If you enjoy my photography and would like to take similar pictures, consider joining one of my workshops! Workshops are a great way to improve your landscape photography skills, enjoy the camaraderie of being in a group of like minded people, or to simply be where the best photographic opportunities are without having to spend valuable time researching and scouting on the internet. I currently offer group photography workshops in West Virginia that cover the Potomac Highlands (Dolly Sods, Canaan Valley, Seneca Rocks, Blackwater Falls State Park, Spruce Knob and surrounding areas) and the Greenbrier River Valley (Watoga State Park, Droop Mountain, Cranberry Glades, WV Highland Scenic Highway and other nearby areas). I also co-lead a workshop with fellow West Virginia landscape photographer Randall Sanger in the Outer Banks, NC.
These workshops are beneficial for all skill levels from beginner to advanced; however, you will enjoy the group experience much more with a basic knowledge of how to operate your camera in manual mode. Myself and my co-instructors have an intimate knowledge of each region we visit. We also bring along many combined years of experience, so you can be sure that you are getting the very best an area has to offer based on dynamic weather conditions and seasons, while covering a variety of photography techniques and subject matter. Group workshops are much more than a venue for learning about photography but are also a great way to meet similar people over a shared passion. Nobody understands losing sleep and suffering the elements while chasing the best light like other photographers!
Photo credit: David Johnston
Photo credit: David Johnston
Photo credit: David Johnston
Fellow West Virginia photographer, David S. Johnston and I have decided to team up for a moonrise shoot at West Virginia's iconic Seneca Rocks! If you’ve followed our work, you’ve seen us over the last few years talk about photographing the moon within the famous gunsight notch that appears near the middle of the large quartzite rock fin formations. You may have heard about the photo shoot we did with The Steel City Slackers walking a narrow piece of webbing across the notch in profile with the moon. You can see and read about that event in Highland Outdoors. Before I met Dave and linked up with him on this project, I attempted this shot many times over a span of 4-5 years using rough planning and learning from each experience. The closest I came was a shot of moon on a different part of the rocks, and that was only out of sheer luck and being in an approximate location that also allowed me a wide enough space to move around before I finally “found” the moon, and by that time, it was far past the notch I had hoped to photograph. Apps like Photopills are not nearly accurate enough to predict the exact time and location of the moonrise. If you have to move at all in the midst of the moon rising in order to find it within the notch, you’ve likely already missed the opportunity. And the positioning changes throughout the year, so if you’ve nailed it down one night, it’s still going to be slightly different the next night.
That’s where Dave comes in. He has spent months planning; finding azimuths, elevations and other exact numbers for words I don’t even understand in order to know exactly where and when to stand to see the moonrise reliably between the gunsight notch. Dave gets into more detail in this article he wrote for NANPA.
We are going to be hosting a group photography workshop for up to 8 people to get a shot of the moonrise in the gunsight notch. The cost per person will be $180 Because the weather is unpredictable and this workshop is TOTALLY dependent on having clear skies, you will have 24 hours before the meet up time to decide if you want to come out and risk the weather for the shoot, or if you would prefer to reschedule for a future date, or cancel all together for a full refund. Essentially, you only pay if you come out for the attempt!
We will have two days to attempt the shot at the moon, so if the first day turns out to be cloudy we can attempt it the next day, or come out for both days if the weather looks good for it!
As a bonus, I will print and mail a 12x18” of your favorite photo from the trip on fine art watercolor paper!
The workshop rate does not include lodging, meals or transportation. Contact me via the form at the end of this page or email about signing up (choose one of the dates listed above that you're interested in).
I'm joining my good friend, and fellow talented West Virginia photographer Randall Sanger for this one. The Outer Banks of North Carolina workshop features many opportunities to make incredible images. Some of the East Coast's most famous lighthouses, beautiful seascapes, stunning dunescapes, rugged fishing piers, and incredibly dark skies are perfect complements to sunrise, sunset and astrophotography.
We'll work on subjects such as long exposure, creative composition, filter use, panoramas and more. Workshop tuition is $575. You are responsible for lodging, meals and transportation. Send Randall an email to email@example.com and additional information will be provided!
Early Spring in the Potomac Highlands of West Virginia is prime for the beginning of woodland wildflowers in both the mountains and the valleys as the different elevations will provide us with a wide variety of species in bloom. I’ll be teaming up again with Dave Johnston, who brings extensive experience and knowledge of the area and its flora. This is also the time of year we can take advantage of the early morning Spring Milky Way as it remains lower and parallel with the horizon, which often affords better compositional opportunities with the landscape compared with the late Summer Milky Way. The higher elevations will still be lacking green foliage, while the valley’s will have begun leafing out. While our focus for this workshop will be on the forest floor and the morning night sky; sunrises, sunsets and waterfalls are all on the table as time and conditions allow. The weather can bring some dramatic skies with it at the edges of the day throughout May.
What to expect: Warm and cold weather! The area will still feel very winter-like and the top of Dolly Sods is always windy, while down in the valley during the day can get warm enough to shed some layers. Areas of focus can include Blackwater Falls State Park, Canaan Valley State Park, Dolly Sods and Seneca Rocks. Most locations are not far from the parking lot and never more than a mile at a time, but others require some traversing of rugged terrain, often steep and muddy in places. We will be rising early for the Milky Way - around 2-3am and shooting through sunrise. Wildflowers will be on the menu through the day with at least one more break and concluding at or before sunset, depending on conditions. The class may include a classroom session if we have a day of rainy weather.
Rates: Tuition is $425 per person and does not include lodging, transportation or meals - though carpooling during the trip is encouraged. A deposit of $215 is due upfront in order to secure your spot. The remaining amount will be due 1 month before the workshop. You can cancel for a full refund until then. If a cancellation is needed within a month of the workshop I can offer a full refund only if I am able to fill the spot, otherwise, any fees paid can be used toward a future workshop. Those who have taken a workshop or class with me previously will be eligible for a 10% discount. We will have a discount rate on rooms at the Blackwater Falls Lodge. You don’t have to stay here but it will likely be a central meeting place for the group.
This workshop will cover the WV Potomac Highlands and could include Dolly Sods, Blackwater Falls State Park, Canaan Valley, Seneca Rocks, Spruce Knob and surrounding locales; co-lead by my friend David S. Johnston, a photographer with years of experience and intimate knowledge of the area.
What to expect: Mountains, valleys, waterfalls, massive rocky outcrops, and dark skies. The region encompassing the Potomac Highlands makes up some of the most beautiful, rugged and diverse scenery in the state. The timing of this workshop was chosen to avoid the crowds normally found through Spring, mid-Summer and Fall while allowing us to take advantage of the typical late August milder weather and greater chances of clear skies. The late summer Milky Way rises just after sunset at this time and the shorter days means better opportunity of fitting in sunrises and sunsets. Most of our shooting locations will be within a short distance of a parking area, however, there will be some hiking required over uneven terrain. Expect sunrises, sunsets, waterfalls (depending on rainfall) and of course, Milky Way photography. We are trying to include areas that other workshops don't visit and at a different time of the year!
Rates: Tuition is $575 per person and does not include lodging, transportation or meals - though carpooling during the trip is encouraged. A deposit of $250 is due upfront in order to secure your spot. The remaining amount will be due 1 month before the workshop - I’ll send out a reminder email for those. You can cancel for a full refund until then. If a cancellation is needed within a month of the workshop I can offer a full refund only if I am able to fill the spot, otherwise, any fees paid can be used toward a future workshop. Those who have taken a workshop or class with me previously will get a 10% discount. We will have a group rate for rooms at the Blackwater Falls Lodge. You don’t have to stay here but it will be a central meeting place for the group.
Join me and my co-instructor Randall Sanger for a photo tour of one of the most colorful autumn destinations in West Virginia! This 3 day workshop will take us to see the steam engines of Cass, ethereal misty mornings in the valley, colorful river cascades, and miles of mountain views with potential surprises along the way, including an evening full moon rise. This workshop is scheduled through the middle of the week in order to avoid the weekend crowds during prime Fall season.
What to expect: The workshop will begin on the 15th around 11am-noon through sunset. The next day will be from sunrise to sunset and the workshop will conclude after sunrise on the 17th. Most of our destinations will be within a short range of a parking lot. There will be more strenuous options available for the group or parts of the group. We recommend a dSLR or mirrorless camera with an interchangeable lens system, as well as a steady tripod. Some basic knowledge of how to operate your camera in manual mode will help but we can teach you. No filters are needed, however, a circular polarizer is recommended for shooting water and we can show you how to take advantage of your ND filters. A wide angle lens at least to 35mm is recommended and a telephoto zoom lens somewhere in the range of 70-200mm for long mountain views and the full moon rise.
Workshop rate is $425 per person and does not include lodging, transportation or meals. A deposit of $250 is due upfront in order to secure your spot. The remaining amount will be due 1 month before the workshop - I’ll send out a reminder email for those. You can cancel for a full refund until then. If a cancellation is needed within a month of the workshop I can offer a full refund only if I am able to fill the spot, otherwise, any fees paid can be used toward a future workshop. Alumni of my workshops are eligible for a 10% discount.
Private Workshops - Anytime
Group settings may not be very everyone. For a more individualized experience on your time - please contact me about setting up a private workshop! Generally, I will suggest doing these in the New River Gorge National Park, Canaan Valley, or the Greenbrier River Valley areas of West Virginia for the best experiences. I currently do not do group workshops in the New River Gorge, but this is a good opportunity to join me with a small private group on your time. I can also travel anywhere and tailor an experience to you - whether you just want to be at the right places at the right time, tour an area or learn a particular aspect of landscape or terrestrial astro photography. I can even meet you for an afternoon over coffee if you want to learn the fundamentals of using your camera or photo editing. Prices vary based on location, time, travel needs, etc.
"Thanks so much to Jesse Thornton and David Johnston for all the planning! These WV photographers are AMAZING! Not sure what was better for me... taking the photos or listening to them share their story, their knowledge and the PLANNING involved."
"Thank you for leading a wonderful workshop and sharing your knowledge, tips, and tricks! I feel more inspired and confident!"
"Thanks for all the patience and instruction. Great time, much learned!"
"The workshop with Jesse was wonderful. I learned many things that I will continue to put into practice. Although I had been in the area once before, every place we went was new to me. We stopped at several places off the beaten path. Jesse was very knowledgeable about the area, plants in bloom and where to get interesting images. I'm very happy that I decided to do the workshop."
"Beautiful, Gorgeous, Stunning - were words expressed during our first Dark Sky photography workshop hosted by the Watoga State Park Foundation and conducted by Jesse Thornton."
"I highly recommend Jesse if you want to go to a workshop. besides being a good guy he spends a lot of time preparing and is always available for questions and to help folks get set up for good shots. He makes sure everyone knows what to expect. the Seneca Rocks workshop I just attended was a prime example. we were shooting the moon in the notch at Seneca Rocks and he had everything meticulously planned so we could move and get set up as the moon rose in the notch."
"I'd like to give a big shout out to Randall Sanger and Jesse Thornton for a great workshop in the Outer Banks this past weekend. They are friendly and helpful and took us to some great places to shoot."
"A tour of a lifetime that took us to waterfalls, overlooks, ghost towns and bridges! Jesse was a great photography tour guide!"
" Never enjoyed something so much while being hungry, cold and having a full bladder. Thank you so much!
"It was a fantastic workshop and weekend. Dave and Jesse did an outstanding job guiding us, teaching us and challenging us (both physically and mentally!). What a great group of people we had the pleasure of meeting! We will definitely join again! Jesse, if your success is based on your talents, your caring and down-to-earth nature and your sharing your knowledge with others, then you have already succeeded! And Dave was an added bonus for all the same reasons! What a great person he is also. P.S. Today seems rather boring after the weekend! I'm ready to get back out in nature already! Thank you again for a perfect time!"