Syllabus for The San Juans in Summer Workshop


July 30-31, 2020


Sponsored by the Ouray County Arts Association


All registration for this workshop is handled by the Ouray County Arts Association. Please register online. For registration questions, please contact Natalie Heller at or 970-626-2303.



July 30-31, 2020.



Classroom sessions: the San Juan room in the Ouray Community Center (second floor), 320 6th Ave, Ouray, CO 81427.


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


Course Level

This workshop is appropriate for low- intermediate to advanced-intermediate photographers. Field sessions will take place within one-quarter mile of the road.


Workshop Fee:

$395. Enrollment is limited to 10 students.


Cancellation Policy:

If you cancel before midnight on June 15, 2020 (45 days before the workshop), you will receive a full refund of all money paid minus a $25 processing fee. If you cancel between midnight, June 15, 2020, and midnight, June 30, 2020 (less than 45 but more than 30 days prior to the workshop), you will receive a refund of all money paid minus a $150 cancellation fee. If you cancel after midnight, June 30, 2020 (less than 30 days before the workshop), you will receive no refund unless Ouray County Arts Association can fill your spot, in which case you will receive a refund of money paid minus a cancellation fee of $150. If you do need to cancel, please let Ouray County Arts Association know as soon as possible so that people on the waiting list can have the opportunity to take the workshop.

Course Description

Come master the art and science of landscape photography in Colorado’s spectacular San Juan Mountains. Your workshop will be based in Ouray, in the heart of the San Juans, which are the best place in the state to shoot lush fields of wildflowers and spectacular 14,000-foot peaks. This workshop will combine ample field time during the peak of the wildflower bloom with intensive classroom instruction. The class will enjoy one sunset and one sunrise shoot at prime locations near Ouray, during which you will be able to put your new knowledge to immediate use. The timing and quality of the wildflower seasons 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 wildflowers available. Classroom sessions will cover information every landscape photographer should know:


  • How to find great locations and plan photo shoots using the Photographer’s Ephemeris and Sun Surveyor.

  • 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.

  • 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 41 years. Over 2,000 of my photographs have been published, including 84 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 24 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 best fields of wildflowers).


Thursday, July 30th, 2020

  • 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Introduction and discussion of participants’ prior experience in photography, expectations for the course, and photographic goals. 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 4:00 p.m. Lecture on exposure, exposure meters, the dynamic range of digital sensors, exposure danger zones, the four basic exposure strategies, and the universal exposure strategy. 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. Students will then plan the afternoon and evening shoot.

  • 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Explore and photograph various shooting locations in the Ouray area in afternoon and evening light. We will eat a dinner picnic in the field as we will not be returning to Ouray until 9:00 p.m. Students should purchase food during the lunch break to eat during the dinner picnic. If necessary, food can be kept cold in my cooler. Sunset is at 8:21 p.m.

Friday, July 31st, 2020

  • 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. Depart Ouray Community Center at 5:00 a.m., and drive to shooting location, arriving in time to shoot sunrise at 6:13 a.m. Shoot early light, and then return to Ouray.

  • 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Breakfast.

  • 9 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.  Students will edit some of their favorite images from the workshop, and then select three to five images for projection. This is not a photo contest, but rather a celebration of what everyone has learned and seen during the workshop. Students will be on their own for lunch after the workshop concludes.


Logistical Details


Classroom sessions will be held in the San Juan room at the Ouray Community Center (second floor), 320 6th Ave, Ouray, CO 81427. Ouray has a variety of hotels and lodges, as well as several nearby campgrounds. Students are responsible for booking and paying for their own lodging under their own name. Meals and lodging are not included in the $395 workshop fee. Please make your lodging reservations early. Find lodging in Ouray.


All registration for this workshop is handled by the Ouray County Arts Association. Sold out! Please contact Natalie Heller at or 970-626-2303 to be put on the waiting list. 


What to Bring:


  • Camera: This is a digital-only workshop. All students should bring spare batteries, a battery charger, and their camera’s instruction manual.

  • Lenses: A mid-range zoom lens is all that is necessary. A moderate wide-angle lens (24-35mm) and/or a moderate telephoto zoom (80-200 or so) will increase your creative options.

  • Tripod: Essential for sunrise and sunset shots at shutter speeds that cannot be hand-held

  • Cable release: Always a good idea

  • Graduated neutral-density filters: If you already own graduated-neutral density filters, please bring them. If you do not own them, please hold off on any possible purchase until after the workshop. You may find that the digital alternatives I will teach you have made such filters unnecessary.

  • Polarizing filters: If possible, please bring polarizing filters, particularly in sizes that fit your medium focal-length and telephoto lenses.

  • Camera bag: Sized to comfortably carry all your gear.

  • Digital media: Plan on bringing more memory cards than you think you will need. You do not want to be frantically scrolling through your last card looking for pictures to delete when the light is peaking!

  • Laptop: If possible, please bring your own laptop and the appropriate hardware (cable or card reader) for downloading your images to your laptop. Be sure your laptop is loaded with image-editing software. I will be demonstrating techniques in the latest versions of Lightroom Classic (the desktop version, not Lightroom CC, the cloud-based version) and Photoshop CC.

  • Thumb drive: If possible, please bring a thumb drive, which makes it easier to transfer your images to my laptop for the final slide show.

  • Map and compass: If you already own the National Geographic Trails Illustrated map titled Silverton, Ouray, Telluride, Lake City, please bring it. If you already own a compass, please bring it as well. (By compass, I mean a device for determining direction, not a device for drawing circles.) A map and compass are important tools for landscape photographers but are not required for taking the course. We will touch on their use but not dive deeply into the subject.

  • Headlamp or flashlight

  • Sufficient warm clothing: The average high in the mountains above Ouray in July is 65-70 degrees F; the low is around 35-40 degrees F. I recommend bringing raingear, a warm jacket, warm hat, gloves, and, if possible, a second layer for your legs, such as a pair of rain pants. Sturdy walking shoes or light hiking boots are also essential.

  • Snacks

  • Water


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