Beyond the Badlands

May 4-7, 2021 Sold Out!!

Quick Summary

Join us in Hanksville, UT for a foray into some remote and seldom photographed parts of the Utah badlands.  Come witness one of the most spectacular landscapes on Earth! With some of the darkest skies in the US, we will be venturing out to shoot the Milky Way early in the mornings. This workshop is rated Moderate for physical intensity with 2-4 miles of hiking per day.

Utah Badlands Photography Workshop Action Photo Tours


  • The badlands of central Utah are filled with spectacular photo spots that will blow your mind!  This workshop is designed for those who truly want to get off the beaten path and improve their photography skills.
  • The workshop dates are optimized for great weather, atmospheric conditions, and Milky Way photography!  We'll concentrate on night photography as long as the skies are clear.
  • With a small group, we guarantee plenty of individual attention.  You will learn many new camera skills while visiting some of the most spectacular locations.
  • We provide all the transportation during the workshop so you don't have to worry about the rough roads.
  • Post-processing and image critique sessions will be scheduled throughout the workshop to help make the most of your images.


The itinerary is flexible to allow us to chase the best conditions. If skies are clear, we'll focus on Milky Way shooting in the early morning hours. If storms and clouds are moving through, we'll spend more time photographing during the day. There is a chance for wildflowers this time of year. If so, we'll spend more time photographing the bloom. The itinerary below is just an example of what you can expect.

  • Day 1 (Tues May 4):  Meet at 2PM in Hanksville, UT for a mandatory introductory session.  After dinner, we head out to a nearby sunset location and get to bed early. Since skies are clear, we head out to Cathedral Valley to photograph sunset.  When darkness falls, we'll shoot some brilliant Milky Way panos while learning various foreground enhancement techniques. Expect a very late arrival back in Hanksville.
  • Day 2 (Wed May 5):  Since skies are clear, we wake up at 2AM and head out to Cathedral Valley. We'll shoot some brilliant Milky Way panos while learning various foreground enhancement techniques. For sunrise, we find a nice area with emerging wildflowers!  We head back to town for a midday break and meet up after lunch for a post-processing session. In the evening we venture out to shoot the Blue Hills and Badlands in soft twilight.
  • Day 3 (Thurs May 6): We are awake again at 2AM for more night photography at an amazing viewpoint of the badlands. We'll practice our natural light shooting techniques and stay out again through sunrise. We do another post-processing session along with image critique this afternoon. The forecast is calling for clouds, so we hike out to a seldom visited viewpoint in the stark badlands.  We're in luck as the sky lights up brilliantly!  We head back to Hanksville and get to bed early.
  • Day 4 (Fri May 7):  With good clouds forecast for sunrise, we wake before dawn to photograph one of our favorite morning locations.  You'll get wide landscapes, abstracts, and much more. This is also the perfect place to take drone aeriels.   You'll know what we mean that this place is almost like being on a different planet!  We finish the workshop with a final post-processing session and group lunch.
Beyond the Badlands Utah Photo Workshops
Mud Cracks Milky Way Beyond the Badlands Photography Workshop


Please arrive in Hanksville, UT prior to 2PM on May 4 for the orientation session. We didn’t include hotel stays on this trip to allow you the flexibility of a lodging option of your choice.  We highly recommend you book a cabin at Duke's Slickrock.  You can get our special workshop rate of $99/night + tax by calling them at 435-542-3235 and mentioning Action Photo Tours. You will need lodging for the nights of May 4-6, especially since we'll be doing a lot of sleeping during the day.

Participants should have their own vehicle to get to Hanksville.  All transportation during the workshop is included. Everyone on this trip should be in reasonably good physical condition.  We aren't planning any long hikes, but the uneven terrain, sand, and steep uphills can make short hikes seem much harder.  You should be comfortable walking around 3-4 miles per day.

We timed this workshop for optimal spring Milky Way photography. However, we can't control the weather and if skies are cloudy one day, we'll plan an outing to a different location and focus on sunrise/sunset photography. Don't worry - we'll make the best possible use of our time. Our job is to get you the most stunning photos and help you learn as much as possible!

The weather should be temperate and sunny with cool nights in May.  But come prepared just in case rain and cold temps move in. You'll need to bring warm layers to ensure you don't get cold photographing at night.  Please see the gear list further down.

This area definitely has potential to become the next photography hotspot. We don't want to see that happen since it is such a delicate area that can't handle a lot of traffic. We ask all participants to not reveal specific locations when posting shots online.

Additional Notes


Many of the areas we visit are perfect for using a drone camera.  It's up to you if you want to bring a drone on this trip and we will let you know where it's possible to fly it.  Please let us know if you intend to bring a drone so we can plan out the logistics with the other participants and the itinerary. We will be more than happy to help teach and instruct you on your drone photography.

David Swindler is the workshop instructor and he has lots of experience guiding groups in this area.  You can trust us to get you off the beaten path! We are authorized permit holders with the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM). We carry a satellite beacon in case we run into any emergencies in the backcountry.

We keep our groups small so we can give you adequate individual attention.  Education and instruction is an important component of our workshops which is why we also schedule plenty of post-processing time throughout our days together.  Come explore our amazing world with us!


Utah Badlands Photo Workshop
Utah Badlands Photography Workshop Action Photo Tours
Beyond the Badlands Utah Photo Workshops
Beyond the Badlands Photography Workshop Goblin Valley Night


$1595 per Person


Trip Includes:

  • All ground transportation and photography guiding during the trip.
  • Post-processing and image critique
  • Lighting equipment and fixtures for night photography.
  • Park entrance fees.
  • Final Group Lunch


Trip Does NOT Include:

  • Transportation to/from your home to Hanksville, UT.
  • Hotel Accommodations.
  • Alcoholic Beverages.
  • Meals and snacks with exception of final group lunch.


When you complete the checkout process, you will be given the option to either pay the full amount or put down a 50% deposit.  If you pay the deposit, the remaining amount will be charged 30-days prior to arrival to the credit card we have on file.

Recommended Camera Gear

  • Sturdy tripod and ballhead
  • Digital SLR or Mirrorless Camera Body.
  • Fast Wide Angle Lens. Our favorite night photo lenses include Tamron 15-30mm f2.8, Rokinon 14mm f2.8, Nikon 14-24mm f2.8, and Canon 16-35mm III f2.8.
  • Mid-range zoom lens in the range of 24-100mm.
  • Long telephoto lenses will come in handy for creating abstract images. We really like our Sigma/Tamron 150-600mm lenses.
  • Circular polarizer filters are useful.  Bring any ND filters if you have them.
  • Extra batteries, memory cards, and cleaning supplies.
  • Remote cord for your camera. An intervalometer will be especially useful for doing long exposures at night.
  • Laptop if you wish to backup your photos or follow along during the post-processing instruction.
  • We may be able to rent you gear if you don't have everything you need.

Personal Gear List

  • Sturdy hiking footwear, hiking socks, and long pants .
  • A rain jacket and several warm layers since it can get cold at night.
  • Headlamp for night photography.
  • Sunscreen, Sunglasses, Hat.
  • Water bottle or hydration bladder.
  • Hiking poles if you like having them.

Beyond the Badlands Utah Photo Workshops
Utah Badlands Photography Workshop Action Photo Tours


"Just finished a 5 day Utah Badlands Tour with Dustin and David. It was amazing!! The landscapes were phenomenal and the instruction was great!! The tour was professional and well organized. Now to process all those photos! "

- Jen - Ohio

"My experience on the Utah Badlands Photo Workshop singularly changed my outlook on landscape photography. Being a professional commercial photographer for the past decade, I thought I knew the boundaries of photography. However, David and Dustin generously and eloquently shared their photographic vision and helped push me beyond my limits to a place I had never been before. "

- A.J - UT

"Exceptional trip to the Utah Badlands with Action Photo Tours and trip leaders David Swindler and Dustin Lefevre. They know and care about the land and when to be where to observe and photograph this stunning area. I learned a ton of photography and connected with a great group of people."

- Meg, CA

"David and Dustin are passionate about getting you to unique and unknown locations and make sure they get you there for the best lighting conditions. They give you as much attention or independence as you need to have a successful workshop. David and Dustin also do a great job of balancing time in the field with time spent on photo editing."

- Ken, CA

"Just finished the Beyond the Badlands Workshop and it was awesome! David and Dustin were upbeat and know this area like the back of their hands. They were knowledgeable and always ready to help, no matter what your experience level, both with shooting and with post processing questions! "

- George, FL

"David and Dustin do an amazing job of both instructing and guiding clients to the most amazing and undiscovered places in the Badlands of Southern Utah. If you want to travel with real pros who get you to the best shots, in the best places and most importantly at the right times - go with the team at Action Photo Tours." 

- Richard, TX

"Fantastic trip, taken to places the normal person would not find or have the opportunity to photograph. If you like landscape photography, this is the group to travel with."

- James, GA

"The guides knew the best places and times to get some great photos. I learned a ton of tips to improve my photography."

- Jaime, CO

"Just finished the Beyond the Badlands Workshop and it was awesome! David and Dustin were upbeat and know this area like the back of their hands. They were knowledgeable and always ready to help, no matter what your experience level, both with shooting and with post processing questions! "

- George, FL

David Swindler

David Swindler

David Swindler is a National Geographic award-winning landscape and wildlife photographer. He received a degree in chemical engineering and worked in the semiconductor industry specializing in optics and photolithography. Back in 2014 he quit his day job to follow his true passion. He has traveled to many locations around the world and has extensive experience photographing a wide variety of subjects and conditions. He finds great satisfaction in helping others learn photography, especially in the wild desert environment near his home in Kanab, UT.  David is an expert in night photography and loves to get out and shoot the starry night skies. Catch a glimpse of David's work in the slideshow, and follow the links below to see more!

Gallery   Media Coverage    500px     Flickr

David has been leading guided photo tours for many years. He is very familiar with many different types of cameras and how to capture the best photos. And most importantly, his clients are the top priority while out in the field.  Just read what others are saying here: Trip Advisor.

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