Simplifying Night Photography

gear

As a night photography workshop instructor over the last 5 years I have seen a lot with our students. I have seen very happy students and I have seen, at times, very upset students. 99% of the time, if they are upset, it’s because they don’t know their gear well enough to work with it in the dark. This is not a bad thing, it’s just part of the learning experience.

I am writing this today to help ease some of that frustration. I am writing this to help ease some anxiety you may have because you want to get into night photography but at the same time you are scared you don’t have the correct gear.

Today I am going to tell you exactly what you need. That’s it…I run a no BS approach to photography. I wont sugar coat things, I wont say they are OK if they are not. Why accept somethings that’s OK only to get home and find out that it’s not. Unacceptable.

YOU ONLY NEED 3 things, 2 really, to begin your quest as a night photographer.

  • Digital Camera  with at least an F/4 lens.
  • Tripod – Med sized to full size will work fine
  • Remote cord – Optional

Surprised?  I thought so. Let me explain

Camera and Lens – This is where you will adjust your settings and capture your images. You don’t need a 40 or 50mp camera to get good night images. You simply need a camera. Any camera that can expose for 30 seconds will do the trick as long as your lens is F4 or faster, this means that it could be a 2.8, 1.8 or 1.4 lens. If you are just starting out and don’t want to spend a lot of money get an F4 or 2.8 as they will work just fine to capture images. I use an F4 lens for some of my work and have no issues. I also use a 1.4 sometimes.

Tripod – This is what holds your camera steady while your shutter is open. I suggest a tripod that does not have toothpicks for legs… Really, you think your camera will hold still on toothpick legs, it wont! If you do have a tripod that has very thin legs then I would simply suggest that you do not extend them and shoot with the legs fully collapsed and close to the ground to hold the camera as steady as possible.

Remote Cord – Optional – Why optional? Because your camera has a shutter button that you can, believe it or not, press down with your finger or thumb if you like. Seriously, it works, try it. If your camera is on a stead tripod and the tripod is tightened down so that the camera does not move then yes, it’s ok to use your finger to press the shutter. I personally like the remote cords that connect directly to your camera and not the wireless ones. Why? I have never seen anyone have issues with a remote cord that connects directly to the camera. I see people all the time fuss about because their shutters are not going off because they can’t get their wireless remotes to work. I have also seen a lot of people who try to program their intervalometers on their remote cords even when they have a camera that can do exactly what they are trying to do. If the camera can do it, let it do it. Unless you have a very specific need and need to take a long series of images that are over 30 seconds each you do not need an intervalometer. You can simply set your camera to any exposure time 30 seconds or less and press the shutter on the remote cord or camera and it will take the image. If you need to take a series of back to back shots just change the setting on your camera to continuous mode and press and lock the remote cord button. It will now take as many images as you like until your memory card is full or you release the shutter.

Let’s review.

You need a digital camera that will allow for exposures up to 30 seconds long.

You need a tripod to hold your camera steady

You need a remote cord if you wish to take back to back images for a series.

 

DO NOT get caught up in the gear game. You simply don’t need that much stuff. So now you’re looking around your room thinking, hmm, I have a camera, I have a tripod and he said I really don’t need a remote cord so I think I’ll go see if I can take some pictures of the night sky or even a city skyline at night.

Pro Tip – Set your camera on Manual mode, change your ISO to 6400, set your lens to the widest it will go, ie, 2.8, 4 or 1.4, set your shutter speed(exposure time) to 30 seconds and shoot. These are starter settings. If the image is too bright then you can cut your exposure time or ISO down.  For information on how to focus in the dark please visit our website at www.nightphotographyworkshop.com

Improve Your Landscape Photos With These Simple Tips.

When I started landscape photography back in 1988-89 I didn’t really know what I was doing but I knew I liked taking pictures, I liked seeing the images printed and I liked doing the printing.

Almost (99%) of what I know today is self-taught/trial and error and trust me…more error than I would care to admit. The people I shoot with can attest to my mishaps, mistakes and poor judgement in the field when shooting on my own and that’s what makes going out with friends fun.

Over the years I have picked up a few tips and trick along the way that have really improved my being able to capture good images in the camera. When I was younger, think 10/11 years old I would hold up my hands with my thumbs touching and fingers pointing up to isolate a scene that I thought looked nice. By doing so I could get rid of the elements that did not compliment the scene and while I did not know this at the time it has helped me to “see” better. People say that artists have an “eye” for things. This simply means that we see the beauty in something that others see as mundane, chaotic or ugly. By picking out certain little things from a bigger picture and composing so that only the good or beauty shows through our images.

I get asked all the time by people around the world who want to know the exif data of my images. While this question is very vague in terms of the desired outcome of an image, I gladly share. I will explain this a little more later on.

I have put together a little list things you need to help take a great landscape photograph.

  • DSLR Camera – Mirrorless Hi Res Camera
  • Sturdy Tripod
  • Great Lenses – This really applies if you are printing your work
  • Patience
  • Good Light
  • Good Composition
  • Good Exposure

Today’s cameras really aren’t the issues behind bad images. Most of the newer cameras take great pictures and it doesn’t matter if it’s a crop sensor or a full frame, they all do a good job. The bigger issues lie with the rest of the list as I will explain.

Having a sturdy tripod may sound like common sense to most people but everyone defines “sturdy” as something different. I live in a very realistic world when talking and teaching photography. Companies I consider to have sturdy, solid tripods are Induro (that’s what I use) Really Right Stuff and Feisol. Ninety percent of all the photographers I know use one of these three brands… A few I know use Gtizo but not many. There is value when purchasing a tripod and in all honestly I see no need to spend upwards of $1000 for a tripod when you can get the same quality and sturdiness from a different brand.. I personally feel that $500 will get you and awesome tripod that will work wonders for your landscape photography. I don’t see any need to pay more. Chances are if your tripod has thin legs or comes in a fancy color, it’s safe to say that it’s not the best choice for doing landscape work. Investing in a sturdy tripod is the first step to getting good sharp images. One question I do get asked is this, “What if my lens has VR, IS or OS” all of which are intended to prevent blur from handholding your camera. This is all fine and dandy until you forget to turn it on or have it on but need a shutter speed that’s slower than what the lens will work with. Too many times I have just went out shooting casually and forgot to turn it on only to get home and find a bunch of blurry images..and no matter how long you keep a blurry image, it will never get any sharper. That’s a fact you can take to your grave.

What could be more critical to your work as a photographer than the glass the light passes though before it hits your sensor. If you are using a kit lens that came with your camera I highly recommend you purchase a different lens…  I used a 18-70 kit lens on my Nikon D70 for 2 years before I purchased a different lens and I can’t tell you happy I was even way back then. Lenses have come a long way since the days of 6mp cameras and with the High Res cameras we have today we NEED lenses that will give us the full resolution that our cameras can provide. Many of you know that I am a Sigma lens ambassador and have been officially for a couple of years. My first Sigma Art lens I purchased was when I got my D810 in 2015, it was the 24-105 F4 and I was blown away. After my first outing with the lens and getting the images back on the computer screen I thought someone had performed Lasik on me. I could not believe all the detail I was seeing. Images were razor-sharp and looked stunning… I don’t put my name with a company that I don’t believe in 100%. There is good reason why all my lenses are Sigma now. While I can’t recommend the Sigma 24-105 enough, the point of this is to ditch the kit lens, get something with an F4 or faster, if the zoom range is too wide like 18-300 then forget about that too. Be willing to spend a little money for a good lens.  You will thank yourself every time you go out shooting.

Now you have your camera, lens and tripod and you’re ready to go make some great images. This next time is by far my weakness when it comes to shooting great landscapes. Patience. I have never been a patient person, I don’t like to wait, I am an only child, I get bored easy but for great photographs we wait, and wait patiently for good light. Several years ago I flew into Flagstaff, AZ picked up my rental car and took off for Grand Falls (google it) I had been dying to see this place in person and knowing it was a long bumpy gravel road I gave myself lots of time to get there by sunset in case I got lost, had a flat tire ect… Well everything went perfect and I arrived there about 5 hours before sunset. It’s hot, I was in the middle of nowhere and in those 5 hours I only saw one other car and 2 naked people (that’s a whole other story) but dammit, I was there and I wasn’t going to miss the sunset. I came all the way for this one shot! So I waited, waited, waited, walked around, found a dog…found the naked people who owned the dog, did some more hiking and then finally….Little Colorado Sunset

Light is very crucial to landscape photography. Light creates depth, shadows, contrast and can be the difference between a good image and a fantastic image.

dayshot

These images were taken roughly 3 hours apart from each other and I think it’s safe to say that the top image is more appealing to most people. Just by having better light I was able to take the viewers focus away from the ugly brown pool of water and put more attention on the falls and the sky. Would you agree? As landscape photographers we have the ability to turn and ugly scene into something beautiful with just the right light.

Here are some various types of lighting I like to look for when shooting. The first is often during sunrise or sunset when the light is right on the horizon. This will allow to you get a naturally soft glow effect by placing the sun just out of the frame so that the light naturally bleeds in from the side.

Natural bleeding light

In the image above I am looking south, the sun is just ready to set and the light is all from just placing the sun outside my frame. This creates a naturally soft light on the scene you’re shooting.

I also like direct or isolated light. This is often times harder to find depending on the conditions. The image below was taken about an hour before sunset. The sun was setting behind me and because of the cloud cover behind me it was only allowing the sunlight to hit the front of this cloud as well as the small portion of the mountain. I liked how it kept the rest of the image dark. This adds a great deal of depth in the clouds as it goes from light to dark.

Isolated light direct light

Backlighting can be fun as well. It can make for nice silhouettes or light fringing around an object. In this example I was driving around Acadia National Park in Maine one early morning and these deer were in the shadow of some big trees while the sun was hitting the bushes behind them. This made for a nice backdrop for the deer. Had this scene been full shadow or full sun the outcome would have been totally different.

Backlight

Composition and composing can be one of the most difficult aspects of landscape photography. I have heard almost every photographer I know say, “I just can’t get my composition right”, at one point or another. Composition is a very mental part of this and we all go through some challenging times trying to find good compositions. Good compositions in landscape photography come from finding a good scene with a nice sky and a nice foreground. Don’t just point your camera up at the sunset sky with a tree in it and click the picture…Well, you can do that if you want but if you have a great sky that makes you want to photograph it, put a nice foreground in it to hold the viewer’s attention longer.  Some key elements to think about when composing an image-

  • Create visual interest – include foreground
  • Rule of 3rds
  • 50/50 reflections
  • diagonal Lines/Leading lines
  • Simplify/Negative Space

Leading Lines in the foreground

Creating visual interest, using a foreground and finding leading lines can usually all be combined into one. This image of Pemaquid Point Lighthouse in Maine does just that.. I have created interests throughout the image with the use of a big foreground with highly textured rock as leading lines that take your eye right up to the lighthouse. This image also uses the rule of 3rds as I have placed my subject in the upper left 3rd of the frame.

Clouds Water Offset

This is a non reflection shot that has what I like to call an X-Factor Comp to it. If you look at the water that is going down to the left and the cloud going up to the right, those combined make the / part of the X. The water coming over the rock in the lower right and the ridge line behind the tree in the upper left make the \ to form an X. This is a pretty common composition in landscape photography and one that’s worth paying attention to when you’re composing  your shot. Even if you don’t see the X you should see the clouds and the water mimic each other in reverse. It can also work with clouds and reflection shots as seen below.

Leading Lines X factor

Framing your subject when you can is important to keep the viewer’s attention in the image longer than usual. By framing your scene it doesn’t give the viewer’s eye an easy out, they have to want to look away. There are many ways to frame an image. Here are some examples.

Framing Example 1

The waterfall has been framed by the trees below, to the side and above. This keeps the eye moving around the image. The low fog helps as well by keeping the bright spots up top toned down.

Framing Example 2

Something as simple as the sun can be easily framed by an opening between 2 trees that are holding hands…..err branches.

Tunnel View

Naturally occurring frames like this cave entrance is a beautiful natural frame to the ocean landscape outside.

Balance

The 50/50 split works best in my opinion for reflection images. This is one time it’s ok to break the rule of 3rds rule.

Last but not least is exposure. Generally speaking if your image looks good to you on the back of your camera it’s not the best it can be. Using your histogram is the scientific way determine a good exposure. Even with today’s high-end cameras I still feel it’s important to expose to the right. This means taking your exposure as far as you can go to the right before you start to blow out your highlights. This helps to ensure better shadow detail, colors and tones and less noise in your image. An underexposed image will have more noise than a properly exposed image.. I am not talking about proper exposure based on your camera meter but proper exposure based on your histogram. They are 2 totally different things. This is really important if you are going to print your work. Anytime you shoot an image that’s underexposed and then try to bring up the shadows in post processing you create noise. Some cameras handle this better than others but it still happens.. By exposing to the right and getting more light in those shadow areas you will end up with a cleaner final image.

Exposed to the right

The image above is one of my RAW files with the histogram showing the data I collected. You may think this looks like crap and you are correct. By shooting this far to the right I was able to collect all the data I need to properly process the image. Nothing in this image is blown out and no shadows are clipped. Are you looking at the sky and thinking this is a total wash? Where are the details in the clouds or the water for that matter? Well, by bringing your exposures DOWN in your RAW converter you will get a much better image than if you are always pushing them UP.  By bringing them down we are simply darkening the info we already have. If you are pushing them up, you are trying to create data in pixels that were not properly exposed to begin with.

Tidal Cleansing RAW edit

As you can see, the colors, tones, shadows, and highlights are all in check here and this is only with the adjustments I made using the RAW converter. I haven’t even finished processing it yet. You will see that image a bit later on.

If you’re new to Exposing to the right, take a few shots like this the next time you’re out and work on processing them to see what you think. It works for every scene. The key is to watch your histogram and only expose just until you see a very tiny portion of the image blown out, like a cloud highlight. If you are shooting with an older camera the benefit will be much more noticeable.

Focus and Live View – I highly recommend that if you are using a tripod and taking the time to set up a great shot that you also take the time to use Live View and focus manually. I know this may sound silly since our cameras are amazing autofocus machines but it’s true. If you have spent the money on a great camera and great lens then why not make sure you get everything out of them you can. Even if your eyes are bad this will still work..  Set your camera on live view, zoom in to where you want to focus with the LCD zoom, not the lens zoom, then manually focus until the image is as sharp as it can be. If your eyes are bad use reading glasses or whatever helps you see up close. You can also use a loupe too to place right on the LCD to help you see better.

Things to keep in mind

  • Always shoot in RAW format
  • Always shoot in Adobe RGB color space
  • Use the lowest ISO possible/Native ISO
  • Use a sturdy tripod
  • Be willing to spend a some money on good lenses
  • Take your time – Wait for the right light
  • Include a foreground – give the viewer a sense of being there
  • Expose to the right – Collect more data to work with
  • Use Live View to focus manually
  • Leave no trace

 

Thank you for visiting. If you have any questions or comments please free to send them my way and I will respond in a timely manner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2017 – My Photography Year in Review

What a year! 

This year has been filled with ups and downs like most any year. I started off 2017 standing on the beach in Southern Oregon, the same way I ended 2016. Oregon is my forever home in my heart and soul. You will see some images from Oregon in this blog post. Everything was going well until Aug 11th when I tore my right calf muscle and couldn’t walk. This really puts a damper on outdoor photography. I started PT a few days after it happened and had a walking boot to help me walk.  Due to this injury I had to cancel a workshop in the Tetons which was a real bummer not only for me but for my clients who were coming from Austria. Through emails I was able to guide them into the right places at the right times for what they were looking to shoot. They also came over for the event of the year, the eclipse!  It was great to see the great images they were able to capture and I am looking forward to working with them again in Utah this year!

Summers keep me busy with night photography workshops in Utah, Wyoming and Colorado, teaching students of all skill levels everything they could want to know about night photography. I work with Mike Berenson on these workshops to help provide the ultimate experience for our students. In fact, this year in Moab, Utah during our workshop in May our 12 students were treated to seeing the Northern Lights while we were at Delicate Arch! Yes, you read that correctly. One of our students called it, “an experience of a lifetime.”

Also this summer my daughter and I spent a good amount of time traveling in Oregon as well as Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas. In one week we drove all the way across the USA from Tillamook, OR to St. Simon Island, GA. It was a great trip. I also took a solo road trip from Lititz, PA to Littleton, CO going through Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri and Kansas. Sadly enough the latter trip was done while I had my walking boot on so it made getting out and doing any hiking a real challenge…I did find a place in Ohio that has a nice waterfall that I would like to get back to. Honey Run Falls located in Howard, OH really looked like a gorgeous place. Unfortunately there was barely any water running down the rocks when I was there. So, it goes on the list of places to visit again with better conditions. I like to take the backroads and stay off the freeways when I travel, this brought me to a small town called Urbana, OH which really looked like a neat town…not neat meaning a big booming metropolis but a small homey feel. Urbana was laid out in 1805 and in 1812 was the headquarters for the Northwestern Army during the war of 1812. I did not get a chance to photograph here due to the pouring rain but it will go on the “to see” list as well.

I know, I know, let’s get to the images already, right?  That’s what you really came here to see. We will get there in just a second or you can just scroll down but you should read this part first.

In picking out the 12-13 images for this blog post I like to do something a bit different. Instead of just posting my “Top 10” from the year, I like to pick the best/favorite image from each month of the year. Otherwise, truth be told, you would just see 8 images from Oregon and 2 Milky Way images….Boring right! So, by doing this it forces me to get out and shoot at all times of the year.

Last but not least I would like to take a minute to thank a few people/companies for their continued support and I recommend you check them out for your own benefit if you find that they may be relative to what you do.

Sigma Lenses – I have been a Sigma Ambassador for about a year and all the images I shot this year were with Sigma Lenses. Absolute quality and craftsmanship.

Moab Fine Art Papers – I print 90% of my work on their fine art papers. I love the feel, look and colors these papers provide. Clients and Students have been very pleased with these papers as well.

Englewood Camera – I have spent the last 2 years building a great working relationship with this local camera shop. They have a full service lab and they do all my printing for my 18 and 20 inch fine art prints. They have everything you could need from a local camera store.

American  Frame – Custom printing and framing at great prices. I have been working with American Frame for about 3 years now and not only is their customer service second to none, also the quality of their work. American Frame provides many paper choices to perfectly fit the needs of any photography as well as unlimited choices for matting and framing. Over the years I have sent many friends to American Frame for their framing needs and everyone has been very very happy. You will be too.  I use American Frame for all my fine art prints 20″ and larger.

Artbeat Studios – I have nothing but good things to say about the Metal and Acrylic prints that come from Artbeat Studios. Not only do my clients love the quality, I do too. That is why I have several acrylics printed by Artbeat Studios hanging in my own home.

Reed Art and Imaging – Again, their work and attention to detail is amazing. They do a lot of various types of printing on various mediums. I have had a lot of Gallery Mounts done by Reed. Not only for myself but also for clients I work with to help them create their own masterpieces from their own images. Their team of printers and salespeople are great to work with and make you feel like you’re part of their team.

Overleaf Lodge and Spa – Located in Yachats, Oregon this is simply the finest lodging you can find with the best views and access to the beach and Ocean.. The Overleaf Lodge was a fantastic place to host my 2017 Oregon Coast Winter Workshop in December. Their staff was always kind and gracious and when I left my room key in my room and could not get in at midnight, they came to open the doors right away. Wine tastings, ocean views, a spa, and a small gallery. This is the place to be on the Oregon Coast!

Mike Berenson – I have been working with Mike now for almost 5 years doing Night Photography Workshops Mike captures amazing images that really make you feel like you’re there. Please visit his site and check out his work. It’s one of the reason I was so willing to team up with him to start Night Photography Workshop. His work has inspired me and it will inspire you too.

One more thing to note about these images. Aside from the panorama all photographs posted here are all single images, no crazy blends or photoshop. I wanted this to be more about my photography and not about my artistic abilities with software. Enjoy!

January

Oregon Islands Sunrise

Oregon Island Sunrise – Jan 1, 2017 – After a great sunset to end 2016 the clouds moved in as well as the rains. I went back up to my hotel room thinking that I may get to sleep in for the new year. Who was I kidding? Even if it was raining I would have went out onto the beach, it’s who I am.  Lucky for me the clouds were breaking up about an hour or so before sunrise. I walked to the north end of the beach, the lesser photographed section of Bandon Beach, to find this great reflection on an incoming tide. I was fascinated with the way the light was hitting the clouds and reflecting off the wet sand.  Sigma 24-105mm @ 24mm, ISO 64, F/16, 1 second.

February

Train To Denver

Train To Denver – Feb 12, 2017 – Downtown Denver near Colfax. Travelers wait for the next train heading into Denver. This image was shot and shared at the Lone Tree Photo Club exhibition night. The elements of this image that made it work well for me were the contrast between moving objects and stationary objects. Each of the 5 people in the image are doing something different all in a single frame. The person on the far left looking towards the city made me feel as if he or she were dreaming of something bigger.  Sigma 24-105mm @ 82mm, F/6.3, ISO 200, 2.5 seconds.

 March 

Jackson Lake Sunset

Jackson Lake Sunset – March 5th, 2017 – After seeing this location on the map I knew it had epic potential for a full Milky Way Panorama. Since the Milky Way is still very low on the horizon this time of year I set out to capture what I had envisioned. As I arrived at the lake I realized right away that the Milky Way shot wasn’t going to happen on this night. With the still of the lake and the gorgeous clouds reflecting in the water I waited around for sunset. I have since went back to the lake for night shooting only to find out there is a huge floodlight on the dock that will interfere with any night shooting from this location. Sigma 24-105mm @ 48mm, F/8, ISO 64, 1/80th second.

April

Earth Day Visitors

Earth Day Visitors – April 22, 2017 – We always kick off our Night Photography Workshop season in Arches National Park for good reasons. The position of the Milky Way is in a great location for doing all kinds of different styles of night photography. It’s very good for single images but even better if you are looking to make nice panoramas. We had just left Double Arch and walked over to the Windows area. As our group was getting set up I decided to set my camera down and snap an image of them in the window of the arch. I only took this one shot and when I looked on the back of the camera I was very surprised to see the shooting star… I called out to my friend, Hal Mitzenmacher who was in our group, “hey Hal, you gotta see this!” I had to show someone so they would believe me when I said it was just captured in a single image. Even though this image was taken during the peak of the Lyrids meteor shower, to capture it in the first frame after setting my camera down was pretty amazing. Sigma 20mm, F/3.2, ISO 1600, 13 seconds.

May

Northern Lights at Delicate Arch

Northern Lights at Delicate Arch – May 28th, 2017, 2:28am – More often than not we like to save Delicate Arch for the final night of our workshops. We were on the final night of a sold out Arches and Canyonlands workshop when our students began packing up ready to make the hike back down in the dark.  As they were packing up I decided to do a real quick pano of the Milky Way over the Arch. Starting on the north side I snapped an image and my jaw dropped… I abandoned the pano idea for a second and took another shot to confirm what I was seeing. Sure enough we had northern lights in Moab, Utah. I yelled to the group, very loudly even though we were all right there together, “Get your cameras out and start shooting to the north, we have Aurora activity!” This completely changed the mood of the group from being ready to call it a night to getting that epic shot that would make all others pale in comparison from this location. Needless to say we ended up letting the group shoot for about an hour longer while the Northern Lights did their thing. A moment of my photography career I will never forget. My adrenaline was running so fast that I forgot to take the lower row of images for the foreground. 8 images stitched together with the following settings. Sigma 20mm, F/2, ISO 6400, 15 seconds.

June

Flowers by the Stream

Flowers By the Stream – June 13th, 2017 – I always get up early, arrive early, sometimes annoyingly early. I once, many years ago, arrived 13 hours early to pick up someone from the airport. This shot happened because I got up early. I was headed up to Eldora, Colorado to go hiking and search for waterfalls. Waterfalls in Colorado? Yep, there are a few. As I was driving up the road to the trailhead I noticed all these yellow flowers along the bank of the stream and thought that would make a cool shot. I quickly hit the breaks, my daughter woke up from her slumber and I turned the jeep around. When I got out I noticed there was no wind but the sun was quickly rising and in a couple of minutes this entire scene would be completely blown out by the sunlight. Another reason to get up early is because the light is better right before sunrise. Sigma 24-105mm @ 48mm, F/18, ISO 64, 0.6 seconds.

July

Sands of Time

Sands of Time – July 9th, 2017 – Being born and raised on the Oregon Coast and traveling up and down it many many times in my life, I like to think that I have seen most all the places that have access. I grew up roughly 15 miles from this location and have driven by it probably 1000 or more times but never actually got on the beach to see it. You can’t see it from your car on the road.  While my daughter and I were in Oregon this summer I decided to make a point of visiting this particular location, Twin Rocks, Oregon. I don’t know why they call it, “Twin Rocks”, they look nothing alike, nonetheless, my daughter and I went out in the early afternoon to enjoy and explore this area. The beach is quite large and open without a lot in the water except these 2 rocks. It was a very windy day and these ripples in the sand were just calling me to photograph them. I waited until the Sun was just on the horizon so that the light would create some nice shadows to help bring out texture and depth to my foreground. While not the most exciting beach, I only saw 1 other person here, it’s one I will visit again for sure. Sigma 24-105mm @ 28mm, F/18, ISO 31, 75 seconds.

August

Eye of the Eclipse Final

Eye of the Eclipse – August 21, 2017 – A day many of us around our nation will never forget. I had high hopes of going up into Wyoming to capture the eclipse in the path of totality. That dream was sent down the drain when 10 days prior I tore my right calf muscle. Still being at the initial stages of my injury I decided to not go fight the crowds, not drive the 3+ hours (it’s impossible to drive safe with a walking boot on your right leg) and take the chance of causing a wreck for a view of the total eclipse. I stayed home, sat out on our deck and just watch as we saw the moon cover the sun at 93%. The sky was clear just before the eclipse started and very slowly a thin layer of clouds started to form almost in rhythm with the moon covering the sun. As we, in Denver, approached maximum coverage these iridescent clouds began to form. Lunar Halo or Fire Rainbows were appearing around the moon and sun. Since I was looking almost straight up I was lucky enough to see this almost perfect circle around the moon and sun. While I did not get the epic shot of the total eclipse, I was quite happy with what I did capture and experience.  Sigma 24-105mm @ 105mm, F/7.1, ISO 200, 1/20th second.

September

Storm Landing

Storm Landing – September 16th, 2017 – I always arrive to our workshop location a day or so early to see if there is any special area that needs the attention of our workshop student’s cameras. Just my luck that it was pouring down rain in Jackson, Wyoming when I pulled into town.  I decided to head north to Yellowstone to see how much snow they had up there. I am not sure exactly if this is in Grand Teton or Yellowstone or no mans land. I saw these very dark clouds hovering above this hill/mountain so I pulled over and walked down towards the water. I noticed a small area of light hitting the hillside and started shooting. The light area got bigger and bigger to what you see here. As I was shooting, these geese (I think they are geese) flew into my frame and landed. I was very lucky to capture them just before they landed. It wasn’t something I had planned on shooting but a nice added element to the overall image. Sigma 24-105mm @ 75mm, F/9, ISO 64, 1/160th second.

October

RM ELK

Rocky Mountain Elk – October 7th, 2017 – The Rut is on! And that means everyone with a camera is up in Rocky Mountain National Park to get a shot of these big boys. On this particular day I saw people taking pictures with any device that had a camera in it. They say, “the best camera is the one you have with you.” There is a lot of truth to that. I had kinda been watching this guy pretty close and moving in the direction he was moving so that if he stopped and looked my way I could get a good shot of him. He had left his group and walked over to the trees when something caught his attention, he stopped, turned and looked for about 3 seconds and then continued walking. Eventually he went behind some trees and disappeared out of sight. I felt lucky to have him in the shadow with even light. Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary @ 600mm, F/6.3, ISO 1600, 1/80th second.

Winter Road

Winter Road – October 3rd, 2017 – This is not a mistake. Yes, you get 2 images from October. October is a very special month for many people. Pumpkin Spiced Lattes, Halloween, Pumpkin Pie, Pumpkin Everything, right?  Well, for us landscape photographers it’s a special month also. Here in Colorado our Fall colors usually peak in the first week up in the mountains and we start getting some snowfall too. When you mix Fall colors with fresh snow something magical happens. I can’t put my finger on it but I can put my shutter finger on the camera and capture it. It’s the way the seasons combine to create a beautifully unique landscape. This road has lots of “no parking” signs on the side but since I stayed in my lane I don’t consider it parking. I never turned the Jeep off and I was only out of it for a few clicks of the shutter. When I see this image I feel something that awakens my soul. Even though it has a road in it, I feel free in the fresh mountain air. Sigma 24-105mm @ 32mm, F/7.1, ISO 64, 1/400th second.

November

Tunnel View

Tunnel View – November 19th, 2017 – Every since I was a very small child I have always believed that everything happens for a reason, both good and bad. While we may not know those reasons for days, months or years later I have just accepted what happens and went with it.. My plan was visit my dad in Oregon in December when I was out there for my workshop. After checking schedules I realized that I would not have enough time to see him in December so I booked a trip out for 5 days in November. Usually November along the Oregon Coast can be a very challenging time since the weather is less than optimal for photography. One morning while my dad was out in the ocean fishing I decided to go see about getting this shot.  Having this as my “home beach” while growing up I had been alive long enough to remember when this tunnel was closed up, opened back up and the day I almost died just outside this tunnel by a massive sneaker wave. Just ask Gary Randall he’ll tell you all about it… I had been through this tunnel hundreds of times and always enjoyed this view as I was headed out. On the morning I took this image I entered the tunnel, turned on my Nitecore flashlight because it’s pretty dark in there and you don’t want to hit your head on the rocks hanging down inside. I turned on my light, walked about 10 feet and noticed something sitting on a rock surrounded by water. I looked closer to realize it was a $20 bill. I looked ahead of me and I looked behind me to make sure no one else was looking for it. I did not see anyone else at all so I picked it up and put it in my pocket. I was as happy as a clam in saltwater. I went about my morning shooting in a great mood when all the sudden I realized one of my filters wasn’t in my bag. I went into panic mode. I could not find my Tiffen double fog filter anywhere. This isn’t just your average run of the mill filter. They run over $300. Suddenly finding $20 wasn’t as exciting when thinking I was going to need to spend $300 to replace the filter… I kept telling myself that everything happens for a reason. Upset that I had lost the filter I decided to cut my morning shoot short. I had already got the shot I was ultimately after but I was still bummed. Still looking for the filter, hoping it had just fallen out of my bag, I retraced my steps along the waters edge. Thinking the worst, the water came up and the filter is out at sea I kept walking. I saw an empty beer bottle on the beach and picked it up, (when I lived in Oregon I did the S.O.L.V.E beach cleanup each year) thinking that Karma would play out… Still nothing. The filter was gone and the $20 means nothing to me now.. I get back up to the rental car, properly dispose of the beer bottle,  put my gear away in the trunk, open the car and get in and my filter is laying right there in the driver seat. A huge sigh of relief as only then I realized I had the filter in my pocket and it must have fallen out when I got out of the car. Sigma 24-105mm @ 24mm, F/14, ISO 64, 1/30th second.

December

Cape Perpetua Rush

Cape Perpetua Rush – December 7th, 2017 – One thing I always tell my students and I will tell you, If you are going to shoot moving water that is constantly changing, set your camera on continuous mode and shoot through the actions of the water. Then, when you are home you can pick the image that best captured the water how you like it. If you were to try and shoot the water as a specific moment, chances are you would not capture what you wanted. We, Chuck Rasco and I arrived in Portland, grabbed our rental cars and made a beeline for the coast. We knew we had only a short window of time to grab lunch since the sunset is early this time of year. Just as I had planned for the workshop, the proper tide and the timing of the sunset came together beautifully. Thor’s Well was rocking. It was at the right level where it wasn’t doing the Old Faithful geyser thing but just filling up nicely and spilling over. That is what you are seeing here. As Thor’s Well would fill up I would begin shooting until it was empty again. Of the 100’s of images I took this night, this was the only one where the water was exactly how I wanted it as it flowed up and over Thor’s Well. The reason I wanted it like this was because of how the sky looked. I wanted the water to mimic the clouds in the sky and chances are that isn’t something you can get on a single try. You don’t see many images with Thor’s Well completely filled up like this. It was a great ending to an adventurous year! Sigma 20mm, F/16, ISO 64, 1/4th second.

I would love to hear your thoughts, comments and opinions. Please feel free to use the contact form below to connect with me. You can also visit the Home Page and find links to where I am on the interwebs.  A big thanks to everyone for your continued support and joining with me to create lasting memories on these crazy adventures. All the best for 2018!

 

Compositing for Print Quality

We live in a world that is fast moving in both our daily lives and advances in photographic techniques. When I first started night photography I had 2 choices.

  • Shoot slow film and end up with star trails with no grain
  • Shoot fast film and get points of light stars with lots of grain

Now, with digital cameras, we can shoot both on one media card. Digital cameras have come a long way in recent years and you can get great night images in a single shot compared to even 5-7 yrs ago. Even with advances in camera sensors and processing, a single image still will produce noise which shows up when you try to print.

We have come up with some great ways to reduce noise in single images as well as using multiple images in a stacking process, but neither of these techniques yield the results that compositing can achieve.  I am not talking about creating fake scenes or fantasy worlds. I am, for now, simply talking about lining up a great scene using one of the many apps out there like TPE, Stellarium, or PhotoPills to create real images of real scenes that you can see with your own eyes…

Why do this?  Why go to all the trouble of planning, shooting, processing and compositing?  It takes time. I don’t want to sit on a computer all day. I wanna go shoot. So why do this….. The answer is simple… Print Quality is amazing, the light is better and the wow factor will blow your friends mind…  In all honesty, we all love when people ohh and ahh over our images…but for me, the real answer is the print quality. Being able to produce a great night image of the Milky Way in one my favorite places and print it up to 60″ wide or tall with hardly any visible noise is amazing!  Below I will show you the differences and the final results of single images, stacked images and a composite image.

Let’s begin. When I arrived in Badlands National Park I began using my apps to help line up great compositions where the Milky Way would be over some of the rock formations.  This is the Cedar Pass area. This image shows you exactly how the Milky Way looked just after the moon went down and the skies got dark. This is a SINGLE exposure of the night sky.

Single Resize

Nikon D810, Sigma 20mm 1.4 F2.0, 20 seconds at 3200 ISO

The image below is a 100% crop from the image above. No editing. You can see that this is showing some noise..Not too bad but enough I wouldn’t want to print over 18″ long

100crop

This next image shows you the same image using 9 images to stack for noise reduction. I would show you the full image as well but because these are sized down images for the blog it wouldn’t really do any good.. So these 100% crops should tell you what you need to know. Now you can see the noise is reduced. When using image sequences to reduce noise an easy to factor in how much it will affect the image is by using square roots.. For example if you use 9 images you will get a factor of 3x noise reduction. If you use 16 images you will get a factor of 4x noise reduction. You don’t have to use exact numbers but I find it easier to figure the final outcome… If you are shooting at 3200 ISO and use 9 images for a NR factor of 3 you are now essentially creating an image with the noise of 800 ISO. If you were to use 16 images you would then be creating an image with the noise of a 400 ISO single image.. There are some limits but these are great factors to work with and the reduction in noise is quite nice. This kind of quality would allow me to print up to 30″ wide or tall with little noise.

100cropstack

 

I want the BEST print quality possible…I don’t want to see noise in my night images… I want highly detailed, fantastic light, true color (yes the stars have their own colors) big printable images and this is where compositing comes in.

You arrive at your location, you line up your shot, check your tripod legs (I used to have a faulty one that would collapse on its own free will during my long exposures) and wait till that foreground light is just right. Yes, I am talking about shooting your foreground image at sunrise or sunset for the best possible light, lowest ISO for the absolute best print quality.  Now, depending on how long after you shoot does the Milky Way rise you can either leave your camera set up in the exact same spot..or, as I would do, pack it up, take a nap, then set it up once the Milky Way rises into the correct position.

Once the Milky Way is up you will now want to shoot a sequence of images, I like 16 images, 20 seconds, back to back. I just set my camera to continuous mode, press the shutter release and lock it.. I don’t use a timer or mirror lock up because I want the time between each image to be as short as possible. This helps the stacking software align the stars more precisely.  Let’s take a closer look at what just 9 images does when stacking for noise reduction in the night sky.  On the left you see a cleaner image while on the right you see a pretty noisy image. The image on the left is made of 9 separate images.  If you look right in the middle you can see the difference the most

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So now we have our beautiful foreground that was shot at ISO 64 and our stacked sky image that was shot at 3200 ISO with a noise level of ISO800 and now it’s time to make the magic happen. What I do is select the sky in the foreground image and delete it. I then bring my stacked sky into my foreground image and place it exactly where it should be. Remember, we are creating really scenes…not something that people will search their entire lives for a never find. Once I have my stacked sky in my foreground image I then edit them separately using layers and layer masks to make sure they work well together. This is a very important part of combining 2 images into 1.  I have seen so many images where people simply remove a sky and replace it but they don’t do anything with the foreground and it just looks like they pasted one on the other..I take much more pride in my work and make sure that it looks like one seamless image. Let’s take a look at what our starting point is for each of our images. The image on the left is the stacked image for the sky and the image on the left is the foreground image I will use… Now you will see the position of the Milky Way…

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Once again thank you PhotoPills for the amazing software and letting us be able to line up our perfect shots..  After combining the 2 images, doing basic edits on both layers to seamlessly blend them together I ended up with what I like to call my Pre Edit.  I have cropped, adjusted color, contrast and added a little depth to the image. While this may look drastic to some, it’s really very minor in terms of post processing abilities.

Pre Edit

Pre Edit 100 crop1

I then take my image into Nik Software Color Efex Pro for final adjustments using

  • Warmth/Brilliance
  • Classic Soft Focus
  • Lighten/darken center
  • Contrast Only

Once these adjustments are made I go back into Photoshop to create my master file, web file and print file. Before we take a look at the final image lets take a look at all 3 steps again side by side.

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Again we are doing all this work for the ultimate print quality. Printing big is something I take to heart and I want to make sure that you, as a client or customer, get the best quality possible. and Now let’s take a look at the final image. This is an image I would be happy to print without any hesitation whatsoever. It’s a real scene, anyone can see it on the right day of the year, you can get your own shot of this by only walking 10 feet from your car..I am not sending you on a wild goose chase.. One of the reasons I do photography is to inspire others to get outside and see the beautiful world we live in.

Final Resize

If you really take pride in your work, take the time to make sure your images are the best they can be. Cameras are only so good and while they produce amazing daytime images they can be lacking for nighttime images. We (most night photographers) make use of the software that is out there that allows us to go above and beyond the limitations of our cameras.

Please feel free to reach out with any questions you may have or photography items you would like to discuss. I am attaching a contact form below.

Thank you for taking the time to visit my blog, you can find out more about my work and our night photography workshops when you visit

 

 

December 2017 Oregon Coast Winter Photography Workshop

 

What – Oregon Coast Winter Photography Workshop with professional landscape photographer Darren White.

Where – Yachats, Oregon – Overleaf Lodge and Spa

When – Dec 8,9,10,11 2017

Weather – Unpredictable. Chance of sun and storms or both.

 

Sunrise/Sunset Times

7:40am/4:30pm each day  

The Oregon Coast is a good location for both sunrise and sunset times of the day

 

Who should sign up?

Anyone who wants to expand their photographic skills both in the field and on the post processing side for landscapes. 

 

How do I get there – If you are flying in, Portland will be your closest international airport and then it’s only a 3 hour drive to the Overleaf Lodge and SpaEugene is just under two hours from Overleaf, if you can find a direct flight into Eugene. The drive is spectacular and shorter.

 

How many people? 7 max. Only 2 spots left 

 

Do you want to visit the Oregon Coast and learn how to take your beach images to the next level?  Then this is the workshop for you. 

During the workshop we will discuss proper exposure, shutter speeds for various effects, depth of field, composition, and much more. 

Post processing instruction will also be included as part of the workshop. Combining in field instruction with post processing will bring this workshop full circle. 

Darren’s goal is to make sure all your questions are answered and your learning experience is fun. As part of the processing instruction Darren will share with you his simple workflow as well as other ways to process your images.

Bring home more than just snapshots. Bring home images you will want to hang in your home. 

Darren has been photographing the Oregon Coast for over 20 years and has extensive knowledge that will bring your images to life. 

 

Equipment required –

Digital Camera – SLR or Point and Shoot.

Laptop with Photoshop and Lightroom installed

Rain Gear

Tripod

Comments and Questions for discussion

Positive Attitude

 

Locations we may visit 

Thor’s Well

Cape Perpetua scenic overlook

Cape Perpetua

Yachats Beaches

Seal Rock

Neptune Beach

 

What’s included? Cost $1599 Per Person or $2599 for couples if both people are taking the workshop.

3 full days of in field photography instruction (see below for schedule) 

3 nights lodging in an oceanfront room at the luxurious Overleaf Lodge and Spa  Dec 8th 9th and 10th

3 Breakfasts provided by the Overleaf. http://www.overleaflodge.com/breakfast/

2 days classroom training – Post Processing instruction. Friday & Saturday Evening Wine Tasting Receptions back at the lodge presented by local Oregon winemakers. (Specific wineries TBA)

FullSizeRender (1)

 

What’s not included?

Transportation

Lunches and Dinners

Airfare

Spa treatments

 

What does the schedule look like – all times are aprox and subject to change.

Friday Dec 8th informal meet and greet in the lobby at 1pm with hotel check in at 3pm and a sunset shoot from 3:45 – 5:30pm

Saturday Dec 9th meet at 6:00am and drive to our location for sunrise.  2hrs classroom training around noon before meeting for our sunset shoot at 3pm

Sunday Dec 10th same as Saturday

Monday Dec 11th meet at 6:00am for a sunrise shoot, quick group discussion and then back to the hotel to check out by 11am..

 

What happens if it rains the entire time?

Generally speaking the weather along the central and southern Oregon coast is much better than the north coast in the Winter months

I was in Yachats and Bandon over Christmas last year and we had 80 degree days… Crazy I know…

I also like to be flexible as often times the weather will come and go and I like to take advantage of those times when we can shoot.

If the weather just will not let us shoot, we will have more classroom training that can be covered on post processing to help fill some time.

 

Cancelation policy –

If you cancel by Oct 8th 2017 you will be refunded your full amount less PayPal fees

Cancel between Oct 9th and Nov 8th you will be refunded 50% of your investment.

Cancel between Nov 9th and Dec 7th you will be refunded 25% of your investment.

No refunds will be given for no shows.

 

Where is the added value?

What a great question. In addition to getting 3 full days of photography and instruction along the scenic Oregon Coast this is the perfect opportunity to enjoy a wonderful vacation as well.

With lodging included, you can bring your significant other and enjoy quality time from your ocean view balcony when you’re not shooting. The short winter days in Oregon (sunrise at 7:30am and sunset at 4:30pm) allow you to have a nice breakfast and dinner with your partner. The Overleaf Spa has a variety of therapeutic treatments that one can indulge in, steam rooms, sauna and two hot soaking pools that has windows looking out to the sea. The town has some neat shops and eateries to enjoy as well.

The Overleaf lodge is the perfect place to spoil yourself without the extra cost of lodging…I am covering that! Another benefit to visiting the Oregon coast in the winter is less people. In recent years I have seen the number of people skyrocket in the summertime, making it almost too crowded for these small coastal towns… Winter is the perfect time to get away and not have to feel crowded both in town and on the beaches.

The learning doesn’t stop after the workshop. I will always be available to answer questions via email or phone. So if you have questions when you get home or get stuck in a process, just ask.

 

Each person in the workshop will also get a 24 inch fine art print of their favorite image taken during the workshop. I will also do a full evaluation of the image file before going to print so that if there are any issues they will be fixed before printing.

Sunrises, Sunsets, or Coastal Storms, this can be a great opportunity to learn, meet new people, and have a lot of fun.

 

One last thing – bonus bonus

Because the days are so short that means the nights are longer and if you know me you also know I am a night photography instructor as well.

If the weather is clear I will be going out at night to photograph the coastline and if you are so inclined you are more than welcome to join me and learn about night photography too.

I have some neat tips and tricks I like to teach to really help bring those night images to life… 

 

If you would like to sign up or would like more information please use the contact form below and I will be in touch as soon as possible. This workshop is limited to only 7 people.

What are Night Photography Workshops?

Night Photo cover

 

One of the most commonly asked question I get is, “What are your Night Photography Workshops all about?” The simple answer is, learning night photography. That being said, our workshops are much more than that.  They are fun, entertaining, educational and some have called them, “life changing.”

Myself, with Mike Berenson help to take your night photography to a much higher level. We welcome all skill levels into our workshops. One of the benefits of having 2 instructors is that you get more attention, you are able to ask more questions and get more helpful answers and you will leave the workshop without any unanswered questions. This is our goal. We want you to feel as though you have asked and been answered all the questions you had. We don’t hold anything back. We tell you all we know at the time.  I say, “at the time” because in the 4 years we have been doing the workshops so much has changed in the world of Night Photography. We do our best to keep up to date with the latest equipment, software and processing techniques so that we can give you the most current info to help you create the best possible images.

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Mike and I currently teach our Night Photography Workshops in Moab, Utah – Arches and Canyonlands National Park,  Jackson, Wyoming – Grand Teton National Park and Idaho Springs, Colorado – Mount Evans – the highest paved road in the America at over 14K feet. We have good working relationships with Ranch Inn in Jackson and Moab Valley Inn in Moab to provide you with a comfortable working space during your classroom time.  Classroom time?  Yes, we spend about 3 hours each day in “class” going over all kinds of aspects of Night Photography so that you have more time in the field each night to actually shoot and get great shots..   Trust me when I say we have more content for the classroom than we can use.. We have been making small modifications so that you get only the best and most important info available.

We meet on day 1 and go over an introduction about who we are, what the workshop will cover and some images that we hope will inspire you to get creative and make you want to learn. After all, that is why you are there.

group

CLASSROOM TRAINING

WHAT DOES THE CLASSROOM TRAINING CONTENT LOOK LIKE?

Students receive all training content in electronic format (in addition to the live training) giving them easy access all the clickable links and resources.

Topics We Like To Cover In Classroom Training

  • Planning
    • Key Concepts & Tools
    • Planning Resources On The Web
    • Getout There And Scout
    • Safe Night Photography
  • Shooting
    • Procedures & Settings
    • Noise & Noise Reduction
    • Multiple Exposures
    • Light Painting
    • Super Long-Exposures
  • Post-Processing
    • RAW Processing in Lightroom
    • Exposure Adjustments
    • Color Balance & Selective Color
    • Blending in Photoshop
    • Focus Stacking Blending
    • Star Spikes & Comet Like Star Trail Processing
    • Multiple Exposures for Noise Reduction
    • More On Noise Reduction
    • Panoramic Stitching
    • Sharpening For The Web

Software Applications We Use In The Post-Processing Portion

  • Primary
    • Adobe Lightroom
    • Adobe Photoshop
  • Secondary
    • Nik Color Efex Pro & Dfine
    • Star Spikes Pro

Evans Workshop Group

 

Depending on the time of year (April, May June) we tend to take advantage of Milky Way shooting and sunrise. August and September we generally take advantage of sunset and Milky Way.  We have found this makes it a bit easier on our students and allows them to get more out of the workshop and see the area we are working in before it gets dark. With 2 instructors and taking advantage of sunrise or sunset we feel this really adds quite a bit of value to the workshops.

We have finished up day 1 of classroom training. Out into the field we go. What do we do now?  We will discuss some group shooting guidelines so that everyone can have an enjoyable experience. Once we have talked about that we will discuss the most important aspect of night photography. No matter how epic the skies are, no matter how relaxed you feel to be under a billion stars, no matter how far you hiked or drove there is one thing that will ruin your night of photography quicker than anything else… Any guesses is to what that is?   Not knowing how to focus in the dark. I could write 20 pages on this alone but the simple fact is, you don’t want soft blurry images… You don’t sacrifice sleep, time and effort (hiking) to get home with properly exposed images only to find they are blurry.  This is the first thing we will teach you on night 1 of the workshop. No matter if you are working on points of light or long exposure star trails, you want your images to be sharp so that when you print them (yes, you should be printing your work) they will look as good as they can. Why is it the first thing we will teach you?  We don’t want you to waste an entire night of shooting great nights scenes only to be disappointed when you come to class on day 2 to find that all your images were blurry… Having your images in focus and sharp is, in my opinion, the most important part of night photography in relation to image quality.

Mike and Lillian

We work with you, both in the classroom and in the field, to make sure you get any questions answered you want. If you don’t know how to find something in the menu of your camera then either Mike or I will know how to find it. Combined we have almost 60 years of photography experience with all kinds of cameras and lenses. Mike and I have slightly different processing styles which seem to work very well during the post processing portion of the classroom training. Because we have different shooting and processing styles, our combined knowledge really compliments each other to give the most benefit to our students.

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We love answering your questions and making sure you are learning. We will not only tell you “how” but we will also tell you “why” we do things the way we do. This gives you a better understanding and a better knowledge base for your photography. There is a lot of science behind getting great images from Night Photography and we want to make sure you know as much as possible.

With 3 hours of classroom training each day and 6+ hours of shooting each night the workshops can feel a bit intense. We ask that you go at your own pace. By this we mean that if you don’t feel like you can stay out as late with the group then don’t feel bad if you need to get some rest..either by sleeping in a car if you rode with someone or going back to the hotel. We want you to feel comfortable and your safety is our #1 priority.

Night sky description

Another fun thing we like to do is help you identify what it is you are looking at in the night sky. Mike will give you a “tour of the night sky” with his green laser pointer which usually draws some “Wow”, “Holy Cow” and “Where did you get that thing” because it does an amazing job of pointing right where he wants you to look. Most people know the Milky Way but not the surrounding celestial objects… We are here to help. This is also fun so that when you do get home and are showing your images to your friends or sharing them online you accurately describe what the objects are in your image.

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During our 5 night events in Moab, Utah we have permission to take our group into Moab Giants Dinosaur park and use their model dinosaurs as props/foregrounds in front of the night sky. It’s a fun experience for everyone.

Stars over Teton RanchIridium Flare over Grand TetonJackson Lake Northern Lights Pano

We love teaching in various locations because each area uses a different type of lighting. Workshops in Grand Teton National Park us natural lighting either from the stars or the moon to help illuminate the scenes. Generally speaking, the mountains are too far away to light paint. We time our workshops with the proper moon phases so that we can get the best possible light on our scenes. All 3 of the above images uses only natural light from either the moon or stars to light the scene. The top and middle image are all moonlight. In the middle image you will see an Iridium Flare that we set up to capture with our group. The bottom image is a multi shot pano which captures the Milky Way over Mount Moran from Jackson Lake as well as the northern lights glowing on the horizon. We have a very high percentage of return students who will take a workshop in the Tetons or Arches one year and then take the other one the next year. Different locations, different learning experiences.

Jackson Lake StarsNight On the Farm

Some people really love the long exposures. We teach various techniques with different focal lengths as well and where to position the camera for the desired result. In the top image a 50mm lens was used to create the longer trails of light looking West. The image on the bottom was created using a 14mm lens and doing multiple shorter exposures to the North that we later combined in PS to create the comet like stars. The bottom image was also planned so that we could capture the ISS as it flew by, low on the horizon.

Milky Way Dreams at Delicate Arch (1)Earth Day Visitors (1)

Our workshops in Arches National Park really take advantage of light painting and using LLL – Low Level Lighting – to illuminate the arches and rocks. Workshop groups are no longer allowed to use any handheld illumination devices to light paint. We have found that our LLL works better anyway as it keeps the light very even across the scene..

Delicate Air Glow

Delicate Arch – The highlight of our Arches workshop.  This scene uses just 1 LED light panel that is placed to properly illuminate the arch. This allows for constant even lighting for everyone to use.

Heavens above Turret (1)

September 2016 – our last Arches workshop of the year. The above image was created with years of planning. It’s not an image 1 person could realistically set up and capture. This image took 3 LED lights, 2 instructors with walkie talkies, clear skies, right time of year and some patience to properly align everything. Mike had one group over at Turret Arch and I had another group shooting this scene. Mike and I communicated back forth while the students took test shots to make sure the lighting was in the right spot. Once the light was in the right place my group of students took their shots and then switched over to Mike’s group and his group came over to shoot this scene. It really was a magical night for everyone. We had 2 students who traveled all the way from Austria who also had this vision in mind so it worked out perfectly.

Comet Star Trails at Double Arch 6704

Mike Wetzel – 2 time workshop student – uses LLL and comet like star trail processing to create the magical image of Double Arch in Arches National Park.

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Also a 2 time workshop student, Jann Ledbetter shoots Delicate Arch from the viewpoint as you end the hike. Jann writes – “Another Milky Way shot…this one over Delicate Arch (while the Aurora was dancing behind us!!). Definitely worth the somewhat scary climb to get up there!
This night was magical in a way that will NEVER be forgotten!!
Thanks Darren and Mike for making it all happen!”

FullSizeRenderArches Group May 25 2017Teton Group 2016 Sept

Being part of a group going out at night always feels safer to me. Even if it’s just me and one other person, there is a level of safety that helps to ease the tension of possible dangers and let’s my mind work on photography. We have had this told to us many times by our students as well.  We spend 3-5 days together and friendships are created which makes it a much more enjoyable experience, specially in today’s world of sharing via social media… We like group pictures, we like people having fun and learning.. So what happens after the workshop is over?  We will send you a post workshop evaluation that we hope you will answer with complete honesty. This helps us make the workshops better and a lot of great ideas have come from the feedback our students have given us.

What else?  You probably have at least 1 full media card if not 2 with roughly 1000 images just sitting there waiting to be processed. One thing that will ease your mind is knowing that Mike and I are always willing to help you after the workshop is over. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to send either one of us an email and we will do our best to get you moving in the right direction.

For me the final product is the print.. Seeing that image at least 18″ wide on beautiful photo paper, metal or acrylic is really the end of the photographic process. Some of our students have taken it much further..

We teach you how to focus, scout locations, properly expose and compose, how to find a great foreground to go with your sky, how to minimize noise in your images and when you put that all together…..

Hal Mitzenmacher writes – Darren White, Mike Berenson – THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!! Without the techniques you have taught me, I could never have dreamed of printing night images at 24″ x 83″ without a trace of noise and sharp as a tack (forgive my cell phone pic, I was so excited at the results I was seeing, my hand was shaking). I thought it would be appropriate to print this out on some of Legion Paper’s Moab Slickrock Pearl Metallic. It makes the image pop

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Thank you Hal and all of the students who have taken our workshops… We truly have a genuine interest in taking your learning to the next level.

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 What are people saying about our workshops –

Mike and Darren make a fantastic team. They bring a very wide range of skills and techniques to the workshop. They both willingly share their skills with all and strive to better each student’s knowledge of the craft.
– Rob from Colorado

Excellent workshop, well organized, professional.  I will definitely do another workshop with you guys.  I’ve done a lot of workshops, this is one of the ‘best’ for quality & value.
– Greg from California

The workshop was Muy Bueno!  This was not the first workshop that I take and let me tell you it has been the one I enjoy the most.  You both make me feel like we were friends for a long time.
– Guillermo from Mexico

I thought the workshop was excellent, a lot of great information especially about how to go about planning when and where to go out to shoot the milky way.  The in-field instruction was great and I was able to get my questions asked and answered.
– Angie from Missouri

I had a total blast on this workshop and learned a lot!  I’m so excited to try what I learned out on my own.  I’m also excited to do another workshop in the future!
– Elizabeth from Colorado

Mike and Darren – Thank you for being so patient with me as I adjusted to new equipment and not talking down to me. It was a little intimidating but I loved the workshop. You made me feel very comfortable with questions etc.  I love how down to earth you both are. I definitely walked away wanting more and hope to join you in Arches in the future after my 17 year old graduates this upcoming year. I do wish we could have covered more in class but definitely felt that outside the class I learned quite a bit from both of you. Next time will ensure that I am more comfortable with my newer equipment.  Thanks again for the inspiration.  I have already recommended you on Facebook.
– Raemi from Colorado

 

You can read many more testimonials as well as view our upcoming events here Night Photography Workshop

 

Sigma 85mm 1.4 Art – Not Just For Portraits

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A couple weeks ago as I was getting ready to walk out the door and head to Moab, Utah for our 2nd sold out Night Photography Workshop of the year I heard a knock on my door and to my surprise he was delivering my new Sigma 85mm 1.4 Art lens.

I was happy to say the least. I opened my camera bag, made room for the beast and off to Moab, Utah I went. As soon as I finished with the workshop in Moab I headed north on a mini vacation with my daughter as we road tripped through Wyoming, South Dakota and Nebraska. I used the lens frequently when I felt it was the right focal length. I am not a portrait photographer by any means so I had other uses for this lens. Lucky for me I was able to make all of my ideas work because I took my time and did not rush myself in the field.

Without further ado I would like to share with you some real world images that were taken with the 85mm lens at various settings and using various techniques which I will describe when needed… Each of these images are for the most part unedited. I did resize them a bit smaller to fit the blog better.

Dillion Reservoir near Breckenridge, Colorado – This was the first image I took with the lens. En Route to Moab this made a good first stop to stretch the legs. The sun was setting and I had time to get my tripod set up and wait for the water to calm a little bit. All the images in this blog were taken using a Nikon D810 and Sigma 85mm 1.4 Art Lens. The settings for this image are as follows: ISO 64, 1.6 seconds, F9

Dillion Reservoir

I had arrived in Moab, Utah and was checking out some new to me areas. I liked the early morning light hitting the canyon walls and figured this would be a good time to test out the shallow DOF… I was about 15 ft away when I shot this image and you can see that even at 1.8 it did a good job of isolating the front of my Jeep. Keeping it in tack sharp focus while allowing the rest of the scene to go soft.

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I was actually shooting the landscape behind the rock when I saw this little lizard crawl out and onto the rock to check out my new lens…I figured why not snap a picture of him.

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Shooting the layers of land from Dead Horse Point State Park in Moab, Utah. When shooting at a distance where nothing is directly in front of you, 6.3 f stop works well and keeps everything in check. The furthest hills may be a tad soft and in my opinion that is just fine..All the layers up front are good and sharp.

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During our workshops we like to include either sunsets or sunrises into our in field training to maximize shooting time for our students. This image was taken from the Lasal Mountain Overlook in Arches National Park as a small storm was blowing past us during sunset.

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Great DOF and razor sharp at 2.8.. I was about 4 feet away when I took this image. One of our students was making some adjustments on his camera.

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While the 85mm doesn’t have OS, IS or VR, I still find it very easy to shoot handheld in daylight hours.  Maybe because I have always shot big SLR cameras. This is an image just south of Devils Tower in Wyoming and when I crossed the bridge and looked over, I knew I had to stop and snap a few pics.

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One of the biggest reasons I wanted an 85mm lens is to create massive size panos. This image is made up of 7 vertical images to create a 179mb file which is 5x larger than each of the single images that come from my D810. If needed this image could be printed almost 20ft wide and 6t tall. Also when doing this it allows  you to crop if you need to or see another image within the image you want to use.

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Another reason for doing panos is to create a much higher res file… Below is a full 100% crop and you can see how sharp this is even at 100%.

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Night Photography is where I really plan on using this lens the most. By using the 85mm focal length and this lens in particular with its sharpness I can now create extremely high res, highly detailed images of the Milky Way. Using advanced Noise Reduction techniques and reinforcing the points of light not only creates a much cleaner image but also brings out some colors you would not normally see.

Made from 10 images by Starry Landscape Stacker 1.4.0.

And last but surely not least…The most time consuming and most effort put into an image. 48 images total (8×6) to create an even larger file with a subject. 6 back to back images in 8 different camera positions. Each group of 6 first stacked to create one noiseless file. Each of the 8 noiseless files then stitched to create the entire scene. Shot at 6400 ISO as orig RAW imags. This file now has the noise of a 1600 ISO file when printed at full size..which is huge… When doing smaller prints the noise level will be around that of a 400 ISO file simply because of the massive file size. Think 16×20 contact print for those of you who are familiar with film.  Shots like this are time consuming both in the field and back in the digital darkroom. I don’t recommend doing something like this when shooting in a large group or you time in the digital darkroom could be increased exponentially due to any kind of light that would get into one or more of your shots during your sequence of exposures. < That will be for another blog all on it’s own.. For now let’s just take a deep breath and try to fully realize the crazy amount of detail you can get in your images with the Sigma 85mm 1.4 Art lens.

Made from 6 images by Starry Landscape Stacker 1.4.0.

While I did not use it for any portraits or any people images, I am told it’s an award winning lens for that too…and I believe it. For me personally, it will be used to create massive panos, highly detailed images of the night sky and crazy shallow DOF images when needed… Also when possible I will use it just to create a wider angle of view..

I can stitch 2 85mm images together to create a 42mm wide shot, 3 images can create a 28mm wide image and 5 images can create an image that is as wide as a 17mm image yet all of these will have much larger file sizes and be able to print cleaner and larger than any single image.

I do plan on sharing more images from this lens as time goes on and I use it more. I think things are going to get pretty exciting.

Please feel free to leave a comment or message. I will be happy to answer any questions you may have!