55 Music Concourse Dr.
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco CA
Regular Hours:


9:30 am – 5:00 pm


11:00 am – 5:00 pm
Members' Hours:


8:30 – 9:30 am


10:00 – 11:00 am

Please note: The Academy will be closing at 3:00 pm on 10/24 (final entry at 2:00 pm). We apologize for any inconvenience.

There are no notifications at this time.

Exploring The Eastern Sierras

Conservation Photography: Making Images with Intent.

We aim to provide people with the vision and tools to explore, explain, and protect the natural world through the lens of photography and with a goal to tell visually compelling stories that affect conservation.

Exploring The Eastern Sierras

Day One: Sunday July 15th Sunrise to Sunset
Location: Owens Valley Region

Day Two: Monday July 16th Sunrise to Sunset
Location: Mammoth Lakes & Mono Lake

Day Three: Tuesday July 17th Sunrise to Sunset
Location: Yosemite National Park

Trip leaders:
Gary Sharlow, Education Manager, Photographer
Geoff Willard, Education Manager, Natural History Guide


The Big Picture

The Sierra Nevada is a photographer's dreamscape. John Muir famously referred to it as 'the Range of Light,' and Ansel Adams' stunning photos made the beauty of the Sierra known around the world. Immerse yourself in the practice of Conservation Photography in this special field excursion. In 3 days, we will explore the landscape and wildlife diversity of the Eastern Sierra and Owens Valley, grapple with the area's complicated water and conservation history, and gain invaluable insight into how to capture the landscape through your lens. At the end of the trip, we aim to help each participant complete a photo series that tells a visually-captivating story of the land, its people, its past and future.


Defining Conservation Photography

Conservation photography is a vision of photography that has a long history with a new purpose. Typically, pressing the shutter defines the photographer with planning and execution culminating in the photograph. A conservation photographer’s work begins once they click the shutter. It’s what you do with these images that matters as it takes you into the active roll of effecting conservation for the natural world.


Overview ~ July 15th to 17th ~ Big Picture ~ More Information

Early Bird Reservations: Members: $400, Adults: $450 Ages 18 and over only with limited space available. Reserve online or call 415-379-8000. This is a non-refundable event. (Note: Food, lodging, park entrance fees and transportation not included.)

Sunday July 15th

We will begin our adventure by visiting the scenic Cartago Springs wetland area on the edge of Owens Lake's now-dry bed. This protected area will serve as a great backdrop for our investigations of the history, politics and management of water in the Owens valley and California, including the story of how Los Angeles usurped water rights in this valley, dramatically altering the development of this region. The sunrise at the wetlands will provide great opportunities to photograph marsh birds, open desert vistas, and nearby mountain peaks. We will also explore the former lake's dried lands and find stark visuals of the human impact on the valley. After a mid-day break, we will travel in the afternoon to the ancient bristlecone pine forest high in the White Mountains to share a quiet sunset with the oldest trees in the world, and to find an astonishing view of the valley below and Sierra beyond.


Monday July 16th

Our second day will begin at Lake Mary in the Mammoth Lakes environs. The picturesque lake is a perfect launchpad to explore the diversity of the flora and fauna of the eastern sierra. We will gain insight into the natural history of the area through interactions with local naturalists. Numerous short day hikes abound in the area, allowing each photographer to spend the middle of the day in the environment of his or her choice. In the afternoon we will visit nearby Devil's Postpile to get up close to some of the strangest geological features in the West. By evening we will make our way to Mono Lake to capture the startling tufa structures and lunar-like landscape in the late evening light.


Tuesday July 17th

For our final day the group will travel into Yosemite National Park and arrive at Tuolumne Meadows for an iconic Sierra sunrise. Yosemite is one of the world's most famous preserved parks, and its landscapes will offer priceless photographic opportunities. Additionally, its unique land use history will allow us to grapple with the complex and controversial moments in the 19th century settlement of the West by the expanding United States. The late morning will include a visit to Lake Tenaya, and after a chance for free exploration in the height of the day, we will reconvene in the afternoon to take in the stunning vistas at Glacier Point and on the many beautiful trails near the Point. By the end of our trip, we will have not only visited an astounding variety of natural landscapes. We will have gained deep insight into the complex water and conservation history of California and the West, and our photos will dramatically illustrate many sides of this history.


Overview ~ July 15th to 17th ~ Big Picture ~ More Information

Early Bird Reservations: Members: $400, Adults: $450 Ages 18 and over only with limited space available. Reserve online or call 415-379-8000. This is a non-refundable event. (Note: Food, lodging, park entrance fees and transportation not included.)

The Big Picture

Fundamentals of Exposure
Dive into the art of conservation photography during this hands-on, 3 day 2 night workshop. We will touch on basic features of the DSLR camera. Topics will include choosing lenses and filters, ISO, white balance, shutter, aperture and program modes, EV, exposure, HDR, focusing, resolution, histograms and more.

Introduction to Photographic Techniques
While in the field, we will explore different methods of photography, composition and consider how spatial and temporal considerations effect the emotion of the images.

Making Images with Intention
We will talk about how to construct a story for a variety of publication outlets. Topics will include creativity, journalistic style, documentary objectives and more. Participants will be taught to approach their photography like they would a creative writing assignment and develop an introduction, plot and conclusion.

Guided Natural History Walk
You will split your time between photography sessions and natural history walks. Throughout the experience, Academy staff and guest experts will offer photographic guidance and insight into the region’s natural history. We will focus on both natural and human history of the Eastern Sierra Mountains as it pertains to ‘land conservation” for nature's sake as well as for recreational use by humans. We will also take an in depth look into past and current water issues in California and the West, and related resource management issues while visiting high Sierra deserts and Mono Lake during this trip.


Overview ~ July 15th to 17th ~ Big Picture ~ More Information

Early Bird Reservations: Members: $400, Adults: $450 Ages 18 and over only with limited space available. Reserve online or call 415-379-8000. This is a non-refundable event. (Note: Food, lodging, park entrance fees and transportation not included.)

The Players Involved

Fundamentals of Exposure, Composition, and Story Telling
Gary Sharlow, photographer for EcoSee Photography, designs and leads photography workshops crafted to explore the concept of photography as a tool for conservation. He created and launched the conservation photography program at the California Academy of Sciences. He sits on the environment committee for the North American Nature Photography association, has previously worked for the NPS in the area of population biology and has an educational background in conservation biology. He is a manager in the education division at the California Academy of Sciences and he can frequently be found hiking and photographing on the trails of the San Francisco Bay Area, thoughout California and he even gets out into other parts of the Western United States when he's lucky. On a rare occasion, he even escapes the continent as a whole!

The Range of Light and the Valley of Water
Geoff Willard, Manager of Public Programming at the California Academy of Sciences, will lead the group through investigations of the natural and conservation history of the eastern Sierra region. At the Academy, he has channeled his passion for engaging minds into the design of the museum's many live interpretive programs. He brings his years of experience in outdoor youth & adult education to this field excursion, as well as his memories of a summer spent as a photographer in Sequoia National Park.


Suggested Field Gear

The word of choice is "layers". You should be prepared for all kinds of weather and expect conditions to change rapidly while you are in the field. Among the things you should have in your pack: water, layered clothing, comfortable trail shoes, sunscreen, a hat, extra socks sunglasses, a rain jacket (rain not likely but possible), your camera and a tripod. This is not an all inclusive list and it is up to you to be prepared to go into the field where we may hike as many as five miles over the course of the day. Please  check the weather the night before and plan accordingly. We will travel rain or shine!



We will be meeting each morning at 5:00am and finishing each day at about 8:00pm. You are responsible for your own food and drinks each day. There will be free time in the middle of each day and some people will want to take advantage of that time to stop and have lunch at local restaurants while others will decide to hike and eat on the trails. Whatever you decide is up to you. Just keep in mind that if you are camping you are required to either use bear containers at campgrounds or being your own bear proof container for your food. Please be responsible as a “fed bear is a dead bear”.



As our participants will be coming from various parts of California and beyond, we will leave it to you to decide how to get to the region. We will provide you with a set of meeting points in the email when you purchase your tickets. You can also use this itinerary to plan your lodging.



We asked, you answered, we listened. Based on surveys, we found that the lodging preferences of our workshop attendees fill a rather large range. Some people like to rough it and camp the whole time they are out in nature while other like to take a break at night and enjoy the local hotels, and home rentals available in the area. Check back here soon for some links that to lodging options in the area. If you wish to have one central place to stay for the whole trip, the Mammoth Lakes regions is probably the most central and your best option. We will likely be camping and will post our planned stops soon.


Park Use Fees

Keep in mind that some of the areas we are visiting have day use and entry fees. Consider buying a parks pass as you will get good use out of it and the money helps to support that state and national parks will be visiting on this trip. Whatever you decide, the choice is yours and keep in mind that there aren’t too many ATMs in the wild!


Refund Policy

Due to the field component of this program, your ticket is nonrefundable and not transferable. This program is being offered as a two day program and we will not be offering any discounted rates for attending one of the two days. We will have one day programs in the future so check back for more opportunities. This particular program is limited to participants that are 18 and over in age. Space is limited for a better experience.


Overview ~ July 15th to 17th ~ Big Picture ~ More Information

Early Bird Reservations: Members: $400, Adults: $450 Ages 18 and over only with limited space available. Reserve online or call 415-379-8000. This is a non-refundable event. (Note: Food, lodging, park entrance fees and transportation not included.)

Programs eBlast


Sign up for our monthly eMail! It's the easiest way to stay informed about upcoming lectures and workshops.

e-news Sign up for our eBlast

Academy Lectures


The Academy is committed to engaging, inspiring, and empowering the public with its scientific mission.

  • Pritzker Member Lectures
  • Astronomy Lectures
  • Special Author Talks
  • Conversations at the Herbst

Our lecture programs offer thought provoking discussions on topics such as, ecology, sustainability, natural history, biodiversity, evolution and the science of life. Learn More »

Citizen Science


The Academy conducts several Citizen Science projects that rely on your help. This is your chance to join in on the research.

  • Biodiversity Survey at Mt. Tam
  • Intertidal Survey at Pillar Point
  • San Francisco Biodiversity

This is just a small sample of projects available to individuals in the Bay Area. Learn More »

Member Perks

  • Free unlimited daily admission
  • Personalized member card
  • Members-only hours
  • Free Pritzker Members' Lectures
  • And More »