Course Content
A pre-lesson to help prepare you for Lesson 1.
Lesson 1: Getting Started
Collect the photography gear that you'll need for the course
Lesson 2: The Workings of a Camera (Technical Lesson 1)
In this lesson, we'll discuss how a camera works - including digital cameras!
Lesson 3: Background vs. Foreground (Composition 1)
In this lesson, we will look at the three basic elements of every photograph - the foreground, the background, and the subject.
Lesson 4: Light (Technical Lesson 2)
Everything in a photograph is based on light. In this lesson, we will study light and how to use it to your advantage while taking pictures.
Lesson 5: Tell a Story (Composition 2)
In this lesson, we will discuss how to compose pictures in such a way as to draw viewers into the photo via the story it tells.
Lesson 6: The Direction of Light (Technical Lesson 3)
In this lesson, we will look at how the direction of light affects our photographs - and why this is important.
Wilderness Photography 101
About Lesson
Creede, Colorado
The mist hanging around the mountains above the mines near Creede, Colorado gives a sense of mystery to the historic buildings

I loathe unrealistic photographs.  So this is a topic near and dear to my heart.


When you tell a story, it doesn’t need to be a true story.  However, it does need to be a relatable story, at least to the extent that people can see and understand the story you’re trying to tell and be moved by it.  A photo of a desert marsh may not move someone, but if you can tell the story in such a way that a desert fox has come to the marsh to find water, that’s a relatable story.  Stories that involve family, the forces of nature, religion, celebrations, and/or famous history will almost always be relatable to viewers of your picture(s).

Kirk Cabin in Upper Salt Creek Canyon, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
This photo from Salt Creek in Canyonlands National Park, Utah, is relatable because we all know of the pioneers who built cabins similar to this one. They struggled to survive, often with their families, to make life worth living in the wilderness. I like the authenticness of the scene: This is not some replica; it’s a real, living example of a rustic cabin in the canyon.

You may need to get off of the beaten path to find the authentic and the relatable.  Too many scenes have been “touristized” to the point where culture, nature, and authenticity have been compromised.  Taking a picture of Mt. Rushmore down the sidewalk of flags is a great photo, but it’s nowhere near as authentic as what the sculptures saw as they were working on the monument.


The authentic can be in the mundane or in the extraordinary.  It could be in a lightbulb found washed up on the beach in India or in a once-in-a-lifetime flooded plain.  The point is to get beyond what everyone has been trained to see and to convey in photography what is really there: The story that goes along with the scenery.


If you can, wander around the area where you’ll be taking pictures.  What does it feel like, look like, sound like, smell like?  Is there a way to capture this?

A Basque sheepherder on the Flat Tops Wilderness, Colorado
A Basque sheepherder under story skies in the Flat Tops Wilderness of Colorado

Some time ago, I was hiking in the Flat Tops Wilderness of Colorado when a Basque sheepherder came over the hill with his flocks.  I caught a picture of him, signaling to his dog, with a dark, stormy sky in the distance.  It’s a moving photo because it’s authentic.  I did not set it up or even move to a different position to photograph him (though I could have done a better job of composing the picture).  It was very real and shows the reality of his life out under the sky, a victim of the elements, one with his best friend.