North Cascades Night Sky Photo Tours

North Cascades Night Sky Photo Tours. One of the biggest challenges to getting good shots of the Milky Way is simply getting far enough away from the ambient light of “civilization”.

Camped at Sahale Glacier Camp

The basics of capturing good shots are not really very complicated. You’ll need a decent DSLR, a wide angle lens (anywhere from 14mm to 24mm), a cable release and a tripod. And a headlamp, so that you can see what you’re doing!

Once you get the camera all set up on the tripod, just set your aperture wide open, your shutter speed to anywhere between 10 and 30 seconds and get started.

winchester-lookout-3-2You need to check out your lens manual or consult the manufacturer’s web site in advance and find out how to focus the lens on Infinity manually.

The cable release is so that you don’t in any way move or shake the camera when you are taking shots. There are different variants on remote shutter release, ones that connect with a cable and other that work like a remote control. No matter which you get, it’s an important piece of equipment.
Setting the exposure is variable, depending on your camera and lens. You may think that you’d have the shutter open for minutes, not seconds, but actually there is a definite limit for shutter speed when doing Milky Way shots. If you go over the limit (like I mentioned, usually 10 to 30 seconds) the stars in your image will become blurry, due to the movement of the earth.winchester-lookout-milky-way-3-2

There are a whole host of web sites that you can easily find which detail more of the technical end of nighttime imaging, my advice is to watch these tutorials, practice near home and try to get the bugs out before you head off to a magical, once in a lifetime spot to get milky way shots!
There are also many web sites where you can find a chart which shows the maximum shutter speed for different focal length of lens. Generally the shorter the lens the longer you can have the shutter open.

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.

Park Butte Lookout, on Mount Baker

Andy Porter Photography Guided Night Sky Photo Tours– Cost: $200.00 – $300.00 per person

Hike-in Locations:

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 and the Park Butte and Winchester Lookouts.


Mount Rainier

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.

North Cascades Night Sky Photo Tours – 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 the 2018 Night Sky Photo Tours are:

  • January 13, Saturday
  • February 16, Friday
  • March 17, Saturday
  • April 14, Saturday
  • May 12, Saturday
  • June 16, Saturday
  • July 12, Thursday
  • July 13, Friday
  • August 10, Friday
  • August 11, Saturday
  • September 8, Saturday
  • October 6, Saturday

These dates are scheduled close to the New Moon. They are tentative, based on weather.

There is NO cancellation fee, if you cant come, or we have bad weather I will happily refund all your money.

Planning Your Night Sky Photo Tour


Mount Baker

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
      • Tripod
      • 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!


Palouse Falls

Palouse Falls

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

Hike-in Itinerary:

Mount Baker and the Park Butte Lookout

Mount Baker and the Park Butte Lookout

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.

Glacier Peak Milky Way

Glacier Peak Milky Way

6am – 8am: Capture sunrise shots, have some breakfast, pack up and start to hike out.

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

This just ONE of our Washington State Photo Tours, be sure to learn about our Tulip Tour and North Cascades Tours! !