Home Page

Big Bend

Night Sky

Addicks Res.

High Lonesome

Other Photos

_- Big Bend, Oct. '11
_- Big Bend, Feb. '12
_- Big Bend, Oct. '12
_- Big Bend, Oct. '13
_- Big Bend Oct. '14





Order Prints


Night and Landscape Photography Workshop
Big Bend National Park, Texas
Thomas J. Avery Photography

Big Bend National Park
Dates: October 21 - 25, 2014
Students: 10
Spaces Remaining: 0

Instructor: TJ Avery
Tuition: $550
How to Register: Contact TJ Avery

Rusted Car in Terlingua Ghost Town

The Big Bend area of Texas is a rugged and beautiful region of the Chihuahuan Desert in far West Texas. It is a diverse landscape containing badlands, canyons, mountains, and riparian areas along the Rio Grande River. Situated in the middle of this remote landscape is Big Bend National Park, one of the largest and least visited parks in the US.

This photography workshop will be based in Study Butte, just outside of Big Bend N.P. We will visit and photograph many different locations within the park and some outside of the park.

Big Bend is my favorite place to experience the outdoors and photograph. I have spent a lot of time there over the past 10 years and will share my experience and knowledge of the area with you during the workshop.

Past workshop details, images, and feedback:
Oct. 2011 - Feb. 2012 - Oct. 2012 - Oct. 2013

Table of Contents for Oct. 2014 Event:
Night Photography
Getting There
What to Bring
Sun and Moon Calendar


NOTE: All times given are approximate. We may shift things around depending on weather, required travel times to shooting locations, etc. The times and activities listed are just to give you an idea of how the workshop will operate. Please plan on being flexible.

DAY 1 (Tue, Oct 21):
5:00 pm -- Meet at Big Bend Resort & Adventures
5:30pm to 7:30pm -- Greetings and introductions in classroom + crash course on night photography
7:45pm-ish -- Dinner
9:30pm-ish -- Night shoot

DAY 2 (Wed, Oct 22):
9:00am to 10:00am -- Breakfast
10:00am to 1:00pm -- Your time (nap, visit, explore, shop, eat, etc.)
1:00pm to 3:00pm -- Classroom session
3:00pm to 4:00pm -- Afternoon break
4:00pm to 8:30pm -- Afternoon field shoot
8:30pm to 10:00pm -- Dinner
10:00pm to 12:30am -- Night shoot

DAYS 3 & 4 (Oct 23-24):
(same schedule as Day 2)

DAY 5 (Sat, Oct 25):
7:30am to 9:00am -- Breakfast
9:00am to 11:00am -- Final classroom session

Back to Top

Photographing in Big Bend N.P.


We will visit many different well known locations inside and outside of Big Bend National Park. Such locations include Santa Elena Canyon, Rio Grande Village, Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, Chisos Mountains, Boquillas Canyon, Ernst Tinaja, Sotol Vista Overlook, and the Terlingua Ghost Town. We will also visit some out-of-the-way locations- spots that I've discovered on my many trips to the area that are off the beaten path yet easy to reach.

We will enjoy the laid-back atmosphere of the local desert inhabitants and also the spicy and colorful cuisine. Life in the area runs at a slower pace, and folks spend time enjoying their surroundings.

We will focus on photography the entire time. We will study, discuss, and practice photography nearly non-stop each day.

Sierra del Carmen Mountains at Sunset from Big Bend N.P.

The workshop also includes classroom time. Our classroom will be based at Big Bend Resort and Adventures (formerly known as the Big Bend Motor Inn) in Study Butte. We will have:

• presentations on landscape photography
• presentations on night photography
• critique of your images shot during the workshop
• Photoshop instruction

I will provide you with a printed workshop manual. This manual will contain some of my presentations as well as a 56 page shooting guide that provides details on many different locations inside and outside of Big Bend National Park.

* Please Note * - There will be some slight changes in the way the workshop is conducted as compared to previous workshops.

The first is that I will shoot for myself in the field. I’m making this change because the locations where we shoot are typically big and open, and folks tend to really spread out. It makes it hard or impossible for me to visit with everyone in the field while they shoot. However, I will be available to you at all times in the field. If you have questions, please get my attention and I will gladly help. The last photography event (a large, private guided shoot) I held in Big Bend was conducted in this manner, and it worked well for everyone.

My goal is to conduct this event somewhere in between a workshop and a guided shoot. You will be expected to know a little bit about how your camera operates. I would highly suggest that prior to coming, you learn the basics of exposure and know how to adjust the three major camera settings to change your exposure: 1) shutter speed, 2) aperture, and 3) sensitivity (ISO).

The second is that we will spend LESS time in the classroom. I’ve learned over the years that folks need more time during the day to rest and prepare for the next field shoots. We will be more tired than usual because of staying out late on the night shoots. I anticipate that we will meet in the classroom 1 to 2 hours per day, so the remainder of our mid-day, non-shooting hours will be free. Our specific travel and preparation plans will vary each day depending on where we shoot. Please plan to be flexible regarding our daily schedule. (You’ll hear me say this a lot: Big Bend is a huge place and it takes time to travel to our shooting locations. It’s also on “desert time”, i.e. it takes longer to do things like eating out for lunch.)

Back to Top

Sunset from RGV Overlook in Big Bend N.P.

Night Photography

One of the greatest and most beautiful aspects of the area is the night sky. There is very little light pollution, and the Milky Way can be seen brightly on a moonless night.

We will shoot at night and capture the stars and Milky Way. We will visit different locations that offer a variety of foreground subjects to work into your compositions.

Ruins in Terlingua Ghost Town

We will also practice light painting. I have a lighting kit that includes many LED candles and flashlights. I will have these available for you to use during our night shoots.

LED candles

The night sky in Big Bend is something to experience. It will take your breath away as you stare up into the billions of stars that make up our galaxy.

The workshop will take place close to a new moon. Based on the moon rise and set times, we will have moonless skies after sunset. The skies are sufficiently dark approximately one and a half hours* after sunset to see and photograph the Mikly Way.

* We usually eat dinner in those 1.5 hours. When we're done, we regroup and head out into the dark to shoot!

See the Sun and Moon Calendar for details.

Back to Top

Tent under the stars in Big Bend N.P.

Getting There

The Big Bend area is located in remote, southwestern Texas. Big Bend National Park and the villages of Study Butte and Terlingua are part of the Chihuahuan Desert that extends throughout that area of Texas and northern Mexico.

Road map of Texas; click to see larger

The closest commercial airport to Big Bend National Park is either Midland/Odessa Airport (MAF) in Midland, TX or El Paso Airport (ELP) in El Paso, TX. From Midland/Odessa, it is a 235-mile drive to the park headquarters. From El Paso, it is 330 miles. The drive from El Paso is a much more scenic route if you have the extra time to drive it.

The Big Bend National Park website contains a lot of useful information about the park, traveling to it, and visiting/using it. Note that you will need to pay a $20 entry fee to the park, and the fee will be good for seven days.

Map of Study Butte-Terlingua; click to see larger

Study Butte-Terlingua is just outside the west entrance of the park. It contains only a few hundred permanent residents, but there are restaurants, hotels, and convenience stores available. There is even a small grocery store (Cottonwood General Store) that is fairly well stocked. There are no chain stores or restaurants (e.g. Walmart) in the area. The closest "big" city is Alpine, about 80 miles to the north.

Back to Top

Starlight Theatre in the Terlingua Ghost Town


The workshop will be hosted at:

Big Bend Resort & Adventures (formerly known as the Big Bend Motor Inn).
Located at the intersection of TX 118 and TX 170 in Terlingua, Texas 79852.

Reservations: 877.386.4383 (Forever Resorts), OR the direct number at the property: 432.371.2218.

We have a block of rooms set aside for the class with a special rate. Please mention that you are with the "Thomas J. Avery Photography Workshop". The room block will expire about August 1, 2014.

We also have a meeting room reserved at the motel. Our classroom sessions will be held in this meeting room.

Ocotillo Plant and Stars taken 100 yards from the motel where we'll be staying

For additional information and to register for this workshop, please contact me (TJ Avery) and let me know that you are interested in registering for this workshop.

Back to Top

What to Bring

When you make the commitment to attend this workshop and make all the arrangements for your trip, you will certainly want to arrive with what you need. While gear doesn’t make the artist, having a checklist handy while you are packing can prevent being in a beautiful place with a dead battery and no charger.


Quick Checklist

• Camera body (DSLR or mirroless) - see note 1 below
• Lenses - see note 2 below
• Camera bag (something comfortable like a backpack or large waist pack)
• Batteries and spare batteries (and don't forget your charger)
• Memory cards
• Tripod (absolutely manditory for the 30-60 sec. exposures at night)
• Flashlight or headlamp (one with a "red mode" for preserving night vision is handy)
• Filters (especially a circular polarizer)
• Computer equipment (laptop, charger, USB cables, card reader, USB memory stick)
• Clothes, toiletries, & medicines
• Passport


1. Cameras Bring a DSLR or mirrorless (with EVF), or any camera on which you can manually adjust your aperture, shutter speed and ISO. If you have a backup body and/or a favorite point and shoot camera, bring them along too. For getting the best results on our night shoots, I would HIGHLY suggest you bring a camera body capable of shooting at least as high as ISO 6400. Most DSLRs made in the last few years will do this. Please also bring your camera manual. We will dive into some advanced settings for the night photography.

2. Lenses Bring lenses to cover a range from super wide angle to telephoto. If you have a specialty lens like a macro, the Lensbaby or a fisheye, be sure to bring it. A workshop is a great time to try an old lens in a new way. For getting the best results on our night shoots, I would HIGHLY suggest you bring a lens with a LARGE aperture. To capture the Milky Way combined with land-based objects, I suggest having a lens such as any of the following:
- 15mm f/2.8 (fisheye)
- 16-35mm f/2.8
- 24mm f/1.4
- 28mm f/1.8
- 50mm f/1.8

If you do not have a fast lens such as these, then please consider renting one for your trip. I highly recommend Lens Rentals (www.lensrentals.com). Many of my students in past workshops have rented special lenses with good success.

3. Computer stuff Our classroom will have desk space and power outlets so each student can set up an individual work station. Free Wi-Fi is available at the main office of the motel. It may be available in our classroom, but please do not count on it.

4. Weather Dressing in layers is the best way to go. Our field outings may span many hours in the day, temperatures, and even elevation changes. A rain poncho is always a good addition to your camera bag. Check the extended weather forecast and come as prepared as you can. Good comfortable walking shoes or hiking boots are a must. Bring a hat for protection from the sun.

Average high temperatures in late October are typically 80-90°F. Temperatures within the area can range by 10 or 15 degrees depending on elevation. The lower desert areas are much warmer than the mountains. Typical low temperatures can be around 60°F. The rainfall average in October is about 2 inchesyear, but it is also the time of year when cold fronts start pushing through on a regular basis and they can bring brief rains. Keep in mind that we may have 1 or 2 days of temps that are a good 20 degrees below normal should a front come through.

5. Passport There is a legal, open border crossing in the national park. Crossing allows you to visit the Mexican village of Boquillas on the other side of the Rio Grande River. You will need your passport to cross. We may cross over if time permits. Or, you can do this on your own time if you wish.

Back to Top

Hiking through Closed Canyon in Big Bend Ranch State Park


Below are the policies, terms and conditions of this workshop. If you have any questions, please contact TJ Avery.

Payment for the Workshop:

Tuition for this workshop is $550.

If you sign up prior to July 21, 2014:
• $200 deposit is due immediately
• $350 remainder is due July 21, 2014

If you sign up on or after July 21, 2014:
• $550 is due immediately

Please note that payment of your deposit (prior to July 21st) or full payment (after July 21st) is required to secure your spot on the workshop. My workshops typically fill up early and I start a waiting list.

Your tuition of $550 covers your participation only. Transportation to and from the workshop, park entrance fees, lodging, rental car (if needed), and meals are your responsibility.

If you Cancel:

If you cancel more than 6 months prior, then your deposit is returned minus $25 admin. fee.

If you cancel 3 to 6 months prior, then your deposit is retained **

If you cancel less than 3 months prior, then All funds are retained **

** EXCEPTION: If the workshop is full (10 students) and you cancel, then I will try to fill your spot from the waiting list. If I’m successful, then I will refund your payments (minus a $50 admin. fee).

Workshop Cancellation:

This is a rare possibility, but life is life and things happen. I’ve never had to cancel a workshop before. Chances are very low, but, if it does happen, then I will refund your money in full.

There is only one thing to worry about – a government shutdown. Our federal government’s fiscal year starts Oct. 1, and if they do not have a budget approved, then they will shut down and that includes closing all national parks.

This happened to us last year (2013). Fortunately, our event started a few days prior to Oct. 1, so we did have a few full days inside the national park. But after Oct. 1 we did have to seek alternative plans outside of the park for the remainder of our time there.

If this happens again, then I will still conduct the workshop as planned. I will hope that the budget is resolved and the government opens up by the time our workshop starts (Oct. 21).

There are many other places to shoot outside the national park. The Terlingua Ghost Town is an amazing location that has a variety of interesting subjects (people, landscapes, abandoned mines, ruins, graves, and even a small canyon). Big Bend Ranch State Park is nearby and has many great locations (it’s a state park and unaffected by a federal government shut down).


Making Travel Plans:

I suggest that you not make non-refundable travel plans prior to 60 days before the start of the workshop. There are also companies that will provide travel insurance for your trip.

Equipment Insurance:

I strongly suggest that you insure all of your equipment prior to leaving for a workshop.

How to Register for a Workshop:

Please contact me (TJ Avery) by email and request registration. I will send you all the details.


Spouses, friends, partners, imaginary buddies, etc. are most welcome to come to Big Bend with you. However, anyone traveling with you that has not paid tuition to attend the workshop will not be allowed to participate in classroom time. They will, however, be allowed to join us during our field shoots, but they will not receive any photographic instruction from me.

Back to Top

Group Shot, February 2012

Past Workshop Details, Images, & Feedback/Testimonials from Students

Big Bend Photo Workshop, Oct. 2011
Big Bend Photo Workshop, Feb. 2012
Big Bend Photo Workshop, Oct. 2012
Guided Shoot in Big Bend, Oct. 2013

Back to Top

Church in Terlingua Ghost Town

Sun and Moon Calendar

Back to Top