Beyond the Badlands

April 19-23, 2021 - Sold Out!!

Join us in Hanksville, UT for a foray into some remote and seldom photographed parts of the Utah desert.  When skies are clear we'll be out shooting the Milky Way.  Come witness one of the most spectacular landscapes on Earth! This workshop is rated Moderate for physical intensity with 2-4 miles of hiking per day.


  • $2495
  • Includes Single Occupancy Lodging
  • 50% Deposit

Max Group Size

  • 4 Students per Instructor
  • Max 8 Students


  • David Swindler 
  • Kevin McNeal
Southern Utah Photo Workshop


  • The badlands of central Utah are filled with spectacular locations 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 possible wildflowers!
  • With clear skies, we'll venture out for early morning Milky Way shoots.
  • We guarantee plenty of individual attention in our small groups.  You will learn many new camera skills and techniques.
  • 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 storms and clouds are moving through, we'll spend more time photographing during the day. When skies are clear, we'll be out looking for the Milky Way (first 3 nights). The itinerary below is just an example of what you can expect.
  • Day 1 (Mon Apr 19):  Meet at 2PM at Duke's Slickrock Grill, 275 UT-24, Hanksville, UT for a mandatory introductory session. After a quick dinner, we hike up to a high viewpoint in Capitol Reef to capture a brilliant sunset!
  • Day 2 (Tues Apr 20): With clear skies in the forecast, we wake up at 3AM to shoot the Milky Way. You will learn various methods for foreground enhancement. As twilight dawns, we hike out to another spot to capture the golden hues of sunrise over the stunning red rocks. We return to Hanksville for lunch and a mid-day break.  In the evening we venture out to shoot the Blue Hills and Badlands in soft twilight.
  • Day 3 (Wed Apr 21):  It's another 3AM wake-up call to shoot the Milky Way from an amazing viewpoint over the badlands.  We stay out there through sunrise and then return to town for breakfast. We regroup for a post-processing session where you'll learn many tips to get the most out of your images.  With clouds rolling in for the evening, we photograph sunset at a place filled with interesting rock hoodoos.
  • Day 4 (Thurs Apr 22):  This morning we are back in the Badlands for sunrise. The sky explodes with color and we practice our focus stacking skills with the cracked mud formations. We return for another post-processing session and then head out to a slot canyon in the afternoon.  After dinner we hike into a remote section of the Badlands for sunset.
  • Day 5 (Fri Apr 23): We wake up early and drive out to Cathedral Valley for sunrise.  We return to Hanksville for our final post-processing session and our group lunch. The workshop will conclude no later than 2PM.
Capitol Reef Night Photography
Beyond the Badlands Utah Photo Workshops
Badlands Photo Workshop Utah
Beyond the Badlands Utah Photo Workshops


Please arrive in Hanksville, UT prior to 2PM on April 19 for the orientation session. Single occupancy lodging at Duke's Slickrock in Hanksville, UT is included in the workshop fee. If you would like double occupancy, we can give both people a $250 discount.

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 are keeping the itinerary flexible since we can't control the weather.  If we have clear skies, we'll do some night photography. But if skies are cloudy, 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 is highly variable in early spring. It could be sunny and warm or a cold front might come in and bring some rain and snow. The nights will be cold, so you will want plenty of warm layers. It can also be windy in the spring.  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'll be happy to assist you with your aerial photography.

David Swindler will be instructing the workshop and is very familiar with the region and will get you into some unique areas.

The workshop is capped at a max of 5 participants per instructor so we can give you adequate individual attention.  We are licensed commercial guides for the areas that we'll take you too. We carry a satellite beacon in case we run into any emergencies in the backcountry. You will feel safe venturing off the beaten path with us!

If we go out to photograph the Milky Way, it will only be visible very early in the morning.  This will mean waking up between 2-3AM for night photography.  We have window to shoot the Milky Way during the first 3 nights of this workshop. It's not possible to do so on the final night due to moon interference.  It's a good idea to bring eye covers and ear plugs in case you need to take a nap during the middle of the day.

Post-processing and image critique sessions will be scheduled throughout the workshop. You can bring a laptop if you like and then you can follow along or take notes during the demonstrations.


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


$2495 per Person


Trip Includes:

  • All ground transportation and photography guiding during the trip.
  • 4 Nights Single Occupancy Hotel Lodging. For double occupancy, we can give a $250/person discount.
  • 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 Torrey and Hanksville, UT.
  • 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 60-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 will get cold at night.
  • Warm hat and gloves.
  • Headlamp for night photography.
  • Sunscreen, Sunglasses, Sun Hat.
  • Water bottle or hydration bladder.
  • Hiking poles if you like having them.

Badlands Photo Workshop Utah Photo Tours
Badlands Photo Workshop Utah


"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 Photographer

David Swindler

David Swindler is an award-winning landscape and wildlife photographer.  Among others, he has been recognized by Sony World Photography Awards, International Landscape Photographer of the Year, and National Geographic.  He received a degree in chemical engineering and worked in the semiconductor industry specializing in optics and photolithography. In 2014, he left his day job to follow his true passion. He has traveled to some of the most remote regions of 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    Awards and Media Coverage

Having guided photo tours for years, David is very familiar with many different types of cameras.  He is a master with light and composition. But most importantly, his dedication to his clients is what really sets him apart!   Just read what others are saying here: Trip Advisor.

Kevin McNeal Profile2

Kevin McNeal

Kevin McNeal is a Washington-State photographer who is passionate about photographing grand landscapes that reflect the most unique places on earth. Capturing moments of magic light and transferring this to print is the ultimate goal. His images hold a combination of perseverance, patience, and dedication to capture landscapes in fresh ways. The stories of how these images are rendered come across in the feelings the images convey. He has traveled all over North America, shooting diverse landscapes and finding remote places with the hope that we can convey to the public that this earth is worth caring for. His award winning images can be seen in galleries and showings across the United States.  He was recently invited to the Art Wolfe Art Gallery for the Environmental Photography Invitational. Kevin was the grand winner of the Landscape category for the Natures Best Magazine and was selected for the Smithsonian National Museum of History in Washington D.C..  He is a regular contributor to publications like Outdoor Photographer.

Artist’s Statement

“I believe that the Earth shares secrets with us that only can be discovered by trying to understand our position on this planet. We are never fully intimate with the planet but are given brief moments that make our souls want more. These glimpses of nature’s power are fleeting and never the same twice. I also believe it is important to share with those who want it. The treasures that await us given the patience that is out there. What I try to do is bring some of that magic to my images to share with the rest of the world. Each of my images tells a story that everyone can relate to in some way whether it is success, fear, or challenging oneself to overcome obstacles

Kevin's portfolio can be found at

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