Moab by Night (mostly) 2017
A Look Back

Posted on October 10, 2017

One For The History Books

This was the last year of the Moab by Night (mostly) workshop. It pains me to say these words since this is one of my favorite regions in the US, but with the permitting changes taking place for the national parks in the region, it is not a viable workshop to offer at an affordable price anymore. That being said, I am working on another Utah workshop for 2019. Utah is a state that leaves me in continual awe of its natural beauty and I love being able to show it to people in a way that they have never seen it before.

Mother Nature Let Us Have A Little Fun

Anytime you are organizing or participating in a photography workshop, the weather is something that you can’t really predict. There is extensive research before deciding on a location for a workshop, including its weather history, to try and find the best odds of us getting the shots we are hoping for. I have had whole workshop ideas for amazing locations or celestial events scrapped by a high likelihood of rain, clouds or other unfavorable weather during that time of year. There is nothing worse than going on a once in a lifetime photographic trip and having light rain with flat steely skies the entire time you are there. For example, for a Northern Lights Workshop I wanted a location that still had quite a bit to offer in case of cloudy weather. Most places that you are going to hopefully see the Northern Lights tend to be in areas prone to clouds that time of year. After searching for a few years I landed on Lofoten Islands in Norway for this very reason. With immense fjords exploding out of the Norwegian Sea’s green-blue waters, even in the rain there are lots of photographic opportunities guaranteed not to disappoint. With mostly cloudy weather predictions for the entirety of the 2017 Moab workshop I was certainly a little worried.

A rainy day in Lofoten Islands, Norway


Day One

Castle Valley the first night

Luckily, despite the forecasts we ended up with some great conditions for the majority of the trip. Our first night we headed just outside of the town of Moab to explore the Castle Valley. With immense sandstone formations and canyons cutting into the valley from all angles, it is worth the short trip out of town. We started out by getting the basics down of how to find your focus and exposure at night. Especially with an auto focus lens, this can be a frustrating experience. Once everyone started getting the techniques down a bit there were some great images coming out. After a few hours of shooting we headed back for a well earned night of sleep.


Day Two

Sunset at Canyonlands National Park

After a morning Lightroom session and a short break we headed into Canyonlands National Park to explore a bit while the sun was still up. This is a huge park divided into three section; Needles, The Maze and The Island in the Sky. We would only be visiting a small part of The Island in the Sky while we were there, but that is more than most visitors to this part of the country will ever see. After taking a few shots at Grand View Overlook, we headed to the Green River Overlook to use some graduated neutral density filters to capture the setting sun. After the sunset we headed to the parking lot for a bit of dinner and to wait for the light to fully leave the sky. This night turned out to be almost cloudless giving us a great opportunity to photograph Canyonlands with no one else around.

The moon lighting the way at Canyonlands


The workshop group heading out to a precipice high over a canyon lit by headlamps

Day Three

3 Huge instant waterfalls, just add water. Photo by Adam Lenk

We start out with a break on day three for everyone to explore the town a bit and take in Moab in their own way. We had heavy storms roll through during the late morning that turned the desert town of Moab and its surrounding areas into wild torrents. Places where 300-400ft tall parched sandstone cliffs stood moments before were now replaced by raging waterfalls. The rains subsided before we headed into Arches National Park for the sunset and the last night of shooting. We were left with mostly cloudy skies for a little while with a heavy rain storm that passed directly over us right at sunset. We took the opportunity to eat a little dinner and after the rains passed we were able to get a little over an hour of shooting in before the clouds choked out the moonlight and the skies took on a blank steely look. To round out the night, we headed back to the meeting room for a brief painting with light session. Adam Lenk was helping out on this trip and he graciously struck a couple of poses for the cause.

Adam strutting his stuff

Taking advantage of the glimpse of color afforded at sunset


The moon lights the way at the Window Section of Arches National Park

Day 4

On our last day we take time to reflect and give thanks to those that…oh wait, wrong day. We did however head back into the classroom for one last session in Lightroom. Everyone brings in a few images that they were proud of from the trip to share with the group. These are DNG files so I can see what has been done in Lightroom to edit the images and then I can make suggestions to help refine the editing process if any are needed. When it comes to a workshop, of course the location, time and technique used in the field are important. The editing process is the final step in image creation. This is when you take the picture you worked so hard to capture in the field and shape it into your image that you will be proud of for years to come. I feel that these edit and critique session are just as crucial to the learning process as what you do before the shutter clicks. In the future you can see images here from this trip as people submit them along with images from past workshops that you can see right now. During this workshop I was pleased to see quite a bit of improvement, not only on night photography techniques from everyone, but quite a bit of growth in many other areas of photography. My favorite part of these workshops is watching people use their photography as an art form for individual expression. Being able to help people realize what that is for them is one of my favorite parts of this job!

I’m usually too busy running around helping people to shoot for myself much during the first couple of days but below you will find a few more shots that I snapped off during the workshop. In the meantime, stay tuned to the workshops pages for a new Utah workshop along with a couple others coming in the near future.

The moon peeking through some clouds at Arches NP

Dinner time while waiting for the clouds to part

A workshop participant photographing at Canyonlands on night 2

Sunset shoot at Canyonlands on night 2


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