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Syllabus for The San Juans in Autumn Workshop



September 27-29, 2022



Classroom sessions: Ouray County 4-H Center, 22739 Highway 550, Ridgway, CO 81432; (970) 626-3304


Field sessions: a variety of spectacular locations in the San Juan Mountains near Ridgway


Course Level

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


Workshop Fee: $945


Enrollment is limited to 10 students


Course Description

Come master the art and science of landscape photography in Colorado’s spectacular San Juan Mountains. Your workshop will be based in Ridgway, in the heart of the San Juans, which are the best place in the state to shoot expansive aspen groves and snow-capped 14,000-foot peaks. This workshop will combine ample field time during the peak of the fall color season with intensive classroom instruction. The class will enjoy two sunrise and two sunset shoots at prime locations near Ridgway, during which you will be able to put your new knowledge to immediate use. The timing and quality of the fall color varies year-to-year, so I will scout possible locations immediately before the workshop to ensure that students have the opportunity to shoot the best fall color available. Classroom sessions will cover information every landscape photographer should know:


  • How to find great locations and plan photo 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 the location of the most colorful groves)


Tuesday, September 27, 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.

  • 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 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.

  • 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Explore and photograph various shooting locations in the Ridgway area in afternoon and evening light. I will provide light snacks to eat in the field as we will not be returning to Ridgway until 8:00 p.m. Sunset is at 6:59 p.m.


Wednesday, September 28, 2022

  • 5:45 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Depart Ridgway Lodge at 5:45 a.m., and drive to shooting location, arriving in time to shoot sunrise at 7:04 a.m. Shoot early light, then return to Ridgway Lodge.

  • 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. Breakfast.

  • 10 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Meet for slide show and discussion of 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 1:30 p.m. Lunch.

  • 1:30 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 8:00 p.m. Leave Ridgway Lodge at 4:00 p.m. for our shooting location. Shoot late afternoon and sunset light and practice shooting panoramas. I will bring light snacks to eat in the field as we will not be returning to Ridgway until 8:00 p.m. Sunset is at 6:57 p.m.


Thursday, September 29, 2022

  • 5:45 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Depart Ridgway Lodge at 5:45 a.m. Shoot sunrise and early light. Sunrise is at 7:05 a.m. Return to Ridgway Lodge at 9:00 a.m.

  • 9 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. Breakfast.

  • 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Students will continue editing some of their favorite images from the workshop.

  • 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Lunch.

  • 1:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Students will finish editing their images, then select three 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.


Logistical Details Classroom sessions will be held in Ridgway at the Ouray County 4-H Center, on the southwest corner of Highway 550 and Highway 62. The most convenient lodging is at the Ridgway Lodge, directly across Highway 550 from the 4-H Center. Students are responsible for booking and paying for their own lodging under their own name. Be sure to request an upstairs or downstairs room when you make your reservation. The Ridgway Lodge does not have an elevator. Meals and lodging are not included in the $945 workshop fee. Please make your lodging reservations early. The Ridgway Lodge is typically sold out at that time of year. I encourage students to stay at the Ridgway Lodge for their own convenience, but there is no obligation to stay at the lodge to take the workshop.


Ridgway Lodge, 373 Palomino Trail, Ridgway CO 81432; 970 626-5444;


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

I will be demonstrating editing techniques using the latest versions of Lightroom LrC (the desktop version, formerly 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 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.

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