Mark Lakeman and I are running a fabulous 4x4 adventure in March 2020, photographing the fabulous desrt landscape of the American South West - a night photography, moonlight and astronomical photography tour based in three seperate locations across Death Valley, California.
This tour is strictly limited to six participants and two leaders, to ensure comfort and the highest quality experience.
Death Valley is renowned as a geographical spectacle with a foreboding reputation. With a landscape diversity nearly 300ft under the sea to altitudes of 11000ft, the journey will be like no other. From the arid desert saltpans of Badwater, to beautiful golden Mesquite Dunes at dawn, to the 4000-year-old Bristlecone Pines aloft the White Mountains, expect a diverse and location rich experience in this remarkable environment. We will visit other inspiring locations - Zabriske Point, Mesquite Dunes, Mobius Arch, Badwater, Golden Canyon, Lone Pine, Eureka Dunes, Racetrack, Rhyolite, Mono Lake, the Bristlecone Pines and more, photographing at the best times, in the very best light.
After landing in Las Vegas, we head to the incredible salt pans and open expanses of Bad Water. There are many different locations to shoot and view from here, which is one of the lowest places on Earth. The Milky Way will be visible at this time of year, so we can learn to shoot astronimcal images right from the start. The skies are simply to die for, with low humidity giving us the clearest conditions with the Galactic Core and millions of glistening stars visible literally every night.
We will make excursions to two remote areas during the trip, Racetrack Playa where large stones mysteriously leave trails across a flat mud plane and also to the lesser photographed Eureka Dunes. If the conditions are right, we will shoot these incredible locations at sunset and also night, camping for just two nights in total.
Then to Lone Pine and into the Alabama Hills. This desert is at the foothills of the impossibly high Mount Whitney (14900ft) and this landscape was the set for many cowboy movies you have seen, due to its close distance to Los Angeles (2h30m). Again we will explore extensively and shoot day and night, all within close proximity to our accommodation.
Finally our third centre will see us head to The White Mountains and up to see the oldest trees on earth - the Bristlecone Pines. These twisted and gnarled trees are simply staggering and this puts us in location to shoot a radio telescope station, where we have special access to photograph at night!
Expect to extend your portfolio and your imaging knowledge beyond the usual as you train your cameras towards the heavens. We shoot the night sky at every opportunity. I have a wealth of astronomical and light painting photography knowledge, so we will shoot some truly spectacular images beneath Milky Way. Death Valley is remote, an incredible dark skies area with low humidity that produces stars with incredble clarity.
Both Mark and I are highly skilled in 4x4 driving and we will have a satellite phone / messenger in case of emergencies. Saftey is utterly paramount. We will be hiring highly capable 4x4's like Chevy Suburban's / Ford Expedition's or similar - these will be essential for our remote excursions and they are extremely safe and spacious.
From sunsets, to light painting and moonlight, if there is one trip to take your photography heaven bound, join Mark and I for a truly astronomical experience in Death Valley.
Recommended UK flights direct from London Heathrow to McCarran Airport in Las Vegas. Details will come soon.
In McCarran Airport the Arrivals hall. If you do arrive early on a different international flight than the recommended flight, then I will give you exact location of where to meet nearer the time. Contact me for further information.
Literally all cameras produced in last few years will be more than capable of producing stunning night time images. It is a common mistake that specialist gear is necessary. This obviously helps better quality, but it’s not essential. As long as your camera is capable of shooting ISO3200 without excessive noise, then images of the Milky Way and the heavens are there for the taking.
I have successfully used a Canon 6D to create wonderful and professional nighttime work. I will also be taking an astronomical tracking mount so we can also explore and learn even more about this fascinating subject. If you need any help and guidance, then don’t hesitate to get in touch.
No, its called Death Valley for a reason! It is one of the driest and hottest places on earth, but with our skills you are in expert hands. I will have a satellite phone on hand at all points so do not worry, but I do have extensive knowledge of these locations. There are also no poisonous insects or spider risks, as most locations are arid deserts.
We will stay in reputable hotels throughout and we will also be sleeping under the stars for two nights, in a tent that you will need to bring with you. For this experience, you will need to bring a lightweight 1+ man tent, your own three-season sleeping bag and pillow. If the conditions do not look favourable for camping, we will still visit these remote locations, but we will not camp, returning to a town and stay in a quality hotel.
Temperature in March will be anywhere between 15-25ºC in the day-time and in the night-time lows of about 5-10ºC. The temperatures should be very comfortable both day and night with the right clothing.
Dress in comfortable loose clothing, like T-shirts, loose shirts with a collar or base layers as these will work very well at keeping you cool in the daytime. At night it is a different story. You will need a down jacket, hat, gloves and some thermals, to ensure you are prepared for the cold should the temperatures drop. This night clothing will also work perfectly for dawn / twilight shoots. Don’t forget a floppy sun hat of some sorts. Sunglasses are an absolute essential - polarised ones will really help with creativity.
Walking shoes are perfect for the terrain. You will not need heavy leather walking boots, these will just make you feel more uncomfortable. A pair of trainers / sneakers will help keep you feet cool and the walking easy, but these could fill with sand so I recommend a comfortable pair of broken in walking shoes.
A wide angle lens (16-35), medium zoom (24-70) and a longer zoom (70-200) will be ideal to cover most compositional eventualities. However, if you do have a longer lens (up to 600mm, like the 100-400 with a 1.4x extender = 560mm) then do bring it along as there will be long lens opportunities. The most used will be in the 24-70 range as a super wide angle doesn’t always translate, so make sure this focal length is covered. It’s best not to weigh yourself down, so why not bring an airport style bag for all your kit and a smaller day bag, which you can decant equipment into throughout the day.
Head torches are a must, preferably two, with at least one set of replacement batteries.
Although not essential, its a great idea to bring a laptop computer with you so you can discuss imagery with myself and others in the group. It really is a great learning experience, so I highly recommend bringing a laptop to learn and for personal entertainment on longer journeys.
I make a point of tutoring all my clients on digital and astro photography to help complete the learning process. I am renowned as a leading digital professional and I will be screen recording all my sessions, so the learning continues. I have extensive knowledge to communicate on all levels and I spend time with all my clients helping them to process their images to a high standard. It really helps to have a computer session when tiredness takes hold, or inclement weather persists.
£3495 / Deposit of £350.00