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Colorado Great Sand Dunes
Nature Photography Workshop

April 5-7, 2024: NOW OPEN!
$1,275 total  [$400 due at sign-up]

Join Pro Dan Ballard on a 3-day photo workshop to capture the most awe-inspiring sand dunes in North America! April has excellent cool weather for photography, with a higher likelihood of snow on the peaks. With over 10 years experience shooting in the park, Dan will be your expert guide in finding and shooting the most beautiful areas of the dunes. The combination of desert scape with a spectacular mountain backdrop will give ample opportunities for creating works of art. This unique and abstract landscape is sure to inspire any level of photographer!


Experience Level

Beginner - Advanced 

Both beginners & experienced photographers will benefit from this workshop. I will work closely with you to address  strengths and weaknesses. All can expect to be challenged.


Moderate - Challenging

You should have good balance and feel comfortable walking on steep and uneven surfaces. Please see explanation below *Reach out if you have questions or limitations.  


Field & Classroom

We will be in the field shooting for sunrise and sunset with classroom time & breaks during the day. Learn composition techniques, image editing and more. 

Group Size

7-10 people

I prefer to keep workshops small, ensuring that each person will have ample time for one-on-one instruction. This photography workshop is limited to 10 people. 

Dan has been shooting these dunes for 10+ years! As one of his favorite landscapes in the WORLD, he has the knowledge and experience to help you get the best images during your trip. 


As both a teacher and a guide, Dan will take the group on four unique trips into the dunes to shoot during sunrise and sunset – while working on a wide-variety of photography concepts. You'll learn about how to capture different types of light, shadows, abstract variations, mountain panoramas and more.  

During the daytime, the group will reconvene in the classroom where Dan will dig into his methods for composition, post-processing and effective tips on how to improve your images. 



 Unique Locations • Individual Instruction • Creative Editing • Portfolio Feedback
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"On every level both Dan and his workshop exceeded my expectations. I left the workshop as a better photographer." - Mark Brodkin

Schedule Overview 


On Friday, We will start the workshop off at 1:00PM with an introduction followed by a classroom session on light and composition. We will have time for early dinner at a small local restaurant before the first trip into the dunes to shoot sunset.


On Saturday, we will rise before the sun to capture the best light over the dunes. After breakfast at the lodge, we will have a classroom session on image processing with Lightroom. The group will then take a short break, then return to the dunes for sunset.


On Sunday, the mountain vistas will be beckoning us again to shoot the early morning sunrise. We will end with a feedback session that will break down 15-20 of your best images and give you new ideas on how to improve. We will finish up around 11AM. 

* exact schedule subject to change based on weather, good light, etc.

I have pre-booked rooms at the Great Sand Dunes Lodge, located at the base of the dunes with great views. It is less than a 10 minute drive to the dunes from here. After sign-up you will receive information on how to reserve your room. 

Please note that transportation and accommodations for the Sand Dunes Photography Workshop are up to each individual participant.

The closest large airport to Alamosa is in Colorado Springs, which is about a 3-hour drive away. Albuquerque is a 4-hour drive and Denver is about a 5-hour drive. Great Lakes airline has a daily flight from Denver to Alamosa. Driving conditions from Alamosa to the Great Sand Dunes will consist of mainly paved roads, so a standard car will be sufficient.

Planning Your Photo Trip 
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What fitness level is this workshop?

Many people ask what the fitness level on the workshop is. If you are comfortable walking on fairly steep and uneven terrain for less than half a mile, then I’d say it’s a good fit for you. If you do not feel comfortable climbing stairs it may not be. While the terrain can be a bit challenging for some - it is certainly not difficult. We won't be going to the very top of the dunes and will hike at a slow and steady pace for shooting with time for breaks. Don’t be afraid to sign up if you are older, as long as you have good balance. Please reach out if you have any questions!

Years of Experience with Sony, Nikon, and Canon Gear 

About The Great Sand Dunes National Park

It's no surprise that people travel from across the country to experience Colorado's Great Sand Dunes. As the tallest in North America, the sand dune field encompasses 30 square miles and the tallest dune towers 750 feet high! 


During the spring, the beautiful Medano Creek meanders at the base of the dunes. The water creates new and photogenic variations in the sand. And just beyond the sand dune field, sits an epic backdrop of the rugged Sangre de Cristo Mountains.


The Great Sand Dunes began forming around 440,000 years ago, after a large inland lake that once covered the San Luis Valley - named "Lake Alamosa" dried up due to climate change. The predominant southwest winds blowing toward a low curve in the mountains helped form the sand dunes, and they still do today. 


The oldest evidence of human inhabitants on the dunes dates back nearly 11,000 years. From Native American traditions from the Navajo, Apache and Ute Tribes, to European and American settlers and homesteaders, these sand dunes have provided home and wonder to many groups over the centuries.

What's Included in the Sand Dunes Photography Workshop: 

Instruction from Dan Ballard • Classroom Courses • Personal Critique Sessions • Snacks and Water
 Not Included: flights, hotel, car and food 

Dan Ballard Photography is an Authorized Permittee of Great Sand Dunes National Park


Dan Ballard Photography is an Authorized Permittee of Great Sand Dunes National Park

    I always tell my students that you DO NOT need expensive gear to create excellent images. Great gear does make a difference in terms of technical quality, durability, ease of use and other factors and I advise using quality products, but creating a powerful, creative image is all about the photographer and the light. While I do recommend shooting with the best gear you can afford, keep in mind this is not the most important factor.
    Camera: (preferably a DSLR or a mirrorless with the ability to shoot raw) Lenses: My ideal setup for full frame is a16-35mm, 50mm, 70-200 or 300mm. If you own a 24-70 or equivalent that is fine. As long as you have something fairly wide and a telephoto. For DX or APS-C users, any combination of lenses that gets you from at least 18mm to 200mm. Preferably from 10mm to 200mm but if you don’t already own a wide angle don’t stress. Other: A sturdy outdoor tripod is a must! Also, plenty of digital memory, extra batteries & battery charger,
 lens cleaning cloth, camera bag that allows you to easily get to your gear. You may want to consider bringing a back up camera as well. Filters: The only filter that I consider a must have is a circular polarizer. While I don't use it often — when you need it you have to have it. There can also be situations where a 10 stop neutral density or variable ND (variable neutral density) can be very useful. This is definitely not something that is mandatory but could be useful on the workshop or shooting in general. I prefer the screw on circular polarizers and ND filters. I also carry a 3 stop soft graduated neutral density filter, and although I rarely use it these days — it can come in handy. If you don't already know what this is or how to use it, don't stress about bringing one. I prefer hand holding 4x6 inch grad ND filters.
    We will shoot rain or shine. A rainjacket is a must and a small travel umbrella is highly recomended. Layered clothing is super important for changing temperatures — early morning can be cold with afternoons getting very warm. Consider thin gloves, a hat, sturdy footwear and sunglasses. Also helpful to have is a flashlight, sunscreen, lip balm and bug spray. For more challenging or strenuous workshops, it is helpful but not mandatory to bring waterproof boots or gators. I don't personally usually use a camera cover (I prefer an umbrella) this is something you may want to bring along.
    Please bring a laptop computer with a card reader for the classroom portion of the workshop. It would be best to have Adobe Lightroom software installed. We will also spend a small amount of time with Adobe Photoshop if you want to have this installed as well to follow along. I use the Creative Cloud and purchasing the Lightroom/Photoshop package which is only $9.99 a month. If you use and prefer another editing program that is not a problem at all. You will still pick up a ton of new thoughts and ideas — much of the editing is focused on the artistic side of image processing. Also, if you don't have a laptop — don't stress. You will still benefit from the ideas shared in the courses. You are welcome to borrow a laptop or share with another student. If you prefer to take written notes, it is a good idea to bring along pen and paper.
    We will be critiquing images taken prior to the workshop, please inlcude a section of 15-20 of your favorite images you would like feedback on. We may also have a chance to critique some images taken during the workshop.
    You must have travel insurance for an international workshop. I recommend bringing quite a few snacks with you. Granola bars, jerky, nuts, etc. Be sure to see what kind of plug adaptor you will need for electronics. If you are signing up from outside of the US, please be aware of VISA requirements for the country of travel.
Have questions? Feel free to reach out.
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