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HomeWorkshopsBig Bend Oct. 2017
Night and Landscape Photography Workshop
Based in the Big Bend of Texas
October 2017

Under the Milky Way
(Apr. 2016 Workshop)


Workshop Dates: October 16 - 20, 2017
Students: 12
Spaces remaining: This workshop is done and in the books!
Instructor: TJ Avery
Tuition: $625
How to Register: Contact TJ Avery

Table of Contents for Oct. 2017 Event:
Night Photography
Getting There
What to Bring
Sun and Moon Calendar


NOTE: All times given are approximate. We may shift things around depending on weather, time required to travel to shooting locations, etc. The times and activities listed are just to give you an idea of how the workshop will operate. Please plan on being flexible.

DAY 1 (Mon, Oct 16):
5:00 pm -- Meet at Big Bend Resort & Adventures
5:00pm to 6:30pm -- Greetings and introductions in classroom, and starter course on night photography
6:30pm to 7:30pm -- Break
7:30pm -- Dinner
9:00pm -- First night shoot; stay out until midnight or later

DAY 2 (Tue, Oct 17):
9:00am to 10:30am -- Breakfast
10:30am to 12:00pm -- Classroom work/lab session
12:00pm to 2:00pm -- Break
2:00am to 4:00pm -- Classroom session
4:00pm to 5:00pm -- Break
5:00pm to 8:00pm -- Afternoon + sunset field shoot
8:00pm to 9:00pm -- Dinner
9:00pm -- Night shoot; stay out until midnight or later

DAYS 3 & 4 (Oct 18 - 19):
(same schedule as Day 2)

DAY 5 (Fri, Oct 20):
8:30am to 10:00am -- Breakfast
10:00am to 12:00pm -- Final classroom session
12:00pm -- Workshop concludes

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Milky Way and Rio Grande River just before dawn


This photography workshop will have an emphasis on photographing the dark, night sky and Milky Way. We will also spend time in the field during daylight hours practicing nature, wildlife, and landscape photography.

To get the most out of this workhop, you should understand the features and functions of your camera and know how to operate it in manual mode. It is not mandatory that you have night photography experience, but it will help if you've at least practiced it a few times.

This workshop is open to anyone who has a desire to see, experience, and photograph the amazing landscape of the Big Bend region of Texas.

We will learn in the classroom as well in the field. It will be several intense days of photography, but everyone will have a few hours of free time during the day to nap and catch up on things.

We will visit many different, well known locations inside and outside of Big Bend National Park. Such locations may include Santa Elena Canyon, Rio Grande Village, Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, Chisos Mountains, Boquillas Canyon, Ernst Tinaja, Sotol Vista Overlook, and the Terlingua Ghost Town. We will also visit some out-of-the-way locations - spots that I've discovered on my many trips to the area that are off the beaten path yet easy to reach.

We will enjoy the laid-back atmosphere of the local desert inhabitants and also the spicy and colorful cuisine. Life in the area runs at a slower pace, and folks spend time enjoying their surroundings.

Backlit Ocotillo and Mountains at Sunset

Our classroom will be based at Big Bend Resort and Adventures (formerly known as the Big Bend Motor Inn) in Study Butte. We will have:

- technical guidance and instruction on night photography
- critique of your images shot during the workshop
- instruction on processing and editing your night photos

I will provide you with printed materials for the workshop. This will include notes on photography (particularly shooting at night) and also information on many different locations inside and outside of Big Bend National Park.

I will be 100% available to you during the workshop. I may set up my camera to demonstrate something or to take images to use as examples during our time in the field. But I will be on hand to help you, to point out things of interest and potential, and to answer your questions.

I will also have an assistant (or possibly two) during the workshop. They will be available to you for help at all times. My assitant(s) are experienced night photographers and can offer a range of help basic to advanced.

Our shooting locations will be in large areas where the group will spread out. It may too difficult for me to visit with everyone as they shoot in the field, so if you need my help, make contact with me (yell, wave, or use a walkie-talkie; I will have some available). I will come see you and help to the best of my abilities.

I will help to coordinate shooting multiple groups at night (during the long exposures, all lights must be off). I will also demonstrate light painting and assist with the lights as you all shoot.

We will have a blast. It's great fun to play around with long exposures and lights :-)

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Photographing the Milky Way - Sep. 2016 Workshop

Night Photography

One of the greatest and most beautiful aspects of Big Bend is the night sky. There is very little light pollution, and the Milky Way can be seen brightly on a moonless night.

We will shoot at night and capture the stars and Milky Way. We will visit different locations that offer a variety of foreground subjects to work into your compositions.

Night shooting (field work) includes:

- Taking images that freeze the apparent motion of the stars (minimizing star trails) and capture the Milky Way in combination with Earth-based objects (features on the landscape, structures, silhouettes of people, etc)
- Dealing with shallow depth of field (when shooting at a wide aperture at night) by focus stacking
- How to minimize digital noise while shooting
- Light painting with different light sources and also different temperatures of white lights
- Light painting setups to cover different subjects (people, structures, etc)
- Panoramics at night
- Long exposure star trail photos
- How to shoot time-lapse sequences

3-shot Panoramic

Processing and editing subjects covered (in the classroom):

- Settings for processing raw images
- General editing steps (both Lightroom and Photoshop)
- White balance and color correction to achieve desired result
- Reducing digital noise using software
- Stitching panoramics shot at night
- Producing files suited for printing or web use

Night Sky Timelapse
(short video with two sequences)

I will bring my big box of misc. lights for you to use. This lighting kit includes many LED candles, flashlights of different colors, and a UV light (scorpion spotting, anyone? :-)

LED candles

The night sky in Big Bend is something to experience. It will take your breath away as you stare up into the billions of stars that make up our galaxy.

The workshop will take place during a new moon. The good part of the Milky Way (the wide, colorful portion with loads of detail) will be up in the sky to the southwest after sunset. We will have opportunity to spend 3 to 4 hours shooting it each evening provided the weather cooperates.

See the Sun and Moon Calendar for details.

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The Desert at Sunset

Getting There

The Big Bend area is located in remote, southwestern Texas. Big Bend National Park and the villages of Study Butte and Terlingua are part of the Chihuahuan Desert that extends throughout that area of Texas and northern Mexico.

Road map of Texas; click to see larger

The closest commercial airports to Big Bend National Park are Midland/Odessa Airport (MAF) in Midland, TX or El Paso Airport (ELP) in El Paso, TX. From Midland/Odessa, it is a 235-mile drive to the park headquarters. From El Paso, it is 330 miles. The drive from El Paso is a much more scenic route if you have the extra time to drive it.

The Big Bend National Park website contains a lot of useful information about the park, traveling to it, and visiting/using it. Note that you will need to pay a $25 entry fee (per vehicle) to enter the park, and the fee will be good for seven days.

Map of Study Butte-Terlingua; click to see larger

Study Butte-Terlingua is just outside the west entrance of the park. It contains only a few hundred permanent residents, but there are restaurants, hotels, and convenience stores available. There is even a small grocery store (Cottonwood General Store) that is fairly well stocked. There are no chain stores or restaurants (e.g. Walmart) in the area. The closest "big" city is Alpine, about 80 miles to the north.

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Star Trails - 41 Minute Exposure


The workshop will be hosted at:

Big Bend Resort & Adventures (formerly known as the Big Bend Motor Inn).
Located at the intersection of TX 118 and TX 170 in Terlingua, Texas 79852.

To make a reservation, please call the motel directly: 432-371-2218

We have a block of rooms set aside for the class. Please mention that you are with the "Thomas J. Avery Photography Workshop". The room block will expire September 15, 2017.

We also have a meeting room reserved at the motel. Our classroom sessions will be held in this meeting room.

Self Portrait under the Milky Way

For additional information and to register for this workshop, please contact me (TJ Avery) and let me know that you are interested in registering for this workshop.

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What to Bring

When you make the commitment to attend this workshop and make all the arrangements for your trip, you will certainly want to arrive with what you need. While gear doesn’t make the artist, having a checklist handy while you are packing can prevent being in a beautiful place with a dead battery and no charger.


Quick Checklist

- Camera body (DSLR or mirroless) - see note 1 below
- Lenses - see note 2 below
- Camera bag (something comfortable like a backpack or large waist pack)
- Batteries and spare batteries (and don't forget your charger)
- Memory cards
- Tripod (absolutely manditory for the 30-60 sec. exposures at night)
- Flashlight or headlamp (one with a "red mode" for preserving night vision is handy)
- Filters (especially a circular polarizer)
- Remote shutter release (note 3)
- Computer equipment (laptop, charger, USB cables, card reader, USB memory stick)
- Clothes, toiletries, & medicines
- Passport, green card, etc. (You will pass through a few immigration checkpoints on the highway as you come and go to the Big Bend area. If you are not a US citizen, please bring your documentation showing that you belong in the US.)


1. Cameras: Bring a DSLR or mirrorless (with EVF), or any camera on which you can manually adjust your aperture, shutter speed and ISO. If you have a backup body and/or a favorite point and shoot camera, bring them along too. For getting the best results on our night shoots, I would HIGHLY suggest you bring a camera body capable of shooting at least as high as ISO 6400. Most DSLRs made in the last few years will do this. Please also bring your camera manual. We will dive into some advanced settings for the night photography.

2. Lenses: Bring lenses to cover a range from super wide angle to telephoto. If you have a specialty lens like a macro, the Lensbaby or a fisheye, be sure to bring it. A workshop is a great time to try an old lens in a new way. For getting the best results on our night shoots, I would HIGHLY suggest you bring a lens with a LARGE aperture. To capture the Milky Way combined with land-based objects, a wide and fast lens is neccesary. Some examples::
- 14mm f/2.8
- 15mm f/2.8 (fisheye)
- 14-24mm f/2.8
- 16-35mm f/2.8
- 20mm f/1.8
- 24mm f/1.4
- 28mm f/1.8

If you do not have a fast lens such as these, then please consider renting one for your trip. I highly recommend Lens Rentals ( Many of my students in past workshops have rented special lenses with good success. I have as well.

3. Remote Shutter Release: Please have the ability to shoot long exposures in BULB mode. This may require you to bring a remote shutter release (wireless or wired). Some newer camera models have built-in intervalometers that will do this. You may want to shoot longer than your camera's longest pre-programmed exposure time (most models are limited to 30 seconds). Having this ability will allow you to engage in some of the more complex light painting scenarios that we will try.

4. Computer stuff: Our classroom will have desk space and power outlets so each student can set up an individual work station. Please bring a laptop with photo editing software so that you can download, process, and edit the images you shoot during the workshop. Free Wi-Fi is available at the main office of the motel. It may be available in our classroom, but please do not count on it.

5. Weather: Dressing in layers is the best way to go. Our field outings may span many hours in the day, temperatures, and even elevation changes. A rain poncho is always a good addition to your camera bag. Check the extended weather forecast and come as prepared as you can. Good comfortable walking shoes or hiking boots are a must. Bring a hat for protection from the sun.

Average high temperatures in October are generally mild-to-hot. 80-90°F during the day is possible. Typical low temperatures can be around 50-60°F. The rainfall average in October is fairly low.

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Shooting the Amazing Landscape - Sept. 2016 Workshop


Below are the policies, terms and conditions of this workshop. If you have any questions, please contact TJ Avery.

Payment for the Workshop:

Tuition for this workshop is $625.

If you sign up prior to August 1, 2017:
• $225 deposit is due immediately to secure your spot on the workshop
• $400 remainder is due August 1, 2017

If you sign up on or after August 1, 2017:
• $625 is due immediately

Please note that payment of your deposit (prior to Aug 1) or full payment (after Aug 1) is required to secure your spot on the workshop. My workshops typically fill up early and I start a waiting list.

Your tuition of $625 covers your participation only. Transportation to and from the workshop, park entrance fees, lodging, rental car (if needed), and meals are your responsibility.

If you Cancel:

If you cancel more than 4 months prior, then your deposit is returned minus $25 admin. fee.

If you cancel 2 to 4 months prior, then your deposit is retained **

If you cancel less than 2 months prior, then All funds are retained **

** EXCEPTION: If the workshop is full and you cancel, then I will try to fill your spot from the waiting list. If I’m successful, then I will refund your payments (minus a $50 admin. fee).

Workshop Cancellation:

This is a rare possibility, but life is life and things happen. I’ve never had to cancel a workshop before. Chances are extremely low, but, if it does happen, then I will refund your money in full. If this bothers you, then please consider making refundable travel arrangements or getting trip insurance.

Photographing the Desert - Sept 2016 Workshop

Equipment Insurance:

I strongly suggest that you insure all of your equipment prior to leaving for a workshop. The greatest danger to your gear is yourself :-) I've never experienced a theft, but I've seen a lot of camera gear banged up in the Big Bend, mine included.

How to Register for a Workshop:

Please contact me (TJ Avery) by email and request registration. I will send you all the details.

Guest and Spouse Policy:

Everyone attending the workshop must pay tuition.

I understand that you may have a spouse, friend, partner, or significant other (who is not into photography as you are) that you really want to take with you and show them the Big Bend. Many of my students in the past have done so, and they've enjoyed it.

PLEASE understand that your guest will NOT be allowed to attend the classroom sessions. They may tag along on our field outings, but they will not receive any photographic instruction. They are welcome to join us for any meals.

The issue is that bringing a non-workshop participant along with you adds to the size of the group. And the larger the group is, the more difficult it is to get around.

Only a few non-tuition-paying guests will be allowed to attend. Please contact me prior to committing to the workshop and let me know if you plan to bring a guest.

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Prop Tent and Milky Way

Past Workshop Details, Images, & Feedback/Testimonials from Students

Big Bend Photo Workshop, Oct. 2011
Big Bend Photo Workshop, Feb. 2012
Big Bend Photo Workshop, Oct. 2012
Guided Shoot in Big Bend, Oct. 2013
Big Bend Photo Workshop, Oct. 2014
Big Bend Photo Workshop, Apr. 2016
Big Bend Photo Workshop, Sep. 2016

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Sunset over the Rio Grande River

Sun and Moon Calendar

Table generated by:

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All images copyright of Thomas J. Avery