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Borrego Springs, California

Dark Skies, Desert Beasts: A Night Photography Workshop in Borrego Springs, California

Journey deep into the desert of Southern California to explore and photograph the Dark Sky Sculptural Oasis of Borrego Springs.

Atlas Obscura is joining forces with National Parks at Night to offer you a one-of-a-kind night photography workshop during the Milky Way's brightest season. Accompanied by two expert photography instructors, we’ll explore the more than 130 towering desert sculptures surrounding Borrego Springs, a number of which pay tribute to creatures that once roamed this same desert. 

Borrego Springs is one of 16 International Dark Sky Communities, making it the perfect place to host our four-day workshop. The celestial core will break the horizon around 10:30 p.m. each night, with many of the spectacular sculptures aligning as perfect foreground subjects for the Milky Way. During the day we'll learn about light painting, night techniques, and post-processing. At night we’ll allow ourselves to be transported back in time—outfitted with 21st-century lenses—by the mesmerizing swath of light cast by the billions of stars in the Milky Way.

This hands-on workshop is limited to only 14 students. 


National Parks at Night (NPAN) has been leading photo programs for the last three years. Their team of educators has been inspiring passionate students to “Seize the Night” with videos, workshops, speaking engagements, and articles featuring locations all over the world. NPAN aims to visit every National Park in America over the next 10 years—at night, camera in hand.


Gabriel Biderman
Gabriel is the cofounder of National Parks at Night, and a travel and fine art photographer. He has been exploring night photography for more than 20 years and loves pushing its limits. He is well versed in both film and digital, and enjoys blending the surreal look of the night to enhance historic and urban landscapes. Gabriel has led photography workshops across the United States, and his work has been exhibited in New York, London, San Francisco, and Hawaii.

Tim Cooper
Originally from New Jersey, Tim was an electrician before moving to Montana in 1991 and discovering his love of image-making at the Rocky Mountain School of Photography. Tim's career began with commercial and assignment photography for clients such as The North Face and The Ritz-Carlton. He now teaches and writes on photographic and digital technologies. He and Gabriel are coauthors of the recently released book Night Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots


A $400 deposit is required to secure your spot. This deposit is nonrefundable after three days. We have a limited capacity, and we expect the trip to fill quickly. The trip will cost $1,395 ($400 deposit plus $995 final payment) and will cover all workshop activities, including daily lectures, image review sessions, photo instruction in the field, and post-processing. The cost also includes a daily breakfast buffet at the hotel, snacks and water throughout, and our final group dinner. Accommodation at Palm Canyon Hotel and Resort is not included, but our travelers will receive a 10 percent discount on rooms or vintage trailers. 


Workshop participants must have at least basic photo skills, know their cameras well, and be comfortable shooting RAW in manual mode with a DSLR or high-end mirrorless camera. Night photography experience is not necessary, but even folks with extensive experience shooting at night will find this class challenging, stimulating, and inspiring. For more advanced night photographers, we can offer a portfolio review, specific challenges and goals, and guidance in the field based on your areas of interest.

You will need to bring a DSLR/mirrorless camera, a wide and fast lens, and a tripod.  A full list of recommended gear will be provided once you sign up! 

Over the course of our four-day workshop, we aim to increase your comfort and confidence with night photography. Daily lectures on night photography, post-processing, and image review will take up a good portion of our days.  At night, we'll roam among the sculptures and help you focus, compose, and paint with light—and push you to take full creative control over your images. Come ready to dive into many hours of education, exploration, feedback, and hands-on experiences.


Please email us at or call us at (646) 961-4857 with any questions about the itinerary, logistics, or payment. 

Day 1
Orientation & First Night in the Field
  • We recommend that you arrive in Borrego Springs on Wednesday to give yourself time to check in and relax before our workshop officially kicks off the next morning. Our Atlas Obscura and National Parks at Night trip leaders will be meeting for dinner at a local restaurant, and welcome all to join!
  • On Thursday at 10 a.m., we’ll meet for a proper welcome and introduction, as well as an orientation for the exciting days ahead. The town of Borrego Springs is surrounded by Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California's largest state park. As an official International Dark Sky Community, the town has zero stoplights and stargazing is practically a nightly ritual. We’ll begin to go over the various nighttime elements to take into consideration during our time shooting together under the stars.
  • After lunch, we’ll spend the afternoon going more in depth on light-painting techniques, as well as delving into the astronomy of the Milky Way, a spiral galaxy 100,000 light-years across. Late afternoon will be free time to relax, perhaps dip in the pool. You’re welcome to have dinner together or on your own.
  • Once dusk begins to descend, it’s time to head out into the field with our cameras and tripods. Each evening, we’ll embark after dinner, around 7 p.m., for a full session of night shooting. Our instructors will be out until 1 a.m., ready and eager to give you tips on just how to capture that giant metal grasshopper under that shimmering blanket of stars.
Day 2
Private Studio Visit & Night Processing
  • After our late nights in the field, mornings will be a relaxed affair. 
  • Take breakfast at your leisure before joining us for an exciting visit to the studio of Ricardo Breceda, the artist behind Borrego Springs’ now-iconic metal sculptures.
  • We’ll set out, caravan style, for Ricardo’s studio in Aguanga (approximately an hour by car), where we'll receive a private tour from the artist. Originally from Durango, Mexico, he has lived in California for 25 years, and his great prehistoric beasts were inspired by his daughter's early enthusiasm for dinosaurs. Since then, as hobby evolved into passion, he's continued to transform metal into incredible, lifelike creations. Afterward, take time to explore Aguanga and grab some lunch, before we drive back to our home base.
  • This afternoon, take out your notepad for a one-hour lecture on night processing. Following the lecture and before dinner, our instructors will be reviewing student images from our first night of shooting.
  • With some new tools and insights under our belts, we’ll set out for another night of stargazing with camera in hand. We’ll be sure to tip our hats to the incredible astronomy on display.
Day 3
Light Painting & the Milky Way
  • This morning, take time to catch up on some Zs, work on your images, and enjoy a leisurely breakfast and lunch (or brunch, if that’s your move).
  • At noon, join us for a lecture on night technique, followed by student image reviews by our instructors into the afternoon. If it’s not too sunny for you, today is a great day to experiment with some daytime shots, in contrast to your compositions of the same dramatic landscapes after dark.
  • After dinner, it's one last night of shooting and light painting together in the desert beneath the Milky Way.
Day 4
Post-Processing, Slideshow & Celebration
  • We’ll have one last, leisurely morning together before our final post-processing session, led by our photo instructors. Our workshop concludes with a student slideshow—a chance to see everyone’s outstanding images, as well as our progress over three full nights of shooting.
  • Join us for a final celebratory dinner before you depart. We’ll raise glasses to our time together in the classroom, behind the lens, and beneath the Milky Way.
The Fine Print


  • Two talented photo instructors from National Parks at Night and an Atlas Obscura trip leader.
  • Daily lectures, image review sessions, photo instruction, and post-processing.
  • A daily buffet breakfast at the hotel, as well as water and snacks throughout the workshop.
  • Our final group dinner on Sunday.
  • A private studio tour by artist Ricardo Breceda.
  • Brand-new headlamps for your nightly photo sessions.
  • A great group of fellow Atlas Obscura fans and photographers, excited to explore all that the night sky has to offer!


Our group will be staying at the Palm Canyon Hotel and Resort in Borrego Springs. Members of our group will receive a 10 percent discount. In addition to hotel rooms, the property offers Airstream and vintage trailer rentals, as well as RV hookups and campsites, a pool, and a fitness room. Our daily meeting room is at the hotel.


You'll need your own means of transport for this workshop. We recommend that you arrive on the afternoon of Wednesday, May 9, to give yourself time to settle in before our first meet-up on Thursday at 10 a.m., though early morning arrival is also an option. As for the workshop's conclusion, you should plan to depart after dinner on Sunday, May 13. If you'd prefer to drive out the next day, you can extend your reservation another night.


Borrego Springs in May is toasty during the day, with a high of 90 degrees Fahrenheit, so daytime hours will be spent largely in class, editing, resting, and swimming. At night, the temperature drops to 60 degrees, perfect for our desert outings. Keep in mind that this workshop is fairly active. You should be reasonably fit and feel comfortable walking two to three miles each day and remaining outside and on your feet for long periods of time, especially after dark. We will often be walking on desert sand, dirt paths, and other uneven ground.


Itineraries are subject to change. We expect to do everything listed in the itinerary, though the order may be rearranged based on weather and other local conditions.


You will be charged a $400 deposit to hold your space. This deposit is nonrefundable after three days. The final payment of $995 will be due by March 31, 2018. All reservations will be final after this date and subject to our cancellation policy. By submitting your deposit, you agree to the trip's Terms & Conditions.


  • Transport to, from, and around Borrego Springs. 
  • Accommodation (10% hotel discount code for Palm Canyon). 
  • All lunches and three dinners.
  • Photography equipment and gear. (We'll send a list of what you'll need once you sign up!)
  • Travel insurance (optional).


Please email us at or call us at (646) 961-4857 with any questions about the itinerary, logistics, or payment.