Cody York: From BMX Thrills to Cosmic Wonders

Cody York's photographic journey showcases his evolution from capturing BMX's thrilling dynamics to exploring the serene beauty of astrophotography.

© Cody York
© Cody York
© Cody York
© Cody York
© Cody York

Our first profil is Cody York, a Cleveland-based photographer whose journey began in the action-packed world of BMX back in 2000. Initially capturing the thrill of the ride, both as a participant and a photographer, Cody's repertoire has since expanded far beyond the race tracks. His work now spans editorial and commercial photography, covering everything from evocative portraits and vibrant ad campaigns to captivating events and landscapes. Not one to be bound by the earth, Cody has also taken to the skies with his commercial drone license, adding aerial photography to his diverse portfolio.

Yet, it's in the quiet of the night, under the starlit skies of Kanab, Utah, that Cody finds his greatest passion—astrophotography. For the past four years, he's been sharing this passion with others, teaching guests of Dreamland Safari Tours how to capture the mesmerizing beauty of the Milky Way. Cody's multifaceted career, marked by a constant thirst for exploration and expression, truly makes him a "jack of all trades" in the photography world.

Join us as we delve into the experiences and insights of Cody York, a photographer whose work not only spans a wide spectrum of subjects but also teaches us the beauty of looking at the world through different lenses—both literally and metaphorically.


Early Inspirations

Can you share a story about what first drew you to photography and why you decided to focus on commercial work and workshops at Dreamland Tours?

“My very first inspiration came from seeing rad photos in BMX and Skateboard Magazines. I was so inspired by cool compositions and especially how the photos were lit. I was obsessed with figuring out how BMX photographers like Jeff Zielenski, Rob Dolecki, Adam Booth and Mark Losey did it.”

“As for astrophotography my inspiration was Royce Bair. I bought his e-book several years ago and was blown away by how he was incorporating the use of LED lights to light up the foregrounds in his Milky Way photos. I thought it was so new and exciting and it really made me want to try it out for myself.” 


Pivotal Moments

Reflecting on your career, could you tell us about a specific project or encounter that significantly propelled your career forward?

“Getting to shoot the X Games as the Assistant Editor for BMX Plus! Magazine was really a huge step for me. That ultimately led to me being hired by ESPN as a Content Editor/Photographer for them. Eventually I was able to go off on my own as a freelancer while working for brands like Red Bull, Monster Energy and Operativ Brand Apparel to name a few.” 


Overcoming Challenges

What’s one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your photography career, and how did you overcome it?

“Knowing my worth and pricing my craft have been challenging at times. No one tells you when you start your own business what you should be pricing your services at. That’s something you have to feel out and figure out on your own. Also, just breaking into the commercial photography world. To do that I built a better website, built up my portfolio and just started cold calling and emailing clients I wanted to work with. It took about a year or so until it started paying off.” 


Valuable Lessons

What’s a piece of advice you received early on in your career that’s been particularly impactful? How did it change your approach to photography?

“To shoot everything. I’ve done my fair share of events and weddings and those have taught me how to light subjects on a whim and how to deal with lighting conditions you can’t control. That in turn has paid off when I have a commercial client who needs a portrait done last minute and I need to make it amazing despite non-ideal conditions to work with. You learn to improvise without panicking.” 


Creative Satisfaction

Among the various aspects of your work, what brings you the most joy and why?

“Progression. Whether its commercial or landscape work, progressing, learning and trying something new is always the most satisfying. I don’t like being complacent. Also, teaching other people. There’s nothing better than when I get emails from landscape workshop participants about how thrilled they are that they broke that barrier of being stuck and were able to progress their photography skills because of my guidance and teaching.” 

Cody York - Dreamland Tours


Defining Success

How do you measure success in your work, and has this definition evolved over time?

“Success to me is being able to achieve your own goals and progress. Being the wealthiest photographer doesn’t make you the best photographer. If you’re a talented photographer and easy to work with, the work will follow.”


Preparation Rituals

Could you walk us through your routine before a big shoot or workshop? How do you ensure you're fully prepared, both mentally and logistically?

“I have several different camera bags for commercial or landscape work. I first start there. Pick the best bag for the job and decide what lenses I want to work with. Then I brainstorm ideas for lighting, might research some inspiration online and then start packing if I’m bringing lights. I have everything well organized in my studio, so I lay everything out first, my stands, light modifiers, etc. then I pack my bags. I’m very organized, that’s a big reason why I love Field Made indicators. They’re especially helpful for my assistants who might not always know my gear. The indicators make it so they can quickly grab the lens I’m asking for out of my bag.” 


Workshop Inspiration

What inspired you to start offering photography workshops at Dreamland Tours, and what do you aim to provide your participants through these experiences?

“I’ve always wanted to do landscape photography workshops but didn’t necessarily want to offer them on my own. The partnership with Dreamland Safari Tours was the perfect fit. I did a 48 hour photo tour with them years ago when it was previously owned by a guy named Will. When he sold it the new owners, Paul and Sunny wanted to offer photo workshops and Will passed along my name. I really hit it of with the new owners. Sunny has a passion for adventure and landscape photography and felt like we could benefit by partnering together and offering photo workshops. They’re really great because they handle all the transportation and logistics and I get to focus on the teaching aspect. Ultimately, inspiring others has always been a big motivation for me. And getting to visit the Southwest all the time and be able to do what I love is unbeatable.” 


Workshop Highlights

Can you describe a standout moment or success story from one of your workshops that illustrates the impact these experiences can have on participants?

“Last year there was a guest by the name of Aaron Pergament that came to one of the White Pocket workshops. He’s a super cool dude from Michigan and we became fast friends. He really picked up on the tips I was giving him on how to shoot the Milky Way and got some really nice compositions. He wrote me a nice email thanking me for taking the time to really help him. This past Christmas he sent me an awesome thank you package with some coffee, chocolate and cool custom art for my walls. It meant a lot that he went out of his way to say thanks.”


Personal Philosophy

Is there a motto or principle that guides your decisions and work ethic in photography and teaching?

“You never know until you try. Even when I was younger I wasn’t afraid to just approach or call someone up and ask to take their picture. For example, during the Gravity Games (an action sports competition) that came to Cleveland back in 2002 I was still a freelance photographer at the time and got credentials to shoot for BMX Plus! Magazine. During the comp I approached Dave Mirra (think Tony Hawk of BMX) and just straight up asked him if I could come down to his house in North Carolina and shoot photos with him sometime. He didn’t even know me at the time but obliged and a couple weeks later I was staying at his house and shooting photos with him. It was definitely a pivotal moment in my career.”  


Inspirational Reads

Is there a book that has significantly influenced your perspective on photography or creativity? What makes it stand out to you?

“Royce Bair’s e-book, “Milky Way Nightscapes” is jam packed with great technical information and phenomenal astro photography.”


Role Models

Can you name a photographer who has inspired you? 

“Its too hard to name just one, so I’ll break it up into categories. For landscape/astro I’d say, Royce Bair, John Weatherby and Joshua Snow. Commercial it would Ben Baker, Dylan Coulter and Jeffery Salter. Action sports, Jeff Zielenski, Rob Dolecki and Michael Clark.” 


Memorable Experiences

Could you share a particularly impactful or memorable story from your time working in the field or during a workshop?

“When I was transitioning from shooting action sports to more commercial work, I started assisting other photographers. I got to be part of some amazing projects and meet some really cool people. One that really stands out is a shoot with Jack Hanna at the Columbus Zoo. I got to work with a really talented photographer, Ben Baker. They closed down the zoo for us and we got to take photos of Jack with all sorts of different animals like koalas and baby kangaroos, it was so cool! And the best part was Jack was a super nice down to earth guy.” 

“Getting to shoot different celebs is always fun, I’ve had the chance to take photos with people like Lebron James, Taylor Swift, Rob Lowe, Spike Jonze, Johnny Knoxville and many others. Those experiences are always memorable”. 


Looking Forward

What’s next on your horizon? Are there any new projects, workshops, or personal milestones you’re particularly excited about?

“I have a couple Milky Way workshops in the Spring and Fall with Dreamland Safari Tours out of Kanab, Utah. They typically sell out but right now we still have a few spots available. In May we have a 48-hour White Pocket Workshop and a brand new 24-hour overnight workshop to Alstrom Point, which overlooks Lake Powell. I’m particularly excited about this workshop because we’ve never offered it before and the location makes for perfect panoramic shots of the full Milky Way arch in the Spring. It’s one not to miss! In the Fall, we have another 48-hour at White Pocket (several spots still available) and we also have a 48-hour overnight at South Coyote Buttes and the Great Sandstone Teepees. That workshop is already sold-out.

Here are links to the available workshops:

White Pocket Workshops
Alstrom Point Workshop


Cody York - Dreamland Tours


Cody York's Links:


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