Syllabus for Rocky Mountain National Park in Summer Workshop

Dates

June 28-30, 2022

Location

Classroom sessions: Ridgeline Hotel, 101 South Saint Vrain Avenue, Estes Park, CO 80517; (844) 744–5525; www.ridgelinehotel.com

Field sessions: a variety of spectacular locations in Rocky Mountain National Park

Course Level

This workshop is appropriate for low-intermediate to advanced-intermediate photographers

Workshop Fee: $945

Enrollment is limited to ten students

Course Description

Come master the art and science of digital landscape photography in Rocky Mountain National Park. Your workshop will be based in Estes Park, the gateway town for the park. This workshop will combine ample field time with intensive classroom instruction. The class will enjoy two sunrise and two sunset shoots at spectacular locations in the park, during which you will be able to put your new knowledge to immediate use. I have been photographing extensively in Rocky Mountain National Park since 1993, so I can lead you directly to the most photogenic locations at the right time of day. The workshop will cover topics every landscape photographer should understand:

  • How to plan shoots using Photo Ephemeris Web and Sun Surveyor.

  • How to convert your initial emotional reaction to the scene into a carefully crafted composition that will evoke the emotion you are feeling in the mind of your viewer.

  • How to photograph successfully in any kind of light, from the soft light of a cloudy day to the high-contrast light of a backlit sunset. One of the fundamental problems for a landscape photographer is finding the most believable and natural-looking way to compress the very broad range of tones we see in the real world into the much narrower range of tones we can reproduce in a print. This workshop will tackle this problem from many angles, starting with exposure in the field and concluding with a variety of techniques in the digital darkroom. These techniques include high-dynamic-range imaging (HDR) and the "Rembrandt Solution," a technique pioneered by the 17th century master painter that is still relevant in the digital age. Used properly, the Rembrandt Solution can create the illusion of greater dynamic range in a print than actually exists.

  • How to compose, shoot, and stitch together single-row and multi-row panoramas.

  • Other essential elements of good landscape photography, such as scouting, lighting, and atmospheric optics (the way sunlight interacts with our atmosphere).

 

All students will receive extensive handouts on the key information covered during the workshop, including Mastering Dramatic Light, a 41-page PDF on how to shoot great images in high-contrast situations. When the workshop is over, students will have a deeper understanding of how to find and capture magnificent images of the natural world.

About the Instructor

I’ve been a full-time photographer, writer, and instructor for 42 years. Over 2,000 of my photographs have been published, including 88 covers, and I’ve sold over 10,000 prints. Rocky Nook published my book The Art, Science, and Craft of Great Landscape Photography in spring 2015 and published the second edition in the spring of 2020. It published my book Dusk to Dawn: a Guide to Landscape Photography at Night in spring 2018. Farcountry Press published three books of my landscape photographs: Rocky Mountain National Park Impressions, Colorado Wild & Beautiful, and Sunrise from the Summit: First Light on Colorado’s Fourteeners. I have had 27 feature articles published in Outdoor Photographer, where I am a contributing editor.

Tentative Schedule (subject to change due to weather and other factors)

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

  • 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Introduction and discussion of participants’ prior experience in photography, expectations for the course, and photographic goals. Digital landscape photography basics (a quick refresher to make sure everyone is up to speed). Lecture: "The 12 Principles of Scouting." I will also demonstrate the use of the Photographer’s Ephemeris and Sun Surveyor, inexpensive, easy-to-use computer programs that makes it much easier to be in the right place at the right time. Students will have the opportunity to follow along.

  • 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Lunch. Students will purchase dinner food during the lunch break. Food can be kept cold in my cooler if students don't have their own.

  • 1:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Lecture on the basics of photographic composition, plus discussion of exposure, exposure meters, the dynamic range of digital sensors, exposure danger zones, the four basic exposure strategies, and the universal exposure strategy. Students will then plan the afternoon and evening shoot.

  • 4:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Leave the Ridgeline Hotel at 4:00 p.m. for our shooting locations in Rocky Mountain National Park. Shoot late afternoon and sunset light. We will eat a dinner picnic in the field (purchased by students during the lunch break) as we will not be returning to Estes Park until 9:30 p.m. Sunset is at 8:36 p.m.

 

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

  • 4:00 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. Leave the Ridgeline Hotel at 4:00 a.m., drive to the Bear Lake parking lot in Rocky Mountain National Park and hike 1.1 miles (450 feet of elevation gain) to Dream Lake. Photograph sunrise and early light. Return to Estes Park around 8:30 a.m. Sunrise is at 5:36 a.m.

  • 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Continental breakfast at the hotel.

  • 9:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Slide show on light and how to control it. Slide show on how our visual system processes high-contrast scenes and how to use that knowledge to create images that appear to have a greater dynamic range than they actually do. Demonstration of software techniques for handling high-contrast scenes, including the Rembrandt Solution and HDR

  • 12:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Break. Students are on their own for lunch. Students should purchase food for a dinner picnic during the break. Naps strongly encouraged!

  • 2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Demonstration of how to set up, shoot, and stitch single and multi-row panoramas. Editing session where I will help students one-on-one as they start editing their images from the first two shoots. 

  • 4:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Drive to our shooting locations in Rocky Mountain National Park. Shoot in late afternoon and sunset light. Sunset is at 8:36 p.m. Return to Estes Park around 9:30 p.m.

 

Thursday, June 30, 2022

  • 4:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. Leave the Ridgeline Hotel at 4:30 a.m. and drive to our shooting location in Rocky Mountain National Park. Shoot sunrise and early light. Sunrise is at 5:37 a.m. Return to Estes Park.

  • 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Continental breakfast at the hotel.

  • 9:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Students will continue editing their images in the conference room, with my help.

  • 12:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Midday break. Students are on their own for lunch. Naps very strongly encouraged!

  • 2:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Students will finish an initial edit of some of their favorite images from the workshop, then select up to five images for projection. This is not a photo contest, but rather a celebration of what everyone has learned and accomplished during the workshop.

  • 5:00 p.m. Conclusion of workshop.

 

Logistical Details Meals and lodging are not included in the $945 workshop fee. Students are responsible for making their own lodging reservations. The classroom portions of this workshop will be held at the Ridgeline Hotel, which is offering a substantial discount to students who book their room no later than May 29, 2022. Students are responsible for booking and paying for their own room. Registered students will receive instructions on how to book their discounted room. I encourage students to stay at the Ridgeline Hotel for their own convenience, but there is no obligation to stay at the hotel to take the workshop.

Ridgeline Hotel, 101 South Saint Vrain Avenue, Estes Park, CO 80517; (844) 744–5525; www.ridgelinehotel.com

I will provide bottled water and light snacks for the sunrise shoots.

I will be demonstrating editing techniques using the latest versions of Lightroom LrC (the desktop version, also called Lightroom Classic) and Photoshop CC. I will also teach students how to use Photo Ephemeris Web, a web app. Students who wish to follow along should create an account at app.photoephemeris.com before the workshop begins. A basic account is free; the pro version, which I recommend and which is the version I will demonstrate, costs $30/year.  I will also be demonstrating a mobile app called Sun Surveyor (available for iOS and Android). Students may wish to purchase the full version of this app and follow along. Sun Surveyor Lite is too limited to be useful for our purposes.

Registered students will receive a complete list of items to bring.

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