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Big Bend Photography Workshop

Social Distancing in Big Bend National Park

February 25-28, 2021

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Join me for this exciting trip to one of America's best-kept secrets! Named for the curving path of the Rio Grande river marking the border between Texas and Mexico, Big Bend National Park is one of the largest and most diverse parks in the country. Most major ecological zones exist side by side here, ranging from arid deserts to verdant mountain forests. The Big Bend area of West Texas is known for its fascinating geology, diverse biology, and vast open spaces. Rugged peaks, chiseled canyons, unique desert plant life, and the darkest of skies make this region a rare gem for photographers of all levels.

Big Bend National Park is wide open space, allowing for access to all this beauty while maintaining social distance.  Your guides will wear masks during all instruction and any times when social distancing cannot be maintained. Given the extraordinary times, group transportation to the Park and all the field locations will not be provided.  On the first day, your guides will lead a group of anyone who chooses to drive from Dallas.  You can also drive to the Park from your own home or via the closest airports (Midland or El Paso).  Your guides will lead a caravan to each location during the day (and night); carpooling to these destinations with other participants will depend upon your own comfort level.   

Our accommodations will be at the Chisos Mountains Lodge, perfectly located in the middle of the park.  

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Dates:  February 25 - 28, 2021
Location: Big Bend National Park
Maximum participants: 12

Minimum participants: 6

Cost: Per person $850, double occupancy (single supplement $300)

Deposit: $200 per person to reserve a spot. 

Trip Details

February 25-28, 2021

Where the rocky Chisos Mountains meet the Chihuahuan Desert, we find extraordinary landscapes, rare plant species, and scenic views that will surprise you at every turn.  From Santa Elena Canyon on the western edge to Boquillas Canyon on the east and all the wide-open valleys and mountain splendor in between, landscape photographers are bound to find plenty of captivating subject matter.


Participants and Staffing

Maximum Participants................................................... 12

Minimum Participants.................................................... 6

Number of Staff included in pricing. ............................2


4-Day Program, Chisos Mountains Lodge

Double Occupancy (6-12 pax)............................... $850

Single Supplement................................................... $300


 Costs Included in Pricing

  • All accommodations as outlined in the itinerary

  • All guided visits and instruction throughout the program

  • Comprehensive pre-trip notes and materials

  • Daily tours and instruction with Photographer and Naturalist                                                                                                                throughout the tour


Costs Not Included in Pricing

  • Transportation to and in Big Bend National Park

  • Travel and trip cancellation insurance

  • Meals 

  • Park entrance fees

  • Items of a personal nature

  • Anything not explicitly listed as included


Proposed Itinerary___________________________________________________________


Day 1


  • For those driving from Dallas, we will meet for departure to Big Bend National Park at 6:00 am

  • Depart for drive to Big Bend National Park at 6:30 am

  • The drive to Big Bend National Park takes 8-9 hours, we will be stopping for gas and lunch on the way

  • For those coming from other destinations, we will plan to meet at the Chisos Mountains Lodge at 4:00 pm

  • Check in to the hotel

  • There will be some optional shorts hikes from the hotel property before our first photo session of sunset at the Windows Viewpoint at Chisos Mountains Lodge.  Sunset is 6:45 pm

  • Dinner at the Lodge

  • Weather permitting – if the skies are clear, there will be an optional excursion to photograph the night sky after dinner

Accommodations:        Chisos Mountains Lodge


Days 2 and 3

  • Sunrise is about 7:30 am.  Photographers will be leaving at 5:30 to get to our destination and set up in advance of the rising sun

  • Destinations will depend on weather conditions, but will include iconic Big Bend viewpoints like Santa Elena Canyon, Hot Springs trail overlook, Balanced Rock and Boquillos Caynon.  We will have a briefing the evening before each morning with details about the next day. 

  • For those not going on the morning photography excursion, there will be unguided hiking options on the trails leaving from the Lodge

  • After sunrise, we will explore the areas around the morning destination, looking for unique hiking, photography and nature opportunities

  • Return to Chisos Mountain Lodge for lunch

  • There will be an optional excursion after lunch to explore some of the scenic hiking trails in Big Bend

  • At 5:00 pm, we will depart for our evening photography destination, arriving in time to set up and enjoy the last light of the day.  Sunset is 6:45

  • Return to the Lodge for dinner

  • Weather permitting – if the skies are clear, there will be an optional excursion to photograph the night sky after dinner each evening

Accommodations:        Chisos Mountains Lodge


Day 4

  • Final early morning photography shoot.  The destination will depend on the weather and where we were able to explore the previous two days

  • For those not going on the morning photography excursion, there will be unguided hiking options on the trails leaving from the Lodge

  • After sunrise, we will explore the areas around the morning destination, looking for unique hiking, photography and nature opportunities

  • We will return to the Lodge by 11am to retrieve our luggage and have lunch before leaving Big Bend

  • For those wanting to extend their time in Big Bend National Park, there will be accommodation options in the nearby town of Terlingua

  • For those looking for other interesting sites in the region, we will have suggestions for places like Marfa, McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, Guadalupe Mountains National Park


Tour notes:


We will be staying at the Chisos Mountains Lodge in the heart of Big Bend National Park.  Our Casa Grande Lodge Rooms will have a semiprivate balcony, two double beds, controlled air conditioning and heating, small refrigerator, microwave oven, 4 cup coffee pot, tiled bath and shower.  All rooms are non-smoking.


To capture the best light for photography, we will be leaving the Lodge each morning before the restaurant is open for breakfast.  You should take advantage of the refrigerator and microwave and coffee maker in the room for breakfast.  There is a small store on site to purchase food, but it is advisable to pack your own breakfast foods for the three mornings at the Lodge. 



Suggested Equipment:


  • Digital SLR camera or interchangeable-lens mirrorless camera

  • Sturdy and reliable tripod

  • You’ll need at least one lens. The “kit lens” that came with your camera (most likely an 18-55mm) will be fine

  • Bring any other lenses that you own (a variety of focal lengths is always helpful)

  • Laptop

  • Memory Card Reader

  • Flash drive

  • Spare batteries for equipment (especially for your camera)

  • Extra memory cards

  • Camera manual

  • Camera bag or backpack

  • Note taking materials

  • Cable release or wireless remote

  • Camera and lens cleaning supplies

  • Polarizer


Optional Equipment:


  • Filters (split neutral density, neutral density)

  • Lens shades for all lenses

  • Professional air blower for sensor cleaning (eg. rocket blower)

  • Camera & lens cleaning supplies

  • Ground cloth, cushion or knee pads

  • Camera rain cover if your camera and lens are not water resistant


Personal Items:


  • Weatherproof clothing that can be layered underneath for warmth

  • Medium to heavy jacket

  • Sturdy footwear for walking on uneven ground or trails

  • Sun protection – hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, lip balm

  • Insect repellent

  • Water bottle

  • Snacks for between meals in the field

  • Travel alarm clock and wristwatch – or smartphone with an alarm

  • Pocket sized flashlight






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Photographer Andrew Coleman has traveled around the globe in search of amazing wildlife and landscapes. He has contributed to National Geographic Traveler and the National Geographic website, as well as other publications, and is represented in the National Geographic Image Collection. Andrew has an insatiable appetite to be in the wild and, through his images, attempts to capture the extraordinary beauty of the natural world.  Over the course of his career, he has traveled, camera in hand, to some of the world’s most remarkable places, including Alaska, Jordan, Easter Island, Kenya, Peru, South Africa, Bhutan, and Uganda. He has been a photography expert on National Geographic Expeditions from Yellowstone National Park to the Galápagos, and from Borneo to the Arctic, Antarctica and beyond.

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Ben Sandifer is an author, photographer, and environmental advocate for parks and open spaces where he can often be found with camera in hand. His award-winning nature photographs have been featured in local, state, and national publications. He is a Certified Master Birder through the Audubon Dallas sponsored North Central Texas Master Birder Program.  In addition, Ben serves as the naturalist at the historic Dallas Hunting and Fishing Club.


In Dallas Great Trinity Forest, Ben is an EPA and TCEQ certified Texas Stream Team volunteer who monitors the water at Big Spring - one of the last free flowing springs in North Texas. For his volunteer efforts, he was named the 2015 DFW Sustainable Leadership Volunteer of the Year and was nominated for the 2016 Texan of the Year by the Dallas Morning News. In 2016, he was named an Honorary Lifetime North Texas Master Naturalist for his substantial contributions to the furtherance of the activities of the chapter.

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