Adventure Photography Workshop with Phototopia Creative Collective

***Jim has graciously allowed me to cross-post this event here (thank you, Jim!). I'd like to fill up the event, as my photographer friends are really providing a great deal of instruction for a reasonable price! The event is also posted here. Yes, we'll be home in time for the Superbowl.  Also, note that, though this event is primarily about photography, it will include a backpacking 101-type talk, as the photographers want to up their outdoors skills, so a new backpacker could do this and benefit.***

Time to take our adventure photography to the next level!

On a typical backpacking trip, we’re moving too fast, carrying too little photographic equipment, and just plain obsessed by covering miles (or getting out of the weather) to do much more than fire off snapshots. Our models are sweaty, grumpy, hungry, and more interested in setting up camp than they are in hanging out on some cold, windy vista while we wait for the perfect light. So, we’re going to do a trip that is more about photography than hiking. Yes, we’re going to sleep in a cabin 0.2 miles from a parking lot. Yes, bring in your tripod and all your cameras! Yes, there will be group meals! No, don’t worry about the weather.

To put on this exciting event, I’ve teamed up with the very cool folks at the Phototopia Creative Collective Meet Up. They will be providing professional photography instruction for a full weekend seminar; I’ll be guiding and talking about backpacking for those photographers looking to up their outdoors skills. 

• Joshua Orozco is a 10 year veteran of the television broadcasting industry and he holds a Fine Art degree in Film. Currently, he consults for the Federal Government and freelances as a Commercial Photographer. His love of the outdoors and passion for photography can be seen in much of his work. Joshua is a founding member of the Phototopia Creative Collective which is a meetup group dedicated to providing high quality, hands-on photography education. For more about Joshua and to see his recent work, visit

• Carly O’Neil is a published lifestyle photographer, writer and model based in Baltimore, Maryland. Some of her recent credits include PhotoVogue, Blast Magazine and Surface Magazine. Too see her photographic work, please visit

• Michael Martin (U-Turn) is a lifelong outdoorsman who has hiked and backpacked all over the world, from the Himalayas to the Alps. His most ambitious trip to date is the 400-mile crossing of Iceland he completed in 2012 (with Max Nemeth (Yeti) and Denise Mainville (Bla Vegen)). Over the last several years, he’s backpacked about 3,000 miles in the Mid-Atlantic. He is the author of the Appalachian Mountain Club’s forthcoming Best Backpacking in the Mid-Atlantic (that’s not the real cover!), and he’s currently writing his second book on day hikes in the Shenandoah Valley, co-authored with Jen Adach (Shuttle). His pictures are not as good as he would like them to be.

The cost of the course is $100. For this price, you get your accommodations in PATC’s Meadows Cabin, meals (bring your own booze), and the following instructional agenda:

Camp Workshops

Before we ever leave camp:

Photo Basics—Understanding what makes a successful image. We will cover different shooting modes, composition, exposure bracketing, talk briefly about depth of field, and make an honest effort at getting everyone to learn how to shoot fully manual.

Adventure Photographer's Gear Guide—A non-structured, ongoing conversation about what gear is out there for us to use. We will discuss filters, Step up rings, Belt and chest systems, Straps, Backpacks, Tripods etc. Participants are free to ask gear buying advice and everyone is encouraged to provide feedback to others on the gear they already own.

Backpacking 101—Getting up to speed on being self-sufficient in the outdoors. We’ll go over the gear and the skills you need to be safe in the outdoors. 

Adventure Photography Workshops

We will be conducting a selection of workshops on these topics:

Filtered Landscapes—A guide to shooting great landscapes using filters. We will discuss using the Lee Filter system, what polarizer filters actual do, and talk about the lost art of hand holding filters. Bring along what filters you already own and we will find a practical application for them. Joshua will have a camera and filter system available for the group to share and shoot images with.

Epic Panoramic Landscapes—This workshop will go into detail on how to setup and capture stunningly wide landscape images stitched together from multiple photographs printable at over 3ft x 5ft! A tripod is highly recommended for best results, but handholding is OK. A step-by step guide to stitching photos in Photoshop will be emailed to everyone afterwards.

People in the Environment—A quick, fun workshop on how to frame your subject when the landscape is far more interesting than they are. If I had a dollar for every time a friend took a terrible pic of me in an amazing place.... that showed neither me or that amazing place... I would be able to afford lots more fancy gear. We will discuss composition, how to work around the harshness of a popup flash and how to take great "unposed" shots.

Shooting Moving Water—We will discuss technique and using the proper gear to shoot silky smooth water like a landscape pro. This topic is location dependent.

*Bonus* Astrophotography—Sky permitting, we will make an attempt to shoot the stars in the night sky. Josh hasn’t actually done this before, so we’ll be learning together.

Recommended photography gear for this trip:

DSLR recommended, but not required. A tripod will be very useful, but is not required. Bring along any filters that you already own.

The Logistics

We’ll meet up at the Vienna Metro Station at 6pm, Friday, January 31st and car pool out to the cabin in the central Shenandoah. From the parking lot, it’s an easy 0.2 miles in to the cabin. Friday night, we’ll get started with the agenda, so that Saturday we can wake early, breakfast, and be out shooting with the light. The hiking will be moderate, perhaps an excursion to Rose River or Dark Hollow Falls, perhaps a climb to Doubletop Mountain (more strenuous). We’ll complete our workshops during the day, then head back to the cabin for dinner, and perhaps that bonus Astrophotography session. Certainly, there will be a merry gathering in the cabin. Sunday morning, we’ll conclude the agenda, and head back to town.


Aside from your photography equipment, you’ll need the following:

• Some sort of backpack to carry your gear in and day-hike with on Saturday and Sunday.

• A sleeping bag (the cabin is heated, so you don’t need anything fancy).

• A sleeping pad (optional: the cabin has some pallets, but you might prefer your own).

• Lots of warm clothing including hat, gloves, insulated underwear, and a good jacket. You’ll want to be able to stay warm even while standing around outside.

• Appropriate footwear. There will be snow on the ground, so most will prefer boots. Make sure you have plenty of dry socks.

• A head lamp.

• Personal hygiene items (there is a privy, but it’s just an outhouse).

• A means of water treatment (the backpackers can handle that for everyone).

• A few water bottles.

• Your flask, filled with an appropriate spirit.

• Bring the owner’s manual for your camera!!

Any questions, please address them to Michael if they’re about trip logistics, or Joshua and Carly, if they’re about photography.

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  • sally

    What an awesome trip!! Thanks for organizing. What a great group! Share some pics!

    February 3, 2014

  • sally

    What an awesome trip!! Thanks for organizing. What a great group! Share some pics!

    February 3, 2014

  • Michael M.

    Thanks, Sally, for coming along with us and making the event so much fun! I hope you got home in time to do your reading!

    February 3, 2014

  • Michael M.

    I am at Vienna.

    January 31, 2014

  • Aaron

    Hey! Go figure my weekend work schedule cleared up last min and would love to join ya guys! Alas, I didn't do anything to prepare myself and meet up at Vienna in time. But lookin' fwd to a number of these photography-focused hikes in the near future! Have a great hike and grab some cool pics!

    January 31, 2014

  • Michael M.

    @ Sally ... A quick word from the photographers ( Also, would you e-mail me your phone number? [masked]

    I'll be seeing you at Vienna, correct?


    January 29, 2014

  • Will

    This sounds incredible. If I wasn't going to be in Utah this weekend, I would absolutely join!

    1 · January 28, 2014

  • sally

    I have to say, catching up on this conversatifon left me hungry. You are amazing hosts. I will try to bring some cookies for snacking, but seems everything else is in hand. i've been looking for my owner's manual all weekend... to no avail. Thanks for all of the great tips!

    January 27, 2014

    • Michael M.

      Great, Sally ... I'd say the key with the owner's manual is that if Josh says, "Switch to aperature mode" or "Change the ISO," you know how to do that ... Main thing is to know what the camera can do.

      January 28, 2014

  • Michael M.

    @ Sally ... Here are some trip notes for the workshop:[masked] ... Feel free to contact me at[masked], if you need. I will be out of pocket this weekend, though.

    January 23, 2014

  • Michael M.

    @ Sally ... Great Sally ... I look forward to meeting you!

    January 22, 2014

    • sally

      Sadly, i'm in Ryan's camp as far as newness to photography and no filters. still excited as it sounds like a terrific way to finally understand the manual control business.

      January 22, 2014

    • Michael M.

      I believe Josh and Carly are going to bring some filters for us to play with! I can't say I have great expertise with filters myself, though I do have a polarizer to play with!

      January 23, 2014

  • Ryan

    Hey Michael, if this spot doesn't fill as the date approaches, I'll most likely join in. I have tentative plans that weekend that may get cancelled.

    Question: I'm very new to photography and only have a single, crappy kit lens [masked]mm f/[masked] IS) with no filters. My camera is decent but old (Canon 5D). Will this trip benefit me at all or will I mostly be "sitting on the sidelines"?

    January 22, 2014

    • Michael M.

      Hey, Ryan ... Cool, I hope you can attend. Your camera is fine. Just having a DSLR is ideal and the course is really suitable for you. Even people with point-and-shoots should be able to benefit from it, but people will get more out of it if they have manual control of their camera.

      January 22, 2014

  • Andrey

    This sounds wonderful; I sincerely regret not being able to make this...

    January 21, 2014

    • Michael M.

      :) I do hope this will be a little series of events.

      January 21, 2014

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