for day long exposure to the elements without relief. Of course seasoned outdoors folk know that these conditions are manageable if prepared for. Make sure that you are prepared and / or ask for our thoughts on getting prepared.
2 - A little bit cold
This is likely a workshop being done with some exposure to the snow (mostly on an intermittent basis) and / or wet blowing conditions. These conditions coupled with long term exposure can lead to the reduction of body core temperature. Again preparation is necessary, but numerous opportunities will exist to escape the elements as need be.
3 - Feels just about right
This is what some would consider normal temperatures and / or normal winds. Generally talking about temperatures somewhere between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, with little to no on-going elements (i.e., wind, rain, etc.) to make one uncomfortable. Evenings might come with a slight chill, so some preparation for that is called for.
4 - A little bit hot
Your proverbial shorts / t-shirt / flip flops weather (though pay attention to other conditions before you don that uniform) where one is comfortable, relaxed and thinking about umbrellas drinks all at the same time. Ideal photography weather for those who are not the die hard outdoor enthusiast...well and the rest of us too.
5 - Pretty darn hot
Getting down right toasty in here, this type of workshop is either occurring in a climate where hot, humid weather is the norm, or we have just trekked out into the desert. Workshops like these call for plenty of water, breaks from the sun and even more umbrella drinks (haha). Remember inside every cloud is a silver lining and at these hot workshops there must be a great image somewhere, or we wouldn't be here!
Humidity Rating (Position Four):
When we are thinking humidity rating, we are mostly thinking about hydration. Use a workshop's humidity rating to determine, your hydration needs.
1 - Standing in the shower
Hydration, always important, is not a horribly critical short term issue here. The ambient humidity is not supporting much in the way of evaporation and you won't be losing large amount of moisture via sweating and / or wind exposure.
2 - Dripping dry
Hydration, always important, is less of an issue here than normal and you can probably get by with slightly less than your normal consumption. Again the ambient humidity and / or weather conditions are not posing much of an issue here.
3 - Feels just about right
Hydration, always important, is at a normal level here. Consider what you normally drink when performing outdoors activities and plan for that, or just a tad more to be safe.
4 - Need a little moisturizer
Hydration, always important, is a little bit more of a concern here, either the ambient conditions are causing evaporation of larger volumes of body moisture than normal, or the activities being embarked upon are going to require more fluids. An in-pack, self-contained hydration bladder is highly recommended for this outing.
5 - Desert dry
Hydration, always important, is paramount here, either the ambient conditions are evaporating large volumes of moisture and / or the activities are strenuous enough that on-going hydration is a constant concern. An in-pack, self-contained hydration system is a must and careful planning on water volumes and reserves is called for.
Moisture Rating (Position Five):
When we are thinking about moisture rating, we are mostly thinking about physical moisture in the air. Use a workshop's moisture rating to determine what personal and / or gear protection considerations are in order.
1 - Must. Find. Water.
Completely dry out, your only concern may be one of wind and / or sun protection. Your gear is safe from the elements, with the notable exception of potential wind with dust particles. Maybe some form of cover up could be useful, but most get by without it.
2 - Just a tad overcooked
Still pretty darn dry, but less chance of wind and dust. Not much need for moisture protection for either you or your camera here.
3 - Cool Summer breeze
What we would call normal, and for us to call something normal is a stretch! Just kidding, you are comfortable and your gear is comfortable as well. No moisture considerations here at all.
4 - Call me misty
Either on-going fog, mist, etc., is providing some moisture in the air, or there is a possibility of exposure to moisture from an intermittent water crossing and / or waterfall. Exposure protection for both you and your camera should be available but not necessarily needed at all times. Have it along though, better safe than sorry.
5 - Full on downpour
The monsoons have moved in and were about to float away. Okay, it's not quite that bad, but certainly we expect the possibility of both ourselves and our gear getting wet. We are recommending on-going water protection for all involved. This might mean constant rain gear for the photographer and / or dry bags for any gear. If we are rating a workshop this way because of on-going water crossings, we consider the when of slipping into the river, not the if.
What follows is some generic information that should prove helpful in thinking through your travel plans, to one of our workshops. The information below is general information and talks about how almost all of our workshops are run from a travel and planning perspective.
Destination Airport is the airport that we believe best serves the location that our workshop will be held at. This airport may not necessarily be the closest airport to our workshop location, physically, but our experience tells us that this airport offers the best combination of flights, services and ground support. You of course are free to arrive via whichever airport you prefer, this is simple our considered first choice.
As a workshop participant it is your responsibility to arrange transportation from where ever you may be coming from to either the desinataion airport or the airport of your choice. You should make arrangements, via rental car, shuttle service or ride sharing to get from your arrival airport to our chosen destination city.
General speaking workshop guides will have arrived prior to the arrival of any guests, however they are most often involved in scouting, preparation and planning activities and are not a reliable source of transportation from your airport to the destination city.
You'll find that the
Destination Airport is always specifically spelled out in the tab
Workshop Travel Information in the
Information About This Workshop... section.
Destination City is the city that typically hosts our base of operations. This
Destination City typically serves as the gateway to the area or region where we will be doing most of our field work. Whenever a workshop covers a large enough area, that we must move our base of operations, one or more times, during the course of the workshop, the
Destination City provided will be the city where the first evening of our workshop will be held.
It is our advice that our guests arrive around midday, as most hotel / motel checkins begin around that time. In the section
Information About This Workshop... you will find the tab
Itinerary / Events / Conditions and the hotel / motel check in time will be specifically listed for your convenience. Typically around 5:30 p.m., on arrival day, we will all meet in the lobby of our lodging establishment and ensure that everyone is settled into their rooms, all needs have been met and do a quick briefing on what to expect throughout the course of the upcoming workshop.
As much as we love teaching photography and showing people around amazing places, these workshops do come with a cost. Some of the costs are incurred up front, as soon as we starting reserving rooms, arranging for portable meals or any of a myriad of resources that we need to offer you a first class photography experience. Other costs are incurred as the workshop is being run and are bills that we must pay as we go along.
We have endeavored to keep the totals for our each of our workshops fairly priced. When you compare one workshop to another, please keep in mind that the obvious things like number of days, local resources need and local travel distances all have an impact. There are other potential hidden differences as well, some locations are much more popular than others, making our costs and thereby your overall cost higher to cover that difference. Internationally locations that are remote and correspondingly, amazingly photogenic, may enjoy that very trait because of it's difficult in terms of travel routing or travel time. Remember though, if it's hard for you to get there, it is also likely that food, lodging and resources are difficult to ship there as well. A hamburger, fried and a diet coke, which totals $10.00 here, may in fact be $25.00 in another country.
If you have any questions about the costs of any of our workshops, please let us know. It is important to us that you feel there is a true value proposition here. We want to ensure that we make a reasonable profit, but we also know our customers expect value for their hard earned money. It's an equation that we know, understand and embrace.
120 days, or prior to 120 days, before a scheduled workshop's starting date:
Soft Lite Studios requires a deposit of no less than 25% of the workshop's total cost.
90 days before a scheduled workshop's starting date:
Soft Lite Studios requires that a minimum of 50% of the total cost of the workshop be paid on or prior to that date.
60 days before a scheduled workshop's starting date:
Soft Lite Studios requires that a minimum of 75% of the total cost of the workshop be paid on or prior to that date.
30 days before a scheduled workshop's starting date:
Soft Lite Studios requires that 100% of the total cost of the workshop be paid on or prior to that date.
Please note: Soft Lite Studios will extend the following discount, at the time of workshop registration, if the corresponding requirements are met.
- At time of booking, entire workshop fee is paid, Soft Lite Studios will offer a 2.5% reduction in cost for that workshop.
What If We Need To Cancel A Workshop?
For starters, something very serious would have to happen for us to cancel one of our workshops. Think biblical, end of times stuff, you know Armageddon or other similar storylines that would involve Bruce Willis in some way. Seriously, weather has never been a factor in a workshop cancellation for Soft Lite Studios, in fact we embrace weather systems (rain fronts, thunderstorms and snowstorms) as they offer some of the most dramatic background opportunities for photographers. Likely the only weather that could threaten a scheduled workshop is weather that would keep us from getting to our selected location. Short of that, about the only other form of event that could cause a workshop to be cancelled is a family emergency involving the workshop's guide.
At the customer's choosing, we offer one of two possibly remedies for a workshop that we are forced to cancel:
- Application of full workshop cost to a future workshop of the customer's choosing, assuming there is space available in said workshop.
- Refund of workshop fees, minus any unrecoverable costs that we have incurred.
Please note: As outlined in our "Liability Release" form, we are not responsible for any costs associated with travel services that you book, additional hotel nights that you arrange directly outside of the workshop's scheduled itinerary or any other costs that you incur by direct booking and / or arrangement.
What If You Need To Cancel A Workshop?
First and foremost we will try to work with, in as much as is financially feasible. We know and understand that things happen in people's lives, that they can't predict. We also have to be cognizant of the fact that some of our expenses happen up front and we simply can't make those go away.
We have the following refund schedule in place for cancellations prior to the offering of a workshop:
120 or more days before a scheduled workshop's starting date:
Soft Lite Studios will refund monies paid, to date, to the customer, minus the initial deposit amount (20% of workshop cost) for the workshop.
90 or more days, but less than 120 days before a scheduled workshop's starting date:
Soft Lite Studios will refund 100% of the monies paid to date, to the customer, minus the initial deposit amount (20% of workshop cost) for the workshop.
60 or more days, but less than 90 days before a scheduled workshop's starting date:
Soft Lite Studios will refund 75% of the monies paid to date, to the customer, minus the initial deposit amount (20% of workshop cost) for the workshop.
45 or more days, but less than 60 days before a scheduled workshop's starting date:
Soft Lite Studios will refund 50% of the monies paid to date, to the customer, minus the initial deposit amount (20% of workshop cost) for the workshop.
31 or more days, but less than 45 days before a scheduled workshop's starting date:
Soft Lite Studios will refund 25% of the monies paid to date, to the customer, minus the initial deposit amount (20% of workshop cost) for the workshop.
30 or less days, before a scheduled workshop's starting date:
Soft Lite Studios will refund 0% of the monies paid to date, to the customer, for the workshop.
Please Note: If the workshop is sold out, and Soft Lite Studios is able to find another participant, to take your place at that workshop, Soft Lite Studios will refund all monies paid at the time of your cancellation, minus the initial deposit amount (20% of workshop cost) for the workshop. This offer only applies to workshops that either at the time of cancellation or prior to the starting date of the workshop reach capacity enrollment.
Information about legal stuff…
- Lines In The Sand - Death Valley National Park
2018-01-04 - 2018-01-09
16:00 - 17:00
Venue: Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park is a national park in the U.S. states of California and Nevada that is located east of the Sierra Nevada, occupying an interface zone between the arid Great Basin and Mojave deserts in the United States. The park protects the northwest corner of the Mojave Desert and contains a diverse desert environment of salt-flats, sand dunes, badlands, valleys, canyons, and mountains. It is the largest national park in the lower 48 states and has been declared an International Biosphere Reserve. Approximately 95% of the park is a designated wilderness area. It is the hottest and driest of the national parks in the United States. The second-lowest point in the Western Hemisphere is in Badwater Basin, which is 282 feet (86 m) below sea level. The park is home to many species of plants and animals that have adapted to this harsh desert environment. Some examples include creosote bush, bighorn sheep, coyote, and the Death Valley pupfish, a survivor of much wetter times.
A series of Native American groups inhabited the area from as early as 7000 BC, most recently the Timbisha around 1000 AD who migrated between winter camps in the valleys and summer grounds in the mountains. A group of European-Americans that became stuck in the valley in 1849 while looking for a shortcut to the gold fields of California gave the valley its name, even though only one of their group died there. Several short-lived boom towns sprang up during the late 19th and early 20th centuries to mine gold and silver. The only long-term profitable ore to be mined was borax, which was transported out of the valley with twenty-mule teams. The valley later became the subject of books, radio programs, television series, and movies. Tourism blossomed in the 1920s, when resorts were built around Stovepipe Wells and Furnace Creek. Death Valley National Monument was declared in 1933 and the park was substantially expanded and became a national park in 1994.
The natural environment of the area has been shaped largely by its geology. The valley itself is actually a graben. The oldest rocks are extensively metamorphosed and at least 1.7 billion years old. Ancient, warm, shallow seas deposited marine sediments until rifting opened the Pacific Ocean. Additional sedimentation occurred until a subduction zone formed off the coast. This uplifted the region out of the sea and created a line of volcanoes. Later the crust started to pull apart, creating the current Basin and Range landform. Valleys filled with sediment and, during the wet times of glacial periods, with lakes, such as Lake Manly.
In 2013, Death Valley National Park was designated as a dark sky park by the International Dark-Sky Association. Providing astro-photographers in the region and throughout the country with a protected and naturally fitting place for star and star trail imaging.