This landscape photography workshop takes place in the beautiful southwest corner of Saskatchewan during the peak of the 2023 milky way and storm season. During this 6-day workshop, we’ll spend our time photographing the diverse scenery across southwest Saskatchewan, capture the night sky and milky way in one of Canada’s largest dark sky preserves, and get in front of a supercell thunderstorm or two (if Mother Nature cooperates).
You will be joining me, Scott Aspinall, to photograph some of the more fascinating geology Saskatchewan has to offer set against our brilliant skies. Having lived and practiced landscape, storm, and night photography in Saskatchewan for years, I’ve explored and photographed many of the incredible scenes across the southern half of our province. With a small group size, instruction in this workshop is personalized to help you achieve your photographic goals and fulfill your creative vision for your photography.
July 11th – July 16th, 2023
3 Participant Maximum
+ 170.34 CAD processing fee (e-transfer to rscottaspinall.com can void this fee)
Intermediate (some hiking required)
See below for more about what you could expect
I will always be with the group providing thoughts, advice and real-time critique throughout the entire workshop. You are encouraged to ask questions and get individual help with specific challenges while in the field and the classroom.
During the workshop there is dedicated classroom time to cover photography concepts, planning tools, and techniques.
This photography workshop is designed to maximize the photographic potential of southwest Saskatchewan during the peak of both the milky way and storm season. Our home base will be Swift Current which is the gateway to many of the locations we will visit. Because of the diversity of the photographic approaches we will practice and the locations you will experience, we will cover a lot of ground.
We will try and maintain a flexible schedule to take advantage of weather conditions and light at their best. This could mean wandering around miles of sand dunes at the Great Sandhills practicing a slow contemplative approach to landscape photography in the morning followed by the exhilaration of storm chase photography and timelapse in the evening. After a morning of post-processing instruction, we might head out to the badlands in Grasslands National Park to photograph a blazing sunset and watch the stars come out while capturing the milky way over a landscape that remains untouched for centuries.
Each day, we will work together to plan that day’s activities by studying weather models and using different tools that put us in the right spot at the right time. You will learn all the planning tools I use to maximize my chance of success: whether capturing abstracts of mud in a creek bottom, capturing a specific night sky object behind a particular landscape, or getting into the perfect position to capture a supercell thunderstorm, one of nature’s most powerful scenes.
While on-site you will receive personalized instruction on maximizing each location’s potential. You will be using different photographic tools each day and instruction will be tailored to suit what we will be photographing at that moment. Structured around peak wildflower season (if Mother Nature cooperates), we will hike on mostly maintained trails to photograph the best of the southwest.
Post-processing sessions will provide time to learn techniques that are vital to creating clean and emotionally compelling imagery. Combine that with a session of image critique and there is ample opportunity for growth by the end of this workshop. With instruction, accommodation, transportation to shooting locations during the workshop, park passes**, commercial licenses and other fees included, this is an (almost) all-inclusive vacation! All you need to do is get yourself to Regina sometime before 2 PM on July 11th. Food and drinks for yourself are on you while you’re here. Any travel and/or medical insurance (highly recommended) and visa fees are up to you as well. Make sure you take a look at our Terms and Conditions/FAQs for more information.
*Single Occupancy supplement is $750CAD. If you want to proceed this way please arrange with me at email@example.com for payment.
**If you wish to use your vehicle in national or provincial parks to explore on your own, you will be required to pay your own entry fee
Leave strict composition rules behind, focusing on combining elements of your scenes in a way that brings the viewer in.
We will spend time discussing the different types of light and how they aid in composition.
Understand its seasons, moon cycles, different objects and phenomenon, and Aurora Borealis.
Learn the different forecasting tools to predict where severe weather might be expected and how to read and interpret radar to get yourself into the best position for an epic photo and stay safe.
How the pillars of the exposure triangle (shutter speed, aperture, and ISO) work together. Learn how to use them to make creative choices and the considerations for each pillar. This understanding, combined with in-field coaching, will help you to find the settings needed to capture the landscape, night sky, and storms. Some work with timelapse can be expected.
Learn to trust your histogram, and how to combat high dynamic range scenes during the day and overcome low-light challenges in complete darkness.
Understand where to focus in your scene and practice focus stacking to overcome limitations with most lenses. Master the ability to focus at night and during low light.
We will discuss and/or practice many different approaches to photographing the night sky. We’ll cover singles, stacking, panoramas, telephoto or “deep space” photography, tracking, star trails, and different foreground approaches to achieve your creative vision. If you own a portable star tracker (ie. the Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer) please bring it, we can spend some time optimizing your approach to tracking the night sky.
It is a high priority of the workshop but will be arranged around our field time. During these hours you will learn important techniques that help you achieve the look you envisioned for your photo in the field. You will learn about global vs. local adjustments in Photoshop and Lightroom; blending; various tools for masking; enhancing light; dodging and burning; focus stacking; stacking for noise reduction and so much more!
Planning is a big part of the photography process. We will cover my favourite planning approaches and include a list of applications and programs to make your planning quick, easy, and effective.
You’ll need a DSLR or Mirrorless camera that can function in Manual Mode (M), charged camera batteries and your charger, memory cards (multiple. Fast ones if you want to timelapse storms), remote shutter release or intervalometer, and a sturdy tripod.
A wide-angle lens (11-35mm) with an aperture of at least f2.8 is recommended (the aperture is important for astrophotography). Bring along a telephoto lens (100mm+) for more intimate photos of the landscape and a mid-range as well (35-100mm). You can borrow lenses from your local camera store or www.lenslenders.ca if needed (please contact me for questions regarding your gear and what images you can expect to get with it). For reference, my bag consists of a 15-30mm f2.8, 50mm f1.4, 70-200mm f2.8, 100-400 f4.5-6.3.
A headlamp that has a red light mode. Red light is a must for astrophotography. Other light ‘colour’ destroys night vision and will ruin the experience of other participants.
July can be quite warm on the prairies with daytime highs ranging from +15C (59F) to +35C (95F). Also, temperatures at night cool off to an average of 10C (50F) so I recommend layers to stay warm at night. You’ll be arriving at the peak of mosquito season so bring repellent. Hiking in Grasslands National Park will require us to be wildlife aware. There are both wild bison and rattlesnakes in the park. Information about these can be found here. Please note, snake gaiters are available to borrow from the Parks Visitors Center for your added comfort.
Restaurant meals and breakfasts at the hotel will be commonplace and are not included (if the hotel offers a continental breakfast, that would be included under the included accommodations). Mealtimes will revolve around our shooting schedule so don’t expect to maintain a “normal” eating schedule. Please bring snacks for the long nights or after a hike as we might be going for several hours without a proper meal. Bring a water bottle and whatever other drinks you may want, these will not be provided. Swift Current has a full-service grocery store.
You will need a laptop, with a charger, for our post-processing session. I teach post-processing strictly in Lightroom and Photoshop so it is important to have a copy of each (Photoshop with Camera Raw as an alternative) installed on your laptop before arriving. You can download a 7-day free trial of Photoshop here. LRTimelapse has a free timelapse program that I also recommend having on your computer should we get the chance to process a timelapse after a storm chase.
On July 11th, Regina, Saskatchewan will be our home base. A rental car will not be required. You can fly into Regina International Airport (airfare not included) and arrange a taxi or Uber (fare not included) to the hotel for the evening. Please plan to arrive before 2:00 PM as we will have group orientation, eat dinner together, and, depending on the forecast, head out for a sunset shoot to a location within an hour of the city. The following day, we will travel together to the Swift Current hotel to begin the southwest leg of the workshop. I will provide transportation to and from our shoot locations and hotels during the workshop. Some people prefer to drive their own vehicle, if this is you, please let me know.
Plan to depart from Regina on July 16th. We will plan to spend the night in Regina on July 15th and debrief, complete our critique session, and work on post-processing in the morning on July 16th. I expect to be complete early in the afternoon but feel free to arrange your flights around what works best for you. If we end up storm-chasing far away from Regina on July 15th, we will stay in a hotel out of town and will drive the rest of the way back to Regina in the morning of July 16th where I will drop you off at the airport or another location in Regina where we will say “see you later!”
See you there!
Ultimately weather is out of our control. When conditions aren’t favourable for a specific genre of photography (ie. 100% cloud cover during a night photography session), we will embrace them, change our thinking, and make the best of them. However, sometimes conditions can prohibit us from being outdoors (ie. thick wildfire smoke) and in these situations, we will supplement with processing instruction, image/portfolio critique, alternate nearby locations (if possible), or rest. Be prepared for a variety of weather conditions. Information regarding weather preparation specific to your workshop will be provided with workshop materials prior to the start of the workshop.
This workshop includes in-field instruction, location guidance, a recorded video of the provided processing instruction, lodging, some meals included in the scope of accommodations (ie. if a hotel includes a free breakfast in their accommodation fee, that is included). Flights, rental cars, meals, snacks, and beverages are not included. Transportation to and from shooting locations and our hotel is included but transportation from the airport to our first hotel is not. Transportation is in my 7 seater SUV and if a workshop sells out, we will rent an additional vehicle that my videographer, Derek, will drive. If makes you more comfortable, you can choose to drive your own vehicle or carpool with other participants during the workshop. If this is the case, please reach out to me.
Breaks for lunchtime will be provided. It is highly advised that you eat breakfast before the daily meet-up time and carry snacks with you. We prioritize photographing these amazing locations and maximizing our shooting opportunities, and in some cases, we could be a significant distance away from amenities.
Yes, your significant other IS allowed to come! There are a few conditions though. There is a fee that varies per workshop that covers things like insurance, lodging, etc. I do have a vehicle (possible two, depending on demand) for our workshop that is set to fit only the workshop participants in, so they will need their own vehicle to follow along (the exception is during a storm chase. Due to safety concerns, I only allow drivers with Saskatchewan backroad experience on chases. If there is room inside a vehicle with an approved driver, your significant other can join us). Secondly, workshop accommodations are set up for double occupancy, so if your significant other does join, they will be responsible for the single room supplement fee (varies per workshop). I want your partner to enjoy their trip, but they must understand that they are on our time, which means we will not leave a shoot early for them. Lastly, the biggie, there is to be no use of any other camera besides a cell phone or point-and-shoot and they must understand that they will receive no personalized instruction.
Because of the flexible nature of this workshop, I cannot guarantee 5-star accommodations. While I make every effort to ensure the comfort and safety of participants, south Saskatchewan can be sparsely populated and, if we end up in a remote area of the province and need to spend the night, we might have to stay in a small-town motel, Airbnb, or local bed and breakfast. I have chosen Swift Current as our home base because it sits within a 90-minute drive of many of the locations we plan to visit so we could, potentially, return to our hotel that night. Swift Current is a small city with many hotels that include the amenities you might expect. That said, there are locations that are further away and we have no control over where we might end up on a big storm day, so an open mind to where will stay will go a long way to your enjoyment. Plus, there are many great, hospitable people living in these small, remote towns that are always welcoming to new faces.
I do my best to keep your safety as a number one priority. No shot is worth risking your life. There will be times, though, where you will be in situations where conditions need to be closely monitored. The biggest safety issue in a workshop is not knowing your limitations. Each workshop varies on the amount of physical fitness required, so please read up before you sign up!
Storm chasing is an inherently risky activity. Supercell thunderstorms on the Saskatchewan plains are as dangerous as they are beautiful. That’s why we have a specific safety plan in place that we cover in-depth during our orientation. Our safety will always come first and there is no shot worth losing your life over, but we are not in control, Mother Nature is. Although I’ve never been injured during my years of chasing, there have been some close calls. Part of storm chasing is accepting the risk that any given chase could result in serious injury or even death. Some of that risk can be negated by a clear safety plan and good forecasting but, there is always some level of risk that must be accepted while chasing supercell thunderstorms.
The short answer is “quite a bit”. This could mean sunrise (sunrise is at 4:45 AM at the end of June so it’s unlikely we will see many sunrises with our other shooting priorities), storm photography, sunset, and night photography all in the course of one day. Now, it’s unlikely that conditions will be optimal for a day like this, you are on my workshop to learn, so I want you shooting as much as possible. Even during conditions that are unfavourable for most, we will be out. Although we will shoot a lot, there will still be downtime to catch some rest and edit.
On some days a lot, on some very little. A long day of driving could result in 5 or 6 hours in the vehicle. On other days, it could be as little as an hour or two. It all depends on where we are and what the goals for our day will be.
Most of the locations have parking close by. The longest hike that we could put on our itinerary is 11.4km with 262m of elevation gain (it is not a required hike, but the destination is one of the most impressive views and unique geology our province has to offer). Keep in mind, Saskatchewan is not home to mountainous terrain, the hiking is rated as moderate or easy along flat or gently sloped terrain. Most other hikes are a 3-5km round trip. Physical requirements are low while we are storm chasing as it’s largely photographing sporadically on the roadside.