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

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

Justin Black – Managing Director: 1-202-302-9030 • Email:

Sara Robb – Operations Assistant:

We look forward to hearing from you!


1 of 10 spaces left | $3,395* Register
Creative Core September 25 - 29, 2017 | View other workshops

Blackwater Falls with Justin Black and Michael Melford

Map via Google

The Potomac Highlands region of West Virginia's Allegheny Mountains is one of the most scenic areas of the central Appalachians, at its best when brilliant autumn colors adorn the landscape. We invite you to join us for this exciting photo workshop, timed to operate during the peak of fall foliage among mountains densely covered in yellow birch, red maple, black cherry trees, spruce, and eastern hemlock trees. Color is everywhere at this time of year, framing the five-story waterfall and blowing in the mountain breezes.

In addition to visiting the iconic Blackwater Falls itself, we will take advantage of the best seasonal conditions in the surrounding mountain and valley landscapes, including excursions to Dolly Sods Wilderness and Canaan Valley, the highest large valley east of the Mississippi.

National Geographic photographer Michael Melford and renowned landscape photographer Justin Black will lead this workshop. Both have photographed extensively in the area, and are very familiar with an array of potential locations. Working one-on-one with participants, Michael and Justin aim to improve your photographic vision and composition skills, understanding of how to use changing qualities of light and weather to your advantage, and ability to effectively control exposure. They will also focus on creative exposure techniques to create mood, essential gear and creative tools, fundamentals of digital workflow, digital exposure blending and panoramic stitching, and lots of photography in the field followed by constructive group critiques.

Click the "read more..." tab below right for more information and to see the photo gallery!

Field sessions begin the evening of the first day. Thereafter, we plan to be out to photograph first light and evening light each day. During mid-day hours, Michael and Justin will make presentations on light, composition, and creativity, digital workflow, and maximizing image potential through effective post-processing. Critique sessions will follow before we return to the field for photography in afternoon and evening light. Friday morning will be the final field session, followed by critique until we adjourn at 2:00 pm.

Scheduled during mid-week to avoid weekend tourist traffic, our base of operations will be Blackwater Lodge in Blackwater Falls State Park. We will also venture out to Dolly Sods, a U.S. Wilderness Area with sweeping vistas, wild blueberry bushes in crimson autumn color, rock carved by wind and ice, and spruce-edged sphagnum bogs. Another superb location nearby is the Canaan Valley, the highest sizable valley east of the Mississippi River, where extensive wetlands, a large wildlife refuge, and numerous botanical communities provide an array of photographic possibilities.

The workshop includes hands-on instruction in the field, classroom lectures, critiques, single-occupancy lodging (prorated fee available for double-occupancy or for those who do not require lodging), all meals, snacks, and beverages. As always, both instructors will be present to teach and assist students throughout the workshop. The class size is limited to a small group of ten to ensure that everyone gets the time and attention they need, both in the field and the classroom. We supply materials in advance of the session regarding digital camera set-up and techniques, equipment recommendations, and other guidelines to ensure that everyone is ready to make the most of the experience.

Please contact us promptly to reserve your space, or register by clicking on the button located at the top-right of this page. A deposit of 50% is required at time of booking to reserve space, with balance payable 60 days prior to workshop start date.

The workshop begins at 2pm on Monday, September 25th, and ends by 2pm on Friday, September 29th, 2017.

Note: Visionary Wild, LLC operates this workshop under a single-use permit issued by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.

Justin Black

JUSTIN BLACK is a photographer, writer, editor, photo workshops instructor, expedition leader, and an affiliate of the International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP). Through both Visionary Wild and Galen Rowell's Mountain Light Photography (1999 – 2009) he has created inspiring and effective educational photographic experiences for thousands of passionate photographers. He is widely recognized as one of the world's leading photo workshops organizers.

A professional photographer since 1995, before founding Visionary Wild he served the ILCP as Executive Director, and for seven years was General Manager and Curator of Mountain Light Gallery.

Justin's photographs have been published by magazines such as National Geographic Adventure, Sierra, Sunset, American Photo, Outdoor Photographer, Rock & Ice, and Nature Conservancy.

Among conservation NGOs that have used his photographs in their campaigns are The Sierra Club, National Parks Conservation Association, Panthera, Land Trust Alliance, Earth Justice, The Wilderness Society, Conservation International, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, ILCP, and the Wild Foundation.

In 2015, Justin was invited to serve as a judge for the Nature's Best Photography Africa competition. He has also served as an editor and contributor to numerous award-winning photo book projects, including Galen Rowell: A Retrospective; Freshwater: The Essence of Life; The Wealth of Nature: Ecosystem Services, Biodiversity, and Human Well-Being; Our National Parks: America's Natural Heritage; as well as Flying South: A Pilot's Inner Journey by Barbara Rowell. His limited edition fine prints are represented by G2 Gallery in Venice, California, and by The Art of Wild in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria.

An early career as a travel photographer and image licensing specialist led him to Mountain Light Photography, founded by Galen Rowell – a world-renowned National Geographic photographer, author, and mountaineer – and his wife and business partner, Barbara, in the San Francisco Bay Area. Beginning in May of 1999, Justin managed marketing of the Rowell image collection, assisted Galen on assignments and in his workshop program, and taught seminars on nature photography. In April 2002, the Rowells invited Justin to relocate with them to California's scenic Owens Valley as Mountain Light's General Manager. Justin eagerly embraced the sublime Eastern Sierra Nevada landscape as his new home.

Four months later, Galen and Barbara perished in the crash of a chartered plane, leaving behind a tremendous creative and visionary vacuum. Justin went to work, building on the impressive Rowell legacy to reinvigorate Mountain Light by establishing a seasonal series of guest photographer exhibitions, expanding the image collection, and relaunching the highly acclaimed photo workshop program through collaboration with Galen's leading professional peers, including Frans Lanting, Pat O'Hara, Jack Dykinga, John Shaw, and Jeff Foott. In May 2008, Justin's successful efforts were recognized by both Sunset and American Photo magazines, as each magazine featured editorial recommendations of his workshop program at Mountain Light.

After ten years with Mountain Light, Justin was recruited to take over the position of Executive Director of ILCP, a non-profit association of the best photographers worldwide working in the field of environmental conservation. At ILCP, Justin oversaw an explosion of productivity in expeditions, publishing, multimedia production, and the achievement of successful conservation outcomes. He contributed photographic coverage to ILCP's Rapid Assessment Visual Expeditions (RAVE) program, including Flathead Valley (Canada, 2009), Yucatán (Mexico, 2009), and Chesapeake (USA, 2010), as well as a solo project for The Nature Conservancy, documenting the Dragon Run wetland on Virginia's Middle Peninsula. One of Justin's photographs from the Flathead River project appeared as a section opener in the Vancouver Sun newspaper – the first time the threatened watershed received significant coverage in that nationally important media outlet.  The photograph was later selected by the United States Senate for display in the U.S. Capitol Building, as Canada and the USA reached an agreement to protect the Flathead.

Justin left his position at ILCP in late 2010 to establish Visionary Wild, building on his successful leadership of the Mountain Light workshop program and applying expertise gained at ILCP to provide superlative workshops and expeditions for passionate photographers seeking to advance to the next level of creativity, quality, purpose, and meaning in their work. His own work continues to evolve in new directions, driven by the ongoing search for extraordinary qualities in our world's dynamic landscapes.

Justin lives in Washington, DC, with his brilliant wife, Lena (Visionary Wild's Director of Operations), and their children Philippe and Alexandra.

Justin Black's limited editions portfolio

Justin's Outdoor Photographer Profile

Bringing focus and meaning to your photography

The Top 40 Nature Photos Project

Justin's Conservation Photography Projects


Justin’s Camera Bag

After using an array of 4x5, medium format, and 35mm film cameras for most of his career, Justin has switched fully to Nikon digital SLRs. His current gear includes:

Camera Bodies:

Nikon D810 (x2)


24mm f/3.5 PC-E tilt-shift Nikkor

45mm f/2.8 PC-E tilt-shift Nikkor

85mm f/2.8 PC-E tilt-shift Nikkor

24mm f/1.4 Sigma Art

35mm f/1.4 Sigma Art

50mm f/1.4 Sigma Art

85mm f/1.8 G AF-S ED Nikkor

200mm f/4 AF-D Micro-Nikkor

500mm f/4 AF-S Nikkor

18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 G AF-S ED Nikkor

24-70mm f/2.8 G AF-S ED Nikkor

70-200mm f/4.0 G AF-S ED VR Nikkor

200-400mm f/4.0 G AF-S ED VR Nikkor


Nikon TC-14EII teleconverter

Nikon TC-20EIII teleconverter



Nikon SB-900

Nikon SB-700

Assorted Nikon TTL flash cables

Lumiquest soft boxes

Rogue Flashbender

Rosco gels



Nikon Circular Polarizer II

Singh-Ray Vari-ND

Tiffen WW IRND neutral density filters



Really Right Stuff TVC-24L with leveling base and Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead

Gitzo 1028 with RRS BH-25 ballhead


Photo Packs

MindShift Rotation 180 Pro

Mindshift Rotation 180 Horizon

Mindshift FirstLight 30L

Think Tank Photo (TTP) Streetwalker Harddrive

TTP Streetwalker Pro

TTP Airport Addicted V2.0

TTP Airport Acceleration

TTP Urban Disguise 50 V2.0


Michael Melford

National Geographic Photographer Michael Melford has worked with the Society for over 30 years. He has produced 19 feature stories for National Geographic magazine, and over 30 stories for National Geographic Traveler magazine.Born in New York, Michael received a bachelor’s in photography from Syracuse University and returned to New York City in 1977 to start his career.

He has been on assignment the past eleven years mostly for the National Geographic magazine, celebrating the marvels of our National Parks: Acadia, Glen Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains, Waterton/Glacier, and Death Valley, and a cover story on Our National Parks in Peril (2006). Michael recently shot for National Geographic's "The 50th Anniversary for the Wilderness Act" (2014), which was ranked #2 story of the year by the readers of National Geographic. Other National Geographic stories include: “Saving Civil War Battlefields,” “King Herod: Architect of the Holy Land,” and “Russian Kronotsky Preserve: Let it Be.” and “Solar Energy”.

Michael has produced photography for eight books for National Geographic, including three in Alaska, his favorite being Treasures of Alaska. He has received many awards for his photographs, but prefers to remain humble and share his knowledge, his love of nature, and his sense of humor with students of photography.

Michael has built an excellent reputation as an instructor and photo trip leader, teaching photography through the National Geographic, giving one-day seminars around the country, and onboard the various ships that NG has stationed around the world. His first photo expedition with Visionary Wild is to New Zealand’s south island, focus of a March 2014 feature article for National Geographic magazine.


VIDEO INTERVIEW: Michael Melford, Photographer, by National Geographic Live!


Born in New York 1950

Studied Photography at Syracuse University, Graduated 1973

Moved to New York City to pursue Career in Photography 1977

Contributing Photographer to LIFE Magazine, 1981

Worked for many publications including cover articles for :

Newsweek,  Time,  Life,  Fortune,  Smithsonian,  Geo,  Travel & Leisure, 

Travel Holiday, National Geographic Traveler,  Coastal Living,  Adventure Magazine.

Contributing Photographer to National Geographic Traveler, 1998

Began work for National Geographic Magazine (yellow magazine) 2003.  First assignment:  Acadia National Park. 

Just completed 19th assignment for National Geographic Magazine.


Awards include:  

POYi-1st Place Features Nature/Science

World Press Images Photos of the Year    

International Center of Photography

New York Art Director’s Club

Communication Arts Photo Annual

Graphis Photo Annual

The Missouri School of Journalism

Lowell Thomas Award for Travel Photography

Caribbean Tourism Award for Best Magazine Photographer


Books Published:

New England: Land of Scenic Splendor (National Geographic)      

The Emerald Realm (National Geographic) 

Canada’s Incredible Coasts (National Geographic)        

National Geographic Guide to New England

National Geographic Guide to Alaska

National Geographic Guide to San Diego

The Smithsonian Guide to Historic America   

Classic Photographs (Life)

Big Sky Country (Rizzoli)        

Treasures of Alaska (National Geographic)

Hidden Alaska-Bistol Bay and Beyond (National Geographic)

A Day in the Life of Japan ( Collins )

A Day in the Life of America ( Collins )

Expertise is in shooting the wonders of travel and nature and the people who occupy that landscape. An enthusiastic teacher of photography, with a great sense of humor.


  • Small group of ten participants
  • Highly experienced, inspiring, and gregarious instructors, attentive to your needs and eager to provide one-on-one assistance
  • Learn to use various qualities of light in dynamic situations
  • Composition and visualization
  • Find your personal creative vision
  • Logical, efficient, and consistent workflow that frees you to focus on creativity
  • Techniques to ensure the highest-possible final image quality
  • Insightful and constructive critiques of your work, considered a highlight of our program
  • Eight field photography sessions, pre-dawn to mid-morning and mid-afternoon to twilight

Accommodations & Travel


Package includes single-occupancy lodging, all meals, and grown-up beverages with dinner. Prorated fees are available for double-occupancy and for those who do not require lodging.

The group will stay at the Blackwater Lodge, conveniently located on the south rim of Blackwater Canyon. All rooms are climate controlled, with canyon views, private bath, phone, and television.

All meals will be served at the better dining establishments in the area.

airplane iconcar iconfoot iconweather icon
Closest major airports are Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) and Dulles International Airport (IAD); both airports are about a 3-4 hour drive from Blackwater Falls Park. Field locations will be via carpool. Easy walks and short hikes at field locations. Highs around 65ºF and lows 40-45ºF are common this time of year, as are a mix of sun, light rain, and passing showers.


I highly recommend Visionary Wild photographic workshops to all photographers. The locations and instructors are carefully chosen to provide a comprehensive learning experience for the participants. I have never been disappointed.

-W. Reichert, repeat workshop participant

There is one key question to measure customer satisfaction - "Would you recommend us to someone else?" Whenever someone asks about my photography, I always tell them about Visionary Wild. Better instructors, better locations, better logistics separate Visionary Wild from other workshop providers and make for a great learning experience.

-M. Dean, repeat workshop participant