About MeI live in Jackson Hole, Wyoming where I explore the deeper reaches of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem while also trying to raise awareness about light pollution and the importance of dark skies through photography and video.
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Stars swirl around Polaris, the North Star, as northern lights dance on the northern horizon over Jackson Hole.
Post-processing can be a very tricky, and often subjective, part of the photo creating process. It opens the door to a number of different formulas, styles, and personal tastes. As a result, I’m only going to explain what I would do in the situations I’ll discuss, primarily using Adobe Lightroom. I take advantage of Adobe Photoshop for some more unusual edits, which we’ll discuss. Regardless, this doesn’t make my edits right or wrong, and they’re certainly not a definitive guide on how to process an image, but it’s how I like my night sky images to look, and therefore, it’s what I know. There are a number of other techniques and styles to look into as well though, so the important factor is finding a style that you like and enjoy and incorporating your own personal tastes into that.
On Monday, April 28th, 2014, from 6-8pm, I’ll be giving a presentation at the Teton County Library Auditorium, Side B, about light pollution stemming from the town of Jackson. I’ve written about light pollution before, but in writing that blog post, I’ve learned quite a bit more about the effects, solutions, and even goals to achieve by minimizing its effects. In addition, I was also invited onto the board of Wyoming Stargazing, a non-profit that seeks to bring an observatory and planetarium to Jackson Hole, something that won’t be nearly as meaningful without cutting down on the light pollution emitted from the area.
Throughout the presentation, I’ll be showing examples of businesses and areas around town that are doing severe damage to our night skies, how they can very easily fix them, what the effects of light pollution on humans and wildlife are, speaking about International Dark Sky Association certification and why it matters, showing examples of other dark sky communities and how it impacted their tourism, and much more.
A Geminid Meteor streaks through the sky above the Gros Ventre River in Grand Teton National Park.
Camera: Canon 5D Mark III, Lens: Canon 17-40mm f/4, Aperture: f/4, ISO: 4,000, Shutter Speed: 10sec., Focal Length: 17mm
By contrast to photographing the northern lights, meteor showers are much more predictable for their peak and thus help to be easily planned out to photograph. Predicting exactly when a meteor is going to streak across the sky though is a lot like trying to predict when lightning will strike. This section will help you get the most out of every meteor shower so that you’ll be able to come away with some great shots of shooting stars!Setting Up
This is where you’ll definitely want to be capturing more sky than land, even if there is moonlight. Your composition can certainly have some distinct silhouettes, or even features if there’s moonlight, but you want the majority of your image to be of the night sky.
Multiple meteors falls toward the northern horizon of Jackson Hole, Wyoming as northern lights illuminate the night sky above.
Northern lights above Teton Mountains
Camera: Canon 7D, Lens: Sigma 20mm f/1.8 Aperture: f/2.8, ISO: 3,200, Shutter Speed: 20sec. Focal Length: 20mm
The northern lights (aurora borealis; also southern lights for the southern hemisphere, aka, the aurora australis) are one of the most sought-after phenomena in the night sky. Casting bright, colorful lights from above, they have entranced civilizations for countless years. Thanks to digital photography, photographing them has recently become one of the most exciting objects to capture. Unfortunately, few people really know how to take advantage of the opportunity, so hopefully this will help you capture them next time you’re out. The term ‘northern lights’ can be replaced at any point with ‘southern lights’. I’ll use the terms interchangeably.
The Gros Ventre River, frozen from freezing temperatures, flows through Grand Teton National Park.
Camera: Canon 5D Mark III, Lens: Canon 17-40mm f/4, Aperture: f/11, ISO: 3,200, Shutter Speed: 10sec., Focal Length: 17mm
For many night photographers, the moon can be more of a deterrent from proceeding with night shots. Moonlight drowns out many faint stars, as well as the Milky Way. That means that you won’t be capturing bright Milky Way shots filled with an unfathomable amount of stars flooding a night sky. Where it hampers dark sky photography, however, it opens up new landscape possibilities, bringing new life to familiar scenes.
With moonlight, the focus isn’t just on the stars as it was with new moon photography. Instead, you now have the option to compose full landscapes and any sky that’s included will likewise include the brightest stars from the night sky, making it much easier to isolate many constellations.
The Milky Way Galaxy reaches down into the light pollution produced from Jackson, Wyoming as airglow fills the remaining night sky.
Camera: Canon 7D, Lens: Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8, Aperture: f/2.8, ISO: 6,400, Shutter Speed: 30sec., Focal Length: 11mm
For millenia, people have gazed upon the Milky Way Galaxy in awe of its consistent streak through the night sky. It remains the symbol of enigmatic wonderment for both experienced and casual night sky observers. Thus, it is also one of the first night sky objects that people want to photograph, especially if they’ve taken the time to drive out to the middle of nowhere to see it, which leads to the first requirement.Find a Dark Sky
In order to properly photograph the Milky Way, the first and most important step is to find a dark sky. If you live in a large city, you have some driving to do.