Spirit-N-Light it up!

November 13-November 18, 2018

We are taking the Spirit-N-Light workshop to the next level and adding a few days of teaching simple flash techniques to greatly improve your image making skills! This is a workshop to challenge yourself, grow your creative vision, and transcend your photography beyond what you have imagined.

Horse photography workshop

Understanding how to see, work with, and manipulate light is one of the most important elements in creating dynamic photographs. Yet, grasping the technical side of natural light and artificial light (flash) is challenging, which is why we drop you into an inspiring environment, with interesting subjects, to learn these valuable skills. Focusing intensely on one important element over several days, hands-on, can have a great impact on immediately elevating your photographic skills. This is the perfect workshop to help you prepare for a trip to an exotic destination or to increase your ability to capture powerful images that stand above the sea of snapshots flooding the internet.

Nestled in a valley, surrounded by majestic rolling hills, this workshop takes place on a true working ranch. The wranglers will run the horses through the stunning landscape, creating loads of photographic opportunities for action shots, clouds of dust, roping steers, water spraying, lasso-tossing silhouettes at sunset, and depicting the adversity of ranch life, allowing you to capture the essence of a uniquely American culture. Amongst the action, we will mix in environmental portraiture, straightforward portraits, and close-up work with the horses and wranglers. Although there will be a concentrated focus on dramatic lighting, we will also work on creating interesting compositions, pan blurs, and adding motion and emotion to a still image.

This new Spirit-N-Light it up workshop adds simple flash techniques that will add a “wow” factor to your photographs. During the first few days, you will work with natural light, learning to see and use light and to manipulate your settings to create intriguing and unexpected images. We will then introduce the basics of fill flash, how simple it is to use, but how powerful a tool it is. By the last evening, our goal is to have you comfortable enough to try using off camera flash. For most photographers, adding flash seems overwhelming, too technical, too difficult, or just too much work. This is why we will work side by side, guiding you through the process and working hands-on in a real life photographic environment.

During mid-morning through early afternoon, when the light is harsh, we will teach through instructional slide shows, image reviews, and one-on-one troubleshooting. You can also plop down on the comfy leather couches with a cold drink and learn from each other or relax on the porch while taking it all in.

Our goal is that, regardless of what you know coming into this workshop, you will leave with the confidence in “seeing the light,” have new skills to create more intriguing photographs, and have a stunning portfolio of western images. Come prepared to get out of your comfort zone, work hard, and laugh hard; everyone has a great time during the Spirit-n-light workshops.

To maximize our time in the field, we will stay on the ranch in a log cabin lodge, built by the owner’s bare hands. The lounge area has shelves filled with books, a stone fireplace, and tables to sit and review images, and this is where we will meet for lectures and to share stories. You can even take a dip in the pool or a long soak in the hot tub adjacent to the main lodge. Owned by the ranch, we will take our meals at the Parkfield café, which is so rich in ranch life atmosphere, it can be a photographic destination.

“The Spirit-N-Light workshop was magical.   a  working ranch, Piper’s incredible expertise and enthusiasm, and individual attention for each participant allowed each of us to experience a photographic journey that will always be remembered”. – Bill Koenig


Piper Mackay has spent thousands of hours in the field across the African continent, using and developing these lighting techniques. She teaches in a basic, creative way that is easy to follow. She uses a Canon system.

Greg Thomason has done assignments for Peter Hurley, one of the top head-shot, portrait photographers in the world. He brings the technical side to teaching flash in a simple fashion. He has traveled with Piper to Kenya and India. He has an ability to click with his subject to bring out a genuine expression. He uses a Nikon system.

Is this workshop for you?

This workshop was designed for amateur photographers, who want to take their photography to the next level by learning about the incredible power of light, natural and beginning flash. If you own a flash, but leave it in your bag or have an interest in learning how flash can greatly improve your photography, but are intimidated by the technology aspects, this is the perfect workshop for you. However, participants and should know their camera dials/settings: aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and exposure value and must know how to use their cameras in aperture, shutter priority, and manual modes. Participants should know digital workflow to download and edit images for review.

If you have any concerns, please contact me at info@PiperMackayPhotography.com

“I just completed the spring Spirit n Light workshop with Piper Mackay.  What an amazing experience!  Piper encourages you to use light in such a way as to create images with drama and impact.  In conjunction with the ranch staff she creates unique opportunities to capture images in wonderful morning and evening light.  Through these she teaches you to consider how you are capturing light and environment while composing your images.  In addition to this you practice techniques such as panning and silhouettes that add to your photographers toolbox.  Piper has incredible enthusiasm and knowledge.  I learned , practiced and was inspired by this workshop.  Definitely a wonderful, worthwhile experience.” – Catherine Page -Canada


The cost of this all-inclusive workshop is $2,995.00, based on double occupancy.Most rooms have a loft, so there is one bed in the loft and another on the main level.

Single Accommodations are limited. If available, there is a single supplement fee payable of $795.00.

If you request shared accommodation on your registration form, we will do our best to match you with a roommate. However, if we are unable to match a solo guest with another guest of the same gender, then the single supplement will subsequently be charged.

Deposit of USD $995.00 is due at the time of registration. The deposit is non-refundable and we highly recumbent trip cancelation insurance.

This workshop is “all-inclusive with the exception of beer and wine.” From the time you arrive on Tuesday afternoon until we part on Sunday, you will not have to pay for anything, except for beer and/or wine. All accommodation, meals, soda, water, snacks, ranch fees, wrangler fees, model fees, model releases, instruction, and critiques are included. We will meet at the ranch by 3:00pm on Monday, November 13 and depart on Friday, November 18, by noon.

The ranch is an easy 3-4 hour drive, depending on traffic, from Los Angeles or San Francisco. The closest small airport is San Louis Obispo County Regional Airport – http://www.sloairport.com. Transportation is available on the ranch during the workshop, but it is your responsibility to get yourself to the ranch.


The group size for the workshop is limited to 10 participants. The Spirit-N-Light workshops are very popular and usually fill quickly. If you want to take advantage of this opportunity then now is the time to register! To secure your spot, please complete the on-line registration form and make the $995.00 non-refundable deposit. Both the registration and deposit must be received to confirm you spot.

1. click this link to access the e-registartion form. Once you have completed this form you will be asked to confirm your email address, which will finalize your registration form. A copy of your registration will be emailed to yo and to Piper Mackay Photo Safaris

2. Use the button below to make  your deposit. You do not need to have a Paypal account to use this payment option.

Below are a series of images showing how significant using a little fill flash can have a huge impact on your photograph. In the first two sets of images it shows the before and after of using  simple fill flash with the flash on the camera. Without flash, the eyes of the subjects are complete lost, which is the most important element when connecting a viewer to the subject. In post  you would have to lift the shadows too much, creating too much noise, and making the image unusable.When creating environmental photographs against a sky, if you expose for the sky, generally your subject will be dark, like a silhouette. In the image Greg captured along the Ganges River, India, he exposed correctly for the background and used flash, slightly off camera,  to lift the shadows on his subject. Here the light looks completely natural. In the image the follows I used off camera flash to light the subject against a dramatic sky, after sunset.Greg  created the last photograph in the bar tent at our camp in the Mara. When the light is harsh, you can move your subject into the shade with a solid background and add just a little flash to create soft light. With this technique you can photograph portraits all day and make the most of your time in an exotic location.These images were all created using one simple speed light ( a simple flash that mounts to your camera).