Night Photography Explored: Part 6 – Post-Processing

Stars swirl around Polaris, the North Star, as northern lights dance on the northern horizon over Jackson Hole, Wyoming. (Mike Cavaroc)
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.
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Night Photography Explored – Part 4: Northern Lights

Multiple meteors falls toward the northern horizon of Jackson Hole, Wyoming as northern lights illuminate the night sky above. (Mike Cavaroc)
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.
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Night Photography Explored – Part 1: Introduction

The Milky Way Galaxy arches over the runoff from Kelly Warm Spring as northern lights glow on the northern horizon in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. (Mike Cavaroc)
The Milky Way Galaxy arches over Jackson Hole, Wyoming as northern lights glow on the northern horizon.
Camera: Canon 7D, Lens: Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8, Aperture: f/2.8, ISO: 5,000, Shutter Speed: 30sec., Focal Length: 11mm

There’s an expression in photography that says, "Don’t pack till it’s black," implying that as long as there’s light in the day, there’s still something to shoot. While it’s certainly true, one of the most exciting times for photography is when it has actually gone black, or rather, during night time hours. Whether there’s a new moon, full moon, or something spectacular in the sky, there’s still plenty of light to work with to create something interesting. This is the first of several posts that will focus on how to capture and maximize your time out under a starry night sky. Everything will be discussed, from gear, to setting up the shot, to post-processing techniques.
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12 Favorite Photos from 2012

As always, clicking on an image will bring you to a higher quality version.

January

Hoar frost clings to trees along the Snake River on a chilly January morning in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. (Mike Cavaroc)
Hoar frost clings to trees along the Snake River on a chilly January morning in Grand Teton National Park.

Despite a lack of wildlife to be found around the area, I was still able to make great opportunities as they arose. The winter had turned into an unusually warm one for Jackson Hole and while normally it’s too cold to even snow, rain was becoming common throughout January. Yet winter still persisted off and on. On one such morning, I woke up to -17F and made an opportunity to make the most of it. One of my favorite series of shots came from a bridge crossing the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park. Small pieces of ice were carried down the water from farther upstream as an earlier fog coated the trees that lined the river in hoarfrost.
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How I Shot It – Northern Lights and the Moulton Barn

The northern lights shine behind and above the Moulton Barn on Mormon Row in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. (Mike Cavaroc)
The northern lights shine behind and above the Moulton Barn on Mormon Row in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.

I was recently asked on my Facebook photography page to do a blog post on how I shot this photo. It seemed like a good idea to me, so here’s the first installment of a series of posts that probably won’t have any kind of regularity, but I hope some people will find useful.

This photo had very little post-processing work done to it; just the usual contrast, exposure, and color settings. One thing I believe heavily in is in getting the shot right from the start in the camera. This includes everything from effects, when possible, to even the cropping. As a result, this is the full crop of this image and the light-painting on the barn was just about the exact exposure I wanted.
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Art Association of Jackson Hole’s First Annual Photography Competition Series

Last night concluded the Art Association of Jackson Hole’s first annual photography competition series. It was a four-part, juried competition with a different theme each week. Though I never placed first, I did receive 3rd place in the first week and 2nd place in the second week. I was very surprised and honored, however, when I was awarded Best in Show last night at the final opening. The reasoning I was told was because in addition to getting an entry into each competition, I still maintained my personal style and consistency of work despite the wide range of categories.

Below are my entries, along with each theme.

Energy and Adrenaline – 3rd Place A dramatic sunset casts a pink glow over the North Fork of Cascade Canyon in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. (Mike Cavaroc)
A dramatic sunset casts a pink glow over the North Fork of Cascade Canyon in Grand Teton National Park.

For Energy and Adrenaline, I knew a thunderstorm would best convey that premise through my work.
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