Extreme Photography Workshop in Zion National Park | Aperture Academy

Zion National Park - Extreme Photography Workshop

Authorized permittee of the National Park Service
Photos from the last workshop
"What an amazing workshop with a top-notch guide. Mike made this weekend's photo adventure the best in so many ways. Mike was approachable, experienced, and funny, and gave us so many photo tips. When the narrows were a bit treacherous, he encouraged and paved the way. The photos say it all - probably the best photo; I've ever taken and I learned so much. Thanks, Aperture Academy - Love your program and how you deliver."
-- Colleen P.

Are you looking for adventure? Do you want something that combines your love of nature, photography and outdoor activity? Well, the Aperture Academy is here to deliver. If you're physically fit and able to hike 4-5 miles in a day, then come join us in Zion National Park for a weekend of excitement and photography in one of the most majestic places in the Southwest.

Some people call Zion, the Yosemite of the Southwest. With its towering red rock walls and river filled valleys, Zion is an oasis in the desert for sure. During our weekend together, we'll take you to some of the best spots in the valley, during the best time of the year. Fall brings with it significantly cooler temperatures than the summer and spring, which turns the cottonwood trees to beautiful yellows and oranges.

We'll spend our first day exploring the valley and taking in some of the more iconic views, such as the Emerald pools, Weeping Rock, and The Watchman. The day will be filled with smaller hikes and seemingly endless photography opportunities in Zion Canyon and along the banks of the beautiful Virgin River.

The second day will be full of adventure.

We'll rise early and take the Zion National Park shuttle to the mouth of "The Narrows." The adventure begins from there. We'll leave the comforts of a maintained trail and go into the river to work our way forward through the narrow, thousand foot high canyon walls. Our compositions will be filled with moving waters, and the vibrant reds, oranges and yellows of the magnificent canyon.

The photography in this area of Zion is among the best in the world. Landscape photographers make the pilgrimage here every fall to capture the splendor of the Virgin Narrows. We'll be there too...in the best time of year. We'll spend all morning and afternoon in the Narrows, slowly making our way to the Orderville Canyon Junction, where the canyon walls tower high above us. Then, we will make the return journey out of the canyon, where the light has now shifted and new photographic opportunities await.

The Zion Narrows hike is widely considered one of the best, most beautiful, hikes in the world. Photographing it takes a special set of skills that the instructors at the Aperture Academy can provide you with, so that you come away with images as fantastic as the hike itself. Why not come spend the weekend with the Aperture Academy, your camera, and other like-minded enthusiasts, and have the adventure of a lifetime?

This workshop will fill quickly, we recommend booking in advance.

What is Required

  • A Digital SLR or Mirrorless Camera
  • A tripod
  • Water shoes & dry pants (Water shoes can be rented in Zion for ~$35)
  • IMPORTANT: Ability to hike 4-5 miles over the course of the day. This workshop is rated "extreme."

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Lodging, Meals & Directions

While lodging is not included in the workshop fee, the Aperture Academy does its best to set up a discounted block of rooms for enrolled students in our recommended hotel or location for all our workshops.

Please check with us before booking your lodging reservations. Upon sign-up, you will be emailed any current information on recommended lodging for this workshop.

Traveling: Students and instructor(s) will drive individually during the course of the workshop unless you've made arrangements to carpool with others.

What's Included/Not Included

What's Included in Your Workshop:

  • Hands-on Instruction by 1 or more professional photographers
  • Post Processing session

What's not included

  • Transportation
  • Instructor Gratuities
  • Meals during workshop breaks
  • Lodging

Safety, Confidence, Being Prepared

Aperture Academy is a professional organization dedicated to safe, quality, positive experiences for our students, and responsible stewardship for the breathtaking locations and beautiful wildlife we enjoy at every workshop.

We work with the United States Department of Interior, the National Park Service, and the US Forestry Service to obtain all the proper permits to operate safely, conscientiously, and legally. We carry much more than the required minimum of insurance, and our skilled instructors are certified as Wilderness First Responders, in CPR, as well as in the Leave No Trace Outdoor Ethics program. And, have we mentioned that each is an accomplished, successful professional photographer?

Every "ApCad" member is dedicated to ensuring our students receive the best care and guidance possible, so each of them has the opportunity to get the most remarkable, enjoyable, and enriching photography experience available anywhere in the world.

What to Bring

  1. Your Digital SLR or Mirrorless Camera.   If you have two bodies, bring both. This is a digital photography class, but if you have a favorite point-and-shoot or old film camera you like, bring it along, and if time permits, you can use it as well.
  2. Lenses.   Try to cover a range from very wide (17-20mm), for landscape images, to zoom ranges (100-400mm) for wildlife. It's not uncommon to see wildlife on workshops (even those structured for landscape instruction), so it's best to be prepared, if possible. We also encourage you to bring other lenses, like a macro or fish-eye lens if you have them, because there are always endless creative possibilities to be found on our workshops.
  3. Tripod.   This is a necessity for ALL our workshops. It can be windy in many of the areas we take you, so the sturdier your tripod, the better. If you haven't purchased one yet, you can e-mail our instructors; they would be happy to assist you in selecting a tripod that is perfect for you.
  4. Filters.   We do a great deal of work with filters in our workshops, so, if you have them, bring them. We highly recommend a Circular Polarizer, and a (3 or 4) soft-step graduated neutral density (GND) filter. We also use straight neutral density filters, which will help us get longer exposures in all times of day, but this isn't as important as the first two mentioned. We have a few extras that can be loaned out, but you're going to love what you see with the filters, and you'll want to have your own.
  5. Extra batteries.   Bring at least 1 or 2 extra batteries. Cold temperatures and long exposures can drain batteries very quickly. There is no worse feeling than arriving at the last spot of the night for sunset and having a dead battery.
  6. Extra memory cards.   Our instructors will show you the benefits of shooting in RAW format, which is a better method for photography, but takes up more space on a card. Having multiple memory cards will be to your benefit.
  7. Clothing & shoes.   Bring layers of clothing you can add if/when temperature and wind conditions change, and they can! And wear good, comfortable walking shoes!
  8. Lunch, or money for lunch. And snacks.   On two and three day workshops, we provide snacks and water. On one day workshops, we stop for lunch at a local food establishment where you can purchase food or eat what you have brought for yourself.
  9. Your sense of adventure!   We want to teach you what it is YOU want to learn, and have you come away with some good images. And, since the nature of outdoor photography means we're subject to weather conditions, which we can't control, sometimes we must be flexible with the itinerary. So, come ready for anything. Because we are dedicated to do everything possible to ensure you're in the best places at the best times to get amazing images.
  10. Your Thinking Cap!   Show up ready, because you're going to learn! Some tips: make sure to read the workshop details before you arrive, so you know what to expect, and what to bring; bring a list of questions you want to ask the instructors; check the weather forecast so you're aware of possible weather changes; and most importantly, show up with a brain that is ready for learning, and we promise we'll fill it up with as much information as you desire!

Workshop FAQs

:: What should I expect? ::

All workshops are designed to help you learn how to take better photographs and offer a complete immersion into digital landscape and/or wildlife photography. You will learn important photography techniques such as how to properly expose a composition, when to use a filter for best effect, and how to understand and adjust camera settings for optimum results.

Class sizes are kept small (approx. 12 students) to afford each participant one-on-one instruction and to maximize individual attention. The Instructor ratio is usually 6 to 1.

All trips require walking, and usually a little hiking, on uneven terrain. You will want to wear the right clothing, footwear, and keep in mind you could get a bit of a workout!

:: Why only Digital? ::

Digital photography offers unique opportunities for in-field photography workshops. By reviewing captured images as soon as they happen, we can examine exposure, composition and histograms, and instantly learn what works--and what doesn't.

:: What should I bring? What is required? ::

  • All workshops require a Digital SLR or Mirrorless Camera and a tripod. (Note: Filters (Graduated ND and Polarizer) and a shutter release cord are not required, but highly recommended.)
  • Bring a laptop on workshops 2 days and longer if possible, as we will spend time, when not in the field, reviewing and critiquing images.
  • It is advised for you to dress in layers, as all workshops are held on location and often temperatures and conditions can change rapidly.
  • Food and beverages will not be provided, so please bring plenty of water and nourishment.
  • All students are expected to arrive on-time and to work together as a group to learn, not only from instructors, but also from each other.

:: What kind, and how much, equipment should I bring? ::

Bring it all if you can! You never know what you might see. On many workshops we focus on landscape photos, but you never know when wildlife might enter the scene and provide the perfect opportunity to photograph them in their natural habitat. It's always better to go into the field with too much gear, rather than miss an opportunity because of not enough equipment.

:: Is transportation provided? ::

Each student is responsible for their own transportation during the workshop.

:: Can a non-photographer friend or spouse attend the workshop? ::

Non-photographer friends and or spouses are welcome to attend but will be liable for their transportation. For more information, please contact the Aperture Academy staff.

:: Does weather ever alter or cancel events? ::

Only if conditions pose a safety risk. Often, poor weather can make for dramatic photographic opportunities, so if rain is forecasted, pack a light jacket or rain poncho and bring something to keep your camera dry (a hotel shower cap is ideal).

:: What happens if I have to cancel? ::

Because of the limited number of workshops and availability of one-on-one instruction sessions, once we schedule a spot, it won't be available for anyone else, therefore we can not offer a refund unless the cancellation is 90 days before the workshop date. This policy is necessary to assure us that those who sign up are serious about the adventure and will not back out, ruining the opportunity for someone else.

However, there is an exception to every rule. If, for some reason a workshop or one-on-one is cancelled by its instructor, you will be allowed the option to apply your credit to any workshop we teach. [Read our refund policy and other terms here]

:: Be prepared to take better photographs! ::

These workshops will help you develop skills, learn techniques and get to know your camera and equipment like never before. As a bonus, you will have a fun time and build friendships while learning to improve your photography technically. The result? You'll be capable of producing photographs as beautiful as any professional!

Students of the Aperture Academy are eligible for special discounts and promotions from our partners.
Bay Photo BorrowLenses.com SinghRay Filters SmugMug
Nik Software Induro Tripods thinkTANK

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