2023 Monte Vista Crane Festival One-Day Photography Workshops

Three One-Day Workshops. Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, March 10, 11, or 12, 2023. Limited to 10 participants per day. $150/person/day.

Photograph Wildlife in a Beautiful Landscape

Sandhill Cranes performing their courtship dance

Hawks, Eagles, Owls, and Falcons

Spectacular Sangre de Cristo mountains as a backdrop

      Ideal for beginning to intermediate photographers

      Offered during the Monte Vista Crane Festival


Sandhill Cranes and sunset light on the Sangre de Cristo Range, Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge

Sandhill Cranes performing their courtship and pair-bonding dance, Monte Vista NWR

Workshops designed for beginning and intermediate photographers

Three, separate, one-day workshops will be offered, Friday, March 10 – Sunday, March 12, 2023, during the Monte Vista Crane Festival

Each workshop is limited to ten photographers per day — please sign up early to reserve your spot!

The cost for each one-day workshop is $150 plus tax per participant. Proceeds help support the Monte Vista Crane Festival.

 No “tag-alongs” please, each person attending the workshop must register, including spouses.


Golden Eagle attacking ducks at Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge

Alert Sandhill Cranes watch a Golden Eagle pursue ducks, Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge


5:30AM* — 11:00AM  Field instruction on the refuge

11:00AM — 1:00PM Student free time, rest period

For those ride sharing we can arrange to drop you off back in Monte Vista for the break.  Masks required.

Normally the workshop participants join for lunch in Monte Vista during the break (no host lunch). Masks required.

1:00PM —   7:00PM Field instruction on the refuge

*Sunday March 12, 2023, the workshop starts at 6:30 AM due to the Daylight Savings Time change.

Sandhill Crane at Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge

The beautiful plumage of a Sandhill Crane, Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge

Dates and Times

  • March 10, 11, 12, 2023.  Friday, Saturday, or Sunday
  • 5:30 AM to 7:00 PM (March 12 class starts at 6:30 AM due to Daylight Savings)

Target Audience

  • Beginner to Intermediate photographers welcome.
  • Advanced and professional photographers, sorry, this is not an appropriate workshop for you
    • Please contact me about my advanced workshops and private lessons

Required equipment

  • DSLR or mirrorless camera with removable lenses
  • A long lens of 300 mm or longer focal length for wildlife
  • A medium focal length zoom lens (e.g. 70-200 mm)
  • Stable Tripod
  • Spare batteries
  • Extra memory cards for camera

Physical Demands

  • Walking less than 200 meters while carrying your camera/tripod
  • Standing in cold weather for 1-2 hours
  • We will be close by our vehicles during the workshop.

What You Will Learn

I have been teaching this workshop for seven years as part of the Monte Vista Crane Festival. I have evolved the course content to effectively teach wildlife and landscape photography at the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge.  I live within 2 1/4 hours of the refuge and photograph there frequently.  Here are some of the skills you learn:

  • How to properly expose your images
  • How to use manual exposure mode
  • How to focus on birds-in-flight
  • Depth of field and camera settings
  • How to ethically find wildlife and approach without disturbance.  I am on the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) ethical nature photography committee and value a no-disturbance approach to photography.
  • Landscape photography technique
  • Autofocus technique and settings
  • Photographic strategy
  • Composition
  • Lighting
  • Hand-held and tripod bird-in-flight technique

Male Northern Harrier (aka “The Grey Ghost”) hunting at dusk, Monte Vista NWR, Colorado.

Bald Eagle getting a drink of water at the Monte Vista NWR.

Short-eared owl in the San Luis Valley, Colorado

Short-eared Owl, Monte Vista NWR

Wildlife we expect to photograph

  • Sandhill Crane (common)
  • Canada Goose (common)
  • Northern Harrier (common)
  • Great Horned Owl (often)
  • Bald Eagle (often)
  • Golden Eagle (sometimes)
  • Red-tailed Hawk (common)
  • Prairie Falcon (sometimes)
  • Peregrine Falcon (sometimes)

  • Rough-legged Hawk (often)
  • Northern Pintail (often)
  • Mallard (common)
  • Pied-billed Grebe (often)
  • American Coot (common)
  • Mule Deer (often)
  • Elk (sometimes)
  • Pronghorn (often)
  • Cinnamon Teal (sometimes)
Sandhill Crane in the light of a reflected full moon at the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge, Colorado

Sandhill Crane in the moonlight with interesting reflection effect from ripples on the water, Monte Vista NWR.  (real, unaltered photograph)


  • All workshop participants must be fully vaccinated for COVID
  • Proof of vaccination is required to register in the workshop
  • We will practice social distancing and remain outdoors in the open air

Pied-Bill Grebes snuggling in the golden light. Monte Vista NWR, Colorado.

Ed MacKerrow, Instructor

  • Full-time professional photographer
  • Award-winning gallery artist/photographer
  • I have taught photography workshops in Colorado, Alaska, and New Mexico for the past 8 years
  • I have a Ph.D. in Physics/Optics and teach both the science and art of nature photography
  • Wildlife expert, scientific research on raptors
  • Insured and permitted for photography workshops on the San Luis Valley USFWS Refuges Complex
  • I foster a friendly learning environment for all levels of photographers
Two Sandhill Cranes kissing during courtship dance
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