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High Sierra on Horseback Photography Workshop

July 30, 2016
August 3, 2016
US$ 1350
Rock Creek Pack Station
Rock Creek Rd, Bishop, CA, United States, 93514
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Humphreys Basin Sierra Nevada by Ken Lee

Alpenglow transforms the grey granite of nearby Mt. Humphreys to glowing crimson

Elevate your photography in the John Muir Wilderness!

Are you ready for 5 days  of intensive photography education and practice in the heart of the spectacular Sierra Nevada? Our destination is Pioneer Basin, one of the most scenic settings in what John Muir referred to as The Range of Light. Truly a photographer’s paradise, this remote location is not easy to access. Fortunately, we will have our equine companions to help us with the heavy lifting as we hike or ride (your choice) into this magnificent alpine environment. Alpenglow, Golden Hour, Blue Hour…these are the conditions that produce portfolio images. Therefore, our days will start early and end late but there will be plenty of time in between to explore or just soak in your surroundings and appreciate the sheer beauty of nature at its best. Your level of photography experience is not as important as your desire to develop your image making abilities.

I will serve as your photography instructor for this unique adventure offered by  Rock Creek Pack Station. RCPS’ expert guides are equipped with expert knowledge of the natural history of the Sierra as well the ability to wrangle up some amazing mountain meals. No prior riding experience is required but this trip requires a basic level of fitness including the ability to walk at high altitudes for several hours at a stretch. If you have any questions about your fitness to tackle this adventure, please contact RCPS.


Dates: July 30 – Aug 3, 2016

Cost: $1350 per person including meals, tent lodging, pack/riding stock, guides and photography instruction.

For more information about about this trip, please contact Ken Lee by email (email hidden; JavaScript is required) or phone 949-282-9660

To register for this trip, please visit the RCPS   Trail Rides page or call 760-872-8331




Granite and alpine lakes are the signature of the Sierra high country

Blooming wildflowers of the Sierra Nevada

The lower slopes are likely to hold blooming wildflowers including paintbrush, lupine and sunflowers
















Q: How much riding experience do I need?

A: No prior horseback riding experience is necessary. The RCPS crew are experts at matching your mount to your riding abilities.


Q: What kind of photo gear should I bring?

A: A digital SLR (or mirrorless) body with 2 or 3 lenses and a good tripod will make a good core of your photo equipment kit. As far as focal lengths, 24mm or wider on the wide end and ~200mm on the long side will serve you well and a mid range zoom is always handy. All of the focal lengths mentioned are “35mm equivalent”.  If you are unfamiliar with this term, try googling it or contact me. Other things to consider are a polarizing filter, macro lens or extension tubes & cable release/timer. Don’t feel like you need everything mentioned here…gear is great but learning to See is better! Limitations actually help you be more creative and having too much gear can often be a hindrance. But if you are just dying to try that extreme wide angle or other lens/camera you don’t have, consider borrowing or renting.  Finally, don’t forget extra memory cards, batteries and a lens cloth/brush. We will have a generator to charge batteries but make sure to bring your charger!


Q: How much gear can I bring?

A: The great thing about this trip is that you don’t have to lug all your photo, camping gear & food on your back! There is a 35 lb weight limit per person for anything going on the pack horses/mules but his does NOT include camping gear or food. So basically, you have a 35lb budget for clothes and photo gear that you are not carrying on your person. This should be plenty as most people choose to ride with a camera, lens, water bottle and rain jacket so these items are not part of your weight budget. 


Q: What kind of photo opportunities can I expect?

A: World class alpine landscapes are definitely the star of the show in this part of the John Muir Wilderness. Watching grey Sierra granite magically transform to orange and crimson as it is reflected in the still waters of a perfect alpine lake at sunrise or sunset is a sublime experience. But mountain landscapes are just one of many subjects that may attract your attention. Other types/styles of photography that you can explore here include:

Wildflowers/Macro – we had the first good snow season in years this past winter so this year’s wildflower season should be a good one. Our camp is near treeline which is a bit high for most wildflowers but we will pass through flower filled meadows on our way in and out. We may even make a day trip down to lower altitude if the blooms are exceptional.

Night Photography – our trip coincides with the new moon making it the perfect time to make some Milky Way or Star Trails photos. I will cover the basics of night photography in one of our ‘classroom’ sessions. Don’t forget your tripod!

Black & White – Contrast is one key for great black and whites so when the sun gets too high and harsh for good color images it is often perfect for black and whites.  This is Ansel Adams country after all so why not give it a try?

Wildlife – The Sierra Nevada ecosystem supports populations of bighorn sheep, deer, bears, mountain lions and more. We will be very lucky if we spot one of these large mammals but you never know. More likely sightings include marmots, ground squirrels and birds.

Equine – if you are very nice to the horses, you may be able to talk them into to modeling for you :).


Q: Do I/ Can I bring my own camping gear?

A: All camping gear is provided but some people prefer to bring their own sleeping bag and/or tent, which is fine. If you choose to bring your own bag or tent, it will not be counted against your weight allowance.


Q: What will the weather be like? kind of clothing should I pack?

A: In general, the weather should be nice but this is the mountains so you have to be prepared for a little of everything. The weather can be wildly variable and change quickly. I always dress myself mentally in layers when I am packing for a mountain trip. Next to your skin would be your base layer (long underwear), then maybe T-shirts/long sleeve, shorts/pants. Good mid layers include wool sweaters, thin down jackets/vest or a fleece/soft shell jacket. For your outer layer, you definitely want a waterproof jacket/shell & pants. It can be quite chilly at night and early morning so if you get cold easily, you may want to add an extra layer. Don’t forget accessories like sunglasses, hat/beanie and gloves. That’s the basic kit as far as clothing. 


Q: Will we be in one place or move around?

A: We will have one base camp in Pioneer Basin for this trip but we will ride out from there on horseback most days to explore the surrounding area and scout photo locations


Q: How many people will be on this trip?

A: The maximum number of guests we can bring on this trip is 11.


Q: Which airport should I fly into?

A: The closest airport is Mammoth-Yosemite (MMH), a small regional facility. The next closest airport of decent size is Reno, NV (RNO) which is about 3hrs from Bishop. If you fly into Mammoth, we can pick you up but if you fly into Reno you will need to rent a car or arrange other transportation.


Q: Where should I stay before/after the trip?

A: There are many hotels to choose from in Bishop and Mammoth. There are also many US Forest Service and private campgrounds in the area. Google is your friend or feel free to contact me or RCPS for specific recommendations.


Q: Where is Rock Creek Pack Station?

A: RCPS is located on Rock Creek Rd off of Hwy 395 between the towns of Bishop and Mammoth Lakes. If you are familiar with the area, this is the Tom’s Place exit. More detailed directions are available here

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