Autumn reflection in stream

Past Workshop

Workshop Summary

October 16, 2021 – Midwest Autumn Color
Location: Ledges State Park (near Madrid, Iowa).
Start: 6:30am set-up for sunrise / Concludes: 3:30pm
One-Day field nature photography workshop
Main Topics: Landscape, macro, nature “portraits” emphasizing the capture of the beautiful colors of autumn splendor. This workshop is scheduled to coincide with peak color at one of the most beautiful fall color locations in Iowa.


To “kick off” my renewed workshop series, I decided it only appropriate to lead off with the one that was perennially my most popular workshop. This event filled each year, and I often added second dates when possible.

For this event I’ll be returning to Ledges State Park (locally referred to as “The Ledges”) in beautiful Boone County, Iowa, just 40 minutes North of Des Moines. I’ve timed this workshop to coincide with what is typically peak fall color in Central Iowa – the middle of October. But even if this year is different and color peaks at an earlier time, the canyon within The Ledges shelters trees from wind and temperature swings, and color generally lingers well past mic-October.

The Ledges has been a highly productive autumn color workshop location for participants over a previous decade of workshop delivery, since the park’s mix of prairie, cliffs, and streams make it simply ideal for nature photography. This has been by far my most popular nature photography field workshop, with many participants returning multiple times. The Ledges is truly different from year to year, and I vary the locations we photograph within the park, depending on local conditions at the time. For 2021, I have an all-new sunrise location, and I’ve completely revised the itinerary for moving the group through the park.

The Ledges is well-known for its beautiful Midwest landscape views, and it offers plentiful close-up and macro nature subjects this time of year!

COVID safety protocols will be emphasized as we work as a socially-distanced group to photograph this beautiful location.

What to Expect

We’ll start with landscape photography in the beautiful pre-dawn light, thoroughly covering camera & tripod settings, composing, and exposing beautiful landscape images. We’ll photograph sunrise in fall colors, and will then move on to close-up and macro nature photography in other gorgeous areas of the parks.

Alternating between hands-on shooting and instructional sessions on various nature photography topics, we’ll explore multiple locations within the park, working to build solid nature photography technique, for the full day.

Topics covered include both basic and advanced topics of outdoor nature photography, including exposure, selective focus, composition, proper field technique, numerous creative techniques, equipment and gear, and much more.  I am a very hands-on instructor and I do not shoot my own images in the field; rather, I focus 100% on assisting participants to learn proper technique and to create fantastic images. My goal is to help you return from the field at the end of the day with a collection of publication-quality autumn color photographs including landscapes, close-up or macro images, and evocative artistic images – and the knowledge to continue to create such images in the future.

What to bring

Photo Gear:

  • A Digital SLR or Interchangeable-lens Mirrorless camera
  • Normal- , wide-angle, and telephoto- lenses; a dedicated macro lens if you have one; no worries if your gear is minimal – I’m known to shoot all day with a single basic focal length 
  • A sturdy tripod (Note: If you do not own a tripod, you will want one, but please contact me before purchasing one! You may also find this article “Tripod 101” by photographer Thom Hogan to be helpful. My advice is generally very similar to Thom’s)
  • Plenty of media cards for a full day of shooting
  • Plenty of batteries for a full day of shooting. 
  • A rain cover (or small trash liner bag) to cover your camera in case of rain (I’ll show you how to make a camera cover from one, if necessary

Non-Photo Gear

  • Appropriate clothing and safety gear: dress in layers. You’ll probably want long pants and long sleeves due to cool weather and brush for some hours of the day
  • Comfortable shoes or hiking boots – we will walk a lot
  • Rubber hunting boots or waders (optional) – one of the unique features of the Ledges is its streams, and you may find the optimal vantage point to be from ‘in’ the stream
  • A hat to block the sun
  • Sunblock
  • Rain gear – just in case
  • Something to cover your camera/lenses/camera bag in case it rains
  • Plenty of drinking water (snacks and bottled water will be provided, but please also bring water).
  • Your lunch – we’ll eat together in the field

The workshop will be held rain or shine – in fact, often the best nature photography is in the rain!

The workshop will be limited to a maximum of 10 participants.

Physical Activity Level

This workshop requires moderate physical activity: we will drive to several general photography locations within Ledges State Park, but will then walk to access the exact area at which we’ll shoot. Participants should be in good enough physical condition to be able to walk carrying their own photographic equipment for up to 200 yards or so at a time, in uneven terrain.


Ledges State Park, near Madrid, Iowa. This beautiful location is convenient to Interstates 80 and 35, and approximately a 45 minute drive from the Des Moines airport. Exact meeting location, maps, and details, will be emailed to registrants prior to the workshop. Additionally, a liability waiver will be sent to all participants at registration – a signed returned liability form will be required from each participant prior to the workshop.

Post Workshop Image Review

In many of my past workshops, we debriefed at the end of the workshop day – or went into town over lunch – to review and discuss images together. Due to the current pandemic, we won’t do this at this time. Instead, I’ll host an optional 90-minute Zoom call the next day, Sunday, October 17, during which participants can share and discuss their top 3 images of the day. This ‘next day’ feature will allow some time to cull and select some favorites to share.

Workshop Date and Time
Saturday, October 16, 2021
Start Time: 6:30 am
End time: 3:30pm

Cost: $169 per person. Register and pay securely [CLOSED].