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American Southwest Extreme Photography Workshop

(This exclusive workshop is limited to only 6 participants and is lead by two instructors)

This is an amazing workshop...but it is not for everyone. Given the extreme and remote nature, the challenging access of these locations (4-wheel drive), and the requirement that participants be able to perform moderate to difficult hikes, this workshop is ONLY for those looking for an extreme adventure. We will be hiking 3-5 miles each day (with breaks) in order to reach several amazing locations each day and conduct quality photography.

This workshop is being lead by Stephen Oachs and Ellie Stone, both with years of experience in this area.

The great American Southwest is legendary, with a rich history and tales of romance and adventures like few other locations on earth. Some of us have only seen its remarkable terrain in the movies, or maybe you've been lucky to vacation in S.W. tourist areas and seen some of the amazing vistas in the nearby National Parks...but, there is so much more out there than people realize!

Have you ever wanted to get off the beaten path and see some of the most unique, rare and historic areas that legends have been made of? Have you wanted to do more than see the beauty from a distance, and instead, actually capture where ancient peoples have walked and lived? This workshop is designed to do just that. You will be lead by Stephen Oachs, Aperture Academy's founder and professional nature photographer. Stephen has spent years exploring and photographing these rare locations and has a deep understanding of this area. Joined by Ellie Stone, fellow landscape and wildlife photographer, you will be guided and instructed to these remote and exclusive locations not only for great photography but also to learn about the mysteries of the Anasazi people.

Approximately 1100 years ago, the Colorado Plateau, also known as the Four Corners region, was inhabited by the Anasazi people who grew vast crops and built complex communities into the canyon walls. What happened to the Anasazi is shrouded in mystery, yet many of their dwellings and rock art still remain, and some in such pristine condition that you can almost feel the presence of those who made their lives there.

This extreme workshop focuses on the history and exploration of some of the most pristine photographic Anasazi ruins, landscapes, petroglyphs and pictographs of the southwest. Many of these locations are far off any paved roads and are not found on any maps. We will travel by 4-wheel drive, then when the road ends, we'll hike into the canyons to explore and photograph some of these amazing locations. The sights and scenery you will see will stay in your memory for life!

Join us as we go beyond the typical tourist experience and venture off road and into the past for an extreme adventure you will not soon forget!

The Itinerary: We will spend each day in the field hiking and navigating the amazing canyons of the Cedar Mesa Plateau and will visit at least 3 photographic locations each day. The last morning we will have a group breakfast and conclude the workshop with a post processing, image review and critique session.

Due to weather, light and other mother nature related conditions, the locations we visit will be determined the day prior for safety and to take advantage of the best possible lighting conditions.


What is Required

  • A digital SLR camera
  • A tripod
  • Ability to hike 4-5 miles, over the course of a day, on uneven surfaces. Some areas require short scrambles up and down rock surfaces.
  • Desire to have an adventure!

Lodging, Meals & Directions

Lodging is included in the cost of this workshop. Lodging is double occupancy. Meals are not included. We will be out in the field each day and you should plan to purchase sack lunch type meals once you arrive in Utah. We will provide granola bars, water and other light snacks during the workshop.

Single Supplement: $300


What's Included/Not Included

What's Included in your workshop:

  • Hands-on Instruction by 2 or more professional photographers
  • Transportation during the workshop
  • Water (snacks for extended workshops)

What's not included

  • Transportation to/from Workshop starting location
  • Instructor Gratuities
  • Meals during workshop breaks

Safety, Confidence, Being Prepared

Aperture Academy is a professional organization dedicated to safe, quality, positive experiences for our students, and a 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. They are qualified and rated to drive Class B vehicles. 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 have the opportunity to get the most remarkable, enjoyable and enriching photography experience available anywhere in the world.


What to Bring

  1. Your digital SLR 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 camera and a tripod. (Note: Filters (Graduated ND and Polarizer) and a shutter release cord are not required, but highly recommended.)
  • Bring a laptop 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 to and from the workshop meeting location. Once on location, we will provide transportation for all enrolled students over the course of the scheduled workshop.

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

Non-photographer friends and/or spouses are welcome to attend, but will be subject to the full tuition fee based due to transportation availability.

:: 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 entitled to a refund, or may choose a credit for a different date. [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!






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