The PhotoPills Annular Eclipse Expedition to the Southwest US is Sold Out (Join the Waiting List)

By Rafael Pons

The PhotoPills Annular Eclipse Expedition to the Southwest US is SOLD OUT!


All 9 spots are already gone!

Thanks so much :D

Wish to join us?

Don't give up!

Click here to join the Waiting List.

Be the first one to know when a cancellation occurs.

We’re going to photograph the Annular Solar Eclipse...

Are you in?

Around the new Moon...

From October 10th to October 18th 2023, David Swindler (PhotoPills Master) and Rafael Pons (the Bard, PhotoPills team) will jump into 4x4 vehicles and travel across the Southwest US to photograph the Annular Solar Eclipse (October 14th), the Milky Way, the Golden Light and the Moon along with the marvels of this red-rock wonderland created by wind, water and time...

Truth is that the Southwest US hides scenery unlike any other on the planet!

And of course...

We’ll be taking photos all day long... and all night long!


Can you imagine it?

To photograph the Annular Solar Eclipse (the ring of fire), the Milky Way, the Golden Light and the Moon with vast red landscapes, deep canyons, strange rock formations, epic arches, secret caves, ancient alcoves and the iconic hoodoos (thin spires of rock).

We’re dreaming about it!

To achieve it, we’ll use the planning power of PhotoPills and the expert knowledge of David Swindler to always be at the right place at the right time.

Top secret: we have quite a few legendary photos planned already... Including a very special one for the annular solar eclipse ;)

The Deal (only 9 spots)

Since you subscribed to the Priority Access list...

We're offering you a $500 discount on the regular price!

All you have to do is to book 1 of the 9 spots available before Sunday March 26th.

Read carefully all the details of this unique adventure.

And when you’re ready, click here to book your spot.

Please, book as soon as possible. The seats are sold on a first come, first served basis.

The Adventure

9 PhotoPillers | David Swidler | Rafael Pons | Southwest US | Endless legendary photos

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Warning! This is not a honeymoon...

We’re recruiting 9 brave PhotoPillers (PhotoPills and photography nerds) to join us on a 9-day expedition to photograph the Annular Solar Eclipse, the Milky Way, the Golden Light and the Moon along with the hidden treasures of the Southwest US.

It’s a non-stop adventure to chase legendary photos and you are a key asset!

We have planned tons of photos, and we’ll travel many kilometers (and hike a few more) to capture them...

Including a very special one of the ring of fire that will be produced around the Moon during the Annular Solar Eclipse of October 14th.

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But we also want to maximize our flexibility in terms of itinerary and schedule in order to take advantage of all the opportunities that the changing weather will surely put in our way.

If we see something interesting happening in the sky, we’ll pick the best location possible, stop and take advantage of the occasion.

When we are hungry, we’ll stop and eat. When we are tired, we’ll stop and rest...

You are about to embark on a PhotoPills’ style journey. And it’s not going to be a honeymoon precisely... :P

You’ll be a true photographer!

Are you in?

Day 1. Tuesday, October 10th - Welcome to the Southwest US

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It’s Tuesday morning...

You land at Page Municipal Airport located 1.6 km (1 mi) east of Page, where it all begins.

Founded in 1957, Page (Arizona) is our strategic basecamp. It’s located 16 km (10 mi) south of the Utah border, by the Colorado River and right at the center of the “Grand Circle” area. But most importantly, Page is among some of the most stunning national parks in the US, including Glen Canyon, Grand Canyon, the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Zion.

From Page we also have quick access to Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, Lake Powell and Monument Valley.

Furthermore, it’s the perfect place to discover the unique culture of the Navajo Nation.

11:00 am

We’ll meet at the Courtyard by Marriott Page meeting room for a kick-off session.

It’s time to cover trip logistics, go over gear, and discuss the plans for the days ahead.

Also we’ll talk about the different shooting techniques, especially for the Annular Solar Eclipse and the Milky Way, and go over how we’ll be using the PhotoPills app during our time together.

3:00 pm

After a delicious lunch at one of the local restaurants, we’ll jump onto our 4x4 vehicles and drive along a rocky road to Alstrom Point, arguably one of the most scenic views in the entire state!

Located in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Alstrom Point is a 1,428-meter (4,685 feet) elevation landmark that offers the best views over Lake Powell.

Lake Powell is a fantastic landmark, but not the only one. There are lots and lots of colorful rock formations in the area.

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5:00 pm

After a quick snack, we’ll be standing right at the Alstrom Point Overlook, enjoying the stunning views and pastel colors that spread in front of us.

It’s time to find your composition, light waits for no one.

Open PhotoPills and check this out:

Golden hour begins at 6:21 pm, Sunset is at 6:56 pm, golden hour ends at 7:12 pm, and blue hour ends at 7:22 pm.

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8:00 pm

It’s completely dark. The stars are shining bright above us as we enjoy our dinner.

It took us 30 min to get to our next destination: a very special hoodoo we discovered in our 2022 expedition to the Southwest US.

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We’ll spend the next few hours photographing Star Trails and the Milky Way along with this stunning rock formation.

The Galactic Center visibility begins at 8:22 pm and it ends at 10:18 pm. The Moon with a phase of 13% will be below the horizon.

12:00 am

Bed time.

Rest well my friends, because tomorrow we’ll wake up early to photograph a beautiful tree hidden in a secret cave.

Photographic pills:

  • Sunset, golden hour and blue hour at Alstrom Point.
  • Milky Way and Star Trails by a hoodoo.

Day 2. Wednesday, October 11th - The Steps of Forrest Gump

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5:30 am

The alarm clock goes off… Wake up!

6:50 am

After a 45-minute drive and 10 minutes walking, there is a hidden cave where a lonely tree dwells.

The cave is tall and wide, simply spectacular. And there, right at the door, the tree will welcome us by the first rays of the morning light.

Blue hour begins at 7:04 am, golden hour begins at 7:14 am, Sunrise is at 7:29 am and golden hour ends at 8:05 am.

9:00 am

Breakfast at the hotel.

12:00 pm

Check out and off to Kayenta, in the Navajo Nation.

We’re following the steps of Forrest Gump!

2:00 pm

Established in 1986, and located at just 40 km (25 mi) south of Monument Valley, Kayenta is the only township existing under the laws of the Navajo Nation. Which is pretty unique!

We’ll have lunch at a local restaurant and keep driving north to our hotel (20 min): Gouldings Lodge.

The views of Monument Valley from here are stunning.

3:00 pm

Siesta time (nap time)!

5:15 pm

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Monument Valley (“Tsé Biiʼ Ndzisgaii” in Navajo, meaning valley of the rocks) is a group of red tall mesas and towering sandstone buttes (the largest reaching 300 m or some 1,000 ft) located in the Colorado Plateau.

There is no other place like this on the planet!

We’ll be shooting sunset from Monument Valley Overlook. The Sun will be setting on the right side of the characteristic rock formations. A great opportunity for a pano!

Golden hour begins at 6:15 pm, Sunset is at 6:50 pm, golden hour ends at 7:06 pm, and blue hour ends at 7:16 pm.

7:30 pm

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After the blue hour, we’ll enjoy our dinner in the field and drive to Forrest Gump Point.

If you have watched the movie, you’ll remember the scene where Forrest Gump is running followed by a crowd. Well, that’s the spot from where we’ll photograph the Milky Way today.

The idea is to capture the straight road as a guiding line to the silhouette of Monument Valley against the Milky Way (and the Galactic Center) above.

The Galactic Center visibility begins at 8:16 pm and it ends at 10:10 pm. The Moon, with a phase of 8%, will be below the horizon.

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11:00 pm

Bed time.

After two first intense days, many more will follow. Rest well, there is still a lot to see and photograph in the magical Southwest US.

Photographic pills:

  • Sunrise, golden hour and blue hour at Cave tree.
  • Sunset, golden hour and blue hour at Monument Valley Overlook.
  • Milky Way at Forrest Gump Point.

Day 3. Thursday, October 12th - The Spire and the Mesa

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5:00 am

Wake up! Sunrise awaits!

6:30 am

Totem Pole is located at a 40-minute drive and a 10-minute walk. We’ll arrive there before the blue hour begins, during the nautical twilight.

The pass of time has eroded Monument Valley leaving many mesas, towers and spirals behind. With its 116 m (381 ft), Totem Pole is an emblematic one.

We’ll check where the Sun will rise with PhotoPills, and place our tripods on the right spot for the composition we want.

Hint: The Sun will be rising in the frame :)

Blue hour begins at 6:59 am, golden hour begins at 7:09 am, Sunrise is at 7:25 am and golden hour ends at 8:00 am.

8:00 am

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Totem Pole is not the only cool feature in the area. After Sunrise we’ll also photograph Sun's Eye Alcove and Ear of the Wind, a stunning natural arch.

10:00 am

Breakfast and check out. Today we’ll sleep under the stars...

12:00 pm

Tomorrow we have an eclipse to photograph.

So it’s time to get ready with a detailed Annular Solar Eclipse photography class.

We’ll cover everything you need to photograph the eclipse: planning, gear and camera settings!

1:30 pm

Lunch at a local restaurant and to the 4x4 vehicles.

3:45 pm

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With its 2,069 m (6,796 ft) of altitude above sea level, the Hunts Mesa plateau is a remote vantage point from where to enjoy and photograph a stunning view of the Lower Monument Valley.

Look at the endless horizon. Can you recognize them?

“Totem Poles, Moccasin Arch, Vreeland Arch, Thunderbird Mesa, Double Arch Canyon, Big Chair, The Hub, Ruin Arch, Natural Arch, Rain God Mesa...”

As the Sun goes down painting with its golden light the red vast landscape that lays before us, we’ll enjoy the moment as we press and press the shutter like there is no tomorrow.

Golden hour begins at 6:13 pm, Sunset is at 6:48 pm, golden hour ends at 7:04 pm, and blue hour ends at 7:14 pm.

7:30 pm

After setting up the Camp, we’ll have dinner and hot drinks to keep us warm.

Slowly, the Milky Way will appear in the sky, more and more vertical at every minute. The Core is not facing in the right direction, due the Valley, but there are plenty of interesting subjects in the area.

Ah! And it’s also a great opportunity to shoot some Star Trails!

The Galactic Center visibility begins at 8:14 pm and it ends at 10:06 pm. The Moon with a phase of 4% will be below the horizon.

11:00 pm

Back to our tents, to recover energy for tomorrow, because the Sunrise looks promising :)

Photographic pills:

  • Sunrise, golden hour and blue hour at Totem Pole.
  • Morning at Sun's Eye Alcove and Ear of the Wind.
  • Sunset, golden hour and blue hour at Hunts Mesa.
  • Milky Way and Star Trails at Hunts Mesa.

Day 4-7. Friday-Monday, October 13-16th - The Secret

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I’ve been giving you lots of details of this amazing expedition to the Southwest US.

Maybe far too many...

But the following 4 days will be very special, packed with amazing photo opportunities.

Including a few stunning Milky Way shots...

And a very cool photo of the Annular Solar Eclipse we’ve specially planned...

Where will the eclipse shot be?

Well, you'll have to be there, with us, to figure it out :P

“An Annular Solar Eclipse in the Southwest,
A moment so rare and of such great interest.
A ring of fire in the sky, a sight to see,
A chance to capture its beauty and majesty.

With camera in hand, we set out to chase,
The path of the Moon and the Sun's embrace.
A journey through deserts and canyons so grand,
To find the perfect spot, where we'll take a stand.

The air is still, and the sky is clear,
As we set up our tripods and wait for the show to appear.
And then, as the moon begins to block the sun's light,
We snap our cameras and capture the sight.

The light turns to dusk, and the sky turns to gold,
As the ring of fire glows and the world grows cold.
And for just a moment, we stand in awe,
Of the beauty and wonder of nature's raw.

We pack up our cameras, and as we depart,
We know that these photos will hold a special part,
Of a memory so grand, of a moment so rare,
Of an Annular Solar Eclipse, in the Southwest air.”

Day 8. Tuesday, October 17th - The Arch and the Canyon

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6:00 am

Wake up! Two Sunrises to go!

7:00 am

The Sun is about to rise. And there we are, contemplating a beautiful canyon full of sandstone spires. We are enjoying the reds, the oranges, the whites, the different forms and textures, and deciding where to place our tripods for the first shot of the day.

Blue hour begins at 7:06 am, golden hour begins at 7:16 am, Sunrise is at 7:32 am and golden hour ends at 8:07 am.

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9:00 am

Breakfast at our hotel.

11:00 am

Milky Way editing class.

David will show us how he edits his Milky Way photos step by step :)

12:30 pm

Lunch at a local restaurant and siesta!

5:30 pm

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In the afternoon we’ll explore and photograph another hidden gem of the Southwest. An isolated (and giant) arch lost in the middle of nowhere.

The arch is a great spot for Sunset, and for the Milky Way later on.

I already visualize it. The arch, the Sun and the vast desert.

Golden hour begins at 6:10 pm, Sunset is at 6:45 pm, golden hour ends at 7:01 pm, and blue hour ends at 7:11 pm.

7:30 pm

Dinner in the field.

8:00 pm

The night surprises us enjoying our hot coffee and chatting about the adventures already lived.

Turn your head to the south-west. There it is, the majestic Milky Way and its Core slowly getting in place, as planned, for our shot.

This shot is a bit tricky since there is not much space at the right shooting spot. So we’ll take turns.

There is no reason to hurry as we have about 2 hours of Milky Way photography ahead of us. Let’s just enjoy it!

Oh! And this is also a fantastic spot to shoot Star Trails!

The Galactic Center visibility begins at 8:11 pm and it ends at 9:51 pm. The Moon with a phase of 11% will be setting at 8:23 pm.

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11:00 pm

Bed time!

We deserve a good sleep!

Photographic pills:

  • Sunrise, golden hour and blue hour at hidden canyon.
  • Sunset, golden hour and blue hour at giant arch.
  • Milky Way and Star Trails at giant arch.

Day 9. Wednesday, October 18th - The Farewell

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4:30 am

Wake up!

Today we’ll photograph the Grand Canyon.

7:00 am

Carved by the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon is 446 km (277 mi) long, up to 29 km (18 mi) wide and attains a depth of over 1857 m (6,093 ft).

The enormity of the canyon, with its layered bands of rock and towering cliffs, creates a sense of awe and wonder that is hard to convey in words.

The play of light and shadow on the rock formations throughout the day, combined with the ever-changing clouds and weather patterns, means that no two trips to the canyon are ever exactly the same.

One of the biggest challenges of photographing the Grand Canyon is capturing its vast scale in a single image. Wide-angle lenses are a must, as they allow us to capture the sweeping vistas and towering cliffs.

Look! The Sun is about to rise and lit the vast canyon making its red colors pop.

We couldn’t think of a better place to end our expedition.

Blue hour begins at 7:12 am, golden hour begins at 7:22 am, Sunrise is at 7:38 am and golden hour ends at 8:13 am.

12:00 pm

As our PhotoPills adventure in the Southwest US comes to a close, it's time to say goodbye to the stunning landscapes and breathtaking vistas that have filled our days and inspired our photography.

The memories we have created together will stay with us forever, and we will always treasure the friendships we have formed during this journey.

We hope that the images we captured will serve as a reminder of the beauty we witnessed and the fun we had together.

Until we meet again, farewell and safe travels. Thank you for being a part of this unforgettable adventure.

Life goes on...

Book now and save $500 (only 9 spots)

To book your spot to join the Annular Eclipse Expedition to the Southwest US at a reduced price of $5,500 (the official price is $6,000), a $1,000 deposit is required by Sunday, March 26th.

Payment in full is required by Sunday, June 18th 2023.

Please, finalize your booking as soon as possible. The seats are sold on a first come, first served basis.


What’s included in the price
  • A 9-day expedition photographing the Southwest US with the Annular Solar Eclipse, Milky Way, the golden light and the Moon.
  • 9 days of learning, fun and adventure with David Swindler, Rafael Pons and the funniest geek community – the PhotoPillers.
  • Full immersion in the PhotoPills method (Imagine.Plan.Shoot.!).
  • 7 nights of lodging, sharing a double room with another PhotoPiller (optional $600 single room supplement).
  • 1 night of camping (full equipped and including meals)
  • Activities included in the secret days.
  • Transport in 4x4 vehicles.
  • Permits and passes.
What’s not included
  • Flights/transport to Page.
  • Medical and travel insurance coverage (recommended).
  • Breakfast, lunch & dinner.
  • Snacks, alcohol and beverages.

Do you want an example of how huge this will be?

This is a glimpse of what happened in the PhotoPills Expedition to Iceland... We had so many adventures and so much fun... We can’t wait for the Southwest US!

But you don’t have to take our word for granted. Here’s what some PhotoPillers say about the PhotoPills adventures:

“I went to Iceland expecting to have the opportunity to photograph the marvelous landscape and master nightscapes. What I encountered was so much more – 14 kindred souls from across the globe who share a passion for photography. Together we expanded our creative boundaries, learned from one another and had an insane amount of fun in the process. I am confident that everyone came away from the experience a better photographer.”

“From the very moment the guys from PhotoPills announced the expedition to Iceland... I didn’t think it twice! I was using PhotoPills but not at its full capacity, so I had no better chance to learn from the creators of this amazing app. The experience was even more amazing than anything I could have imagined. In Iceland, I discovered a bunch of folks as crazy about photography as I am. I had a blast!

Photography is a continuous learning process, you always find something new that motivates you to improve. And this adventure made me improve more than I could imagine.”

"The PhotoPills guys know how to create a fantastic experience. They bring an infectiously fun energy and are always willing to drop some handy photography knowledge on you that you will take with you. You take their trip and you'll for sure have a good time, get some amazing pics and leave a better photographer."

“During my experience in Iceland I lived wonderful moments and had surprises that were beyond the expected. It completely exceeded my initial expectations! Sharing knowledge, experiences and ways of working and living photography with such a great group has been one of the most enriching life experiences I have ever had.

Who he said that learning and knowledge sharing can not be wonderfully fun?”

“I can't say enough about what a fantastic time I had during the PhotoPills Iceland photo tour! The guys from PhotoPills and Donal Boyd were so knowledgeable, accommodating, and especially lots of fun. Never a dull moment – nonstop action and shooting of amazing landscapes for 10 days. I came away with enough images and memories to last a lifetime!”


What’s the temperature in the Southwest US in October?

Low temperatures in October could be below freezing in the mornings depending on the dominant weather front and the elevation we are at. Bring warm layers, the desert can get surprisingly cold.

Daily high temperatures increase by 8°F (4ºC), from 55°F to 63°F (13ºC to 17ºC), rarely falling below 44°F (7ºC) or exceeding 74°F (23ºC).

Daily low temperatures increase by 4°F (3ºC), from 29°F to 33°F (-2ºC to 1ºC), rarely falling below 21°F (-6ºC) or exceeding 42°F (6ºC).

For reference, on July 10, the hottest day of the year, temperatures in the Southwest typically range from 59°F to 92°F (15ºC to 33ºC), while on January 3, the coldest day of the year, they range from 22°F to 45°F (-6ºC to 8ºC).

What do you recommend I bring along for the expedition?

Your sense of adventure and fun, your camera and your sense of humor, of course.

Besides that? When you book your seat, we’ll send you an Information Package that will give you further details and suggestions about what to bring (gear, clothing, etc.).

Is travel insurance included in the price of the expedition?

No. Participants are strongly recommended to purchase national or international medical and travel insurance coverage.

Also, we recommend you to choose a travel insurance that:

  • Covers trip cancellation costs.
  • Covers Covid-19 health, travel and cancellation costs.

What is the cancellation policy?

We hope you don’t need to cancel your spot, but if a situation arises where you don’t have a choice, our cancellation policy is the following.

If you cancel and the expedition to the Southwest US is otherwise filled, we'll refund you the full booking fee you have paid, minus a $300 administrative fee, and the non-refundable costs that are withheld by our travel partners.

If you cancel and the expedition to the the Southwest US doesn’t fill, then you’ll be refunded according to the following schedule, based on the full fee of the expedition:

  • 61 days or more before the expedition: 100% refund, minus the deposit payment and the non-refundable costs that are withheld by our travel partners.
  • 60 days or less before the expedition: No refunds will be given.

Refunds will be paid using the same original method of payment.

Credits: Cover image by Alan Dyer/Stocktrek Images.Tree Cave image by Nickolas Warner. All other images by David Swindler.

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