Desert Thunder • Grand Canyon Photography Workshop

Summer Alchemy

August 14th - 18th, 2024

During the summer months, between July and September, the Southwest monsoon brings a shift in the weather pattern. The monsoon season is a great time to capture the canyon with stormy skies and dramatic light, and it's when I have made some of my most dramatic photographs of the Grand Canyon. Afternoon thunderstorms are common, and their effect on the landscape is dramatic.

Join me as we chase the light in this place I love and have been photographing for over 15 years. We'll explore your creative potential together as I share my technical and creative approach to photographing the Grand Canyon.

Small Group Size

I run workshops with smaller groups so that we can photograph from areas that aren't spacious enough to support large groups and so that I can give each of you more one-on-one instruction. For these reasons, this workshop is limited to 6 participants.

Rainbow on Hayden

Photography Locations

We will photograph from a mix of named and unnamed locations in the park. Due to the nature of chasing light and adapting to the unpredictability of monsoon weather, it's impossible to guarantee that we will stop at any specific location or capture lightning and rainbows. As photographers, we must be able to adapt to changes in light & weather and constantly adapt. This means that while we may go somewhere with a specific shot in mind, we will be ready to adapt to changes and see the new opportunities as they are presented.

In the Mist


Day 1 of the workshop begins with a meet and greet at 3:00 p.m. at Red Feather Lodge in Tusayan, Arizona. We will then caravan as a group into the park for the first sunset session from a location on the Hermit Road near Powell Point. Topics covered include setting up your camera for landscape photography, focusing & depth-of-field, and getting the best exposure possible, including understanding & evaluating the camera's histogram. We will return to Red Feather Lodge after sunset.

Day 2
begins early with a sunrise session using long exposures to capture the hidden light and color of the pre-dawn world. After sunrise, we will work with more intimate scenes in the canyon by using telephoto lenses and the "art of subtraction" to build compositions highlighting the many temples, ridges, and buttes within the canyon. After the sunrise session, we will return to Red Feather Lodge for a mid-day break so that you may recharge your batteries and get some rest.

We will head back into the park in the early afternoon. The afternoon session will cover photographing the canyon with the intent to create black & white photos. We will finish by photographing the sunset near the East Rim of the canyon and the Palisades of the Desert.

Day 3
of the workshop begins with an early departure from Red Feather Lodge. Our final South Rim sunrise will be from Lipan Point, one of my favorite viewpoints in all of Grand Canyon National Park. From Lipan Point, you can build a truly grand scenic composition while looking down upon the Grand Canyon and Colorado River.

After the sunrise session, we depart from the South Rim and drive to the historic Cameron Trading Post on the Navajo Reservation, where we will have breakfast. From Cameron, we drive to Kaibab Lodge near the entrance to the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. We will pass many scenic locations, including the Navajo Bridges and Vermilion Cliffs. You are encouraged to make the drive at your own pace and to photograph along the way because these locations can be great, even in mid-day light!

Upon arriving at Kaibab Lodge, we will get checked into our cabins and then drive to a viewpoint on the Point Imperial / Cape Royal Road for sunset. We will return to Kaibab Lodge after sunset.

Day 4
will begin with a sunrise from an overlook near Cape Royal. After sunrise, we will drive out of the park in search of bison in the meadows lining the road. You will have the opportunity to rest during the mid-day period, and then we will reconvene in the mid-afternoon to drive back out on the Cape Royal Road for the afternoon and sunset session. Once again, we will return to the lodge after sunset.

Day 5
, the last day of the workshop, ends with a sunrise session on the Walhalla Plateau, where we will photograph from an overlook with a commanding view of Angels Window. After sunrise, the group will return to the lodge for breakfast and to answer any follow-up questions about the topics covered during the workshop.

Echoes of Thunder at Angels Window

Lightning Triggers

A lightning trigger is a device that senses the lightning strike and triggers the shutter for you. It's important to understand that the trigger doesn't do all of the work for you. The photographer must still set up the composition, determine the proper exposure, and pre-focus for the scene. With a lightning trigger, all sorts of new and exciting things are possible. Now, we can do things that were previously impossible, like photographing lightning in daylight and shooting into the setting sun.

My trigger of choice is the Lightning Bug Plus by MK Controls. This trigger mounts into your camera's hot shoe and connects via a modified remote-release cable. What makes this trigger better than the others is that it's essentially "plug-n-play" in that it has a Patented Automatic Gain Control that provides constant sensitivity day or night -- no old technology knobs to fumble over. I've owned four different lightning triggers, and I can say that while the Lightning Bug Plus can't catch every lightning bolt, I've been more productive with it than I have all of the others combined. I consider it to be an essential piece of gear and one that you must have if you wish to photograph lightning.

Lightning triggers will be provided on loan to all participants for the workshop. After signing up for the workshop, we will coordinate with you to ensure that we have the proper cable to connect the lightning trigger to your camera.

Lodging is Included

This workshop includes private lodging for each participant. On the South Rim, we'll stay at Red Feather Lodge in newly remodeled rooms. Red Feather is located in Tusayan, 1-mile from the entrance to the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. The rooms have wifi, a small refrigerator, and a microwave.

The Kaibab Lodge near the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. Photo © Adam Schallau., All Rights Reserved.

For the North Rim portion of the workshop, we will be staying in private cabins at Kaibab Lodge. The lodge is located 5 miles from the entrance to the park. The lodge has wifi in the main lodge building, parking right at your cabin, and on-site breakfast dining.

What's Not Included?

Meals, transportation, and Grand Canyon National Park entrance fees are not provided. We will caravan as a group to our photography locations.

Torment Over the Canyon

Bring a Friend or Family Member!

You are welcome to bring a friend or family member to the workshop as a guest. This guest can use the room but may only participate in the workshop if they purchase a participant spot.

2019 Desert Thunder Photography Workshop Group

We Hope You Can Join Us!

Please feel free to contact Sally or me if you have any questions. You can send us a message through the Contact form on this website, and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

We hope you can join us for this opportunity to photograph the Grand Canyon from the majestic North Rim during the monsoon season.

Double Rainbow at Mather

Workshop Cost and Payment Terms

The cost for this workshop is $3600.00, which includes private lodging. A deposit of $1800.00 is required to reserve a spot in this workshop. The final payment is due no later than 90 days before the workshop.

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