Valley of Fire & Nelson Ghost Town

Adventure Series Night Photography Workshop

Join us for the broad, red mountains, valleys and arches within Valley of Fire State Park and the abandoned wonderland of the Nelson ghost town. We’ll explore having fun with light and stars in these desert jewels of the American southwest.

Workshop Gallery

photos © Matt Hill Tim Cooper

Workshop Details

April 11-16, 2019 — Completed

This is a 5-night, 6-day workshop. Your adventure begins at 10 a.m. on April 11 and ends after a final slideshow on the afternoon of April 16.

$1,750 + applicable taxes. Register below.

Workshop Leaders

Chris Nicholson

Chris Nicholson

Tim Cooper

Tim Cooper

Skill level

Open to all who have an understanding of the basic principles of photography and of their cameras.

Class size

14, with 2 instructors — 7:1 ratio

NPS website

Valley of Fire State Park
El Dorado Canyon / Nelson, Nevada


  • Deposit of $500 is required to reserve your spot at the workshop.

  • Balance of $1,250 due on January 11, 2019.
    Pay Balance here.

  • You may choose the “Pay in Full” ticket if you desire to pay all at once.

  • Last day for a cancellation request is January 10 (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

The workshop will explore the surreal landscape of the Valley of Fire, a Nevada state park famous for its otherworldly Aztec sandstone rock formations colored in a mix of red, tan and gray. This desert scenery appears to catch on fire during sunset light, and then serves as dramatic foreground under the beautiful night skies of the Southwest.

The group will also visit El Dorado Canyon, site of the oldest gold mine in southern Nevada. Riddled with ruins of houses and cars and more, El Dorado is a light painter’s dream.

This workshop begins during the waxing crescent moon (the day before the 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 moonlight increases in intensity over the duration of the workshop. Milky Way photography is possible in the first nights of the workshop for those willing to stay up very late.

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.

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 star trails, star stacking and some light painting.


  • scouting and planning

  • using PhotoPills to strategize a night photo

  • composing and focusing in low light

  • optimizing exposure for RAW capture and development with Lightroom

  • post-processing star stacks

  • combining light painting with moonlight, as key light vs. fill light

  • seeing and creating better night images

  • composition and the night sky

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.

Night Conditions & Opportunities


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

  • quarter moon

  • dark skies / stars

  • Milky Way

  • light painting


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:

  • Las Vegas (LAS) — 1 hour from Overton, Nevada


Food & Lodging

The workshop will be based out of Las Vegas for one night and then out of Overton, Nevada, for the remainder of the workshop. You are not required to stay at the official workshop hotels, 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.


It’s spring in Nevada. Mid-April weather is usually milder and less unpredictable than earlier in the spring. Daytime temperatures often reach the 70s and occasionally the 80s. Mild temperatures at night are common, mostly in the 50s. April averages only one day of rain. The average high is 79 F and low 55 F. 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 on location. 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 and when we go up to higher altitudes. As always, good trail shoes with an aggressive tread are encouraged.


Demonstrations and image review will be conducted in Lightroom.

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 to acclimate.

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.


Night in a Photographer’s Playground ...

Each time I go, I discover new things.
— Matt

I’ve photographed at the Valley of Fire at least five times. And each time I go, I discover new things.

Honestly, I never visit the park for its namesake moments—sunset and sunrise. I am interested only in how it looks by moonlight and starlight. Why? It’s such an alien landscape. Full of flat, sandy desert strecthes, craggy rock outcroppings, arches, holes in the rock and multicolor geological strata.

Yes, the red-colored sandstone is a main feature. And yes, it’s beautiful. But so are the cacti, and the amazing shapes caused by erosion of the sedimentary geology. Water had a huge effect on the topology of this park. Yet, ironocally, it’s so very arid.

And on top of that, it’s a night photographer’s playground.

Ripe for light painting, long rips for star trails, time-lapses and portraiture.

I’ve taught many friends their first night photography lessons there, and now we get to bring you to learn more, too.

Join us. Make some magic within yourself.

end mark 3_150px.png