Let Me Know What Problems You Are Having With Night Sky Photography

I am creating a FREE PDF: Top 5 Tips for Nightscape/Milky Way Photography.

Help me create it by letting me know what struggles you are having with nightscape photography.

Milky Way and lightpainting during summer at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming at T.A. Molten Barn. Mormon Row Barns.

I will choose the most common problems photographers encounter and use them in my upcoming free tip guide which will be available in early August.

You can fill out the short, 4 question survey here to let me know.

Thanks for your help!

It’s Such a Heavenly View – Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone at Night

So the initial plan during the past 4th of July weekend was to spend three nights at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming photographing the night sky and Milky Way. I am teaching a nighttime photo workshop there next spring and needed more sample photos to show potential students the amazing opportunities that are possible.

After 2 hugely successful nights in the Tetons, and with a lot of cloud cover in Jackson, I decided to travel to Yellowstone for the third night of shooting. My girlfriend Whitney and I packed up the RV and left the Virginian Lodge RV Park at 6pm and headed north. And fortunate for me because the further north we travelled, the less clouds we encountered.

After photographing the Milky Way above Old Faithful and a couple other geysers, we headed to Grand Prismatic Spring in the Midway Geyser Basin. It was cold, windy, we were all by ourselves, it was pitch dark, and there were no clouds!

We walked along the boardwalk to the top and I started photographing the Grand Prismatic Spring. Because of the cold and the wind, there was too much steam coming off the pool to see it very well and get a shot I had in my mind. So I started looking for other opportunities, and when I turned around to look down the boardwalk we had just walked from I instantly saw it and went to work.

Heavenly View 1400px

Having been out in the dark now for 45 minutes our eyes were fully adjusted to the night, and it was unbelievable the amount of stars we saw and how close they appeared to us! Like we could just reach out and touch them.

This photo, titled “Heavenly View”, is one of my favorite photos from that trip.

Each time I look at it I am transported back to that magical night with A Sky Full of Stars – it was such a Heavenly View! P.S. – thanks Coldplay for helping me with the title for this photo :).

It was a night I won’t soon forget.

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Will Pokemon Go and other VR Games Become A Nuisance for Photographers

I am curious: have any photographers yet run into any issues with kids/adults looking to catch Pokemon in popular photo spots such as the barns in the Tetons or elsewhere?

Last week, before Pokemon Go was released, we were photographing the Milky Way above the John Moulton Barn at 11:30pm when someone’s headlamp walked into our shot and stayed there. We initially thought it was another photographer but when I walked up to the person to let them know where we were photographing from, it turned out to be a young adult playing the Ingress game (another VR game in which the map for Pokemon was based off of).

You can see the light from a young gentleman's phone under the trees in this photo. He was playing the VR game Ingress, similar to Pokemon Go.

You can see the light from a young gentleman’s phone under the trees in this photo. he was playing the VR game Ingress, similar to Pokemon Go.

He said he had to stay in position for a while to do whatever he had to do in the game (this was the first time I ever heard of these VR games). So we had to wait for a bit while his game did it’s thing.

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String Lake Milky Way at Grand Teton National Park

Of all the times I have photographed the night sky, shooting the Milky Way at String Lake in Grand Teton National Park has to be one of my top highlights.

Words alone can’t describe the peacefulness encountered that evening as I was sitting on a rock at the edge of the lake in complete darkness, watching the stars and Milky Way reflected in the still water at 2am.

String Lake Milky Way 1400px

I had photographed in this location a number of times in the daytime and as such I had a pretty good feeling this spot would pay off in the nighttime as well. Getting there at night sure is a little harrowing driving along roads in complete darkness looking out for any elk, deer, foxes, or any other animals that might want to dart out in front of you. I kept my speed at 35-40mph, even though the limit was 45mph, just to be safe (as I usually do while driving through the Tetons and Yellowstone at night).

One other safety tip if you decide to go photograph there especially at night – don’t forget to bring your bear spray!

How I Photographed This

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An Hour at Night at the John Moulton Barn in the Tetons

I just returned from 2 nights of Milky Way photography in Grand Teton National Park and 1 night in Yellowstone during a new moon.

Weather conditions were perfect for me with little clouds which provided a fantastic view of the night sky.

On my second evening out, I spent almost 5 hours at the famous Moulton barns in the Tetons. One shot I wanted to get was a very long exposure of the stars above the Tetons with one of the barns in the foreground.

This photo is the result of my efforts. It shows an elapsed time of one hour, and it is a combination of 15 photos each 4-minutes in duration from approx. 12:44am to 1:44am.

An Hour at Night at the John Moulton Barn 1400px

Here is how I photographed it

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Beware of Bad Rokinon Lenses

If you are into Milky Way and nightscape photography, two of the best lenses out there are from Rokinon – the Rokinon 24mm f1.4 and the Rokinon 14mm f2.8.

BUT – make sure you get a good one!

rokinon-14mm

 

When I ordered my 24mm lens, I finally didn’t get a good version of the lens until my 3rd one. The first two lenses had issues with one side of the frame being soft.

Today I took delivery of two 14mm lenses, thinking that one of them would be ok. Both were bad and are being returned to B&H Photo. In the meantime I have 2 more lenses being sent my way.

One lens has the issue with being soft on one side. The other lens is sharp side to side, but just off center the image is soft and has what appears to be a glow effect in it.

This image is soft on the right-hand side. Shot at f2.8 on a Sony a7R.

This image is soft on the right-hand side. Shot at f2.8 on a Sony a7R. Click on photo to download the full-resolution image.

 

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This photo has issues just off-center. Shot at f2.8 on a Sony a7R. Click on photo to download the full-resolution image.

 

Night photographers love these lenses because they are much less expensive than the comparable Nikon/Canon versions. And not only are they cheaper, but they produce better images with less artifacts when shooting stars wide open.

They are less expensive for two reasons: 1) they are full manual lenses, and 2) the company doesn’t invest much in quality control. The soft side issue I have been having is common with these lenses. The other issue I had? I haven’t come across that one yet.

If you are considering getting one or both of these great lenses, make sure you buy from a company that has a good return policy and be sure to test them out right away! I am hoping one of the next 2 lenses that are headed my way is a perfect one.

Want to take a workshop with me and learn how to photograph the Milky Way and nightscapes? Check out my photo workshop page for available workshops!

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