How to Shoot & Process


Digital SLR and new mirrorless cameras allow us to capture images of the night sky impossible or difficult to take years ago with film.

In this 3- to 5-hour workshop, I take you through the steps needed to capture beautiful landscape scenes at night – "nightscapes" – that include the Northern Lights, meteor showers, and the Milky Way, using no more than the equipment you already own: a DSLR or mirrorless camera and a tripod.

The same gear can also be used to take stunning time-lapse movies of the stars turning or clouds moving above a moonlit landscape.

I show you how to shoot and assemble these movies, from simple techniques to advanced methods with motion-control dollies and bulb-ramping devices.

COURSE CONTENT (Varies with the length of the Workshop)

Included are tips and techniques on...

• Setting your DSLR camera for minimum noise and maximum detail

• Making use of moonlight and knowing where the Moon will be

• Shooting sky events such as conjunctions, aurora, and meteor showers

• Capturing the Milky Way over a photogenic landscape

• How to track the stars for even greater detail in the sky setting

• Intervals and exposures for effective time-lapse shooting

• Shooting motion-control movies with pan/tilt and dolly systems

• Avoiding frame-to-frame flicker in time-lapse movies

• Creating the "holy grail" time-lapse: the day-to-night transition

• Recommended workflows for nightscape and time-lapse processing

• Processing nightscapes, including layering composite shots

• Stacking images to create long-exposure star trails

• Processing the hundreds of images of a typical time-lapse sequence

• Assembling the frames into a final movie

Using recent images I've shot, I work through specific examples to demonstrate how to process still images and time-lapse movies using both the common and the little-known functions of Adobe Camera Raw, Adobe Photoshop, Bridge, and Lightroom, as well as specialized programs such as LRTimeLapse and StarStaX. 

I specifically cover how to...

• Select full frame vs. cropped frame DSLRs

• Select lenses (zooms vs. primes) for nightscapes

• Set exposure and interval to balance noise, sharpness, and clip length

• Calculate frame rate and count for desired time-lapse movie length

• Shoot Raw vs. JPG format images

• Select specialized camera control software and intervalometers

• Shoot and assemble multi-frame panoramas of the night sky

• Include the Moon and planets to make interesting nightscapes

• Calculate where the Moon will be to illuminate your scene

• Use moonlight or artificial light to illuminate a nightscape

• Avoid common problems at the camera, such as dew

• Frame and focus at night

• Take and apply dark frames to reduce noise

• Power gear in the field

• Stack short exposures to create star trails

• Select the best final movie frame rates and formats

• Perform a "bulb ramp" to take smooth day-to-night transitions

• Use tracking mounts and platforms, and recommended units

• Use motorized mounts to create movies that pan and tilt across the scene

• Use motorized dolly rails to incorporate "Hollywood-style" camera moves

• Post-process frames with specialized tools such as TLDF and LRTimeLapse to remove flicker and apply transitions over a clip

• Use Photoshop and other programs to assemble and process movies

All workshop participants receive a handout PDF via download of the presentation's slides, as well as of the step-by-step processing techniques demonstrated live in the Workshop.

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