Devils Tower

Adventure Series Night Photography Workshop

Join us to explore the strange stone mountain of America’s first national monument. Revered by Native Americans in folklore, shrouded in mystery, we’ll explore the mercurial skies of Devils Tower.

Workshop Gallery

photos © Matt Hill & Chris Nicholson

Workshop Details

July 8-12, 2019

This is a 4-night and 5-day workshop. Your adventure begins at 11 a.m. on July 8 and ends after a final slideshow on the afternoon of July 12.

$1,450 + applicable taxes. Register below.

Workshop Leaders

 Chris Nicholson

Chris Nicholson

 Matt Hill

Matt Hill

Skill level

Intermediate. Attendees should have a comfortable understanding of the basic techniques and principles of night photography.

Class size

14, with 2 instructors — 7:1 ratio

NPS websites

Devils Tower National Monument
Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Register Now

  • Deposit of $500 is required to reserve your spot at the workshop.
  • Balance of $950 due on April 9, 2019.
  • You may choose the “Pay in Full ticket if you desire to pay all at once. 
  • Last day for a cancellation request is April 8 (see cancellation and refund policy).
  • The workshop fee does not include transportation to and from the park, lodging, food or the park admission fee.

The Workshop Experience

This workshop begins during the waxing crescent moon (only one day before first quarter), and will appeal to photographers interested in using gentle moonlight to bring out landscape details with some light painting closer to the camera. The workshop will explore the sometimes electric mysteries of the stone tower; the deep, dark skies surrounding it; and the landscape that encompasses this geological mystery. And no, there are not roots below it.

Devils Tower is nestled among the prairies of the Black Hills in northeastern Wyoming. It has remarkably dark skies, and views of the tower from all sides, far and near. This includes prairie and forest views from many sides, as well as an up-close view from the paved trail circumnavigating the base of the formation.

All of these elements combine to make Devils Tower National Monument a must-visit park. It’s a powerful place steeped in ancient tales connected to the stars and Earth—ideal for night photography.

The workshop will also make a visit to photograph Mount Rushmore National Memorial, where the presidents of the past gaze forever over the country they helped found and preserve. Surrounded by the beautiful Black Hills, the cliffside figures are a sight to behold, and will serve as unique night photography subjects.

What You Should KNow

Participants must have at least basic photo skills, know their cameras well, and be comfortable shooting RAW in manual mode with a DSLR or high-end mirrorless camera. Intermediate or higher experience is best because we won’t have as much class time as usual, but as long as you meet the prerequisites just mentioned, we’ll make sure to catch you up on the rest.

Expert-level night photography experience is not necessary, but even folks with extensive experience shooting at night will find this class challenging, stimulating and inspiring. For more advanced night photographers, we can offer a portfolio review, specific challenges and goals, and will offer guidance in the field if you mainly want to concentrate on creating portfolio images or learning more advanced techniques.

If you would like to attend this workshop but are unsure whether you have adequate night photography skills, we can offer pre-workshop tutoring to get you ready for your adventure with us. Alternatively or additionally, a few of us have written books that may be productive pre-workshop reads.

What You WILL Learn

We hope to push you to step outside your comfort zone—to test the limits of what you and your camera can do. You’ll go home after the workshop with a solid grasp of night photography in a moonlit environment, and a good foundation in light painting techniques.

Topics covered will include:

  • scouting and planning
  • composing and focusing in low light
  • optimizing exposure for RAW capture and development with Lightroom
  • light painting
  • post-processing star stacks
  • and more …

This workshop will have both field and classroom instruction. We will be in the classroom each day, and out in the field at different locations each night. Participants can stay out shooting as long as they, or their camera’s batteries, hold out. While in the field, the instructors will demonstrate their own techniques, and work with participants one-on-one to make sure everyone gets the most out of the workshop. During classroom sessions, there will be presentations by the instructors, but we will focus on developing your images and sharing everyone's work and ideas with each other. Each day will have a review of the previous night’s work.

Our locations have generous room to explore, so everyone will be able to spread out and not get in one another’s way. Each participant will have the opportunity to work one-on-one with Chris and Matt in the field.

Night Conditions & Opportunities

moons.jpg

On this workshop you can expect the following night-sky conditions and nocturnal photography opportunities:

  • quarter to full moon
  • light painting

Travel

You are responsible for your airfare and car rental. There is no need for four-wheel-drive or high-clearance vehicles for the workshop. If you are interested in sharing a car rental, let us know and we will try to connect you with someone like-minded in the group.

Nearby Airports:

  • Gillette (GCC) — 1 hour, 15 minutes from Hulett, Wyoming
  • Rapid City (RAP) — 2 hours
 

Food & Lodging

The workshop will be based out of Hulett, Wyoming. You are not required to stay at the official workshop hotel, though doing so does make it easier to meet with the group each morning. Booking info and a group code will be sent after registering.

We encourage eating two meals per day—a good breakfast and a great late lunch. When on the night shoots, you may wish to bring snack food or a sandwich and plenty of water.

You are responsible for arranging and paying for your own meals and accommodations. If you are interested in sharing a room with another participant, let us know and we will try to connect you with someone like-minded in the group.

Weather

It’s summer in Wyoming. The weather is usually warm during the daytime and mild during the evening. Daytime temperatures often reach the 85 F on average. A mild 51 F at night is common. July averages six days of rain for the whole month, but we’ve loved the late afternoon and evening thunderstorms combined with open prairie skies. So plan accordingly and check the weather while packing for your trip.

Recommended attire: We’ll be spending much of the daytime at the hotel with some late afternoons in the park, so we’ll probably avoid rain. Wearing long pants is advisable, but shorts and a T-shirt are great too—especially if you bring some light layers to add as the evening draws on just in case it gets cooler than normal. We suggest bringing a rain parka and even rain pants, as well as waterproof trail shoes, just in case a storm system blows through.

Considerations

No truly vigorous activity will be required, but please consider your physical abilities prior to registering. There will not be any long hikes, but you should be comfortable carrying your own equipment over uneven ground in the dark.

You will be thirsty. Please stay properly hydrated. We suggest drinking at least a gallon of water each day. Start at home a week or two before the trip so your body is prepared to retain that amount of hydration.

Please read our FAQs section for more information about skill and gear requirements, and other information that pertains to all our workshops.

If you have questions, please contact us—we're happy to talk it over with you.

 

A Mystical Feeling ...

Matt.jpg
I noticed a speck of light on the formation. It was a small group of crack climbers who were descending during twilight well into darkness.
— Matt

The Devils Tower gave me the feels. That’s the only way I can describe it.

I’ve never visited a natural location that has ever made the hairs on the back of my arms stand up—not in fear, but in awe.

Long before Steven Spielberg made the location world-famous, the indigenous peoples and tribes in the area used it for winter camps, vision quests, fasting, praying and burial.

I read the enchanting and heart-breaking oral histories about the Devils Tower. It’s holy. Revered. Sacred. And a focal point for gathering, for worship and for a way of life that has passed with the coming of other cultures.

And as we sat under the stars the first night, observing the tower, I noticed a speck of light on the formation. It was a small group of crack climbers who were descending during twilight well into darkness. With headlamps. And they illuminated their path down the tower during our image sequences. What a wonderful surprise.

On another night, we had a broad view of the prairie, the tower, a lightning storm and the MIlky Way. All in one frame. Again, magic.

On another night, I volunteered to light paint the tower from the base. So I grabbed a radio, drove up to the base and walked the trail halfway around the tower. As I walked around the formation, I felt a presence. Perhaps I was thinking too much about bears (I do that …), but this was something I usually do not feel. I was alert and focused. And there was something ineffable that I still cannot put my finger on that lingers to this day.

Join us and find your own connection to his geological and spiritual marvel. It’s an experience you’ll likely never forget.

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