Workshops by Focus: Alpine Flowers

Expedition November 10 - 23, 2019
8 spaces | $13,500* Register

PATAGONIA is vast and beautiful, and there is a great deal most visitors never see, beyond the most iconic locations like Torres del Paine National Park. While Torres represents a wonderful microcosm of what Patagonia has to offer, Chile’s little-visited Aysén region is home to soaring peaks, pristine lakes, wild turquoise rivers, water-sculpted marble caves, unique forest ecosystems, and numerous glaciers descending from the massive Northern Patagonian Ice Field. It offers the passionate photographer incredible opportunities for landscape, wildlife, and cultural photography, without the tour buses of the more heavily touristed Patagonian destinations. Put simply, the wild serenity, scenic splendor, and photographic potential will amaze you.

We are visiting in the Patagonian spring, when the lupines and other wildflowers are in full bloom, the rivers are roaring, and the high peaks still wear veils of fresh snow. Our trip begins in Balmaceda, Chile (population approximately 500), the location of the regional airport, with direct flights from Chile’s capital of Santiago. You will be met upon exit from baggage claim by our local guide team, headed by our good friend Ruth Cohen, regarded as one of the very best guides in Chilean Patagonia. Then, transfer to Patagonia House, Ruth’s excellent boutique lodge on the outskirts of the regional capital of Coyhaique (population approx. 50,000). We’ll all gather there and then kick off our adventure with a festive welcome dinner to get to know everyone. The next morning after breakfast, we will load up in our two spacious passenger vans, with plenty of extra room for gear and luggage, and proceed on the rest of our journey through the stunning landscape of Aysén. We will take helicopter flights to do aerial photography over the ice cap, a jet boat trip to the face of the Leones Glacier, and an excursion by boat through the fjords. See below for the full itinerary.

Eddie Soloway and Justin Black will lead this small group of passionate photographers (limited to eight guests) on field sessions adapted to make the most of the best opportunities presented to us by light, weather, landscape, and wildlife each day. Emphasis will be on creative photography and hands-on mentoring in the field. We’ll photograph when the conditions and light are their best, and we’ll gather for presentations on composition, visualization, qualities of light, technique, and digital workflow at times when light or weather aren’t as conducive for photography (during harsh mid-day light, if a rain storm passes through, etc.). We will also hold constructive critiques of participant photographs and then head back out into the field to apply what we’ve learned.

Excursions will include helicopter flights (each guest gets one flight) to do doors-off photography over the spectacular Northern Patagonian Ice Field and Monte San Valentin, a jet boat excursion from Lago Leones to the Leones Glacier, a boat excursion to Marble Caves on Lago General Carrera, as well as a day aboard a private expedition boat to visit the fjords and the Jorge Montt Glacier. Via our group vehicles, we’ll visit spectacular locations that we have explored on prior visits. Some locations involve short hikes, but nothing particularly strenuous.

Each evening, we will gather for a nice dinner and some good Chilean wine. Then it’s off to bed to get some rest, as most mornings we’ll be out around 5:30am to take advantage of the incredible pre-dawn light. Breakfasts and lunches will be handled in relation to our photographic activities, served either at our accommodations or local restaurants, or in the field as a gourmet picnic.

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Hidden Patagonia
Map via Google
Expedition July 5 - 22, 2019
6 spaces | $14,500* Register

There’s a reason why two of the six participants from our 2017 expedition to the Kyrgyz Republic chose to join us again in 2018, and one of them is joining us again in 2019. Yes, this trip is that good.

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 Kokshaal-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 boasts 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 our guests will be met at the airport and transferred 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, plus Visionary Wild photo leaders Justin Black and Jerry Dodrill, both veterans of three prior trips to Kyrgyzstan. Two additional 4WD support vehicles will carry gear, provisions, our cook 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 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.

Note: We advise anyone considering this adventure to read “The Realities of Travel in the Kyrgyz Republic,” farther down on this page.

Kyrgyz Republic
Map via Google
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 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 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…

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Cirque of the Towers
Map via Google