Spirit-N-Light workshop 2 Spring 2018

The Spirit-N-Light workshops are designed to develop your skills in creating powerful images using dramatic natural lighting, an element that can be the difference between a snapshot and a great shot. Having a strong focus on one critical element, with exciting subjects and in an inspiring environment, can have greater impact on learning your craft and elevating your photography. This workshop is about building stronger skills and not about building a portfolio of western images. You will be surprised at how quickly you elevate your skills and the stunning images you will capture!

Nestled in a valley surrounded by majestic rolling hills, this all-inclusive 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, including stirring up the dust for moody elements and silhouettes at sunset. Although there will be a concentrated focus on dramatic lighting, we will also work on creating more interesting compositions and pan blurs as well as demonstrate how to creatively use shutter speeds to exaggerate movement. During midday, we will work on portraits and learn how to manipulate shadows and natural light so that you can shoot during the harsh light and make every minute count while in the field. I will share some of the natural lighting techniques I use to simulate off-camera flash. We will cover the four most critical elements in creating a successful photograph, which will make your images stand above the millions flooding the Internet every day.

There will be slideshow presentations and instructions before each shoot and an image review on the afternoon of the first full day in order to help you understand what is working and what you may need to adjust to improve your images over the next several shoots. There will be continuous discussions on how and why light makes a difference. This workshop is perfect for preparing for a wildlife safari or an exotic photographic travel adventure.

To maximize our time and be fully immersed in the cowboy culture, we will be staying on the ranch in a beautiful log cabin lodge, built by the owner’s own hands. After an exciting shoot, you can relax on the porch or plop onto the leather couches in the main lounge area. The lounge area has shelves filled with books, a stone fireplace, and tables to sit at and review images and is where we will meet for presentations and image review. We will take our scrumptious, home-cooked, ranch-style meals with the whole cowboy crew in the Parkfield Café, directly across from our lodge, where you will also enjoy the local ambiance.

This workshop is all-inclusive. From the time you arrive on Thursday afternoon until we part on Sunday, you will not have to pay for anything. All accommodations, meals, snacks, beer, wine, soda, water, wrangler fees, gratuities, model releases, ranch fees, instruction, and critique are included. We will meet at the ranch by 2:00 pm on Sunday, March 11th and depart on Wednesday, March 14th before noon.

The ranch is an easy 3.5 to 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), which is about 1 hour from the Ranch. We will all carpool on the ranch during the workshop, but it is your own responsibility to get yourself to the ranch.


Why this workshop is for you…

This is a workshop that will immediately elevate your skills as a photographer, giving you the tools to capture more compelling photographs. Once most of us develop some of the basic skills of photography, exposure, focus, and depth of field, we begin traveling to exotic places, snapping away at what stirs our souls, but we soon find ourselves stagnating at this level. It seems so exciting when we are pointing our cameras at an exotic subject, clicking the shutter, getting the exposure correct, and taking a sharp photograph, but soon, you find that your images all start looking the same, somewhat mediocre, and your photography is not improving. The magic really begins when you learn how to make an image, including understanding the power of light, seeing backgrounds, using motion in a still image, and capturing raw emotion all within the same frame.

This is not a workshop where the horses will be perfectly set up to run through the beautiful landscape while you simply click your shutter. You will actually work on making skillful decisions to improve your photographs and immediately elevate your photography. It is recommended that you have full working knowledge of your camera and the basics of photography, as we will not be covering the basics or how to use your camera. The intent of this workshop is to push your basic skills to the next level.


What past participants had to say about the workshop…….

“Piper really knows how to make walking through a field of cow pies at six in the morning fun and exciting. Her energy and instruction during the workshop made it enjoyable and enlightening.  I have a much greater appreciation for light and motion now, and even managed to capture some of that magic in my shots.”  Dan Trimble

“Piper’s enthusiasm for the subject is very contagious!  She inspired us to try new things even though we are experienced photographers, and worked tirelessly to make sure we came home with a wide variety of images.” Lillian Roberts – USA

  1.  A fabulous experience!!!! Great opportunity to learn about the beauty of rim light.
  2.   I decided to go to this workshop in preparation for the trip to Africa with Piper in August.  It was deninatly the right  decision.  Now I know how to use  my camera to be able to catch the dramatic effect of the light on the horses crossing the water.  Undoubtedly, this will pay off as we photograph the wildebeests crossing the Masai Mara during the Great Migration.  – Muriel McClellan

If you are looking to move your photography to a different level, the Spirit-N-Light workshop is for you.  The variety of location shoots was amazing. Reflections, horses galloping through water, portraits, panning, rim light – we had a chance to practice it all in a relaxed setting. Piper knew what she was doing and it showed. She waited for the light – whether it was hitting a hill at just the right moment or having the sun rise in a valley – we got to experience firsthand what she was talking about. There truly is a spirit in light and I believe all of the participants’ workshop photos reflect that. Piper has designed a memorable learning experience topped off by wonderful hospitality shown by the ranch, fabulous food and bringing together a great group to shoot with. I highly recommend it – Laurie Thomson – Ontario

Important Details


The cost of this all-inclusive workshop is $1,695, based on double occupancy. Most rooms have a loft, so there is one bed in the loft with the other on the main level.

Single accommodations are limited. If available, there is a single supplement fee of $450.

If you request shared accommodations 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, the single supplement will be charged.

Interested in joining us?

The group size for this workshop is limited to 8 participants. The Spirit-N-Light workshops are very popular and they 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 $595.00 non-refundable deposit. Both a completed reservation form and deposit must be completed to confirm a spot.

    Dates & Prices

  • Date(s): Mar 11th - 14th, 2018
  • Price: $1,695.00 USD
  • Single Room Premium: $450.00 USD
Trip Leader: Piper Mackay