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  • Sunset at Mojave Desert in Twentynine Palms, CA

If you enjoy photography and are fascinated by the desert night sky, this two-day hands-on workshop is for you! Noted TWAN sky photographer Dennis Mammana will teach participants how to use even the simplest of cameras to create magnificent celestial portraits without resorting to composites and fakery. The class will begin with tips for setting up and shooting the night sky including a few personal tricks of the trade. That evening, participants will head to the park to try out their new knowledge under the real night sky. The next morning, the class will look at images from the previous night, discuss their pros and cons, and try out some basic image processing techniques in Adobe Lightroom that will make your photos pop. Any camera, digital or film, will work, if it can be adjusted manually, used with a tripod, remote control, and can take exposures of 15, 30, or more seconds. Students should have a good working knowledge of their equipment prior to taking this class. Students need to provide their own camera, tripod, camera equipment, and dress in layers as the nights can be cold.

Please bring a flash drive to share a field class image or two with the class on Sunday, if you’d like to get some personal tips.

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Join us for a day of photography in two special desert places off the beaten track: Whitewater Preserve, and Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve. From the Whitewater River, to McCallum pond in an oasis of California fan palms, you’ll experience the beauty of water in the desert. Winter is an excellent season to photograph the low desert, with its cool temperatures, longer shadows and views of distant peaks.

The day consists of photographic field sessions, group instruction and one-on-one assistance from your instructor. Your questions will be answered! You’ll learn tips and techniques for controlling sharpness, exposure, making panoramic photographs, and using lenses, along with creative exercises in photographing the desert landscape. Class begins in the morning close to the rugged cliffs of Whitewater Preserve. After lunch, we relocate to Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve for afternoon field sessions among stately palms. Hiking at each preserve is easy – to moderate; we’ll be walking on trails that are mainly level. Participants are encouraged to bring a tripod with their camera(s)

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Join Joshua Tree based artist Monica L. Mahoney in a watercolor field painting immersion in the heart of Joshua Tree National Park. Known for her plein air watercolors of sweeping desert vistas and knowledge of the native flora of the region, Monica will guide participants in capturing the “Genius loci” or spirit of this special place. Students will tap into their natural observation skills and paint the landscape in field journals using basic watercolor and water-based pencil techniques. To warm up, Monica will guide students in recording sensory observations during an easy and informative natural history walk in a spectacular private location. Students will then practice gesture and thumbnail painting as well as basic color mixing techniques while using value, tone, line, shape, and depth to capture the essence of the landscape. This workshop is perfect for campers, hikers, and backpackers and all who are interested in developing their watercolor painting skills in the field. From beginner to intermediate, the class is designed to have fun and explore how painting, sketching and journaling in nature helps us see the world- and ourselves- with new eyes. While a good choice for beginning painters, some previous drawing experience will be helpful. All students will be given individual attention as needed.

This class will be conducted at the reserved Lost Horse Campground.

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Join us for an opportunity to stay in an exceptional part of the California Desert and devote three days to making new photographs. The class is based at the Desert Studies Center, south of Baker, CA. The Center— also known as Zzyzx (zy-zix)— lies inside in the Mojave National Preserve and is a former health spa with interesting buildings, palms, ponds, springs, plus fine views of Soda Dry Lake and desert mountains. Special emphasis is placed on photography in the field to allow students to work with color, light, shapes, and textures of the desert at an unhurried pace. On one half-day field session we’ll photograph lava beds and a Joshua tree forest. Two night photography sessions are scheduled to take advantage of dark skies over Zzyzx. Instructional topics include: exposure, making panoramic photographs, HDR photography, controlling image sharpness.

Hiking on field sessions easy – to moderate. Participants are encouraged to bring a tripod with their cameras.

This field study is based at the Desert Studies Center (of California State University) located within the Preserve at Soda Springs (Zzyzx), about a three-hour drive from Joshua Tree. The course fee includes two nights’ lodging at the Center and meals starting with dinner on Friday through breakfast on Sunday. Upon enrollment, you will be sent detailed information about the Center and what to bring.

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Joshua Tree and environs are well known for the burgeoning artist community that has been drawn here. The local contemporary art scene is vibrant and a healthy companion to the music community that has flourished in the area. Bernard Leibov, Director of BoxoPROJECTS, takes us though his highlights of the local cultural scene. After an introduction and orientation in the classroom, Bernard will take us on the road to visit several of the interesting art sites in the area.

a docent-led tour of Noah Purifoy Outdoor Museum
a visit to the public sculptures at A-Z West, the experiment in living by Andrea Zittel
lunch and a tour at BoxoPROJECTS, home to a residency program as well as the Joshua Treenial
studio visits with local artists
cap the day off with a stop at Art Queen and local art galleries

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Grab your camera and put on your hiking boots for this intensive all-day photo shoot in Joshua Tree National Park! Craig Fucile will guide the class in seeing the natural beauty of the park through the camera lens. The class will begin with early morning light at the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve followed by a mid-morning instructional program at Black Rock Canyon Visitor Center. The afternoon session will relocate to a special “photographers only” session at Keys Ranch, focusing on how to capture the buildings and historic remnants at this remarkable homestead. Fucile will share tips on how to record unique rock formations and vast views of the park. Participants are encouraged to bring a tripod with their camera(s).
Class size limited to 12 participants, so sign up early!

This class is sponsored by the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve.

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Get started painting in watercolor, or improve with solid basic skills for creating realistic watercolors that glow and pop. Learn to add drama and impact starting with a strong image and using good color choices to make the subject take center stage. Learn color mixing both on the palette and on the paper. Rather than boring exercises, techniques will be learned while actually creating a finished painting. Often called the most difficult of mediums, there are plenty of tricks and tips in watercolor to help correct mistakes and re-work an area that is less than the desired result. Class format is a step-by-step process that incorporates demonstrations of one small section of the painting at time throughout the class time. Photos of the subject matter are provided and every student will be painting the same painting. The class is interspersed with several demonstrations, then time to paint as instructed. Each student will receive one-on-one guidance along the way. Bring your enthusiasm and go home inspired. Supplies not included, but are available for purchase for an extra $25 directly from the instructor.

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What goes into making a great landscape photograph? You can find scores of articles that promise you will master landscape photography in 10 steps or take your photography to the next level in 5 steps or shoot like a pro in 7 steps. These articles keep on appearing. And most offer valid tips. But it’s not that easy.

We can’t promise you that you will be a master landscape photographer at the end of this course. What we can promise is you will have a much clearer idea of what is involved in pursuing this journey. We will provide practical guidelines on the gear you need and how to get the most out of it, the creative use of exposure and sharpness, the use of composition and light to create a mood or convey what inspired you to take the photograph, the magic that happens in the digital darkroom and how to unleash the artist within you.

This class offers an optional but exciting camping experience in the pristine Lost Horse campground.

Note: arrangements will be made for those preferring to sleep with something more substantial over their heads than rip-stop nylon. Plan to make accommodations in Twentynine Palms and meet at the Oasis Visitor center to head out to the shooting locations.

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The opening of Southern Pacific Railroad service in the desert in the late 1800s brought with it a steady flow of artists from the East Coast who rode in exchange for their paintings and drawings of Western landscapes, which the railroad used to entice travelers to explore beyond the Mississippi River. By the 1920s, American and European impressionist painters were fixtures in Southern California’s deserts, mountains, canyons, forests, and coastlines — and especially in artist colonies like the one that emerged in the Coachella Valley. The workshop begins in this early California period, surveying the painters who came through the valley — and in some cases remained and became influential in the area. Next, the trajectory leads to modern art and artists who pioneered the movement in the desert — as well as key events, such as the opening of Palm Springs Desert Museum. The contemporary art segment introduces artists whose work is inspired by the conditions and culture of the Coachella Valley and has gained an international audience. This segment also covers the proliferation and contributions of commercial art galleries, fairs/festivals, and studio/gallery districts as well as public art and events such as Desert X and the Bombay Beach Biennale.

Sponsored by the Living Desert.

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Painting the landscape from life is thrilling and can be challenging as well. The world is filled with an infinite variety of color and value, and an overwhelming amount of detail. Patterns of shadow and light are changing constantly. This workshop will help you to simplify and organize what you see, and go on to create satisfying, dynamic paintings with strong, logical dark and light patterns. Topics will include composition, focal point, perspective, value (dark and light), underpainting, painting ala prima (layering wet paint without making mud), color theory, mixing paint, and more. Each session will start with a demo painting as Jessica explains her step-by-step method. Students will be given individual feedback and guidance.. Some previous drawing experience will be helpful but not required.

This class will be conducted at the reserved Lost Horse Campground with the option to “car camp” with the instructor on Saturday night. Class registration includes camp site reservations (optional). For more information on camping with this class or a list of local accommodations, please contact us at 760-367-5539.

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Know Before You Go

A new regional stay-at-home order is currently in effect for the Southern California region. The order prohibits private gatherings of any size, closes sector operations except for critical infrastructure and retail, and requires 100% masking and physical distancing in all others. Hotels and lodging remain open for essential travel only. Learn more about how our businesses are modifying operations to support local, state, and federal efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.