California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range drops off dramatically into the high desert country of the Eastern Sierra. From towering granite peaks, to picturesque lakes, to fantastic forests, the scenic and varied landscapes are a photographer’s delight. This photo tour will visit such icons as Mono Lake, the Alabama Hills, the Owens River Valley, groves of quaking aspens, and much more.
On this photo tour you will be able to create beautiful photos of the breathtaking and varied landscapes of the Eastern Sierra. During this tour we will be photographing dramatic granite peaks, snowmelt-fed alpine lakes, fascinating rock formations and arches, cascading streams, the ancient Bristlecone Pines, and otherworldly Mono Lake tufa towers. On top of that, early October is the best time to photograph aspen trees as their leaves turn blazing gold and crimson.
The Full Moon. We timed the beginning of this trip to coincide with the September Full Moon. Just imagine: moonlit granite spires, the moon rising behind a stately Bristlecone, or setting beyond the magnificent Sierra Crest. These are all things you’ll experience on this tour.
The Milky Way. With the full moon occurring at the beginning of the tour, the final days of the trip will allow for beautiful dark night stars.
Josh Cripps – Lead Guide and Chief Brine Fly Taster
Josh is a full-time, pro landscape photographer who has spent thousands of hours scouting and shooting in the Eastern Sierra Nevada.
Josh grew up in the Sierra Nevada and has been exploring their granite peaks and high country meadows since he was a kid. Josh currently lives in Mammoth Lakes, although his true happy place is the Sierra backcountry. He spends as much time as possible each year in the wilderness, drinking from crystal-clear alpine streams and chasing bears away from his dehydrated pasta. He firmly believes that the Eastern Sierra region holds some of the most beautiful places on the planet and he loves helping photographers shoot the place he calls home.
Josh has been leading photo tours and workshops since 2010, and takes pride in providing a top-notch tour experience.
Sean Parker – Co Guide and Astro Expert
Sean is a photographer and time-lapse cinematographer based in Tucson, Arizona. He is well-known for his landscape, astro, and monsoon photography and has worked with clients from the Smithsonian and Discovery, to LG and Samsung, to the New York Times and Arizona Highways. Check out his work below, as it speaks for itself!
Sean’s relaxed and easy-going nature, and mellow teaching style will be a perfect complement to our trip.
If you’d like to reach out to Sean, say hello, or check out more of his work, his email is sean@sean–parker.com. And his website: https://www.sean–parker.com/
Who is this Photo Tour for?
This Eastern Sierra fall photo tour is for upbeat, adventurous photographers who appreciate a wide array of landscapes and scenes. If you love intimate details of colored aspen groves as much as grand landscapes, then this trip is for you. There is a wonderful range of subjects and scales to explore in these areas, and photographers open to all kinds of different shots will find great joy on this trip.
This tour is for photographers of all experience levels, from pros to novices. That being said, you will get the most out of this trip if you understand the basics of exposure and composition.
One of the most important things you can do to prepare is to know your camera. Understand how to change the settings, how to zoom in to 100% on Live View and on Playback, and how to quickly access the histogram and menus. When the good light is changing rapidly, simply knowing how to work your gear quickly and efficiently will set you up for success.
This is a group trip, and morale is a key factor to everyone’s enjoyment. Our favorite kinds of photographers:
If this describes you, we’d love to have you aboard this tour. Negative, complain-y, or high-maintenance “everything needs to be my way” photographers need not apply.
In short, this tour is for anyone who wants to explore and photograph stunning scenery with a fun group of like-minded people. The trip is limited to 9 participants for a small, personal feel.
This Eastern Sierra photo tour is appropriate for photographers of most fitness levels. You should have good balance and mobility. Hiking is minimal, perhaps up to 2 miles total each day. However, we will be at elevations as high as 11,000 ft on this trip. Expect walks of up to 1/2 mile each way to reach certain shooting locations.
Walking in the mountains can be strenuous at elevation and we recommend preparing for the trip by walking at least a few miles per week leading up to the tour. You also may wish to arrive a few days early to acclimate to the altitude. All participants are expected to carry their own camera, personal gear, and water during the tour.
This is a photo tour, meaning that we are focused on getting you to the right places at the right times to create amazing images. Our goal is to help you connect with the landscape on a personal level so that you can create more meaningful photos. This trip is about having the best possible experience in the Sierra, Mono Lake, the White Mountains, and the valleys in between. That means in addition to shooting we are also enjoying meals together, learning the history of these areas, and allowing for down time so that you can stay rested and excited. We set a relaxed pace during the tour so that you will enjoy each day, rather than feeling exhausted, burned out, or mentally fatigued. This trip is FUN, not boot camp.
If you are looking for a workshop, where we focus on learning specific skills, such as photographing small scenes, black and white photography, sand dune photography, moon planning, or post processing, please check our schedule.
We are here to help, without overwhelming you.
In the field your guides are always available to answer questions, provide guidance and feedback, and give you ideas of how to approach your photography. In short, if you have questions we’re here for you. At the same time, it’s important to avoid spending every field session cramming your brain full of as much photography knowledge as possible, as this only leads to overwhelm and an inability to retain anything.
Your guides will also be shooting photos during the trip, both to provide examples and ideas, and so that you can see the scene through our eyes, get inspiration, and learn about our approaches to photography.
If you have any questions about the tour experience, please email [email protected]
5:35 am – meet in the hotel parking lot and drive 15-20 minutes.
5:55 am – walk up to 30 minutes / 1 mile over gentle, rocky ground to our shooting location.
6:15 am – arrive on location 30 minutes prior to sunrise and begin exploring and shooting.
6:45 am – sunrise.
8:30 am – wrap up morning shoot, and walk back to the cars (up to 1 mile).
9:00 am – breakfast (included).
10:00 am – break.
Midday – lunch, rest, import photos, optional talks on approaches to landscape photography.
3:15 pm – leave for afternoon shooting session. Drive 30-60 minutes.
4:15 pm – hike 15-30 minutes / 1 mile over rocky or sandy ground.
4:35 pm – arrive on location 2 hrs before sunset to explore, see the landscape, and shoot.
6:35 pm – sunset / moonrise.
7:15 pm – wrap up afternoon shoot, and return to cars.
7:30 – 8:00 pm – arrive back at hotel for dinner.
Note that these times are given as a general sense of what to expect. Exact meet times, drive times, and hiking distances will vary day to day. Some drives are as short as 5 minutes, some are as long as 90+ minutes. Some hikes are 2 minutes, some are 30 minutes. We do our best to spread out the long drives and hikes, but we always let the conditions guide us to the best spots each day.
Our itinerary is organized to visit some of the most spectacular locations in this special part of California. The tour is 7 days, giving us tons of opportunities to shoot. We’ll set a relaxed pace on the trip, with emphasis on shoots during the golden hours of sunrise and sunset, with breaks in the middle of day for meals, optional side-trips, or transit between locations.
Day 1, Arrival Day.
Arrive in Bishop, California, prior to 3 pm. Meet at our group’s hotel for orientation and introductions. We will plan to shoot sunset and moonrise this night.
Days 2 – 6.
We will spend the next five days exploring the most beautiful locations in the region. With his extension knowledge of Mono Lake, the Sierra, the White Mountains, and Payahuunadu (Owens Valley), Josh will lead you to his favorite spots for landscape photography. You can expect to see certain iconic locations, such as South Tufa, Silver Lake, Minaret Vista, McGee Creek, and the Alabama Hills. But there will be far more off-the-beaten path spots that are unique to this tour.
The full moon is September 29th, and we will plan many of our shoots on the 28th and 29th around it. These rare experiences are not to be missed!
Day 7, Last Day and Departure.
After a final morning shoot somewhere in beautiful Payahuunadu we will enjoy a last meal together before the tour disbands at approximately 10 am.
This tour meets in Bishop, and disbands in Mammoth Lakes, California.
For this trip we recommend flying into into Reno, Los Angeles, Burbank, or Las Vegas, each approximately 4 hours by car from Bishop.
Participants are responsible for transportation to, from, and during the tour. However, during the tour we carpool as much as possible so that you can spend time with your fellow photographers, as well as minimize our impact on the landscape.
Most of our locations are within a 30-60 minute drive, though some locations can be as far as 90-100 minutes each way. Trust us, they are well worth the journey.
*The itinerary, meeting and departure points may vary depending on expected conditions in the fall.
Lodging is included in the price of the tour. By default everyone gets their own room in our hotels. If you are attending the trip with a friend or partner and would like to share a room, you will receive a discount on the tour tuition.
You may also book your own accommodation at these locations (or nearby). You are also welcome to camp if that is your style. After you have registered for the tour we will discuss the lodging options with you.
All our hotels have complimentary, high-speed WiFi. Expect good cell coverage in all towns, with hit-or-miss coverage at our shooting locations.
Due to variable conditions, we recommend bringing multiple layers of non-cotton clothing, like Merino wool, fleece, or synthetic fibers. Specifically you should bring:
Early October is the peak time to experience fall color in the Eastern Sierra. Aspen leaves are changing from green to gold, and sometimes even crimson. The Eastern Sierra escarpment gives us effortless access to 6,000 feet of elevation change throughout marvelous granite canyons, ensuring endless options for finding beautiful fall foliage.
October also marks a time of seasonal change in the weather, as late summer’s stable atmosphere begins to break up. Expect a wide range of conditions, from partly cloudy, to sunny, to possibly even rain and snow.
Overall, temperatures could range from 75°F down to 20°F, so be prepared for a range of conditions. Expect wind (and possibly lenticular clouds) at any time.
A deposit of $1000 is required to reserve your spot. The balance is due 3 months before the tour. Payment can be made via check, bank transfer, credit card, or PayPal. Payments made via credit card / PayPal incur a 3% fee.
The lodging supplement covers 6 nights of private lodging during the tour.
This is a remote, rural area with a tourism economy, so expect slightly higher costs. Here are some approximate costs:
Breakfast, dinner, and snacks are included every day on this tour. We have found that most people eat a big breakfast and dinner, then skip lunch or have snacks.
We take pains to ensure our activities are 100% above board. We obtain all the necessary permissions, certifications, and insurance required in order conduct our tours.
We are also strong advocates of Leave No Trace (LNT) wilderness ethics. We teach responsible photography practices and never sacrifice the environment for the sake of a photo. Our goal is to leave our tour locations in better shape than the way we found them.
Deposits are non-refundable. Additional payments toward your balance are fully refundable up to 90 days before the tour. If you withdraw from the tour and we are able to fill your spot, we will refund your payments (including deposit), less a $200 administrative fee and any discounts given to fill the space. If we cancel this tour for any reason, your entire tuition fee will be transferred to another tour or refunded to you at your discretion.
We strongly recommend purchasing trip insurance to cover your costs in case of cancellation or withdrawal. If you have a personal emergency such as a medical emergency or a death in the family, please contact us. We are willing to work with you to reschedule or refund your fee on a case-by-case basis. This tour requires a minimum of 5 participants. In the case of under-subscription we reserve the right to cancel the tour, in which case your registration will be transferred to another tour of your choosing. Or we may conduct the tour with a single instructor.
We will take all reasonable precautions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. These precautions may include:
All precautions will be finalized approximately 1 month prior to the tour and you will be notified. Photographers joining this tour acknowledge that we can not mitigate all risks with regard to COVID-19.
This policy will be updated as CDC, WHO, Federal, and state guidelines change.
In accordance with Federal law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, this institution is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, and reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.)
Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information (e.g., Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language, etc.) should contact the responsible State or local Agency that administers the program or USDA’s TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 (voice and TTY) or contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339. Additionally, program information is also available in languages other than English.
To file a complaint alleging discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, AD-3027, found online at http://www.ascr.usda.gov/complaint_filing_cust.html, or at any USDA office or write a letter addressed to USDA and provided in the letter all of the information requested in the form. To request a copy of the complaint form, call (866) 632-9992. Submit your completed form or letter to USDA by: (a) mail: U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-9410; (b) fax: (202) 690-7442; or (c) email: [email protected].
USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender.
This tour runs in accordance with all local regulations and is currently pending approval by the US Forest Service.
We are fully insured for the activities involved.