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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Two Rivers in the Grand Canyon

“Two Rivers” ~ The Dark River (a.k.a. The Great Rift in the Milky Way) rising over the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. This location is at Mile 139, just below the confluence with Kanab Creek. ~ © Royce Bair

The Story: I woke up eleven days ago at 3:30 am on the 5th day of a Colorado River rafting trip with Western River Expeditions (that’s their boat on the bottom right); and found that the Milky Way core had finally rotated almost to the point that the Dark Horse Nebula could be seen at the bottom of the canyon. Five hours earlier I had gone to bed under the conclusion that the Milky Way core would not be revealed from this location (according to PhotoPills), before the Astronomical Dusk had ended, due to the high canyon walls.

This 188-mile section of the Grand Canyon is one
of the darkest regions in the USA and occupies
an area larger than many eastern states!
PhotoPills had been right; however, even though the Astronomical Dusk (AD) was just ending, the view of the Milky Way in this 6,000 feet (1829 m.) deep section of the Grand Canyon was breathtaking, and I decided to wait another 15 minutes into the twilight, allowing more of the “horse” to be revealed and started an 8-exposure stack (to reduce digital noise) at 3:45 am. About a minute after I finished the stack, the bright yellow star, Antares, disappeared behind the canyon wall.

After the stack for the Milky Way, I waited another 45 minutes into the Nautical Twilight (at 4:30 am) and did a 4-exposure stack for the foreground. The results of these two stacks were then blended in Photoshop.

Although shooting past the Astronomical Dusk lowers sky contrast and makes the Milky Way more faint, it was worth it in order to place the core closer to its reveal and produce a better sky composition—reminding me once again that even though the AD is technically the best time to photography the Milky Way, there are esthetic and artistic reasons to fudge a little and wander into the Astro Twilight periods!

EXIF: Stacked & Blended. Canon EOS 5D Mark III using a Rokinon 12mm f/2.8 Fisheye lens. Sky: 8 shot stack, @ 15 sec | f/2.8 | ISO 8000. Foreground: 4 shot stack @ 30 sec | f/4.0 | ISO 1000

How-to-Tutorial: Exposure stacking. Many wonder how effective stacking is in reducing digital noise. Although tracking is a better method of reducing noise and improving detail in the sky, for the small investment in extra field time, stacking is very effective. I often like to say that stacking is the poor man's method of tracking. It requires no extra equipment, only a little extra time in the field. In this case, only eight 15-second exposures, or two extra minutes. Of course, one must spend extra time in post-processing to stack the exposures. I used Starry Landscape Stacker for the Mac. Windows users can use Sequator. Both software programs align the stars (which move between each exposure) and treat the foreground separately (which does not move).

How many stacking exposures should you make? For starry night skies I recommend at least five shots, taking them as fast as they'll write to your memory card. The more you shots you take, the smoother the software can make the sky between the stars. Seven to nine shots is a good number. I find much more than this produces a diminishing return (less noticeable smoothness for your extra efforts). If you need to shoot the foreground separately like I did, four or five stacks is typically good enough, since foregrounds often have details (rocks and plants) that tend to hide noise.

These three images were enlarged 200% in order to show show the digital noise (click to enlarge for more detail). At this enlargement, a standard 25 seconds exposure still shows some star movement or trailing. By reducing the exposure time to 15 seconds (and even shorter times when using longer focal length lenses) and compensating with a higher ISO, one can make stacking even more effective.

Processing the sky exposure. Make sure you process your stacks as 16-bit TIFFs in order retain as much bit depth as possible. Once you have processed your stacked exposures into one image, you'll need to increase the sky contrast, especially in this case where I went into the Astronomical Twilight, which makes the Milky Way even more faint than usual. As explained in my other blog posts and in my eBook, I use ''S'' Curves to increase the sky contrast. Photoshop and Lightroom Curves does a better job of protecting Milky Way core highlight details than other processing methods.

The left image is the Camera Raw exposure and the right image is after adding sky contrast, using an "S" Curves in Photoshop. The red lights and reflections are weak blinking lights the river guides use to mark the trail to a hidden portable chemical toilet that makes river rafting more comfortable (and a national park requirement).

The foreground exposure. In order to see foreground detail below the Milky Way sky, one typically needs to use an exposure that is at least 4 to 8 times greater than the sky exposure. To reduce noise, one should use the camera's Long Exposure Noise Reduction feature. Stacking exposures will further help. However, if one is close to an approaching twilight period like I was, one can wait and take that foreground about 45 minutes later like I did. You can also take a twilight exposure for the foreground before the Astronomical Dusk begins.

This foreground exposure was taken during the Nautical Twilight, and was a stack of four 30-second exposures to further reduce noise. NOTE the fisheye distortion of the river's shoreline: this will be corrected at the end of the tutorial.

Blending the Milky Way and foreground exposures. Using the sky as a masking channel and inverting the selection, the brighter foreground is selected, copied to the clipboard and then pasted as a layer over the Milky Way sky exposure. Once alignment is perfect, the layer is flattened into a final blended image.

Exposure blends like this are NOT considered "composites" because the tripod and camera did not move. In fact, alignment blends are quite easy as long as both camera and tripod do NOT move between exposure! Click image to enlarge.

Correcting fisheye lens distortion. This image was taken with the relatively inexpensive, but amazingly sharp (and very low coma) Rokinon 12mm f/2.8 ED AS IF NCS UMC Fisheye lens (made for Nikon | Canon | Sony E full-frame cameras). Using a fisheye lens enabled me to show the deep canyon perspective of this area. However, fisheye lenses exhibit extreme barrel distortion near the outside edges of the image, especially when they are tilted upwards! You can enable the Lens Corrections Profile in Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom to remove this distortion, but it will greatly change the look of your image and typically destroy the image quality, especially near the edges. I've found a better solution is to selectively use Photoshop's "Warp" feature (Edit > Transform > Warp) only on the offending areas of your images. This correction feature enables more image quality to be retained and is much less destructive. Caution: always make sure you do this correction last, as any masking channels you have previously created will no longer align with your newly warped image!

Often, only one or two corners of a "fisheye" landscape image need lens distortion correction. Once in the "Warp" submenu, I clicked on the far left corner of the river's shore line and dragged it straight down until the river looked more natural. Although the other corners of the image are just as distorted, their distortion is actually adding a unique perspective to the image and were left alone. A simple, ten-second correction! 

Subduing the blinking red lights. I could have removed the red lights and their reflection in the water, but they are part of the river experience, so I choose to darken them instead in the final image (top of page).







Saturday, May 5, 2018

Podcast - Single Image Milky Way Photography vs. Star Tracking



PODCAST Episode 76: Single Image Milky Way Photography vs. Star Tracking. Listen to a podcast I did earlier this week with Aaron and Brendon at Photog Adventures.

Has Star Tracking made Single Image Milky Way Photography just a waste of time? The answer is NO! In this podcast I discuss pros and cons of both types of Milky Way Photography and how to best take advantage of your time out there under the stars —how to get the most out of our images whether or not you do any star tracking.

We share some post-processing techniques I use to reduce the noise in my single image photography, using special DFine tool methods within the Nik Collections, as well as going for the small effort of a mini stack to reduce noise.

I also talk about why I sometimes use an astro-modified camera and the benefits that come from that, as well as the rule of thumb I like to follow for what determines whether an image becomes a Single, Stacked, Blend or Tracked mage. Along with this, I give my thoughts on the ethics of composite nightscape photography.

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Monday, April 23, 2018

Night Photography Restrictions in Arches National Park

An April Milk Way rises behind Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, Utah - foreground illuminated by Low Level Landscape (LLL) lighting.  This very dim, filtered light panel was set up on a tripod down in the bowl. It was dimmed down until it matches starlight. You cannot even see it until your eyes dark-adapt. The dim light was left on for about an hour, while over 30 visitors from several nations were able to take similar photos, even though they were not part of my workshop group. (EXIF: Canon 5DM3, Rokinon 24mm f/1.4, 13 sec, f/2.0, ISO 5000) © Royce Bair

April 23, 2018 UPDATE: In 2017, three national parks (Arches, Canyonlands and Grand Teton) banned light painting, and there was even talk of banning all night photography. However, due to the lobbying and educational efforts of myself, Wayne Pinkston and many others, Arches, Canyonlands and Natural Bridges have now adopted the Low Level Lighting techniques that we pioneered as an approved standard for commercial Still Photography Instruction (workshops) within these parks! Standard light painting (described below in #16) is still banned, but LLL is allowed:
20. Light Panel - Using a low level light panel that emits extremely dim constant lighting during a nighttime photographic exposure is an approved method for lighting the landscape at night.
Thank You! Wayne and I would like to thank all who have adopted our less obtrusive LLL techniques and promoted these methods to others. This thanks also goes to the great people at the National Park Service, who were willing to consider and modify their regulations. Together, we have made a difference that will help thousands to better enjoy the landscape and the night sky!

Grand Teton continues to ban all uses of artificial lighting at night, no matter the type (light painting or Low Level Lighting). The purpose of this restriction, claims the park superintendent, is to protect the wildlife. Night photography is still allowed, and headlamps are permitted by night photographers to help them get to and from their shooting locations (albeit, headlamps can be over 100 times brighter than LLL). It should be noted that unlike Arches, Canyonlands and Natural Bridges, Grand Teton's ban on artificial lighting applies to all photographers, whereas the aforementioned parks only placed their lighting restrictions on commercial workshops.

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ORIGINAL POST ~ Dateline: January 12, 2017
Will All Night Photography Be Banned in Arches and Canyonlands National Parks? Beginning this year, no light painting will be allowed to take place within Arches and Canyonlands by commercial photo workshop groups; and starting in 2018, it is very possible that no night photography will be allowed by participants of these photo workshops within the two parks. Currently, this ruling applies only to Commercial Use Authorization (CUA) permit holders and their photography workshop groups. It does not (yet) apply to private individuals and amateur photographers.
16. Light painting – Light painting activities are not authorized under this authorization. Light painting, or light drawing, is a photographic technique in which exposures are made by moving a hand-held light source while taking a long exposure photograph, either to illuminate a subject or to shine a point of light directly at the camera, or by moving the camera itself during exposure. [APPENDIX SPECIAL PARK CONDITIONS - ARCHES NATIONAL PARK & CANYONLANDS NATIONAL PARK - Still Photography Instruction
Earlier this month, all night photography had been banned within the two parks for CUA permit holders and their photo workshop groups. However, after numerous protests from operators, who already had scheduled workshops in place, Concessions Management Specialist, Michael Hill, lifted the ban for the current 2017 season, but not the ban on light painting. In an email to all Still Photography Instruction CUA permit holders, Michael wrote on January 5, 2017:
Some folks have voiced no concern about the change, while a few others stated that all they do is night photography and that change would be devastating. ...For 2017 we will continue to allow night use in the Still Photography Instruction CUA for Canyonlands and Arches, as we have done in the past. Light painting, however has been an issue with our park nighttime visitors, and we still feel that does not have a commercial place in the park. …For 2018 I am open for dialogue if that night use will continue. Feel free to email me your comments.
Balance Rock stands only a few hundred feet from a busy park road. It is a very difficult formation to photograph at night because of all the car headlights that rake across it. However, at about about 2:00am on some Spring mornings, the traffic does diminish and one can capture the Milky Way rising above the horizon. (EXIF: Canon 5DM3, Rokinon 24mm f/1.4, 13 sec, f/2.0, ISO 5000, using LLL lighting.) © Royce Bair

Could a future ban affect ALL photographers? It is not clear if a possible ban on all night photography will begin in 2018 just for Still Photography Instruction CUA permit holders, or if this ban will be for all photographers. Currently, Guided Interpretive Day Hiking within the two parks is already restricted to daylight and twilight hours:
36. Area Use – This authorization is applicable only for the use of the area, term, and conditions designated herein. The area(s) authorized for use under this authorization must be left in substantially the same condition as it was prior to the activities authorized herein. Only 2wd roads are authorized for use.
**Approved use starts 1/2 hours before sunrise and ends 1/2 hours after sunset. This does not include travel time.**
Increasing Park Visitation and undesirable activities in the park. Michael Hill, explained park managements reasons for the changes in the same email letter to CUA permit holders:
Managing the parks here are complex, and have ever changing issues to manage.
If you have followed the news you would understand the explosive use of this area has changed a lot in and out side of the parks here. Technology as well has impacted how we manage the parks. In those 8 years we have gone from 24 to 260 CUAs. Our park visitation has increased to where we need to change how we manage the visitors, as well as commercial services. 
It is our mandate to balance protecting the park resource and providing the enjoyment for park visitors. We have to balance the commercial use of a park in regards to services that are appropriate and/or necessary, in regards to the above statement. Commercial use in a park is a privilege.  
Regarding night photography instruction, you don't need Arches to teach night photography. Teaching night photography can be accomplished in many areas outside of the National Parks here.
Regarding light painting in Arches National Park. We have determined that as not a desired activity in the park when, we have visitors (not photographers) complain about it, and some of those visitors just leave the park as they don't know what is going on. 
Are Additional Night Photography Bans Coming? As park visitation increases in all the national parks, we may expect to see similar bans on night photography in other parks. Fox News recently reported that Utah's Zion National Park is now experiencing too many visitors, even in the winter off-season.

Is "Light Painting" Getting a Bad Rap?
That depends on how one defines "light Painting." If it is defined the way park regulations are written above as, "...moving a hand-held light source while taking a long exposure photograph," then maybe it deserves the bad publicity. Usually, these lights are powerful flashlights, headlamps or even spotlights that are being waved around natural formations to illuminate them. The lights are so bright, they can only be left on for a few seconds during the long camera time exposure that is necessary to record the starry night sky. The on and off flashing of these bright lights is ruining to one's night vision, and is very annoying to visitors (especially non-photographers) who are there to enjoy the night sky at a unique dark sky location. Most of these lights also have a very bluish color rendition, which also adversely effects night vision. Remember, many of the national parks have been promoting the slogan, "Half the park is after dark," and most of these nocturnal visitors are coming to see the stars, not your light painting!

The better way to light: More responsible photographers are beginning to use stationary, Low Level Landscape lighting (LLL). These very dim, filtered light panel care set up on a tripods and dimmed down until they matches starlight. They are so dim one cannot even see their effect until ones eyes dark-adapt.

"Headlamp Intrusion" at Mesa Arch - Canyonlands National Park. The top photo shows headlamp intrusion from a hiker about 100 yards behind me, through the trees and brush. The bottom photo has the same LLL (low level landscape) lighting as the top photo, but did not have the headlamp intrusion from behind. This should give one an idea of how dim and subtle LLL lighting is. Because this type of lighting is on for the whole astronomical exposure, it must match or be just slightly brighter than the intensity of starlight! In the top photo, the hiker's headlamp was only on for a few seconds of the whole 25-second time exposure, yet its estimated 150 lumens brightness (even from 300 feet away) completely overpowers my LLL lighting. (EXIF: Canon 5DM3, Tokina 15-30mm @ 15mm, 25 sec, f/2.8, ISO 6400) © Royce Bair

Share and share alike. In the top image, I was never able to get a decent photo because a bus tour of about 30 foreign photographers came and they would not shut off their headlamps and flashlights, even for 30 seconds. They wanted it all to themselves. “You Americans think you own the national parks,” said the tour leader. I checked the next day, and the park had no record of a permit for them. In the bottom photo (2 years later), dozens of photographers shared my lighting set up and even my shooting position. One of those was a talented photographer from India, Manish Mamtani.

"Arch over an Arch" - Mesa Arch, Canyonlands Nattional Park, Utah. “This is a Milky Way panorama created by stacking and stitching about 56 images. I wanted to take this shot at Mesa Arch in Utah [for over] 4 years, and finally this year I was successful. I ran into Royce Bair …and he had set up some lights to light the foreground,” says Manish. © Manish Mamtani

Continuing the Discussion...
To see what others are saying about the light painting restrictions and the possibility of a complete ban on all night photography, beginning in 2018, check out this post on Ben Coffman's Facebook page.

Fellow photo workshop instructor, Brad Goldpaint, had this to say in that Facebook post, after a lengthy telephone conversation with park Concessions Management Specialist, Michael Hill...

Mike mentioned the issues he’s been facing in the park(s): Too many crowds/busses, too many CUAs, not enough staff, and too many complaints from nighttime photographic activity. He mentioned a number of examples which led to this abrupt change. A couple of these examples stood out to me that I’m sure some of you can relate to:

  1. “Someone set up a tent under a popular arch, put a light inside of it, and then turned on three other flashlights in the area. A visitor approached the scene, thought there was a search and rescue underway, and decided to leave the area. We’ve had people sleeping under the arches, hiking off trail, vandalism, and it’s getting to the point where we have no way of controlling the massive amount of crowds.” Mike has a lot of experience and history with Arches. He told me back in the 80’s he could ride a bike throughout the entire park during a full moon and not see a single headlight throughout the entire night. Nowadays, he gets more and more complaints about people in the park at night, “doing things they shouldn’t be doing.” I couldn’t help but mention ‘the CUA holders I know are actually the ones who are protecting, teaching, and leading by example to help keep a close eye on what transpires at night. If you remove the CUA holders, then it really is free reign on the park.’
  2. “Some things have gotten so bad I’ve had my sanitation crew threaten to quit. We have busloads of visitors coming from the other side of the ocean who have never used a pit toilet. Therefore, visitors and my crew have to pick up human feces. We’re actually installing visual diagrams to show visitors how to use pit toilets in hopes of preventing this issue from continuing to happen.”   
  3. “We’ve had busses follow night photography workshops around and we don’t have the staff to keep them out of the area so the students can enjoy. The instructor will complain, but I don’t have the staff to control the massive amount of people.”
  4. “We were actually going to get rid of the entire ‘Still Photography CUA,’ but I fought to keep it. I did my best in trying to limit use during times we cannot monitor the park.”

Listening to Mike, I began to understand the issues he and the park are facing. It’s not what I wanted to hear, nor was this unexpected change handled in a reasonable manner, but something has to give and change is inevitable. Remember, “Commercial use in a park is a privilege and no one is guaranteed a CUA the following year.” 

I’m happy to see we are allowed to teach an additional year in Arches & Canyonlands, but I believe it is critical for all current and future CUA holders to voice their opinions and ideas to formulate a sustainable solution for all parties affected so future generations can enjoy similar experiences we’ve been fortunate enough to have. As Mike H. said in his latest email, "For 2018 I am open for dialogue if that night use will continue. Feel free to email me your comments. I look forward to receiving them."

Followup: After I had a chance to discuss these issues with Brad, we both agree that Mike is in a tough situation and trying to do whatever he can to alleviate the problems of night use in the park. The problem, we believe, is park administration is blaming it on the “good guys.”

If only the CUA holders are banned from doing night photography in the parks, who is going to be there to report the non-permitted tour bus groups that lurk the parks at night?

Despite this, no light painting in Arches and Canyonlands is a restriction we can live with, if it will help reduce tension and heighten the dark sky experience for all visitors to these two parks.

Teaching Night Photography Ethics:
In an effort to educate the public on proper night photography ethics and Low Level Lighting (LLL) techniques, I have scheduled an entertaining and educational mini-seminar for March 14, 2014, called “Creating Natural NightScape Photographs.” This free event is sponsored by Adobe Systems, and will include socializing at the Viridian Event Center in West Jordan, Utah.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Tripod use banned on Zion National Park trails

Zion's "Little Tree" photographed with the Milky Way. It's single, 25 second exposure and Low Level Lighting required the use of a tripod.

Tripods are not allowed in Zion National Park —but only if you are in a photography workshop, and the restriction only applies to park trails and trailheads. The new 2018 rules for Guided Photography Workshops, do NOT apply to individual photographers who are on their own and not traveling with a commercial business.

A recent photography blog article may be misleading. The real issue is not so much a restriction of tripods in Zion park photo workshops, but the ban of tripods on trails. Tripods are allowed in Zion park workshops, just not on trails —and to many visitors this is a good ruling. The CUA operating plan is written in a way that can be quite confusing to some.

In previous years, photo workshop operators were given a complete list of where tripods were allowed in Zion, but now even these areas are off limits to tripods. For 2018, no tripods can to be used on any trail within Zion. "No two groups from any one company are authorized to guide (or be on) on any one trail at the same time. [However,] Groups may travel on foot up to 100 feet off of designated trails, using existing disturbances or staying on hardened surfaces." Most of the photographers I interviewed agree that getting groups off the trails will help improve park access for everyone.

Why the change? Quoting section 7 of the 2018 Operating Plan For Guided Photography and Painting Workshops: “The use of tripods on trails is prohibited by permittees or clients (monopods are authorized); [because] Tours must not interfere with the general visiting public. [Furthermore] …Due to the sensitivity of nighttime resources in Zion National Park, all requests for nighttime photography must be made at least three weeks ahead to time. All requests must include all proposed locations and dates/times of proposed nighttime activities. Since nighttime photography requires the use of tripods and tripods are not authorized on park trails, nighttime photography is not authorized on park trails.”

As you can see from that last statement, photographing at night is becoming a more sensitive issue in the park, and will probably require even greater planning (and maybe even additional permits) in the future. Currently, workshop operators are only permitted to guide in 16 specific areas and trailheads/trails within the park (see section 11).

My opinion: Prohibiting groups of photographers from blocking trails with their tripods is a good idea. From the feedback I'm getting, trail congestion from workshop groups has happened in the past. However, I've noticed that most of my workshop operators friends spend a lot of time educating and setting the example for best practices. I believe the park would do better by concentrate more on the large foreign tour operators who seem to allow their participants to do most of the trail blocking—not only clogging trail access, but also running ahead and blocking the view from other tourists and photographers who came before them.

Maybe the park service should consider an educational brochure on photographer ethics and park regulations, printed in the most popular languages. In light of current budget shortfalls, they might also consider raising the entrance fee rates for large tour groups, who currently only pay less than $7.31 per person, compared to the normal $15/person or $30 per car. Fees might also be increased for foreign visitors, who do not pay taxes to support our national parks.








Saturday, December 30, 2017

'Starry Night Quotes' 2018 Wall Calendar

Starry Night Quotes - 2018 Wall Calendar • 13-month • Jan 2018-Jan 2019 • click to enlarge

TWO CALENDAR OPTIONS:

1. FREE Download - You can download a mini PDF version of this calendar to view on your hand-held device or to print out from you own inkjet or laser printer (15 - 8.5" x 11" sheets). I can also email this PDF directly to you, if you want to sign up for my NightScaper newsletter:

Get my FREE 2018 calendar





Email & Social Media Marketing by VerticalResponse

2. Order a Pre-printed calendar from my Etsy website for $24.99 - This spiral-bound, 28-page wall calendar looks similar to the above photo and is printed on beautiful glossy coated card stock. Folded, it is 11" x 8.5". Hanging on your wall it is 11" x 17". Because it is a 13-month calendar (January 2018 thru January 2019), you can order through January 2018 and still have a full calendar year!

$5.00 of your purchase is will be donated to the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) to help preserve our dark sky areas. (Your name and address will not be shared with IDA, unless you so designate.)

Inspiring quotes. Each month of my calendar includes quotes from great thinkers in our world's history that inspire us as we contemplate our relationship with the universe above us.

The above quote is from the rarely sung fourth verse of "Home on the Range" (click to enlarge).

Finding Darkness in rural America. The "Starry Night Quotes" calendar is part of my Finding Darkness project —a quest I am on to help find and protect our dark skies. These are places where we can still clearly see the night stars. My goal is not to be an alarmist about light pollution, but to promote the use and benefits of dark sky areas as sanctuaries for creativity and solace —areas where we can remove the noise from our busy lives, to think, dream and be inspired.

A Santa Fe astronomer has said, "...as light pollution spreads, we are slowly losing one of the oldest and most universal links to all of human history." As late as 1889, Van Gogh was able to experience and paint his famous “Starry Night”. If he were alive today, there would be nothing in the night skies over Saint Rémy, France to inspire him, as the Milky Way can no longer be seen from there.

Can you really see the Milky Way at night with your naked eyes? I'm often asked this question by people who have never seen the Milky Way —and over 80% of people in the United States have not had this amazing experience because of increasing light pollution. Here's an article wrote on the naked eye experience vs. what the camera sees under a Bortle class 1 to 3 sky.


Light pollution affects how we see the starry night sky. Persons in a bright suburban area or a city like Salt Lake City (Bortle sky class 7-9) can only see a few of the brightest stars. Those who are far the from city lights can often see the Milky Way and millions of stars (click to enlarge).
Our ability to see stars in the night sky lessens as light pollution increases. Feel free to download and share this image on social media (click to enlarge).

Press Release: Please feel free to share my Finding Darkness press release with your local media.








Friday, November 17, 2017

Sequator is a PC Star Stacking App Alternative to Starry Landscape Stacker

"Bonsai Rock Under The Stars" is a 5-image stack with Sequator to reduce noise in the sky  ~ © Michael Ver Sprill‎ (this is a cropped version - original can be seen on the NightScaper Facebook group)

Sequator is a free Windows / PC software which can track stars on multiple images, align stars and stack them. According to Michael Ver Sprill, it is the first PC software he has found that favorably compares to Starry Landscape Stacker for the Mac!

“I typically use my iMac for editing stacked images and a program called Starry Landscape Stacker which really helps reduce noise and maintain sharpness. However it is for Apple computers only until I came across SEQUATOR. This program is very similar to SLS. The results were practically identical and this seems to be a great alternative for PC users,” says Mike.

“This program is very similar to SLS. The results were practically identical and this seems to be a great alternative for PC users.”

Video Tutorial: Mike has put together a YouTube tutorial that will help you properly install and use Sequator.



Sequator vs. Fitswork: Ralf Rohner has done a nice job comparing Sequator with Fitswork, another popular Windows based star stacking program. He highly recommends Sequator to process an untracked image sequence. "On Windows, it is by far the easiest to use and fastest stacking software for nightscapes and produces very good results. Even beginners can immediately produce excellent results. There are no excuses anymore for noisy single shot nightsapes," says Ralf.

Ralf found Sequator “...really easy to use and it took me less than 5 minutes to produce the result, while my normal workflow in Fitswork takes about 3 hours to arrive at the same stage…The only point where I disagree Mike, is that for better sharpness and less no burned highlights, I recommend to use HDR instead of Auto Brightness.”

For a more detailed comparison, refer to Ralf's Flickr post ~ © Ralf Rohner








Saturday, October 28, 2017

Notes from the Stars

Click image to enlarge

Notes from the Stars is a new hardcover book, written by ten award-winning world-class night landscape photographers, each teaching us about what they do best. This is a KickStarter project that should be totally crowdfunded by December 10th, with a January 2018 delivery date. The minimum pledge to get this "dream team" book is $50. Pledge here to get your copy.

FUNDING UPDATE: On November 30th, This KickStarter project reached it's $25,000 funding goal, and is now totally funded!

There are many books and tutorials that teach nightscape photography techniques. However, no photographer can master every facet of nightscape photography, so readers are often left with useful but standard procedures and perhaps a taste of the author's own take on all those techniques. In Notes from the Stars, each subject is covered from a personal perspective by an expert and acclaimed nightscape photographer - an authority and inspiration to many in the topic they chose to write about.

Here are the 10 authors and their topics:
Yuri Beletsky: Capturing the Airglow
Mark Gee: The Art of Nightscape Timelapses
Brad Goldpaint: Photographing the Milky Way with Moonlight
Mikko Lagerstedt: Vision of Depth (elevating nightscape photography to the level of fine art)
Babak Tafreshi: Deep-sky single-shot nightscapes
Jack Fusco: Photographing the Northern Lights
Mike Taylor: Exposure blend nightscapes
Wally Pacholka: Capturing National Parks at Night
Paul Wilson: High Resolution Nightscape Panoramas
Rogelio Bernal Andreo: Meteor showers and abstract nightscapes.

Rogelio Andreo is the creator of this KickStarter project, and has successfully funded two other books in the past, Deep Sky Colors, The Book and Hawaii Nights.

A note from Royce: I was offered one of the authorship positions in this book (to write about my expertise on low level landscape lighting), but the deadline for the manuscript came at a time when I had several other projects in the works, so I had to decline. I'm really looking forward to getting a copy of this book and expanding my expertise in other areas. One can never have enough nightscape knowledge!




Special eBook DISCOUNT: If you help fund the "Notes from the Stars", you can get
a $5.00 discount when you purchase my MilkyWay NightScapes eBook!
Just enter the discount code TWAN at checkout.