Posts Tagged ‘Death Valley’

Death Valley Photography Workshop 2015

March 1st, 2015

The Death Valley Photography Workshop of 2015 is ‘in the can.’ We had a great time and were treated to some very special weather, something photographers always seek and are thrilled when it happens. And, unlike vacationers, very special weather is not clear skies and balmy temperatures. We started the workshop with rain and snow above 5000’. It was beautiful and the desert smelled so good. Combined with the great weather was an eager, enthusiastic and motivated group. We had a great time and you can’t ask for more than that.

I want to share a few highlights of the workshop with you.

Day 1 – Sunday

The storm Sunday night and into Monday created exciting skies. We drove up to Ubehebe Crater Sunday afternoon for ‘sunset,’ although the sun was hidden behind the clouds. My favorite photograph is an abstract of the crater bottom that was rendered best in black and white.


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Best of 2012 – Results

February 6th, 2014

The results are in and you have selected your favorite photographs of 2012.  Before presenting the results let me just say how much I appreciate the input from everyone that participated.  This has been an exciting experience for me and I hope you had fun.

So, on to the results.  There were eight photographs in the final runoff.  They were the top two of their categories – California Deserts, Big Sur, Eastern Sierra and Zion National Park.  So each one is a winner in it’s own right.

Let’s start with number 8 – Sunrise, North Lake.


North Lake is in the Eastern Sierra just outside the town of Bishop,, California.  It is one of three lakes that are up Bishop Creek.  North Lake sets itself apart from the other two (Sebrina and South Lakes) in that it is naturel.  Besides being the smallest there is no dam to back up water and generate electricity.  The only development is a pack station at its head.  And there’s a rustic campsite upstream a little ways.  I always return to this same location because of the boulders in the foreground, the soft grasses and the snag in the middle ground.  The colors at sunrise are magnificent with the cool blues and greens that are still in the shade and the bright warm morning light on the peak in the back.  I get a strong feeling that all is well with the world when I’m there.

Continue reading “Best of 2012 – Results” »


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Best of 2012

January 18th, 2014

In 2013 we started a fun project – picking the best of my photographs from 2012.  We approached it area by area, choosing the best from each.  It’s been a lot of fun so far.  And now it’s time to finish what was started and select the best photograph of 2012.

There are photographs from four areas – California Deserts, Eastern Sierra, Big Sur and Zion National Park in Utah.

death_valley_sunrise_2012California has two wonderful desert national parks.  Joshua Tree here in Southern California is a blend of both high and low desert, the fantastic trees that give the park its name, outcrops of granite that attract climbers from all over the world, not to mention the great photography.  Death Valley is the premier desert attraction in the country.

pfeiffer_beach_sunset_2012At the opposite end of California’s diverse spectrum is incomparable Big Sur, one hundred miles of the most incredible coastline in all of North America. Big Sur is famous for its precipitous cliffs that plunge into the pounding surf of the Pacific Ocean but it also boasts redwood groves, waterfalls, classic bridges and more.  One small stretch of the coast captured your imagination and for good reason.  Pfeiffer Beach is blessed with some incredible rocks just off shore pounded by powerful surf.  And when the light is just right the photographs are unbeatable.


The Eastern Sierra boasts the mighty Sierra Nevada mountains to the west and rivers and lakes along the Owens Valley.  One of the prime attractions is the Mammoth Lakes area with it’s superb skiing and a beautiful string of alpine lakes and laughing streams.


Zion National Park in Southwest Utah attracts visitors and photographers from all over the globe.  Its spectacular red sandstone cliffs create a canyon that of unparalleled beauty.  And when autumn storms roll through, the drama of the already impressive cliffs and towers is intensified.

This is a sampling of the photographs that are being considered for the Best of 2012.  The top two images from each of these areas are presented for your evaluation.  Take our survey to view them all and pick the ones you like the best.

Thanks for participating.  Have fun and enjoy.

Please feel free to share this with your friends.  The more input we have the better.

Join me on an upcoming workshop.  Click here for more details.

To see more of my photographs click here.


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Lightroom Tutorial – Workflow Made Easy

March 2nd, 2013

Lightroom is a great tool. It’s quick and easy to use – once you get the hang of it. But sometimes mastering the workflow, the steps you go through to take a raw file to a ‘final’ image, can be a bit daunting.

Let me say up front that Lightroom is an important part of my workflow but it’s not the only part.  Every photograph I work on starts in Lightroom but is completed in Photoshop.  Nevertheless, Lightroom gets a photograph to about 80% of the final product.  I know many people who use Lightroom exclusively and Photoshop only in rare circumstances if at all.

So back to the workflow.  Can it really be made easy?  Yes it can.  There are four major steps (not counting import – see Lightroom Tutorial – Importing Photographs):

  1. Mechanical adjustments like dust spot removal and cropping
  2. Tonality adjustments
  3. Hue adjustments
  4. Saturation adjustments

Let’s skip the first step and start with the second.  The example will be in Lightroom 4.

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2013 Death Valley Workshop

February 21st, 2013

Wow, the Death Valley photography workshop was great. We had a terrific bunch of participants and good weather.

Zabriskie point is always a highlight for me and my enthusiasm for it rubbed off. Some of the other highlights were Mosaic Canyon, Devils Corn Field – at night, Aguereberry Point and Cotton Ball Marsh. Some of these were first time visits.

Another first was breakfast at the Furnace Creek Inn, a new tradition I do believe.

There’s so much more to see and do than anyone can possibly cover in three days but just being there is a joy. And, two coyotes greeted me on the way in. I was wondering if they would be there on the way out and sure enough. They said farewell as I departed.

I’ll be back next year. Come join me.

Ralph Nordstrom Photography Workshops


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Best Photograph of 2012 – California Desert

February 2nd, 2013

We are choosing the best Ralph Nordstrom Photography photograph of 2012, or, more precisely, you are.  We’re running a series of surveys, selecting the best photograph from each of five areas where we did workshops – Death Valley and Joshua Tree (collectively the California Deserts), Eastern Sierra, Big Sur, Zion and Bryce Canyon.

The first survey covered the California Deserts.  And the results are in.  But before presenting them I’d like to give you an opportunity to weigh in on the second survey – the incomparable Eastern Sierra.  We were there in early June which is summer in the Owens Valley but still spring up in the mountains.  There are six photographs to choose from and the survey will only take a couple of minutes.  So click the link below and share your opinion.

Select the Best Eastern Sierra Photograph of 2012

OK, now let’s turn to the results of the California Deserts survey.  There were four photographs, two from Death Valley and two from Joshua Tree.

Continue reading “Best Photograph of 2012 – California Desert” »


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Making a Photograph – Vision

June 29th, 2012

“This photograph speaks to me.”

The photographs that have a strong impact on us speak to us.  The photographer has created an image that moves us.  Did he or she have something in mind when making the photograph?  Probably so.  Strong images just don’t happen by accident.

As one grows as a photographer one’s vision becomes clearer.  One begins to discover who they are and what they have to say.  And as one’s technical and aesthetic skills develop, skills used in both the field and the darkroom, one’s ability to express their vision becomes stronger.

The artist’s vision is an important element of their art.  The clearer an artist is on what his or her vision is the more expressive their art becomes.

If you’re not clear on what your vision is, live with your photographs.  Become aware of what you associate with them, what stories they are telling you, how they make you feel.  And as your vision emerges nurture it, strengthen it, let it speak through you and your art.  And then your photographs will also speak to others.


We do photography workshops.  Come on out and join us.  Click here to check us out.

You can also check out our photography.  Click here.

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Photography Workshops in 2012

July 29th, 2011

I’m excited to announce the 2012 Ralph Nordstrom Photography Workshop schedule.  More beautiful locations; more wonderful photography.  But before discussing each of the workshops I’d like to say a few words about my philosophy on photography because it carries over into the workshops.

death_valley_dunes_2011I believe that photography is art.  And I believe art is interpretation and communication.  That is to say, we are each artists to one degree or another.  And our photography is a unique expression of our view of the world and our interpretation of reality.  One way to grow as an artist is to expand the way we see the world, to see the world in new and fresh ways.  And we also continue to grow when we become more fluent in communicating our world view through our photographs, when we expand our Creative Vocabulary.

Granted, a large component of a successful photography workshop is being in the right place in the best of light.  And work on technical skills is also important.   But I also like to challenge the participants to stretch themselves creatively, to get in touch with how they relate to a location and explore how they can express their feelings and impressions in their photographs.  It’s a meaningful experience and I’ve received feedback from some telling me that it has helped them slow down and see photography in an entirely new way.  I’m always humbled when I get that kind of response.  So you can expect to be challenged to shoot things you normally wouldn’t see, to perhaps get outside your comfort zone and hopefully to return home with new insights into your art.

But where does all this magic take place?  Well, in magical places of course.

Death Valley Photography Workshop, February 11-14, 2012

badwater_dawn_2011The Death Valley Workshop is always very popular so if you’re interested you better sign up right away.  I like to go in February because it’s still the ‘rainy’ season.  And for three years running we’ve been delighted with a lake in Badwater.  This is really an incredible time of year with clear air, wonderful temperatures and great light.

2012 Death Valley Photography Workshop – click here.



Eastern Sierra Photography Workshop, June 2-7, 2012

mt_whitney_first_light_2009I love the Sierra Nevada Mountains and this workshop takes us to some of the most amazing wonders this area has to offer.  You may ask yourself, “Why June?”  The answer is simple. This is springtime in the mountains.  The aspen are sending out their first shoots of foliage.  The streams are splashing and dancing.  The bristlecone pines are always an inspiration.  Everything is fresh and clean and full of life.  There is so much to experience that we it takes a full five nights and six days to cover it all.

2012 Eastern Sierra Photography Workshop – click here.


Big Sur Summer Photography Workshop, August 6-9, 2012

bixby_bridge_2011If you haven’t been to Big Sur you’re in for an incredible treat.  Quite simply, it’s the most spectacular meeting of mountain and sea on the entire West Coast.  Nowhere else will you find mile-high mountains that plunge into the sea in as little as two miles.  But Big Sur is more than majestic headlands.  Coves and beaches with crashing surf dot the coast.  Streams splash down narrow canyons and leap over waterfalls.  Hidden groves of coastal redwoods abound.  And the name of the famous restaurant in the village of Big Sur sums it all up – Nepenthe, the cure for sorrow (by the way, once the home of Orson Wells and Rita Hayworth).

2012 Big Sure Summer Photography Workshop – click here.


Zion National Park Photography Workshop, October 13-16, 2012

Riverside_Walk_2007Zion is one of the most inspiring places I know of.  There’s something almost spiritual about this beautiful canyon and its surroundings.  And I’m not the only one that feels that way.  Zion means “Place of refuge.”  There is a tremendous feeling of contrasts here with the gentle Virgin River set against the power and majesty of the towering red cliffs.  Many call this the red Yosemite.  And we are here at a magical time when the first touch of autumn begins to paint the trees.

2012 Zion NP Photography Workshop – click here.


Bryce Canyon National Park Photography Workshop, October 16-19, 2012

silent_city_2010If you’re already in Zion you may just as well drive the short two hours to take in the other wonder in this corner of Utah – Bryce Canyon.  I don’t know where on earth you will ever find more stirring sunrise than at Bryce Canyon.  But that’s not all.  Surrounding Bryce are many other exciting wonders that we will explore.  It’s a perfect extension of the Zion workshop.  And when you’re in country this beautiful who in their right mind would want to rush back home?

2012 Bryce Canyon NP Photography Workshop – click here.

So we offer a special Utah Southwest Super Workshop that combines these two workshops and is offered at a very special price.  It’s a full week of exciting, challenging and immensely rewarding photography.

2012 Utah Southwest Super Workshop – click here.

Big Sur Winter Photography Workshop, November 5-8, 2012.

plaskett_rock_north_2011Big Sur is such a magnificent place that it deserves a second visit.  In winter this wild coastline offers a completely different experience.  Early winter storms can churn the surf and turn gentle streams into rushing torrents.  It’s even been known  to snow higher up in the mountains.  And I’m the lucky one; I get to be there for both summer and winter.

2012 Big Sur Winter Photography Workshop – click here.

I’m working on some other workshop ideas.  I have some really special places in mind but it’s too early to announce them.  Stay tuned.

Take Advantage of these Discounts

We offer a number of discounts that are spelled out on the website.  But I want to point out a couple you might be especially interested in.

The Early Bird discount of 10% is available to those who sign up for a 2012 workshop by December 31st, 2011.  This is 10% off the 2012 workshop prices.

Returning participants can take advantage of the Alumni discount of 15%.

I also want to let you know about the ‘Bring a Friend’ discount.  If you go to the trouble of recruiting another participant I am happy to give you a whopping 33% discount.  After all, there ought to be something in it for you.

Only one of these discounts can be applied to any given workshop.

To help you get started, here are links to the signup forms.

2012 Registration Form – click here to download

Assumption of Risk Form – click here to download

Pick the workshop that inspires you and reserve your space now.  Download these forms and return them to me with your deposit either by fax or mail and you’re in.  We accept check, Visa, MasterCard and American Express.

I’m looking forward to shooting with you in these incomparable locations.

To see more of my photographs click here.


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Mastering Exposure–Histograms Part 3

March 21st, 2011

This is the third post in a continuing series on the oft misunderstood but oh so important histogram.  In the first two posts we discussed the histogram in general.  If you missed them, click on these links.

Mastering Exposure – Histograms Part 1

Mastering Exposure – Histograms Part 2


To recap, the histogram displays a graph of the tonal values in the scene you are about to photograph.  It shows how the dynamic range of the scene matches and fits into the dynamic range of your camera’s sensor.  There are two critical pieces of information a histogram tells you:

  1. If your exposure is correct
  2. If you have problems capturing the dynamic range of the scene

To recap, the exposure is displayed by the position of the histogram curve within the boundaries of the graph area.  As you increase the exposure the histogram moves to the right.  As you decrease the exposure it moves to the left.  If the exposure is increased so that the histogram moves all the way up against the right side of the graph area you will have highlight clipping. Likewise, if it moves all the way to the left side you will have shadow clipping.

The dynamic range of the scene is displayed as the breadth of the histogram,  The wider the histogram the greater the dynamic range of the scene.  The narrower the histogram the lower the dynamic range.  When the histogram is so wide that it extends from one end of the graph area to the other you are facing a situation where your camera’s sensor will have a difficult time capturing the full dynamic range of the scene.  The worst case is you will have both highlight and shadow clipping.

Continue reading “Mastering Exposure–Histograms Part 3” »


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2011 Photography Workshops

March 13th, 2011

The 2011 photography workshop year is off to a great start.  Death Valley was a roaring success and we have more extraordinary workshops scheduled for the remainder of the year.

Death Valley Photography Workshop

The 2011 Death Valley photography workshop was full.  We all had a great time, laughed a lot and made some good friends.

I love Death Valley in February because the weather and conditions can be truly unique.  And this year was no exception.

You don’t often expect to see standing water in the hottest, driest place in all of North America, much less lakes that stretch for literally miles.  But for the third year in a row that is what we encountered.  We had an absolutely astounding sunrise at Badwater with beautiful pink clouds overhead reflected in the seemingly unending expanse of water.  And the fortunate thing is the day after the workshop ended high winds blew all the water away so that by the next weekend it was all gone.  We continue to be very lucky that way.

Click here to see what I’m talking about – Badwater Dawn 2011

We’ll be back in Death Valley next year the same time – February 11-14, 2012.  You won’t want to miss it.

Eastern Sierra Workshop

We are returning to the Eastern Sierra from June 4th to the 9th.  I always get excited returning to the mountains where I spent so much time in my youth.  And while we won’t be sleeping under the starts near a lake at 10,000, the thrill is still there just being in the company of these majestic peaks.

Besides such towering peaks as Mt Whitney, Mt Williamson, Mt Tom and on and on, we will explore roaring cascades, the placid and beautiful Owen’s River, sparkling lakes, the always amazing ancient bristlecone pine, the mysterious tufa of Mono Lake and the best preserved ghost town in the country – Bodie.  Last year we were even able to get into the high country of Yosemite National Park for a truly amazing experience.

If you love the mountains as I do and want to see them in their spring glory, this is a workshop that is not to be missed.  We still have spaces available but hurry.  This has proven to be a popular workshop in the past.

For more information on the Eastern Sierra workshop, click here.

Big Sur Workshop

This is a new workshop this year and already proving to be very popular.  We will explore the dramatic California coast from Cambria and San Simeon to the south to Carmel and Monterey to the north.  The 70 miles in between hold some of the most exciting coastline you will find anywhere as the Santa Lucia mountains plunge into the blue Pacific.

Besides the surf crashing on rocky cliffs, this coastline is home to the southernmost groves of coastal redwoods, beautiful waterfalls and a few scattered sandy beaches.  In many places the Cabrillo Highway (also known as Highway 1) clings to the side of the steep slopes with many picturesque bridges spanning the larger streams.  The most famous of these is Bixby bridge.

We will be exploring the many gems over a four day period from August 8th to the 11th.  The grand finale will be photographing sunset at Point Lobos, Edward Weston’s old haunt.

This workshop is nearly full so if you’re interested I would encourage you to not delay.

For more information on the Big Sur workshop, click here.

Southwest Utah – Zion and Bryce Workshops

You don’t want to miss Zion and Bryce in October.  The weather is ideal and the colors of autumn are just starting to appear.  And in Bryce, it’s possible an early storm can blow through and leave a dusting of fresh white show on the orange hoodoos.

This is actually two workshops that run back to back but most people sign up for both (at a discounted price).  We explore Zion beginning Saturday, October 15th and then move on to Bryce Tuesday, October 18th.  The workshop wraps up on Friday, October 21st.  It’s

Zion holds a special place in my heart.  Zion means ‘place of refuge,’ and that is how I feel about it.  It’s grandeur has a special renewing quality about it.  And Bryce is always exciting as it is the home to some of the best sunrises on earth.  There’s nothing more glorious than watching the sun come up over Thor’s Hammer.

Click here for more information on the Zion workshop.

And here’s the link to the Bryce workshop.

Central California Coast and Napa Valley Workshop

In November we are returning to the Central California Coast, this time above and below San Francisco.   We will spend five exciting days working our way from Half Moon Bay south of San Francisco, up the coast to Point Reyes and then inland to Napa Valley. 

This workshop includes dramatic shorelines, some of the beautiful locations within San Francisco, the Golden Gate bridge, Point Bonita and Point Reyes, and out of the way gems within Napa Valley.

November is the perfect time of the year to be in this area and I can’t wait to share it with you.

Here’s the link to the Central California Coast and Napa Valley workshop.

So that’s the roundup for the rest of 2011.  As you can tell we are holding photography workshops in some very exciting places.

My Photography Workshop Philosophy

I believe photography workshops need to be more than just taking you to beautiful places.  So I have developed a three-point philosophy that I see as my obligation to you or anyone who attends one of our workshops.

  1. First, I am obligated to get you to the right place at the right time.  That is, we will visit locations with exciting photographic potential in the best light.
  2. Second, I want to make sure you return home with technically sound images.  So I’ll work closely with you to make sure your images are well composed and you use the best techniques to produce the highest quality captures.
  3. Third, I will challenge you to expand your vision.  We all grow as photographers and artists when we expand the way  we see the world.  So each of the locations we photograph will have special challenges to help you see them in fresh and exciting new ways.

I also believe our workshops provide a great value – a personal touch at a reasonable price.  I invite you to compare what we offer with other workshops and I think you’ll agree.

So check us out and come join the fun. 

Here’s a list of all the 2011 photography workshops.

To see more of my photographs click here.


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