Yosemite and San Francisco High School Photography Workshop

Yosemite National Park spellbinds at every angle, with wonders like waterfall-laced cliffs, gemstone lakes, and soaring sequoia forests. This scenery has inspired countless photographers, including top National Geographic photojournalists and the master of landscape shots, Ansel Adams.Learn new techniques in the classroom and then follow in the footsteps of these experts, setting out on photo assignments from the rugged wilds ofYosemite’s backcountry to San Francisco’s vibrant city streets.

July 16-27, 2019
Airfare is not included. The workshop begins and ends in San Francisco, California.

Trip Highlights

  • Capture the majesty of Yosemite in photos of its towering granite domes, soaring sequoias, and crashing waterfalls.
  • Document the action of rock climbers and the stillness of a Wild West-era ghost town.
  • Finesse your artistic vision and edit your images with the guidance of a National Geographic photographer.
  • Celebrate with your group at a pop-up gallery show in San Francisco, displaying some of your best work.


The workshop begins in San Francisco, California, where we’ll spend two days photographing the city’s colorful, streets. Take portraits of sidewalk merchants in Chinatown, and frame landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge and the infamous Alcatraz prison.

Head inland for a photo shoot in the Old West–era town of Mariposa. On the way to Yosemite National Park, one of California’s most magnificent natural treasures. Spend time each day learning to develop your photographic eye and improving your technical skills. Then set out into the wilderness to document scenery made famous by Ansel Adams. The prolific photographer depicted Yosemite Valley’s massive granite walls and cascading waterfalls in his landscape shots—images that were instrumental in establishing Yosemite National Park. Get your own angle on these iconic scenes, framing wonders like the towering Half Dome and enormous sequoia trees, and use your images to advocate for nature conservation.

Practice adventure photography as you document your group hiking across alpine meadows. Capture your friends in action during a rock-climbing class with professional guides. Visit the Bodie ghost town to take pictures of its deserted streets, houses, and saloons; then have a float in Mono Lake’s salty waters.

In the evenings, upload photos, review the day’s work, and enjoy talks given by your National Geographic photographer. Head out on evening photo shoots and experiment with light as the sun sets on the numerous alpine lakes hidden around the Sierra, or point your lens skyward to snap photos of the twinkling stars in the night sky.

Throughout the workshop we will prepare for a gallery opening that features large-format prints of the group’s best work. Return to San Francisco for the final three days of the program to help curate the pop-up show in one of the city’s galleries. On our last night, celebrate your work at an opening party.

Our photo workshops are for students in grades 9-12. Students learn important photography lessons in the classroom and apply them in some of the world’s most photogenic places. Then, together with their fellow travelers, they work to organize, curate, and install a pop-up gallery show featuring each student’s original images. Students shoot alongside a team of highly-qualified photography instructors—college graduates with extensive experience in the field, who love working with students. A National Geographic photographer also joins the entire program, inspiring students with their work, and helping students build their own skills. Photo Workshops generally have 25-30 participants, and the student-to-photo-instructor ratio is usually between six and eight to one and never more than nine to one.
We stay in dormitory-style accommodations in San Francisco and in a small lodge outside of Yosemite National Park. Classrooms are equipped with digital projectors so we can share and critique our work.

Ronan Donovan, Photographer

Meet Our Expert

A biologist turned photographer, Ronan Donovan’s camera has taken him around the world to all seven continents in search of elusive wildlife. Ronan’s career as a biologist began amongst the towering cliffs and sequoias of Yosemite National Park, where he spent two summers banding and monitoring spotted owls. This work ignited a passion inside Ronan for conserving wild animals and wild places. He aims to raise awareness about critical species through his photography. Ronan’s first National Geographic magazine assignment sent him to Yellowstone National Park to photograph wolves. His work was featured in national Geographic’s May 2016 issue, which was entirely devoted to coverage of the park. More recently, he’s been on assignment photographing mountain gorillas in Rwanda and chimpanzees in Uganda. Ronan’s photographic work has been featured in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, and he has contributed cinematography to multiple PBS Nature programs. Ronan will join the Yosemite and San Francisco photo workshop.

Sample Daily Schedule

This sample daily schedule will give you a sense of a typical day on our Photo Workshop. Our schedule will also remain flexible throughout the program so that we can take advantage of photographic opportunities as they arise.

8:00 AM – 9:00 AM — Breakfast: Eat breakfast together with your group at our accommodations.

9:00 AM – 11:00 AM — Photo Review and Selection: Trip Leaders and the National Geographic photographer work with each student to select the best photos from the previous day’s shoot.

11:00 AM – 12:00 PM — Group Critique: Trip Leaders and the National Geographic photographer lead a group critique and discussion of each student’s top images.

12:00 PM – 2:00 PM — Lunch and Free Time: Eat lunch together as a group and then take some time to relax before heading out on your afternoon assignments.

2:00 PM – 6:00 PM — Assignment Work in the Field: Break into smaller teams shooting in and around Yosemite National Park and San Francisco. Capture the magic of San Francisco’s Painted Ladies, work on your landscape photography at June Lake, and catch one of Yosemite’s many animals on camera.

6:00 PM – 8:00 PM — Dinner and Evening Meeting: Eat dinner together as a group and gather for a group meeting to discuss the day’s highs and lows and learn about the next day’s activities.

8:00 PM – 10:00 PM — Evening Activity: Head out on the town together for an evening show or attend a talk by your National Geographic photographer.