Death Valley Photo Workshop

Nov 28 - Dec 2, 2021 - 2 Spots Left!!

Dec 7-11, 2021

Experience the rugged beauty of Death Valley National Park.  Stand atop soaring vistas, trek through pristine sand dunes, photograph towering canyon walls, and gaze upon otherworldly colors and textures!  We'll even venture out and do some night photography. Post-processing instruction is included to help you make the most of your images! Supercharge your Death Valley trip with our 6-Day Extension to the Racetrack, Eureka Dunes, Eastern Sierras, and the Alabama Hills!

Tuition

  • $1695
  • 50% Deposit

Max Group Size

  • 5 Students per Instructor
  • Max 10 Students

Instructor(s)

  • David Swindler 
  • Kevin McNeal
  • Kathleen Gardner
Death Valley Photo Workshop Badwaer Salt Pans

Highlights

  • Photograph the amazing diversity of desert landscapes in Death Valley!
  • With a flexible itinerary, we'll chase the best weather conditions.
  • Night photography is included when skies are clear.
  • We provide all the transportation during the workshop.
  • Expect a good assortment of classic locations and off-the-beaten path spots!
  • Take your photos to the next level with in-field instruction and digital darkroom training by our pro photographers. David & Kevin will instruct the first set of dates and Kevin & Kathleen will instruct the second set.
  • Post-processing and image critique sessions will be scheduled throughout the workshop.
  • Supercharge your trip with the Dec 2-7 and Dec 11-16 Extensions to the Racetrack, Eureka Dunes, Alabama Hills, and much more!  Details below.
Sand Dunes Death Valley Photo Workshop

Itinerary

The exact itinerary will be kept flexible to account for the weather and current conditions in the park. We will optimize our time for the best possible photography. The itinerary below is just an example of what you can expect.

  • Day 1:  Meet at 3PM at The Oasis at Death Valley in Furnace Creek. We'll immediately head out to shoot sunset at one of our favorite views in the park. After dinner, we'll sit down for a classroom session where we'll cover many of the shooting techniques you will use throughout the workshop.
  • Day 2:  With nice clouds in the sky, we wake up early to photograph the salt polygons at Badwater. We venture further afield to colorful badlands and slot canyons. In the afternoon we photograph old cars, waterfalls, joshua trees, ghost towns, and finish at sunset with Badwater Basin stretched out below us.  We decide to stay a couple hours after sunset to do some night photography!
  • Day 3:  We drive out to some remote sand dunes for sunrise, capturing the ripples, curves, and textures of the dunes. We return to Furnace Creek for lunch. Late afternoon we reconvene for an intensive post-processing session and then photograph a nearby location for sunset.
  • Day 4:  It's another early morning departure for a sunrise shoot. With dramatic clouds, we opt for a high sweeping view and then photograph some crazy mud cracks.  We return for lunch and an afternoon post-processing session. We decide on our sunset location based on the weather and then decide to stay out late again for night photography!
  • Day 5:  Some clouds rolled in overnight and we get an absolutely a brilliant sunrise over the sand dunes as we find ripples, curves, and leading lines to amplify our compositions! We return to Furnace Creek to check out of the hotel.
  • Make it Epic with our Dec 2-7 and Dec 11-16 Extensions to visit the Racetrack, Eureka Dunes, the Alabama Hills, and more!  Details below.

Logistics

Please arrive at The Oasis at Death Valley (the Ranch) prior to 3PM on Day 1. We have reserved a block of rooms with 2 queen beds at $141/night + taxes/fees and we'll send you info on how to do that after booking the tour. You are welcome to stay elsewhere or at the nearby RV Park if you'd like.  You can also camp, but be prepared for some cold nights and possible snow.

Participants should have their own vehicle to get to Furnace Creek.  All transportation during the workshop is included but you are welcome to follow us in your own vehicle if you prefer. Everyone on this trip should be in reasonably good physical condition.  We aren't planning any long hikes on this trip and you should be comfortable hiking 2-4 miles per day while carrying your photo gear.

Food is not included as part of the workshop.  You are free to bring your own food or eat at the restaurants in Furnace Creek.  Dining options are pretty limited in Death Valley and you may want to buy groceries before arriving (mini-fridge in the rooms).

Expect high temps in the 50's-60's and lows in the 30's (could be even colder in the high elevations).  Make sure you bring some warm layers!  Rain or snow are always a possibility, so make sure you bring a rain jacket and something to cover your backpack. It can sometimes be very windy in Death Valley this time of year.  We recommend bringing something to cover your camera in the event of a sand storm.  Please see the gear list further down.

Death Valley Photo Workshop Mud Cracks
Death Valley Photo Workshop Dantes View
Abstract Dunes Death Valley Photo Workshop
Badwater at Night Death Valley Photo Workshop

Pricing

$1695/person + Tax

Trip Includes:

  • All ground transportation from Furnace Creek.
  • Photography guiding and instruction throughout the trip.
  • Post-processing and image critique sessions.
  • Night photography.

 

Trip Does NOT Include:

  • Hotel accommodations.  We have a block of rooms reserved at the Death Valley Oasis you can book.
  • Transportation to/from your home to Furnace Creek.
  • Meals, beverages, and snacks.

 

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 90-days prior to arrival to the credit card we have on file.

Instructors:  

  • Nov 28-Dec 2:  David Swindler & Kevin McNeal
  • Dec 7-11:  Kevin McNeal & Kathleen Gardner

Recommended Camera Gear

  • Sturdy tripod and ballhead
  • Digital SLR or Mirrorless Camera Body.
  • Wide angle lens in the 14-30mm range. For night photography, you will need a lens that is at least f/2.8 or faster. The wider angle the better.
  • Mid-range zoom lens in the range of 24-100mm.
  • Long telephoto lenses will come in handy for landscape compression and wildlife encounters.
  • Circular polarizer filters and ND filters for your lenses.  If you like shooting with grads, bring them along.  A 9 or 10-stop ND filter will be useful for creating very long exposures.
  • Extra batteries, memory cards, and cleaning supplies.
  • Remote cord for your camera.
  • Cover for your camera/lens to protect against high winds.
  • Laptop if you wish to backup your photos or follow along during the post-processing instruction.

Personal Gear List

  • Sturdy hiking footwear, hiking socks, and hiking pants.
  • A rain jacket and several warm layers.
  • Headlamp
  • Sunscreen, Sunglasses, Sun Hat, Warm Hat, and Gloves
  • Water bottle or hydration bladder.
  • Hiking poles if you like having them.
Death Valley Photo Workshop Blowing Sand
Badwater Salt Polygons Death Valley Photo Workshop

Testimonials

Our workshop was let by David and Kevin who are both knowledgeable, personable and high energy individuals with a goal of getting you to the best spots in the best light and providing you with all the assistance you want on location. I especially appreciated being led out in the dark to the mud cracks to shoot the Milky Way, something I never would have done on my own and a really beautiful experience. Weather is always a big factor in photography and they kept on top of the changing conditions and altered our schedule accordingly. I learned a ton in the post processing sessions on Raw and Lightroom. I think the most important factor overall is that you can feel that their main goal is to make the workshop experience all about you and the other workshop attendees.

-Patty, Montana

We talked non-stop for the 2 days of driving home, raving about the workshop. Kevin and David got us to the locations in time, motivated us, educated us and cared for our well being. I saw the group had a wide range of photographic experience and you made sure each member had personalized attention.

-David, British Columbia

David Swindler and Kevin McNeal are two of the most talented landscape photographers in the world. I felt so fortunate to have them as the leaders of the Death Valley Workshop. Every day we shot from before sunrise until after sunset. Their advice was exceptional in the field, but also in the classroom where outstanding tips re post processing were shared. Altogether, this was an amazing learning experience!

- Mary, Ontario

Action Photo Tours provides for an outstanding photo and post processing experience. David and Kevin are very experienced and enthusiastic photographers. David constantly monitored the conditions to give us the best possible opportunities. Both he and Kevin were always available to answer questions and provide invaluable tips on composition and camera techniques. The night shoot was outstanding. Excellent post processing instruction based on photos taken during the trip. Plus, both David and Kevin are really great people to be around. Will be a repeat customer.

-Frank, Washington

Dave and Kevin were outstanding! They both have a passion that is infectious in both field work and post processing. Dave keeps a very tight instructor/participant ratio. Will definitely take another workshop!

-Ken, California

My wife and I took the Death Valley photo tour, and I got some of my best photos ever. David spent a lot of time looking at weather forecasts and models in order to get our group to the best places at the right times to do our photography. Their classroom sessions even managed to get a few things through my thick skull, and I learned a lot. My thanks to David and Kevin for really going the extra mile for us, and I recommend this tour highly.

-Mike, Texas

Extension: Death Valley & Beyond

Dec 2-7, 2021 - Sold Out!!

Dec 11-16, 2021

Supercharge your Death Valley visit with our 6-Day Extension which can be combined with either workshop. It includes 2 nights of outfitted camping at the remote Racetrack (moving rocks) and the Eureka Dunes. After that we visit the Eastern Sierras with crazy rock formations, arches, hot springs, and jagged mountain peaks!  On clear nights, we'll venture out to do some night photography too.

Tuition

  • $2495
  • Includes Outfitted Camping and Hotels

Max Group Size

  • 4 Students per Instructor
  • Max 8 Students

Instructor(s)

  • David Swindler 
  • Kevin McNeal
  • Kathleen Gardner
Death Valley Photo Workshop Moving Rocks Racetrack Ice

Highlights

  • Two nights of fully outfitted camping in some of the most remote parts of Death Valley!
  • Gaze in wonder at the mystical moving rocks at the Racetrack and listen to the astonishing singing sand at the Eureka Dunes.
  • Photograph the arches and eccentric rock formations at the Alabama Hills.
  • Experience the dramatic and snowy Eastern Sierra Mountains with lakes, hot springs, and much more to photograph!
  • We'll be out photographing at night as long as skies are clear.
  • Take your photos to the next level with in-field instruction and digital darkroom training by our pro photographers. David & Kevin will instruct the first set of dates and Kevin & Kathleen will instruct the second set.
  • Post-processing instruction is included to help make the most of your images!

Itinerary

The exact itinerary will be kept flexible to account for the weather and current conditions. We will optimize our time for the best possible photography. The itinerary below is just an example of what you can expect.

  • Day 1:  Meet at 1PM in Furnace Creek where we'll pack up for our overnight camping trip to the Racetrack!  It's a long, rough road to get out there and we'll steadily climb into the mountains passing through large forests of Joshua Trees.  To experience of the moving rocks of Racetrack Playa is definitely a bucket list item. After sunset, we'll enjoy a warm dinner and head out to do night photography if conditions warrant.
  • Day 2:  We are up early to capture sunrise on the playa.  We photograph a few other areas before heading out for the long drive to Eureka Dunes. Once there, we setup camp and wander out into the pristine dunes to capture a wide variety of shots from wide-angle to telephoto!  We eat dinner and then decide if we want to do some night photography.
  • Day 3:  It's another early morning for sunrise on the dunes!  After breakfast, we pack up and head towards Bishop, CA where we'll check into our hotel for a much needed shower.  We photograph sunset at a nearby location.
  • Day 4:  We get up early to photograph the morning light on the distant mountains with some amazing foreground comps.  We take you to some seldom photographed areas as well before we head back to Bishop.  We check out of the hotel and drive to the Alabama Hills where we'll photograph sunset and into the nighttime hours.
  • Day 5:  After sunrise in the Alabama Hills, we return to Lone Pine for an extensive post-processing session.  After the session, we explore some interesting areas around Lone Pine and then return to the Alabama Hills for night photos.
  • Day 6:  We enjoy one last sunrise at the Alabama Hills before driving back to Furnace Creek.  The extension will conclude around noon.
Eastern Sierras Photo Workshop
Death Valley Photo Workshop Alabama Hills
Mount Tom California Kevin McNeal

Logistics

These extensions are designed for those participating in the Nov 28-Dec 2 or Dec 7-11 Death Valley Workshops.  We will be providing all transportation for this workshop but you are also welcome to follow along in your own vehicle as long as it can handle the rough roads.

Two nights of fully outfitted camping and three nights of single-occupancy hotel lodging are included in the price.  Please note that food is provided for the overnight camping portions but participants are responsible for their own meals when we are back in town.  If you have any dietary restrictions, let us know ahead of time so we can plan for that.

If you will be sharing a room with someone else, please let us know and we can offer you a double-occupancy discount of $200/person.  Otherwise, everyone will get their own hotel rooms in Bishop and Lone Pine.

Camping gear includes:  Tent, pad, warm sleeping bag, pillow, chair, and meals.  You will need to bring your overnight toiletries and changes of clothes.

Night photography will be part of each extension.  Please note that the galactic core of the Milky Way will have dipped below the horizon by Dec. We included a couple images in the slideshow above that show the galactic core of the Milky Way.  These are included only as illustrations of the types of subjects we can shoot at night.  We recommend a wide angle lens that is f/2.8 or faster for night photography.

There is a chance the backroads could be impassable due to recent precipitation.  If that were to happen, we would find suitable alternatives for our itinerary.  We reserve the right to modify the itinerary based on safety concerns and current conditions.

Death Valley Photo Workshop Sand Dunes Curves

Pricing

$2495/person + Tax

Double Occupancy Discount:  $200/person

Trip Includes:

  • Two nights fully outfitted camping (meals & camping gear).
  • Meals, beverages, and snacks during the camping excursions.
  • Three nights single-occupancy hotel lodging.  $200/person discount is available for double occupancy.
  • All ground transportation from Furnace Creek.
  • Photography guiding and instruction throughout the trip.
  • Post-processing and image critique sessions.
  • Night photography.

Trip Does NOT Include:

  • Meals, beverages, and snacks when we are in town (i.e. not camping).
  • Transportation to/from your home to Furnace Creek.
  • Alcoholic Beverages

Instructors:

  • Dec 2-7:  David Swindler & Kevin McNeal
  • Dec 11-16:  Kevin McNeal & Kathleen Gardner

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 90-days prior to arrival to the credit card we have on file.

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

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 www.kevinmcnealphotography.com.

Kathleen at the Grand Canyon_Smaller size

Kathleen Gardner

Kathleen moved to southern Utah in the summer of 2018 after living in the mountains of Idaho for 17+ years.  She grew up in Colorado, and spent much of her childhood visiting and exploring southern Utah with her family, so it only made sense that one day she would live here.
Her father, the geologist, made sure they spent their vacations exploring the lands and discovering new locations and places people had never been.  Kathleen loves to hike and photograph these places and is always discovering new hidden gems.

Kathleen has been a photographer for 35 years, dabbling in portrait and glamour, but always came back to nature, as that is where she feels most at home.  Don't let her beautiful landscapes fool you, there is one tough cookie behind that camera!  She has hiked the Grand Canyon, rim2rim2rim in 2 days, trekked 53 miles along the San Diego coastline, also in 2 days.  As if that weren't enough, she has kayaked and biked the entire length of the Florida keys in 3 days; kayaked, biked and hiked for 25 hours and 77 miles around Santa Barbara, as well as completing many obstacle course races over the past few years.  Kathleen loves to challenge herself and even moreso, loves the change it creates within herself, just as it does in nature.

See more of Kathleen's work below and follow her on Instagram:

Instagram

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Sand Dunes Death Valley Photo Workshop

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