The West Texas Night Photography Workshop

Monday, January 23 - Friday, January 27, 2017

The Milky Way
The Milky Way

The moon rises behind some clouds

The West Texas Night Photography Workshop
In some of the darkest skies in the world. The sky at our location is rated Class 1 (darkest) on the Bortle Scale for lowest levels of light pollution.

Monday, January 23 - Friday, January 27, 2017

All food and lodging included in the price!


6 days in the desert of west Texas, near the small town of Alpine, about
220 miles southeast of El Paso;
165 miles southwest of Midland;
approximately 75 miles north of Big Bend National Park

We have room for only 6 students for this special workshop!
(Possibilities exist for folks to double-up so please call 559-307-7773 and let me arrange it case-by-case.)

Light painting a young jeffrey pine on Sentinel Dome in Yosemite

You'll learn:

Shooting the Milky Way
Light painting an old adobe desert cabin and windmill
Ue of "gelled flashes" for adding color to your night shots
How to set up strobes and on-camera flashes with Pocket Wizard remote triggers
How to do star
Special post-processing for night photography
Night Portraits

We'll do a special project, lighting an automobile at night for a cool composite shot

ISO speeds, aperture and shutter speed, how to ignore the numbers and get GREAT shots.
Composition; learn the rules and then how and when to break them.
Concepts of exposure; the histogram and how to read the graph
Use of polarizing filters.
Use of neutral-density filters.
"Dragging the shutter"; extended exposures (motion blur), even in full sunlight.
How to make sure you got "the" shot in any given situation.
Learn the value of patience; how to read the weather.
Shooting for black and white conversion.
Wide angle and telephoto lens use.

We will base at the 101 Ranch in the west Texas desert for dark, wide open skies and 5,000 foot altitude.
The 101 Ranch is situated in an isolated location about 40 minutes from Alpine and 20 minutes from the artist town of Marfa. Despite its remote location, it has every convenience; central air conditioning in all rooms, satellite TV, and somewhat of an internet connection. Cell phone service is very bad at the headquarters, but there are high ridges not far from the house on the ranch where signals are very strong.

Count on warm days and cool nights. The main living room has a huge fireplace.


The main house
The Russell RanchThe bunkhouse; four rooms, 5 beds

The Living room in the main house

The kitchen and dining area w/ loft bedroom

The Living room and dining area in the main house

Main house porch

Master Bedroom

Master Bath

A wood-burning fireplace

The Double Beds for those who might share a room for a discount

Queen size bed

Queen size bed and wood-burning fireplace

The Tentative Schedule, weather permitting.

Day 1 Sunday Arrive in Alpine, Texas in your rental car. At 5pm we will caravan from there to the ranch, about a 30 minute drive. Settle in, and then have dinner. After dinner we'll have a short meeting and then you're on your own.
Day 2 Monday Sunrise shooting beginning at 5am, then breakfast at 8am. 9am, first meeting to adjust camera settings and assess weather for remainder of the day, look at pics, receive critique, etc. We'll head out for the first day's shooting at 3pm, dinner at 6pm, then settle in for the sunset, then night shooting until folks get tired.
Day 3 Tuesday Breakfast at 8am. Off to shoot on the ranch afterward if desired. Out for the sunset at 3pm. Dinner after sunset, then off to the McDonald Observatory for the Star Parties. Night shooting at the observatory.
Day 4 Wednesday This is normally the day we learn post-processing for night shooting. How to use Lightroom, Photoshop and various RAW conversion software, as well as software for stitching start trails. Then, night shooting.
Day 5 Thursday Image critique and image processing. We will head out at 3pm for the sunset and night shooting.
Day 6
Breakfast at whenever you wake up. Possibly a day in Marfa to tour the art galleries and have lunch. Shoot the Prada, Marfa store. Back to the ranch for dinner and night shooting.
Day 7
Up early to shoot sunrise, breakfast, check out of the 101 ranch, last-minute shooting for those who wish and home. You can hang around during the day while we clean, then home.
for the July workshop

for the January workshop
All food and lodging, observatory and park entrance fees for 5 days and 6 nights is included.
Please note; For lodging, there is NO single supplement! Each student will have his or her own private room. If two people traveling together wish to share a room, take $200 off the price of the workshop each.
Please let me know if this is the case when you sign up. Be aware, except for one bedroom, double occupancy is one queen-size bed.


All food will be provided.  Breakfast will be a continental breakfast with coffee, juice and fruit. Lunch will be either on the ranch or sandwiches in shooting excursions. Dinner will be the at the ranch prepared by our cook, Cathy McCarthy.


You are responsible for getting to Alpine, Texas by 5pm on January 22 or July 21 depending, obviously, on which workshop you sign up for.  You should book your flight to Midland-Odessa, Texas, the closest airport. Alpine is about a 3 hour drive from the Midland-Odessa airport straight south. It is STRONGLY recommended you rent a car with GPS in order to insure a stress-free drive to Alpine.  I have found that once in a while participants have to leave early for family emergencies, sickness, etc and so as not to disturb the agenda for remaining participants, your ability to travel independently is important. We will carpool to the various shooting locations and utilize two-way radios to coordinate last-minute changes in itinerary and sudden shooting opportunities. Past students of my workshops can attest to the fact that the weather dictates our daily activities and plans can change quickly. We'll have an incredible adventure! 

Items to Bring

Although it does not matter what equipment you have, you will get the most out of it if your camera has manual settings and shoots RAW and the ability to connect a cable shutter release. 

Obviously, bring your wide-angle lenses.  Bring telephotos as well if you have them; you'll use them more than you think. But for star/sky photography the wider the lens, the better

Best tripod you can muster w/ extra clamp plates. You'll be very disappointed if you lose your one and only tripod clamp plate...
(This happened one time)

Cable release (imperative)

Polarizing filter

Neutral density filters; one .6 and one .9 if possible.  We might do some motion-blur photography.

Don't forget your lens shades

Extra memory cards and spare camera batteries

Bring your camera's owner's manual; this will help solve problems with settings, especially if you are a Nikon or Sony shooter.

Bring several lens cloths and cleaning liquid; I will have liquid, but bring your own cloths, if possible please.

Be sure you have a wearable photo backpack for daily hiking trips.

Laptop computer with spare batteries.  Don't forget your CF/SD card reader!!  People forget these all the time!

Rain and cold weather gear, both for your equipment and for you.  Shooting could involve standing out in the rain or snow. Water-proof hiking boots would be very useful.

Terms and Conditions

In the unlikely event that the workshop does not fill enough spaces to warrant continuing, the class will be canceled and a full refund given. You will be notified at least thirty days in advance if a workshop is not going to take place.  The West Texas Night Photography Workshop is not responsible for non-refundable airline reservations in the event of workshop cancellation.  
We strongly recommend you get trip insurance.

Participant-initiated cancellations of the workshop received prior to 90 days before the workshop will receive a refund minus $300 unless the spot can be refilled, in which case 100% refund will be given. Due to the unusual complexity and extensive planning required for these workshops, no refunds will be offered for participant-initiated cancellations after 90 days prior to workshop date unless the spot can be re-filled. (It should be noted in 10 years I have never cancelled a workshop). No refunds will be given for conditions arising out of Acts of God or conditions beyond my control. Credit for a future workshop within two years will be given.

Workshop liability insurance provided by Great American Insurance Group

2017 Phil Hawkins Photography
5132 N. Palm, #118
Fresno, CA 93704

The "Bill Me Later" PayPal arrangement is better than stretching out the payments on your credit card; it features no payment AND no interest for six months and if you take longer the interest rate is only 19%.