Visionary Wild, LLC • 2200 19th St. NW, Ste 806, Washington, DC 20009

E-mail: info@visionarywild.com    •    Tel: 1-202-558-9596 (9am to 5pm, EST).

Justin Black – Managing Director: 1-202-302-9030 • Email: justin@visionarywild.com

Sara Robb – Operations Assistant: sara@visionarywild.com

We look forward to hearing from you!

 

Workshops by Focus: Alpenglow

Expedition July 5 - 22, 2018
6 spaces | $14,500* Register

When I tell folks that my wife Lena is from Kyrgyzstan, the response is usually, “She’s from Kurdistan?!?” or alternatively, “What? Where is that?” This little-known Silk Road country is, however, home to some of the most awe-inspiring mountain landscapes on the planet, as well as an immensely hospitable culture. Visionary Wild’s first overland expedition there in July 2017 grew out of a lengthy scouting trip that Lena and I made in 2015. This photographic adventure, from the idyllic alpine lake of Song Kul to the glacier-borne basecamp beneath mighty Khan Tengri – one of the world’s most beautiful peaks rising to 23,000ft. – represents what Lena and I consider the finest of the Kyrgyz mountain landscape. We have fallen in love with the Kyrgyz people and their spectacular homeland, and look forward to sharing this wonderful corner of the planet with you! –Justin Black

For lovers of wild mountain landscapes, the Kyrgyz Republic is among the most underrated travel destinations on Earth. The Tien Shan mountains rise higher and wilder than the Rockies, Sierra Nevada, Alps, or Andes, and peaks below 16,000-feet in elevation are barely considered worthy of a name. Along the Chinese border, the Kakshaal-Too range soars to truly Himalayan heights, on the world’s most northern summits over 7,000 meters: Khan Tengri and Jengish Chokusu (known in the Soviet era as Pik Pobeda). The landscape beneath the peaks is sublime: glacier-carved gorges, slopes covered in alpine wildflowers, raging rivers, spruce and fir forests, and high pastures (“jai-loh”) where semi-nomadic Kyrgyz graze small herds of horses, yaks, sheep, and cattle during the short summer.

The sheer scale and beauty of this landscape is phenomenal, but what is almost unimaginable is the fact that it is barely on the tourist radar. The Kyrgyz Republic is an emerging democracy, and the Kyrgyz people take their freedom seriously. Though it is commonly referred to as the “Switzerland of Central Asia,” this complimentary moniker neglects to recognize the nation’s unique qualities. A former Soviet republic with relatively slow economic growth, Kyrgyzstan has been spared excessive development, so what it lacks in infrastructure is made up for with glorious wild nature. The Kyrgyz people are a Turkic nomad culture that boast the longest history of all currently extant groups in Central Asia. Over the last fifteen centuries, their language and culture have survived the Uyghurs, the Chinese, the Mongols, various Khaganates, the Russians, the Soviet era, and the challenges of building a viable democracy while surrounded by less democratic neighbors.

Our adventure begins in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek, where participants will be met at the airport and driven to the thoroughly modern Golden Tulip Hotel, offering excellent accommodations in the city center. There, we will welcome you to our introductory orientation and first dinner as a group. Early the next morning, we load up into our four-wheel drive caravan, comprising three highly capable and comfortable Toyota Sequoias to carry our six guests, Visionary Wild photo leaders Justin Black and Jerry Dodrill, as well as our team’s Kyrgyzstan native and Russian-language interpreter, Lena Black, Visionary Wild Director of Operations. Two additional 4WD support vehicles will carry gear, provisions, and camp staff. From there, we set off on our spectacular route through the Tien Shan mountains.

Our itinerary is designed to take advantage of prime light on the landscape morning and evening each day. After dark, clean air and virtual absence of light pollution provide a superb opportunity for nighttime landscapes including the Milky Way. We will also enjoy excellent opportunities for photography of the Kyrgyz people themselves, in the high pastures, at our yurt camps, and at the sprawling and colorful Osh Market in Bishkek. This will be a highly productive and immensely fun photographic adventure that you’ll never forget.

Click “read more” at below right for the full itinerary, inclusions, exclusions, and more photos…

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Kyrgyz Republic
Map via Google
Expedition August 28 - September 6, 2018
50 spaces | $* Register

 

Join us for this all-inclusive, exclusive-charter expedition to the crown jewel of the High Arctic

Designed for photographers by photographers, this expedition to the Svalbard archipelago will be led by a dream team: Michael Melford, Roy Toft, Daisy Gilardini, Eddie Soloway, Justin Black, and Chris Linder. We will take you to the places we love to make the most of the great spectacle of Arctic light, landscape, wildlife, and ice. Here are just a few of the highlights:

  • A uniquely optimized small-group photographer’s experience aboard the ideal private-charter expedition vessel
  • World-class photo instructor team, and an excellent participant-to-instructor ratio that is almost unheard of on a ship-based expedition
  • The natural beauty of Svalbard itself, a superb destination for both landscape and wildlife photography, timed to coincide with seemingly endless sunsets, first snows of autumn on the mountains, and excellent wildlife opportunities.
  • All-inclusive from airport pickup in Oslo, Norway, featuring a high standard of accommodations and dining, and including R/T flights from Oslo to Svalbard, and all ground transfers.

Our expedition’s private charter vessel, M/V Plancius, optimizes the photographic potential and overall quality of experience on this trip. She is a very comfortable and capable 296-foot ice-rated expedition ship with accommodation in comfortable en suite cabins and staterooms. We have deliberately limited her passenger capacity for this voyage to only fifty guests (though the ship sleeps up to 116 normally). We have chosen to do this voyage on this ship because she offers the capabilities, amenities, comfort, dining, and photographic support that will enable us to deliver a uniquely enjoyable and creatively productive experience, both aboard and on shore. If you wish to travel with a world-class team of photographic instructors to the best locations, and you appreciate the advantages of an adventure designed specifically to optimize both the photography and overall experience, this is an exceptional opportunity.

Our expedition begins in Oslo, Norway, with an introductory reception dinner at one of the capital’s finest restaurants. After a restful night at The Thief – a modern Scandinavian boutique hotel that is one of Oslo’s very best – we fly as a group to the small harbor of Longyearbyen on the island of Spitsbergen, where our ship awaits us. We set sail that afternoon through the sheltered waters of Adventfjord on our way to the west coast where we will work our way northward with views of the stunning mountain landscape.

The wild landscape of Svalbard and the pack ice are characterized by a mesmerizing serenity… I felt like I was floating through a dream. –Justin Black

The High Arctic is one of Earth’s most serene, sublime, and evocative places, and in our opinion the mountainous, glacier-covered islands of the Svalbard archipelago are the crown jewels, in part because a visitor here experiences the best features of the Arctic in microcosm. We have deliberately timed this expedition for Arctic autumn – late August and early September – to take advantage of special seasonal phenomena. The quality of light at this time of year is beautiful. The sun sets for several hours at this time of year, but gorgeous post-sunset light lingers all night long. Also, by this time the mountains typically have had their first fresh snow for the season, making the landscape look its best. Polar bears are to be found on both the islands and the pack ice, and Arctic fox patrol the shorelines. Blue whales – the largest animal that has ever lived on Earth – ply the coastal waters. Large walrus colonies can be photographed both ashore and at sea, and seals – bearded, ringed, harp, and harbor – are commonly sighted. Migratory birds linger on for a while, including Ivory Gulls, Kittywakes, Fulmars, Eider ducks, and more, while native Rock Ptarmigans transition to their winter plumage. Temperatures are still relatively comfortable by Arctic standards, but the summer’s mosquitoes will have been killed off by the frost. Weather and seas tend to be calm, and free of fog that can limit visibility in summer.

We have conceived this Svalbard expedition with considerable advantages for the passionate photographer. The first-rate photo leader team comprises six outstanding professionals, all known as generous and engaging teachers, who have a superb collaborative chemistry. Their photographic specialties cover a cross-section of the opportunities we will be presented with during the expedition: wildlife, landscape, natural abstract, travel, fine art, and conservation.

M/V Plancius: Our exclusive charter vessel provides an excellent platform for this voyage, in part due to her strength, maneuverability, and ability to navigate the ice pack and waters that can be impassable to larger ships. Those who appreciate small-group travel will enjoy our  passenger limit of fifty guests, self-imposed to optimize both the photographic scenario and overall experience. Other “small-ship” trips operating in these waters carry 110 to 150 guests, resulting in a far less intimate experience and less nimble operations when making excursions from the ship. Superb expedition support includes a fleet of ten zodiacs, a highly experienced expedition staff of eight, and a top-notch crew who welcome guests on the ship’s spacious bridge. With our relatively small group and large photo leader team, everyone will have excellent access to leaders and expedition staff, landing operations are far more efficient, and we’ll be able to get to know one another much better. Plancius offers an impressive range of vantage points for photography, from close to waterline to up high, and her three diesel-electric engines are surprisingly quiet and produce little vibration.

Dining aboard Plancius is of a high standard, with menus prepared by an accomplished German chef, sous chefs, and baker, with ample fresh ingredients and healthy options available. We are assembling an excellent wine list for the trip as well! She’s just a great ship.

PRICING AND ITINERARY – CLICK “READ MORE” AT BELOW RIGHT:

SEE BELOW FOR HIGHLIGHTS, TRAVEL ARRANGEMENTS, AND INCLUSIONS/EXCLUSIONS.

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Svalbard
Map via Google
Expedition August 12 - 19, 2017
8 spaces | $6,295* Register

Renowned landscape photographer Charles Cramer and Visionary Wild’s Justin Black have teamed up to lead a small group to the dramatic granite spires, alpine lakes, and meadows in Wyoming’s Wind River Range. “The Winds” are the most alpine range in the northern Rockies, with soaring granite peaks reminiscent in many ways of the High Sierra Nevada but less well known and more lightly visited. The alpine wildflowers in the meadows and nearby lakes and streams offer excellent foregrounds for photographing the east-facing Cirque of the Towers and other nearby peaks, which catch spectacular alpenglow at sunrise.

This is one of North America’s great mountain wildernesses, but don’t take our word for it. Following a summer 1999 horse pack trip into the Winds, internationally acclaimed mountain photographer Galen Rowell wrote the following in his April 2000 column for Outdoor Photographer magazine:

The Wind River Range is my favorite in the Rockies. Warm, relatively dry summers create a paradise for backpackers, climbers, and photographers. Hundreds of peaks rise over 12,000 feet above glaciers and snows that last late into summer. Melt waters cascade into alpine basins filled with meadows, open pine forest, and countless lakes before joining into rivers separated by the Continental Divide.”

Charles Cramer and Justin Black will lead photography outings morning and evening, and whenever else the light and weather conditions offer compelling opportunities. Night photography of the high-elevation starry skies can be amazing too. Options for midday activities will include scouting hikes, talking photography, relaxing around camp, reading, napping, fishing, lake swimming, etc. Beyond the phenomenal landscape and wildlife photography opportunities, these pack trips provide an excellent shared experience with other passionate photographers, enjoying fireside stories and camping under the stars.

Click “read more” below right for more information and the image gallery…

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Wind River
Map via Google
Expedition October 10 - 25, 2016
6 spaces | $16,495* Register

 

 

An intimate first-class photo adventure through the magnificent landscape of the South Island

The NZ trip was really spectacular… and you’re to be congratulated for ensuring that it was such a great experience for us from beginning to end.” –Kathy R., 2014 participant

“The expedition greatly exceeded my expectations. It was no doubt an amazing and awesome experience of a lifetime!” – Susan S., 2015 participant

Towering mountain ranges, hanging alpine glaciers, wind-swept coastlines, crystal blue lakes, pristine turquoise river valleys, and primordial tree fern rainforests are just some of the scenes we will photograph as we explore the South Island on this intimate 16-day journey led by two top pros: National Geographic photographer Michael Melford (who recently covered the South Island on assignment for Nat Geo), and Phillip Bartlett, a renowned Kiwi landscape photographer and guide who is acclaimed for his professionalism and intimate knowledge of New Zealand’s stunning landscape. It was with good reason that motion picture director Peter Jackson chose New Zealand as his location for the fantasy world of Tolkien’s “Middle Earth”: the variety of incredible landscapes found in such a compact area is simply astounding.

We sought to design a trip that would take your breath away, visiting locations off the regular tourist path that offer superb photography. To access these areas we will be travelling by 4WD Toyota Landcruisers, with two guests per vehicle. In addition, private charter excursions by helicopter and boat – at Fox Glacier, Milford Sound, and Kaikoura – provide us access to some truly phenomenal opportunities. All the while, your trip leaders offer generous guidance and instruction to ensure that you make the most of the photographic possibilities.

Our 2014 and 2015 trips were exceedingly well received by our guests (see testimonials at the bottom of this page), but nevertheless we have adjusted the itinerary slightly to maximize the quality of the overall experience.

Click “read more” below right to see the itinerary and photo gallery

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New Zealand
Map via Google
Expedition October 9 - 24, 2015
6 spaces | $16,995* Register

 

 

An intimate first-class photo adventure through the magnificent landscape of the South Island

The NZ trip was really spectacular…and you’re to be congratulated for ensuring that it was such a great experience for us from beginning to end.” –Kathy R., 2014 participant

Towering mountain ranges, hanging alpine glaciers, wind-swept coastlines, crystal blue lakes, pristine turquoise river valleys, and primordial tree fern rainforests are just some of the scenes we will photograph as we explore the South Island on this intimate 15-day journey led by three top pros: National Geographic photographer Michael Melford (who recently covered the South Island on assignment for Nat Geo), Justin Black of Visionary Wild, and Phillip Bartlett, a renowned Kiwi landscape photographer and guide. It was with good reason that motion picture director Peter Jackson chose New Zealand as his location for the fantasy world of Tolkien’s “Middle Earth”: the variety of incredible landscapes found in such a compact area is simply astounding.

We sought to design a trip that would take your breath away, visiting locations off the regular tourist path that offer superb photography. To access these areas we will be travelling by 4WD Toyota Landcruisers, with two to three passengers per vehicle. In addition, private charter excursions by helicopter and boat – at Fox Glacier, Milford Sound, Lake Wanaka, and Kaikoura – provide us access to some truly phenomenal opportunities. All the while, your trip leaders offer generous guidance and instruction to ensure that you make the most of the photographic possibilities.

Our 2014 trip was exceedingly well received by our guests (see testimonials at the bottom of this page), but nevertheless we have made significant improvements to this trip in 2015, upgrading accommodations, adding a second helicopter excursion, and refining the itinerary to maximize the quality of the overall experience.

Click “read more” below right to see the itinerary and photo gallery

read more…

New Zealand
Map via Google
Vision March 25 - April 5, 2015
10 spaces | $11,250* Register

This workshop is designed to maximize opportunities for well-crafted and compelling photographs in one of the world’s most awe-inspiring landscapes. Participants will have ample time to get to know Torres del Paine during its colorful autumn splendor, and your photography there will benefit from the opportunity to revisit fruitful situations to apply lessons learned and to take advantage of changing weather and light. The goal is for each participant to come away from this trip with a strong body of work, a new body of knowledge, new friendships, rejuvenation, and priceless memories.

Torres del Paine National Park and Biosphere Reserve is the centerpiece of Patagonia – the ultimate distillation of the region’s most inspiring qualities. It’s one of those rare places that routinely exceeds the grandest dreams of even the most experienced photographers. Peaks and spires thrust abruptly upward above turquoise lakes, forcing moisture-laden winds off the ocean to form soaring lenticular clouds that catch the fiery sunrise and sunset alpenglow. Glaciers spill down from the Patagonian icecap, depositing cobalt blue icebergs on the shores of Lago Grey. Endemic lenga tree forests glow in hues of gold and copper in the southern autumn. Rivers tumble over cascading waterfalls as condors ride thermals on the flanks of the Cordillera del Paine mountains. Guanacos and foxes range over the golden pampas, and flamingoes wade the lagoons. At this time of year, the days are a manageable length with extended periods of dawn and dusk, and the sun never rises more than 35 degrees above the horizon. The quality of light is spectacular.

Click “read more” below right for the itinerary and image gallery

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Patagonia Vision
Map via Google
Expedition November 8 - 23, 2014
6 spaces | $14,500* Register

Motion picture director Peter Jackson chose New Zealand as the location to film the fantasy world of Tolkien’s “Middle Earth” for a very good reason: the variety of incredible landscapes found in such a small area is simply astounding! Towering mountain ranges, wind-swept coastlines, pristine river valleys, and moss-covered tree fern forests are just some of the scenes we will photograph as we explore the South Island on this unique small-group 15-day journey led by National Geographic photographer Michael Melford, Justin Black, and renowned “Kiwi” landscape photographer Phillip Bartlett.

We wanted to take you to wild places on the South Island which are off the regular tourist path, locations which are seldom-visited, but that offer superb photography. To access these areas we will be travelling by 4WD vehicles, with a maximum of three passengers per vehicle. In addition, private-charter excursions by helicopter and boat provide us access to some truly phenomenal opportunities.

Click “read more” below right to see the itinerary and photo gallery

read more…

New Zealand
Map via Google
Vision March 26 - April 6, 2014
10 spaces | $11,250* Register

This workshop is designed to maximize opportunities for well-crafted and compelling photographs in one of the world’s most awe-inspiring landscapes. Participants will have ample time to get to know Torres del Paine during its colorful autumn splendor, and your photography there will benefit from the opportunity to revisit fruitful situations to apply lessons learned and to take advantage of changing weather and light. The goal is for each participant to come away from this trip with a strong body of work, a new body of knowledge, new friendships, rejuvenation, and priceless memories.

Torres del Paine National Park and Biosphere Reserve is the centerpiece of Patagonia – the ultimate distillation of the region’s most inspiring qualities. It’s one of those rare places that routinely exceeds the grandest dreams of even the most experienced photographers. Peaks and spires thrust abruptly upward above turquoise lakes, forcing moisture-laden winds off the ocean to form soaring lenticular clouds that catch the fiery sunrise and sunset alpenglow. Glaciers spill down from the Patagonian icecap, depositing cobalt blue icebergs on the shores of Lago Grey. Endemic lenga tree forests glow in hues of gold and copper in the southern autumn. Rivers tumble over cascading waterfalls as condors ride thermals on the flanks of the Cordillera del Paine mountains. Guanacos and foxes range over the golden pampas, and flamingoes wade the lagoons. At this time of year, the days are a manageable length with extended periods of dawn and dusk, and the sun never rises more than 35 degrees above the horizon. The quality of light is spectacular.

Click “read more” below right for the itinerary and image gallery

read more…

Patagonia Vision
Map via Google
Expedition August 3 - 10, 2013
10 spaces | $5,500* Register

Renowned landscape photographer Marc Muench and Visionary Wild’s Justin Black have teamed up to lead a trip to the dramatic granite spires, alpine lakes, and meadows at the Cirque of the Towers in Wyoming’s Wind River Range. “The Winds” are the most alpine range in the Wyoming-Montana-Idaho complex, with soaring granite peaks reminiscent in many ways of the High Sierra Nevada but less well known and more lightly visited. The alpine wildflowers in the meadows and nearby lakes and streams offer excellent foregrounds for photographing the east-facing Cirque and other nearby peaks, which catch spectacular alpenglow at sunrise.

This is one of North America’s great mountain wildernesses, but don’t take our word for it. Following a summer 1999 horse pack trip into the Winds, internationally acclaimed mountain photographer Galen Rowell wrote the following in his April 2000 column for Outdoor Photographer magazine:

The Wind River Range is my favorite in the Rockies. Warm, relatively dry summers create a paradise for backpackers, climbers, and photographers. Hundreds of peaks rise over 12,000 feet above glaciers and snows that last late into summer. Melt waters cascade into alpine basins filled with meadows, open pine forest, and countless lakes before joining into rivers separated by the Continental Divide.”

Our itinerary begins with a group orientation and dinner at Diamond 4 Ranch in Dickinson Park, Wyoming, on the east side of the Wind River Range (Lander is the closest large town). Our first night will be spent at an elevation of 9,200ft. in the ranch’s rustic cabins, which will serve to help acclimate us to the elevation. After an early breakfast the next morning, the experienced wranglers of Diamond 4 Ranch will lead our group on a horseback ride to camp at Lizard Head Meadows. No prior horseback experience is necessary. The horses are docile and very familiar with the trail to our camp, our base for five nights at an elevation of 10,000ft. – where a camp manager and backcountry chef will take great care of us. This is a “drop” or “spot” trip, meaning that all of our gear, coolers of fresh food, etc., will be carried in on horseback, and our camp will serve as our base for short hikes to explore the Cirque’s rich photographic opportunities.

Click “read more” below right for more information and the image gallery…

read more…

Cirque of the Towers
Map via Google