Autumn in the Smokies

Oct 21 – 27, 2018 SOLD OUT

Oct 28 – Nov 3, 2018 SOLD OUT

With John Gerlach and the Smoky Mountain School of Photography

The Morton Overlook

I have enjoyed photographing the autumn colors during the first two weeks of October in northern Michigan for decades.  For years, I wanted to extend my time amid incredible autumn colors.  Now I am doing that at Great Smoky Mountains National Park with my photography friends who live there.  I hope you will join us for an incredible intensive photo workshop that will be tremendously fun, highly educational, and will make you a far more accomplished landscape photographer.

Many of you know me already through the best-selling instructional nature photography books I wrote that include:  Digital Landscape Photography, Digital Nature Photography, Close UP Photography in Nature, Digital Wildlife Photography, and Outdoor Flash Photography.  I have been teaching photo workshops, leading international tours, and conducting seminars on nature photography since 1986.  I believe in producing high-quality images, and I know you feel the same.  Always an enthusiastic instructor, I will encourage you to master your camera.  I am good with all camera systems, and especially with the Canon cameras that I use.  Indeed, I am a technical author for Canon and I continually discover ways to use Canon cameras in unexpected ways.  Please visit me at:

My Facebook page is all nature photos that usually include key photo tips.

Topics covered in this workshop:

  • The best focusing techniques
  • How to shoot razor-sharp images
  • Creative compositions
  • Compositions for panning and zooming
  • Flash to enhance the autumn image – fill, main, and balanced with wireless controls
  • Focus stacking for the ultimate in overall sharpness or selective focus
  • Shoot ideal exposures fast and easy with the highlight alert
  • Close-up photo techniques
  • HDR for extreme contrast situations
  • Manual metering strategies
  • The ultimate auto exposure method: manual A & S, auto ISO, and EC
  • The best ways to photograph waterfalls
  • The benefits of polarizing filters for fall color
  • The joy of using live view for focus and firing the camera

For this workshop, I have enlisted the support of my friends and local experts with the Smoky Mountain School of Photography who thoroughly know these mountains.  Their families have lived here for generations, and they continually scout the best locations to make the most productive use of your time.  There is no doubt that you will get the best fall color, waterfalls, and mountain stream photography the Smokies can offer.  In addition, you will have the opportunity no other workshop can offer.  You will meet and photograph true “Mountain Folks” who look the part and are personal friends of my co-instructors in the Smokies.

The Instructor? No, a friend posing for our group.
Dwarf Crested Iris
Wild Iris

Our workshop takes you to exciting locations where you are sure to find magnificent subjects to photograph. We show you how to select prime photo prospects from the chaos of nature. Then we demonstrate how to shoot superb images of the subject with high-quality techniques that anyone can learn and master. We spend 100% of our time in the field helping you take pictures with your equipment.  We help you use your equipment to best advantage, and on occasion, we demonstrate certain equipment and techniques like focus stacking, fill-flash, main flash, and live view shooting strategies.

To ensure that instruction is complete, informative, and helpful, the group size is limited to only twelve (12) participants.

John presents three detailed instructional image programs on exposure, close-up photography, and flash that he has carefully assembled to teach you a lot. The materials contained in the programs are suitable for beginners through professionals. We kindly comment on your images during the week and present a spirited showing of each participant’s best images made during the week Friday night.

John also presents a program featuring images that he has taken during the past year. This popular part of the workshop is an excellent way to show you the new things that John has discovered about nature photography, and the new images he captured. Lately, John has been doing plenty of focus stacking for unlimited depth of field at the sharpest apertures on the lens for both landscapes and close-ups, floating blind images of ducks and shorebirds that puts John eye-to-eye with these beautiful creatures of nature, hummingbirds with multiple flash, and wildlife images from his Africa trips to Kenya using a super-fast all new exposure technique – the best combination he has ever used on Kenya wildlife by far.

Sweet White Trillium
Newfound Gap

We ask each of you to bring some digital images or prints from home to share with the group. Although this is optional, it’s an effective way for us to see where you have been. If you would like a critique of your images, just ask and we will gladly do this for you. We eat, breathe, and sleep nature photography at each workshop, but that doesn’t mean it’s all work and no play. We take our field trips at a leisurely pace, so there is time to relax and enjoy the beautiful Smokies. We may even get a little silly at times, but then laughter and humor enhance the workshop experience.

Participating in this nature photography workshop is not only a superb way to improve your nature photography and to learn about nature, it’s a wonderful “learning vacation” as well. It’s always a pleasure to share experiences and knowledge with fellow nature photographers. However, our workshops are not for everyone. If you are looking for a workshop that takes you into the field from 9 to 5 when the light isn’t as pretty and the wind may be blowing, our workshop is not appropriate for you. We believe in taking our field trips at the times that we would be out capturing our own images.  Therefore, we take field trips every morning, beginning at least an hour before sunrise, and stay out until 9:30 to 10:00 a.m.  Getting up for our early morning field trips isn’t going to be as tough as it sounds after you see the first magnificent sunrise from Clingmans Dome.

Evening field trips begin in late afternoon, depending on the day’s destination, and we always stay out for the sunset weather permitting.

Mingo Falls
A Smoky Mountain Native

We’ll conduct most of our instructional programs – which cover exposure, close-ups, and advanced flash techniques – during the middle of the day because the light isn’t normally the best for photography. All mornings and evenings are reserved for field trips.

The Smoky Mountain School of Photography was formed to provide outings, specialty workshops, photo training, and guide services to help avid nature photographers improve their craft.  Our goal is to help you create the best possible images of the Great Smoky Mountains and Southern Appalachian region while learning a tremendous amount about how to be an effective photographer in the field.

SMSOP’s real advantage is that the instructors/guides all live in the foothills of the Smokies.  We thoroughly know the mountains.  We continuously scout for the best locations to make effective use of your time.  SMSOP outings provide the best photo opportunities the Great Smoky Mountains offer.

For more information about the SMSOP and their instructors please visit

Field Trips

Field trips are 3-4 hours long, so we can shoot many great nature images. We’ll visit scenic overlooks, leaf-covered forests, moss-covered streams, gorgeous waterfalls in the autumn woods, and much more of the incredible Smoky Mountains where subjects abound. We’ll car pool on each field trip. Since the folks of the Smoky Mountain School of Photography live here, and know this gorgeous part of the world so well, we’ll take you to many magical places that are known to only a few.

Digital Photography

We use a high-quality digital projector or HD TV for viewing your images. Just give us a copy of your images on a jump drive to let us view them. Bringing a laptop computer is highly encouraged!


We eat many meals as a group, but meal times are highly variable.  The weather dictates our field trips.  Meals must be worked in around photography. We’ll eat breakfast as a group after the morning field trip. All other meals depend on our schedule. Since predicting the weather is not our specialty, we’ll just react to what happens on site.  In all cases, when we go to restaurants, everyone orders off the menu and pays for his/her meal then. Nobody has ever gone hungry, nor lost weight during our workshops. But, we do work our meals in around taking beautiful images, not the other way around!

Farewell Dinner

The group will eat an earlier dinner Friday night at a superb restaurant and John is picking up the check. Then we return to the Greystone Lodge to view the best images that you shot during the week. This is a great way to crown such a busy and productive week.

Greenbriar Fall
Little River

Non-participating Spouses

As we are being headquartered in Gatlinburg, non-participating spouses are encouraged to attend. While participants are in the field, non-participating spouses will have ample time to explore Gatlinburg.  We encourage you to visit to learn about all that this gateway to the Smokies offers.  Unfortunately, since the meeting room space is limited, non-participating spouses are not allowed to attend any of the instructional programs. However, they can squeeze in to attend our images of the year program, participant sharing image program, and the Friday night “best images of the week” program.  Due to limited parking at many locations, non-participating spouses cannot join field trips with their spouse.

Workshop Dates

The week begins Sunday afternoon and runs until Saturday morning after breakfast. The first week is Oct. 21-27 and the second week is Oct. 28-Nov. 3.

When the Workshop Starts and Ends

The workshop begins Sunday at 4:30pm 6:30 P.M. at the Greystone Lodge on the River. The program ends after breakfast on Saturday.  Please note the change to the start time on Sunday!

Ogle Cabin
Yellow Trillium


Tuition for the workshop is $950.

A $200 deposit is required now to hold your space in the workshop.  The deposit is refundable, less a $50 service fee, until June 1, 2018. After June 1, the $200 deposit becomes non-refundable, unless we can refill your space on such short notice (minus the $50 service fee). Tuition includes all classroom and field instruction, detailed notes, and the farewell dinner Friday night. Meals, lodging, and items of a personal nature are not included.


Our workshops are based at the Greystone Lodge, but participants may stay at other locations of their choice. Staying near or at the Greystone Lodge will be advantageous for early morning meetings before traveling to our sunrise and other locations.

Travel and Equipment Information

After making a reservation, we’ll send you pre-departure information describing photographic equipment and clothing that is most suitable for the workshop. We’ll send you a detailed map showing you exactly how to find the Greystone Lodge.

How to Get to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Since most of our workshop participants drive to the Smokies, we rely on carpooling. For those participants flying in, you should choose either the Knoxville McGhee Tyson Airport (TYS), which is only about 45 miles from Gatlinburg or the Asheville (North Carolina) Regional Airport (AVL) which is about 54 miles driving distance. There are car rental companies at both airports. We recommend renting a car because it’s convenient to have your own wheels. If you wish to rely on carpooling, you can get a taxi at the airport. The fee for a taxi ride to Gatlinburg from the Knoxville Airport is about $85 one-way. If you would like to share a rented car with another participant, let us know, and we’ll connect all interested parties. Many of our guests do this!

Gomer and Maybelle posing for our group

Please join us for a solid week of being fully immersed in nature and photography. To register, simply send an email to: expressing your interest in the Gerlach Spring Workshop and we’ll be in touch with registration details.

John and the folks of the Smoky Mountain School of Photography are looking forward to seeing you in the Spring!

Enroll in this intensive photography workshop set at the Smoky Mountains National Park now as enrollment is limited to only twelve. Contact: