Basic Information on Nighttime Imaging
Night Sky Photo Tours – Register Online! Capturing stunning images of the Milky Way is surprisingly easy. All you need is a decent DSLR, a wide angle lens and few more simple tools and you’re good to go. The only real difficulty is getting the convergence of a night with no moon AND no clouds!
A simple web search of moon cycle will bring up the years calendar of the moon and its phases. Of course a ‘full moon’ we all know. A ‘new moon’ is when there is no moon at all in the night sky. To capture good Milky Way shots you need to wait for a night plus or minus two days from the new moon date.
Then you pray for clear skies!
The Milky Way is visible year-round on a clear, no-moon night. The Milky Way core is visible May through October. And the TIME of night for best viewing changes with each month. In September and October the Milky Way is visible sometimes at 10pm, while in May and June it is visible at 1am! If you are interested this article explains things very well.
The further away you are from the light of cities, towns and roads the better. Higher elevations also tend to make for less atmospheric barriers. Here in the North Cascades there are several Drive-in locations where you just park, amble a short distance and get some great shots. The main ones I use are:
- Diablo Overlook located near Colonial Creek Campground on Highway 20
- Washington Pass Overlook, located on Highway 20 (aka the North Cascades Highway) a little east of the Diablo Overlook
- The Artist Point area, at the end of the Mount Baker Highway.
These last two spots are at an elevation of more than 5,000 feet and have the wonderful benefit of including towering peaks in your images! Their high elevation also limits availability: The North Cascades Highway is closed in winter and usually opens in May each year. The road to Artist Point is also snow-bound in winter/early spring and opens, depending upon snow pack, in June or July.
Andy Porter Photography Guided Night Sky Photo Tours– Cost: $200.00 – $300.00 per person
There are many fantastic locations for capturing Milky Way Images that require a hike and overnight stay. Far from the road and any lights the sky is bright and crisp. One such location is at the Park Butte Lookout, on the southern slopes of Mount Baker. The old fire lookout is open to the public and you can spend the night there. The lookout creates a fantastic foreground for Mount Baker and the Milky Way.
There are several North Cascades camping spots that offer wonderful scenery for Night Sky Shoots: Heather Pass; Lake Ann, Sauk Mountain.
This trip involves meeting early the day of the night shoot, driving to the trail head, hiking in to the camp spot, capturing sunset images, having dinner and awaiting the stars. The next morning we will have coffee/tea, breakfast while we capture the sunrise and then hike out and drive back.
The cost of the Drive-in Photo Tour is $200 per person and the cost of the Hike-in Photo Tour is $300 per person. I can provide any equipment needed. Contact me for details.
This year I am guiding Milky Way Imaging Tours in the North Cascades. The dates for Night Sky Photo Tours (through September 2016) are:
- July 2 Saturday Night
- July 3 Sunday Night
- July 4 Monday Night
- July 5 Tuesday Night
- July 30 Saturday Night
- July 31 Sunday Night
- August 1 Monday Night
- August 2 Tuesday Night
- September 2 Friday Night
- September 3 Saturday Night
- September 4 Sunday Night
Night Sky Photo Tours – Register Online!
Planning Your Night Sky Photo Tour
What you need to bring for equipment
- DSLR, (full frame sensor is better but any recent model will do)
- A wide angle lens, 10mm to 24mm
- Cable release (you can use your built in timer, if you don’t have a cable release)
- 2 fully charged batteries
What else to bring:
- Several layers of clothing with the idea that the temps may be below freezing: hat, gloves, etc
- Sturdy shoes
- Water and snacks, energy bars, etc.
Drive-in Outline and Itinerary
The outline for all Night Sky Photo Tours is to meet in Sedro-Woolley, have some coffee or a bite to eat while we discuss setting aperture, manual focus and other details for great star shooting and then head up the highway. Depending on the time of year we should have some great photo opportunities along the way of sunset and other spectacular views. The Cascadian Farms Fruit and Ice Cream Stand is along the North Cascades Highway and makes a fantastic spot to stop on the way up the valley.
Once we arrive we’ll locate our spots for shooting and have more time to further discuss image settings and composition. As the sun sets there will be all sorts of wonderful shots to get of alpen glow on the peaks. For trips to Artist Point we will make a stop at Picture Lake where we’ll get luscious shots of Mount Shuksan. This particular view of Mount Shuksan, from Picture Lake is THE most photographed mountain scene in all of North America. When we get there, you’ll see why!
When full darkness arrives (assuming it’s not cloudy!) we will easily be able to see the strip of the Milky Way overhead and start composing and capturing images. Each night the orientation of the Milky Way to our backdrops changes by the hour, as the earth rotates. How long we stay out each night will be decided by our views and how long you want to stay out!
6:00pm: Meet in Sedro-Woolley, discuss nighttime image capture, and go over specifics regarding setting aperture, shutter speed, ISO and how to manually focus your lens.
7:00 – 8:00pm: Drive to our viewpoint, set up and capture images. Driving time to the various viewpoints is between 1 and 2 hours.
11pm to 1am: Leave our shooting location and return to Sedro-Woolley. In March and April the sun sets earlier and so we can start shooting the Milky Way earlier. In June and July it’s not really dark until 10 or 11pm, so these nights run later.
12am Midnight to 2am: Arrive back in Sedro-Woolley
NOTE: Times vary based on season
In order to get to our hike-in location we need to start our excursion in late morning or early afternoon. Each of the hike-in locations involve approx 3 to 4 miles of hiking to reach our destination. I have several tents (which also look great in Night Images!) and provide food. However you will need to carry in your sleeping bag/pad, clothes and misc. equipment, in addition to your photo equipment. Your estimate pack weight would be 25 to 30 lbs, depending upon your camera gear.
9:00am: Meet in Sedro-Woolley, discuss our trip and hike and nighttime image capture, and go over specifics regarding setting aperture, shutter speed, ISO and how to manually focus your lens.
10:00 – 12:00pm: Drive to our trailhead, park and start hiking. We will set a Hobbit’s pace, taking frequent breaks for water, snacks and picture taking!
4pm – 6pm: Arrive to our location and set up camp
6pm – ? Ramble about, capturing sunset images and then when the stars appear, capture Night Sky Images.
2pm – 4-pm: Arrive back in Sedro-Woolley
Registration and Payment
Night Sky Drive-In Photo Tours – $200.00 per person
Night Sky Hike-In (Overnight) Photo Tours – $300 per person