Saguaro Sunrise and Night Skies - ColdSnap Photography

Saguaro Sunrise and Night Skies

Tucson and Southern Arizonia

April 16-22, 2023

Landscape and birding in Southern Arizona

The southern Arizona desert is a place of stunning beauty with elegant Saguaro cacti and rugged hills. The night skies are inky black and the daylight is amazingly brilliant with birds of amazing beauty.

Our week in Arizona will deliver you to the cool heart of stream laced canyons, the vistas of desert solitude, and the squawk of the Elegant Trogon. Here landscape photography and birding are like peas and carrots. The birds require cool, watered retreats with plenty to eat to survive and the landscapes need altitude which shed water to appeal to our sense of grandeur and elegance. These are found in abundance in Southern Arizona.

Join us for 7 days of amazing photographic adventure as we explore and photograph the landscape, flora, and fauna around Tucson Arizona.


This workshop is primarily a field shoot, however, on the morning of the first day we will have two classroom lectures about bird photography, and night sky photography.

We will teach and coach you in the following areas of photography, how to capture great moments in bird photography, how to set up your camera’s exposure and focus system for birding, maintain the fastest tracking for birds in flight. In addition, we will teach you a complete workflow for night skies and night landscape photography, including how to optimize your exposures and lighting for night landscapes.

Instruction will be a combination of field demonstrations and one on one instruction. Instructors, John Gregor, and Tomy O’Brien each have over 35 years of professional photographic experience. Our goal is to help you get great photographs.


We will start and finish the workshop in Tucson, AZ, a vibrant town with convenient flight options. From there we will travel into the surrounding desert countryside, we will visit several parks and monuments in the area as well as Desert Photo Tours which has incredible photo blinds which guarantee that you’ll get some wonderful bird photographs. 


The workshop begins April 16, at 9:00 am and ends April 22, at about 10:00 am.

We will start our tour in Green Valley, Arizona, a short drive from Tucson. As you enjoy the sunrise we will be approaching The Santa Rita Mountain range which reaches heights of over 9000 feet and contains the delightful Madera Canyon – one of the world’s preeminent birding destinations with 15 hummingbird species and over 235 other bird species. Our trip is perfectly timed for the spring warbler migration of which you are likely to see more than a dozen species. Of course, the expected highlight of the trip may be the Elegant Trogon – there are 220 of these birds in Arizona and we will be going to three areas where they are known to reside. While we can walk to our hearts content, there are many places to rest and enjoy the birding while taking in the views both intimate and expansive.

We return to our hotel for a short rest and a possible night skies opportunity. Arizona is one of the darkest places in the United States as it has dedicated large areas for star viewing – think Kitt Peak and Lowell Observatory – two of our nation’s premier telescopes. If we don’t get it this evening, we will bird the lake trail and visit the pollinator garden until sunset at the Canoa Ranch Conservation Area just down the road.

The second day we drive to the true desert experience and the Sonoita Creek Natural area where 329 species of birds call home. This is a great place to see Lucy’s Warbler and the Vermillion Flycatcher, two stunningly beautiful desert birds. We visit the Paton Hummingbird Center. At night we will again look to do some night sky photography here on the dark side of the Santa Rita Mountains.

The morning of the third day is our “clean-up” day. We look for birds on our target list we may have missed. In the middle of the day we are relocating to the north of Tucson to the Desert Photo Retreat, the premier bird photography blind in the Southwest. The evening of the third day and the morning of the fourth day we will be photographing from the special blinds that are perfectly set up for exquisite bird photography. The action during these sessions will be fast and furious. Your species count is sure in increase by a significant number.

The afternoon of the fourth day we will relocate to Sierra Vista, the Hummingbird

capital of the world. During our stay in this area, we will visit the Ramsey Canyon Preserve. A spring-fed stream, and high canyon walls provide Ramsey Canyon with a moist, cool environment unusual in the desert Southwest. Water-loving plants such as sycamores, maples and columbines line the banks of Ramsey Creek, often growing within a few feet of cacti, yucca and agaves. Southeastern Arizona is an ecological crossroads, where the Sierra Madre of Mexico, the Rocky Mountains, and the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts all come together. Against this backdrop we will explore the landscape and ample birding opportunities.

In addition, this area offers us some spectacular landscape and night sky opportunities. Rating a number 2 or lower on the Bortle scale this part of the country has night skies that are black as ink. Coupled with abandoned ghost towns and expressive grasslands, this is big night sky territory!

Our final night will be in Wilcox, Arizona, where we are stationed perfectly to explore the Chiricahua Mountain National Monument, 12,000 acres of rugged mountains with spectacular rock formations and stunning photographic opportunities. Whitewater Draw is a major sandhill Crane wintering location but also features a significant population of raptors, aquatic species and water features with the mountains in the distance.

By the end of this tour you will have filled your camera memory cards, not to mention your memory and heart with so many experiences and images that you’ll be processing them for months!


Workshop Cost: $1895.00

Non-Refundable Deposit: $200

Your Non-refundable deposit of $200 holds your registration until 60 days prior to the workshop when the balance is due.

Please read our cancellation policy before registering.

For questions please call John at (218) 830-0767.

Includes instruction, and admission fees to all scheduled locations including a morning and evening photoshoot at Desert Photo Retreat.

Not included: ground transportation (unless arranged for) food, tips, airfare, hotels, any personal expenses, or admission fees to any spontaneous locations, or events.


Hotel fees are not included in the tuition cost. We have reserved hotels for the duration of the workshop. Once you register you will receive a list of these hotels. You are responsible for arranging any accommodations on the days prior to or after the stated beginning and end dates of the workshop. If you have any questions please feel free to contact us.


This is a past workshop

To see our current list, see our workshops page