Experience the magnificence of Big Bend National Park through your lens with me during my “BIG BEND ~ Night Skies & Landscapes Photo Tour ~ 2020.”
By day we’ll create photographs of beautiful Chihuahuan desert landscapes. And by night we’ll blaze digital star trails through this International Dark Sky Park.
LIMITED to just six (6) photographers
This huge national park provides plenty of photographic fodder and we’ll take advantage of it during my “BIG BEND ~ Night Skies & Landscapes Photo Tour 2020” as we find creative ways to highlight some of its famous sites as well as some of those not-so-well-known.
Rising more than 7,500 feet from the desert valley below, the Chisos Mountains form the heart of Big Bend National Park, providing lots of image-worthy scenery.
With its unique geology, Big Bend provides lots of turns, twists, grooves, and ridges to make our lenses happy. Diversity abounds here, from 500 million-year-old formations, to evidence of the shallow sea covering this land some 135 million years before, to the dunes at Boquillas Canyon, which remain under perpetual construction.
Once it grows dark, we’ll photograph the Milky Way and learn light painting techniques. The International Dark-Skies Association (IDA), a Tucson-based non-profit dedicated to more thoughtful use of light at night, awarded Big Bend National Park Gold Tier status, which requires a Bortle Class rating of 1, 2, or 3. The scale ranges from 1 (pristine night skies) to 9 (strong light pollution). With a Bortle rating of 2, Big Bend’s night skies rank nearly pristine, which will allow us to generate some amazing nighttime imagery.
Seventy-five mammal species make their homes in Big Bend National Park, including black bears, mountain lions, mule deer, javelina, ringtail, pronghorn, bobcats, weasels, jackrabbits, and many more. While we’ll focus on photographing landscapes, we’ll also keep our eyes open for the park’s plethora of wildlife. Photographing them would be —- admittedly -— tough since, except for the javelinas in one of the campgrounds, these animals aren’t acclimated to humans; however, just knowing they’re there with us adds something special to this journey.
Thursday evening, March 26, 2020 ~ Sunday morning, March 29, 2020
During my photo tours we don’t rush from location to location. We remain at a shot location until everyone has had a chance to create the images he/she wants.
- Thursday evening, March 26th:
Meet at 6:30 for our first meal together – dinner at the Starlight in Terlingua ghost town. THIS dinner is INCLUDED in the price of your tour (remaining meals are self-pay). Following dinner, plan on a light painting lesson and an evening of light painting & night photography under the stars.
- Friday, March 27th:
Early-morning landscape shoot. Expect to hike to our shoot location before the sun rises. Optional expedition across the border to Boquillas, Mexico for lunch. (You will need a current passport to do this.) Evening photo shoot.
- Saturday, March 28th:
Early-morning landscape shoot. Expect to hike to our shoot location before the sun rises. Optional mid-day hike or other activity. Evening landscape shoot. Night photography.
- Sunday, March 29th:
Landscape shoots at locations TBA (but may necessitate a short hike before the sun rises). Desert Mountain overlook and Santa Elena Canyon overlook. Tour ends following shoots. Thanks for joining me!
WHAT YOU CAN LEARN ON THIS TOUR:
- How to master manual exposure (& when it’s better than priority exposures)
- How & when to do silhouettes
- Landscape photography composition & metering tips
- Light painting techniques
- Night sky photography
- How and when to apply HDR techniques
A note about instruction on my photo tours:
Since skills levels vary so much on photo tours, I tailor my teaching to individual needs. Please do not be shy about telling me what you need.
- Three nights and two full days of photography fun, including instruction & guidance by award-winning nature photographer, Jeff Parker
- Instruction in light painting & night photography techniques
- Two (2) night time photo shoots
- Three (3) evening (dusk) photo shoots with Jeff’s guidance & instruction
- Three (3) morning (dawn) photo shoots with Jeff’s guidance & instruction
- Water & snacks
- Park entrance fees
- “Welcome Dinner” at the Starlight Theatre (meal & beverages included)
WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED:
- Meals* (except “Welcome Dinner; it’s included)
IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT FOOD: Due to its vastness, availability of stores and restaurants in the park is slim. Therefore, you may want to bring a cooler filled with some food items for yourself.
- Transportation (we will rely on carpooling to get us to our photo shoot spots in the park)
LOGISTICS, EQUIPMENT & SUCH:
The two closest major airports are Midland-Odessa (about 3 1/4 hours drive) and El Paso (about a 5-hour drive).
The code for the Midland-Odessa airport is MAF (officially: Midland International Air and Space Port). It is located approximately midway between the cities of Midland and Odessa.
The code for the El Paso Airport is ELP (officially: El Paso International Airport).
Amtrak stops in Alpine (80 miles away). Visit this site (VisitBigBend.com) for some great, detailed info about how to best get to the Big Bend Region.
The closest car rental is in Alpine, but they don’t have much selection. If you need to rent a vehicle, your best bet is to get one in Odessa/Midland or El Paso. You will not need a 4-wheel drive or even a high-clearance vehicle. That said, you don’t want to rent a sports car, either. Your basic sedan will do the job just fine.
A couple of our morning shoot locations will necessitate about a 15-30 minute walk in the pre-dawn darkness. You’ll need to be able to do so carrying your gear. The walks are not terribly strenuous, but they may challenge some. If you have any concerns please do not hesitate to email me with questions.
Wondering what sort of photography equipment you might need on a trip like this? Here’s the EQUIPMENT CHECKLIST (PDF) I send out to participants as we prepare for the tour.
Make sure you have a way to easily carry your gear during our short morning hikes to shot locations.
NOTE: You do not have to own everything on the checklist to get good shots in this photogenic national park! It’s a list of recommended equipment. If you have any questions about the minimum lenses, etc. that will get you though, don’t hesitate to ask! That said, night photography is a major part of this tour — and what makes Big Bend NP so special — so you WILL definitely want a good tripod.
Your Welcome Dinner is included in the price of your tour, but all other meals are self-pay.
On that note, due to its vastness and isolated location, availability of stores and restaurants is slim. Therefore, you may want to bring a cooler filled with some food items for yourself.
When you join me for my “Night Skies & Landscapes of BIG BEND Photo Tour” I recommend you stay in the park if possible (this requires procuring reservations FAR ahead of time). You can CAMP or stay at the Chisos Mountains Lodge (listed below).
The next best choice would be Terlingua/Study Butte & we’ve listed some lodging options there as well. The closest place with “chain” hotels is Alpine –80 miles away– so we haven’t included that info (too far to drive for the purposes of this tour).
We DO NOT endorse any of these in particular; we’re merely providing this list as a convenience to you:
- Chisos Mountains Lodge ~ located in the park; rooms fill quickly, especially in the spring so book early!
- Big Bend Casitas (Far Flung Adventures) ~ in Terlingua
- Big Bend Resort & Adventures ~ in Study Butte (this is where I usually stay – it’s not the greatest, but it’s a place to sleep & is affordable.)
- La Posada Milagro ~ in Terlingua
GENERAL INFO / SIGN UP:
- DATE: Thursday evening, March 26 ~ Tuesday morning, March 29, 2020
- SPACE FOR: Six (6) photographers
- PRICE: $895
Please read our CANCELLATION POLICY before purchasing
(Follow the provided link or go to link under “MORE” on sidebar to the right.) Thanks!