Spring in the Smokies 2019

April 14 – 19, 2019  

April 21 – 26, 2019  

April 28 – May 3, 2019

With John Gerlach and the Smoky Mountain School of Photography

The Morton Overlook

Few places rival the diversity of spring in the Great Smoky Mountains.  The forest begins to awaken from its winter slumber in late March through early April and comes to a full-blown eruption of wildflowers in mid to late April.  Many species of trilliums, jack-in-the pulpit, fringed phacelia, wild geranium, dwarf crested iris, and numerous others carpet the forest floor.  Ferns emerge among the fresh green mosses and mountain streams and waterfalls are in full flow.  Come join like-minded nature photographers and be inspired by incredible sunrises and sunsets from the highest mountains in the Smokies.  There are so many subjects, but during our week together we will lead you to a multitude of enchanting subjects in gorgeous locations.

For these workshop, John Gerlach, of Gerlach Nature Photography, has enlisted the support of his friends and local experts with the Smoky Mountain School of Photography who know these mountains thoroughly.

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 wildflower 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 have access to private areas for wildflower photography where I will instruct you in close-up methods such as focus stacking, exposure the easy way, composition the artful way, and the use of main and fill flash to truly enhance your macro images.

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.

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

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

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 has captured. Lately, John has been doing a lot of focus stacking for unlimited depth of field at the sharpest apertures on the lens for both landscape 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.

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 add to the workshop experience.

Participating in this nature photography workshop is not only a super 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 photogenic 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 normally be out capturing our own images.  Therefore, we take field trips every morning, generally beginning at least an hour before sunrise, and stay out until late morning.  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.

Sweet White Trillium
Newfound Gap

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

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 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 more 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. They thoroughly know the mountains while continuously scouting 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: www.smokymountainsop.com/meet-your-instructors

Mingo Falls
A Smoky Mountain Native

Field Trips

Field trips are 3-4 hours long, so we can shoot many great nature images. We’ll visit scenic overlooks, moss-covered forests, flowing streams, waterfalls, wildflowers, 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 enchanting places.

A Smoky Mountain Native

Physical Abilities

This is a nature photography workshop so participants must be physically able to participate with the group.  While there will not be any “extensive” hiking, there will be some moderate hiking of up to four miles per day over uneven terrain.  Most sessions will not require more than normal physical exertion for this type workshop but we wish to show participants some of the most beautiful areas of the wilderness.  You must be able to navigate down stream banks, hike slightly elevated trails and carry your equipment.  Please know your abilities and if you have any questions about the physical nature of these workshops do not hesitate to ask.

Digital Photography

We use a computer and large screen television for viewing your images. Just give us a copy of your images on a jump drive to let us view them.  Please label your images with your last name_first name_ #1, #2, etc. Bringing your own laptop computer is highly encouraged to allow you to review your images during the week!


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 try to eat breakfast as a group after the morning field trip. All other meals depend on our schedule. Since predicting the weather in these mountains is difficult, we’ll have to see what happens.  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 around taking beautiful images, not the other way around!

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 www.gatlinburg.com 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 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 evening and runs through Friday evening.

April 14 – 19, 2019

April 21 – 26, 2019

April 28 – May 3, 2019

When the Workshop Starts and Ends

The workshop begins Sunday at 4:00 P.M. at the Greystone Lodge on the River.

The program ends after the final shoot on Friday evening.  Weather permitting, there may be a Saturday morning sunrise shoot.

Ogle Cabin
Yellow Trillium


Tuition for the workshop is $1250.

A $300 deposit is required now to hold your space in the workshop. The deposit is refundable, less a $50 service fee, until January 1, 2019. After January 1, the $300 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 with detailed notes. 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.

You must make your own hotel reservations.  Lodging is not included in tuition.

Travel and Equipment Information

After reserving your spot in the workshop, we’ll send you pre-departure information describing photographic equipment and clothing that is most suitable for the workshop.

How to Get to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Since most of our workshop participants will be driving to the Smokies, we will always 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 car pooling, 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:

tyson@smokymountainsop.com expressing your interest in the Gerlach Spring Workshop and we’ll be in touch with registration details.  Be sure to include the week your are interested in from the above list of workshops in the Spring.

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

Dwarf Iris and Ferns
Spruce Flats Falls

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