I took a fantastic photography workshop in the Valley of Fire with James Marvin Phelps of www.jmp-photography.net in February 2013. The results are above but you can see bigger versions here:http://www.lauraindigital.com/galleries/united-states/valley-of-fire-nevada
I had planned a vacation to Las Vegas. I wanted some me-time, but since I’m not good at relaxing, I wanted it to be productive, too. I’ve been to Las Vegas a thousand times, so I decided I’d use the opportunity to work on my photography. I googled until I found James’ website. His nature shots have been on magazine covers, and he makes his living from photography. He met me at my hotel in Las Vegas at 7 AM, and then we came back home around 5:30. We spent the whole day in the Valley of Fire, a National Park in the desert outside Vegas. It was an entire day of photography for an extremely reasonable per hour price. Full-day workshops are usually $700 or more, and his price was far below that and completely one-on-one.
James handled all the driving. We talked talk a bit in the car about Lightroom, HDR, tripods, and filters, then we got to business. He showed me no fewer than TEN sites within Valley of Fire with excellent photo opportunities. Arches, canyons, geographical monuments, amazing sediment. He knew exactly the best time to get the best light upon whatever we were photographing. Most of these sites were not on trails or obvious from the road. He really knows the area, the rangers, the history of the rock, etc and the right time to be everywhere. This was such a time-saver.
He also instructed me on the way to approach the subject – angles, heights, to get low or high, how much sky to get in the photo, how much ground. Sometimes he would be be prescriptive, but other times he’d tell me to take a photo, and he’d critique it. He looked at nearly every photo I took that day and gave me his opinion on it.
In addition to the feedback, he helped me get very familiar with the settings on my camera: the right fstop, ISO, when to use the tripod, where to focus the lens in the shot, etc.
I can’t emphasize enough how invaluable all this was. Basically, I spent all day in the desert, went to all the BEST sites, didn’t waste any time on bad places or bad light, got every photo critiqued, got taught about advanced settings on my camera, got tips about post-processing (HDR), AND.. AND.. he brought a cooler with snacks and drinks.
If you are a photographer and need to get out of Vegas for awhile, you should email him. All the pictures in the slideshow on this post are from my session with James, and there are even more than what I’m showing here. His instruction really helped me take my photos to the next level in terms of composition and post-processing.
In addition, he’s also a super-nice guy who helped me locate a lost piece of my tripod, carried it for me when my hands were full, and just chatted about random stuff in the car while we went from place to place. He is a great photographer and a great tour guide. He even identified animals and pointed out lizard tracks on the ground. I had originally asked him to show me Zion National Park, but he suggested Valley of Fire because it was closer, and we’d spend more time shooting. I was dubious because I had been to Red Rock before, but let me tell you that even if you have been to Valley of Fire before, you have not seen it like this.
If you want to get more likes on 500px.com, or you want to sell more photos, or you just want to justify that $300 lens you bought, take a session with him. Skip the casinos. See some beautiful things. Get some great shots.