Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center
April 19-22, 2013 or April 25-28, 2013 (Full)

 Entry Sign Join Robert Smith and Gary Carter on a unique conservation photography trip to Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center in south Alabama.  If you have been looking for a chance for your pictures to have an impact and want your travel to have a positive impact on the local community, this is a trip for you.

The 5,300-acre Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center serves as an outdoor laboratory for Auburn University students majoring in forestry and wildlife.  Students and faculty from other colleges and universities also visit the site, as well as a host of professional natural resource managers from state and federal agencies, non-profit organizations, and private holdings.  It is adjacent to the 83,000-acre Conecuh National Forest, which is adjacent to the 203,000-acre Blackwater State Forest giving us access to almost 300,000 acres!

A picture is worth a thousand words, and the instructors at the Solon Dixon Center are in need of imagery to use in their talks, presentations, and other educational efforts.  We have made four trips to the Solon Dixon Center to assist them in developing their image library showing key environmental components, management tools, and management practices.


 Cedar WaxwingUnlike most photo trips where the objective is a small group of wildlife (often charismatic wildlife), the objective of this trip is to document a complex ecosystem and its management.  This trip might be described as a photojournalistic attempt to capture our most diverse southeastern ecosystem.  We would like to get imagery of the habitats and their keystone species, as well as imagery of some of the management techniques and tools.  Imagery that tells a story or part of the story is important, as is imagery that can be used for backgrounds for presentations.

The topography in this part of Alabama is rolling hills with a layer of clay over limestone parent material.  The karst parent material has lead to the development of sinkholes, one cave, seeps, and a major spring which often contain unique flora.  The Conecuh River, a comparatively large blackwater river with sand bars, borders the property.  The draws and bottoms are dominated by a diverse group of hardwoods.  The uplands were historically a fire-maintained pine grassland, dominated by longleaf pine.  Today, there is loblolly, slash, and longleaf pine, with large acreages of it in this area being prescribed burned.  This leads to a VERY diverse understory and contains some animals that are difficult to find even here, but extremely difficult to find in other areas.  While the director of the Solon Dixon Center cannot guarantee a good photographic opportunity for any species, he said the species that he could almost guarantee that we would see on the adjacent Conecuh National Forest would be the red-cockaded woodpecker.  We will be visiting the site during early nesting season.

The Solon Dixon Center maintains a number of nest boxes for other cavity-nesting birds, and there could be nesting chickadees, titmice, and bluebirds while we are there.  Bird feeders are also located at the Center, and if they are being used heavily, we will photograph there as well.

We should hit at a good time for spring wildflowers with these species as possibilities: native azaleas, Atamasco lilies, flowering dogwood, red buckeye, violets, squaw root, and mountain laurel.  We should also find many bog flowers, including 3 species of pitcher plants, 2 species of sundews, and several other species blooming as well, even native orchids.

Pitcher PlantThe wildlife native to south Alabama is present on the properties including white-tailed deer, wild turkey, feral hogs, coyotes, fox squirrels, gopher tortoises, and a diversity of other wildlife.  None of the wildlife is habituated to people, and it is likely that wildlife (other than perhaps a few bird and reptile and amphibian species) will be difficult to photograph.  The first year, we had a great trip for amphibians, with 11 frog & toad species being seen with the opportunity to try to photograph 7 of them calling in seasonal ponds!  Every year we have had great opportunities for resident and neotropical migrant songbirds.  And every year we have had great opportunities for a diversity of native reptiles and amphibians in their natural habitat in controlled conditions.  We will also visit one of the most easily photographable colonies of purple martins that we have ever found.

Imagery of some resource management tools and techniques should be fairly easy to obtain.  In the case of a rainy day we will likely focus on still life shots of equipment and natural history items found around the shop and offices.

We can spend time in the frequently burned piney woods, at a large limestone sink, around a sandy-bottomed clearwater spring run, at a red-cockaded woodpecker colony, around several depressional wetlands, in a pitcher plant bog, at a limestone cave, and shooting captive reptiles and amphibians.

Photographers will retain all rights to use their images as they see fit, but participants are requested to provide at least 10 images to the Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center for their use in presentations, talks, and other educational efforts.

While Robert, Gary, and perhaps some staff from the Center will be available to help direct participants to locations, identify plants and animals, and troubleshoot photographic problems, participants should be prepared to carpool in their vehicles as we shoot as one large group or in two smaller groups.

This is a great chance to obtain imagery of an area and habitat that is seldom photographed.  If anyone photographs stock imagery for sporting or land management buyers, there should be some good opportunities on this trip.

The imagery that we provide to the Solon Dixon Center will be viewed by potentially thousands of current and future natural resource managers – including the majority of those that matriculate through a program at Auburn University.  In addition to the existing federal, state, non-governmental, and private professionals who visit the center, students from Iowa State, the University of Wisconsin – Madison, Arkansas Tech, and Yale University get their exposure to southern fire-maintained forests at this site.

We will also be having a positive local economic impact in an extremely rural part of southern Alabama.  The housekeeping and kitchen staff are part time – if no group is at the Center, then they do not work.

April 19-22, 2013 or April 25-28, 2013 (Full)

We will be offering TWO trips again this year – the first will be April 19-22, 2013, and the second will be April 25-28, 2013.  You are welcome to sign up for one or both trips!  Gary and Robert will obviously remain on-site between these trips, and if a participant wants to stay after the first session or arrive early for the second session, we can certainly arrange that as well.

The basic schedule for both trips is the same; we will arrive by 3:00 on the first day with afternoon shooting near the compound.  An overview of the trip will be presented after dinner that evening along with an introduction to the Solon Dixon Center and its unique educational program.  The Director of the Solon Dixon Center will discuss the needs for imagery and the locations of potential subjects.

On the following two full days and the third morning, individuals will have the opportunity to go as one large group or two smaller groups to go shoot the topics that most interest them.  Some years, participants prefer to shoot as a large group; other years, their main interests are different enough that the group often splits into two smaller groups – sometimes with a lone photographer or a pair of photographers preferring to skip an organized session for a nap, a nature walk, or to return to spot they really liked.

Participants should provide their own transportation to the Solon Dixon Center and while on the site.  Four wheel drive is not necessary, but may be helpful in some situations.  Carpooling on the site is encouraged.

The Solon Dixon Center is approximately 20 miles south of Andalusia, Alabama near the community of Dixie, Alabama.  It is a scarce few miles north of the Florida line.

There are five cottages on the property.  Each cottage has 4 hotel-style, double occupancy rooms.

A cafeteria on site will provide 2 hot meals each day.  In an effort to maximize time in the field in good morning light, we will have a continental breakfast.  Participants with special food requests or allergies should make those known as early as possible.

This trip can be as easy or as difficult as the individual participants desire.  One year, most of the participants opted for at least one LONG night of trying to take pictures of frogs in flooded ephemeral wetlands.  The next year, nobody got more than 100 yards from a vehicle.  The two most difficult things that we definitely foresee doing are: 1) walking 50 to 100 yards carrying macro-type gear into a somewhat wet to VERY wet (depending on prior weather) pitcher plant bog and 2) walking 50 to 100 yards carrying bird photography gear down unimproved trails or woodland roads; and NEITHER of those things has to be done.

Boots, long-sleeved shirt, long pants, rain gear, mosquito repellent/tick spray, sunscreen, and camera gear – from wide angle to long telephoto.  A ground mat to lie on may be helpful as might chest waders or rubber boots.

The price for this trip is $475.00 per person based on two people to a room; if you require a room to yourself, there will be a single supplement of an additional $170.  This price includes lodging, meals, and support from Robert & Gary.

A non-photographing guest may accompany you on the trip for $210 double occupancy or $385 single occupancy.

Payment for workshops must be received in full at time of registration.  You will not be officially registered until your payment has been received.  Payment may be made through PayPal or check made payable to Robert smith.

Payment may be sent to:

Robert Smith
P.O. Box 1034
Biloxi, MS  39533-1034

Use these links to register via PayPal. You do not have to have a PayPal account.

Use these links for the April 19-22, 2013 workshop:


Use these links for the April 25-28, 2013 workshop: (This workshop currently FULL!)


If you need to cancel for any reason, please notify us as soon as possible prior to the start date of the workshop.  We must receive written notice of your cancellation, at which time the following fees will apply:

If you cancel 90 or more days prior to the start of the workshop, your fee will be refunded less a 10% cancellation fee.

If you cancel 60-90 days prior to the start of the workshop, your fee will be refunded less a 25% cancellation fee.

If you cancel 30-59 days prior to the start of the workshop, your fee will be refunded less a 50% cancellation fee.

If you cancel less than 30 days prior to the start of the workshop, there will be no refund.

If you are concerned about becoming sick, family emergencies, travel delays, weather conditions, or any other situation that might prevent you from attending the workshop, we encourage you to consider trip insurance.  The following link will take you to a web site that offers trip insurance through several vendors:

If for some reason we have to cancel a photo weekend or trip, we will notify you of the cancellation and why.  We will also offer you another date or refund your money.  We will give you as much notice as possible.  We normally do not cancel when the weather forecast is for rain, snow, etc. as these times provide some outstanding photo opportunities.

Our workshops are held on a combination of private and public lands, and you agree to abide by all the rules, regulations, restrictions, and ordinances that govern the land we are visiting.  Failure to abide by all the governing rules or authority could result in removal of the participant from the workshop with no provision for refund.

 If you have any questions, please contact Robert at 336-339-3497 or at  Robert and Gary hope your plans will permit you to join us at the Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center for this special photo opportunity!

Entry Sign

2009 Solon Dixon Trip


2010 Solon Dixon Trip

2011 Solon Dixon Trip

2012 Solon Dixon Trip


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