Eastern Sierra Photo Workshops

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Mono Lake Tufas by Phil Schermeister

Join National Geographic photographer Phil Schermeister for an intensive 3 day workshop  in one of the most iconic and dramatic settings for landscape photography in North America: Mono Lake and the spectacular East Side of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains! Phil has completed dozens of major natural history photo assignments for the National Geographic Society from the grasslands of the windswept Dakotas to Mexico’s remote Copper Canyon and has been photographing the unique geologic features of the Sierra Nevada’s East Side for more than 15 years. National Geographic has published six of his single-photographer books including “Range of Light” which highlights the natural beauty of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Each participant will get a signed copy of one of Phil’s National Geographic books.

Mono Lake All Digital Masters Photographic Workshops with


3 Day Workshop

Price: $1095 per person (Includes Lodging)

During this workshop at Mono Lake and other areas of the dramatic Eastern Sierra, Phil will teach you techniques he has learned during more than 20 years of photographing all types of natural landscapes. He’ll open his camera bag and share the tools he uses to consistently get exceptional images under any conditions while on assignment. You’ll learn how to respond to the unique geological features we encounter and make the most of changing weather to get the best possible pictures in all of the spectacular settings we visit. We’ll photograph the surreal monolithic tufa towers of calcified rock at Mono Lake, the spectacular wall of the Eastern Sierra Nevada as well as aspen-lined canyons and rushing streams then pay a visit to Bodie; one of the most scenic and best-preserved ghost towns in America. The small size of this workshop allows Phil to give maximum attention to each participant. This information-packed and fun workshop is strictly limited to 9 students.

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Bodie, CA by Phil Schermeister

The Mono Lake Masters Photographic Workshops are designed to help beginners get started and intermediate or advanced students to sharpen their vision and expand their
creative thinking. Some of the skills you’ll master include understanding and adjusting camera settings for optimum results, bracketing, depth of field, correct exposure in all conditions, correct color temperature, use of various filters, composition and use of color and form. On and off camera flash as well as other artificial lighting techniques will be discussed. Beyond equipment, Phil will discuss and teach important intangible skills needed for consistently good photography including how to identify your own “personal vision” and how to “break the rules” to create unique images. We will be photographing sunrises, sunsets, sweeping vistas, clouds, water reflections and more. Phil will give students exercises to put into practice the techniques they learn. He will review students work in the field as they photograph and discuss digital workflow and the processing of digital pictures. You’ll leave with great pictures and most importantly, the skills to see and create better pictures well beyond the workshop.

Workshop Dates:
October 4-6, 2014
Limited to 9 students with a 5 person minimum
All skill Levels Welcome

Tufas in Mono Lake by Phil Schermeister

The Itinerary:

Our workshop will start at 3pm (1-3pm) when we meet in the town of Lee Vining to get acquainted and briefly talk about equipment and techniques before heading out for a sunset shoot at Mono Lake’s ghostly and photogenic Tufa Tower formations. We’ll then head into Lee Vining for dinner. Participants are encouraged to bring work for Phil to critique after dinner.

Next day we rise early and shoot the sunrise at another location at or near Mono Lake or Silver Lake then head back to Lee Vining for breakfast. Then we’ll bring a picnic lunch and head to Lundy Canyon to photograph aspens, waterfalls and wildflowers. After picnicking in Lundy Canyon, we’ll head to the ghost town of Bodie for an afternoon of shooting at this amazing site before finishing the workshop at 3 pm.

Yosemite’s Eastside Masters 1 Day Photographic Workshop with


Price: $325 per person

Beyond Yosemite Valley, the Eastern edge of Yosemite holds many wonders of its own including glacier- scoured peaks, vast meadows, pristine lakes and twisted Jeffrey pines perched on giant slabs of granite. We’ll be exploring some of the best of these features during this 6 hour workshop as you learn composition, color balance, use of color and form, bracketing, depth of field and the use of various filters. On and off camera flash as well as other artificial lighting techniques will also be discussed. We’ll also learn how to work with weather to produce the most dramatic pictures in any given situation. We’ll visit several of Eastern Yosemite’s most photogenic spots including: Olmsted Point with its many dramatic glacial erratics and spectacular views of Half Dome; Tenaya Lake, one of Yosemite’s most beautiful lakes and Lembert Dome which soars 800 feet above Tuolumne Meadows. This workshop is designed to help beginners get started and intermediate or advanced students sharpen their vision and expand their creative thinking. Phil will discuss some of the important intangible skills needed for consistently good photography including your own ‘personal vision” and how to “break the rules” to create unique images. The small class size allows Phil to give maximum individual attention to each student.

Workshop Dates:
September 2014
October 2014
Limited to 9 students with a 3 person minimum
All skill Levels Welcome

Lundy Canyon Aspen by Phil Schermeister


Reserve this workshop by registering here. Workshop spaces are filled on a first-come-first-served basis and these are very popular workshops so early registration is suggested. There is a 10% discount for returning YExplore students from the last two years.

Lodging and Transportation:

Please make your lodging reservations as soon as you register for this workshop, otherwise you may not be able to reserve a room in town! For a complete list of Lee Vining accommodations click here. Leevining.com There are many very nice campgrounds nearby as well. Students will also need to provide their own transportation and meals for the workshop. We will be eating most meals together(see itinerary), however you are free to bring your own food. Carpooling will be encouraged to minimize our carbon footprint in getting to and from our various locations.

What to Bring: A willingness to learn and a sense of adventure.
Camera Equipment

Your digital SLR camera and lenses: Try to bring as much coverage lense-wise from 20mm to 200mm or longer. We may see wildlife in the areas we are photographing.
Macro lens: This is not required but will help considerably with details.
Tripod: This is a necessity for all our workshops since we will be shooting in low light conditions and it can often be windy so the sturdier the tripod the better.
Camera Manual: This is essential since students may have a range of equipment. Familiarize yourself with your camera’s functions before you arrive. The most important settings to know are: Manual Operation, AV, TV, white balance, ASA, single shot vs. motor drive, over/under exposure bracketing and time delay shutter release).
Filters: Bring a circular polarizer if you have one. This helps with reflections and allows you to shoot with more options throughout the day. A soft step graduated neutral density filter. (GND) is helpful since we will be learning how to use one. Call if you need help with any of these filters.
Extra camera batteries and flash cards: Shooting with long exposures and frequent checking of our images drains batteries fast. We will be shooting a lot of pictures and RAW format fills up flash cards quickly. If your batteries are dead or you run out of memory your photography will end abruptly.
Other: A camera cable release is helpful but not required. A small leveling device that fits on your camera may also be helpful.
Headlamp or flashlight: A headlamp works best since it frees your hands for working with your camera in low light.


Layered clothing and good walking shoes are essential. Weather conditions can change rapidly in the mountains and desert. Be prepared to be involved in outdoor elements which can include rain and wind. A waterproof rain shell is lightweight and protects against both. Nylon pants and shirts dry fast when wet and are as comfortable as cotton. Also needed are a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen and a water bottle. All workshops include walking and some hiking over uneven terrain but nothing extremely strenuous. Please call us if you have any questions regarding the physical nature of the workshops


Snacks such as trail mix, etc. are a good idea to eat during the day to keep your energy at a high level as we will be on the move much of the day. We will be taking a picnic lunch with us the 2nd day.

Does weather cancel?

Workshops will be canceled only if condition pose a safety risk. Adverse weather often produces dynamic photo possibilities. If the forecast calls for rain be sure to bring something such as a plastic bag to keep your camera dry. The challenge and fun of outdoor photography means that we’re subject to weather conditions we can’t control and will need to adjust our itinerary accordingly. Come ready for anything because we’ll be moving around to get in the best photographic situations to capture stunning images. Have questions ready to ask Phil. All students should arrive on time and be prepared to work with Phil and each other to help make the workshop a success.

What else could cancel the workshop?

Workshops could potentially be canceled if the minimum requirement of participants is not met. In that case, we will provide a reasonable alternative workshop choice for participants to decide if they would like to continue.



Moon Setting on Eastern Sierra by Phil Schermeister

Phil Schermeister grew up on the Great Plains where the simplicity of the landscape and the directness of the people still influence his work. His interest in nature photography was kindled when he started working for the National Geographic Society on an assignment in the Flint Hills of Kansas. In the 20 years since that first assignment, he has traveled to all fifty states and several countries while successfully completing more than 30 major assignments for various national Geographic Society publications. Some of his assignments have included Mexico’s Copper Canyon, Canada’s Icefields Parkway, and the Cherokee Indian Trail of Tears. He has worked on natural history projects for the Society in dozens of National Parks, Seashores, Recreation Areas, Wild and Scenic Rivers, and National Wildlife Refuges. Schermeister has also completed several single-photographer books for the National Geographic including “America’s Western Edge”, “America’s National Parks”, and “Dakotas: Where the West Began”.

Closer to home, his coverage of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains was featured in a National Geographic book entitled “The Range of Light: California’s Sierra Nevada”. After 20 years of photographing in Yosemite, he continues to work for the National Geographic and was featured in a 2005 article titled: “Beyond the Valley of Wonders”. Phil works for other clients and makes his home in Sonora, CA.

This itinerary is the exclusive property of Phil Schermeister. If the workshop does not meet its minimum requirement, YExplore will offer an alternative workshop in this region that will follow a different itinerary if possible.

*YExplore is operated under special use permit with the Inyo National Forest. This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

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