Syllabus for Shooting the Stars in Rocky Mountain National Park
July 11-12, 2020
July 11-12, 2020
Classroom sessions: Ridgeline Hotel, 101 South Saint Vrain Avenue, Estes Park, CO 80517; (844) 744–5525;
Field sessions: Rocky Mountain National Park
This workshop is appropriate for low-intermediate to advanced-intermediate photographers
Workshop Fee: $495
Enrollment is limited to 8 students
Come to Rocky Mountain National Park to learn how to make spectacular photographs of the Milky Way. Recent advances in digital-camera technology have made it possible to capture the magnificent night sky as we see it, with no apparent movement of the stars. This course will focus on techniques for planning, shooting, and processing beautiful photos of the glowing heart of our galaxy. We'll start with a classroom session Saturday afternoon, where I'll explain how to use two computer programs, Sun Surveyor and the Photographer’s Ephemeris, to plan when and where to go to shoot the brightest and most interesting part of the Milky Way. I'll teach students how to focus at night and what camera settings to use to achieve correct exposure and reveal the largest number of stars. I'll also teach students how to set up, shoot, and stitch together a complete Milky Way panorama, which may have an angle of view of 180 degrees left-to-right and 90 degrees top-to-bottom. After the classroom session, we'll head up Trail Ridge Road to shoot sunset and the soft magic of twilight. When the sky becomes completely dark about two hours after sunset, we'll work on shots of the Milky Way over Longs Peak. For some of the images, we’ll use flat-panel LED lights to bathe the foreground rock outcrops in a warm glow. On Sunday I’ll teach students how to process photos of the Milky Way in Lightroom and Photoshop. I’ll start by showing students my approach to editing a single-frame shot of the Milky Way, then show students how to combine two frames, one exposed for land, the other exposed for sky, to create an image that is richly detailed throughout.
All students will receive extensive handouts on the key information covered during the workshop, including Mastering Dramatic Light, a 41-page PDF on how to shoot great images in high-contrast situations. When the workshop is over, students will have a deeper understanding of how to find and capture magnificent images of the night sky.
About the Instructor
I’ve been a full-time photographer, writer, and instructor for 41 years. Over 2,000 of my photographs have been published, including 84 covers, and I’ve sold over 10,000 prints. Rocky Nook published my book The Art, Science, and Craft of Great Landscape Photography in spring 2015 and published the second edition in the spring of 2020. It published my book Dusk to Dawn: a Guide to Landscape Photography at Night in spring 2018. Farcountry Press published three books of my landscape photographs: Rocky Mountain National Park Impressions, Colorado Wild & Beautiful, and Sunrise from the Summit: First Light on Colorado’s Fourteeners. I have had 24 feature articles published in Outdoor Photographer, where I am a contributing editor.
Saturday, July 11, 2020
1:00 p.m. to 5 p.m. Introduction to night photography. Slide show with examples of landscape photographs taken at night. Discussion and demonstration of Sun Surveyor and the Photographer’s Ephemeris, two inexpensive, easy-to-use computer programs that make it much easier to plan Milky Way shoots. Tips on composition, focusing, and exposure at night, including a discussion of the best ways to preserve detail throughout the frame. Discussion and demonstration of how to set up, shoot, and stitch together Milky Way panoramas using Really Right Stuff hardware and Lightroom Classic.
5:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Students will shoot late light and sunset at a spectacular location in Rocky Mountain National Park. Students should bring a dinner picnic to eat in the field. Sunset is at 8:32 p.m.
8:30 p.m. to midnight. As dusk deepens, students will shoot the Milky Way as it emerges from the darkening sky over Longs Peak. We will return to Estes Park around midnight.
Sunday, July 12, 2020
9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Class convenes at the Ridgeline Hotel at 9:00 a.m. Demonstration of processing single-frame Milky Way photographs in Lightroom. Demonstration of two methods for combining two frames, one exposed for sky, the other exposed for land, in Photoshop to produce an image with rich detail throughout the frame.
Note—I will provide a continental breakfast on Sunday morning (pastries, juice, fruit, and coffee), as well as a midday snack (unsweetened bagels and cream cheese). We will not be taking a formal lunch break. Students will be on their own for lunch after the workshop concludes.
11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. With my help, students will edit several of their favorite images from Saturday’s shoot. I will then project favorite images from each student. This is not a photo contest, but rather a celebration of what everyone has learned and seen during the workshop.
Logistical Details Lodging and meals on Saturday are not included in the $495 workshop fee. I will provide a continental breakfast on Sunday morning (pastries, juice, fruit, and coffee), as well as a midday snack (unsweetened bagels and cream cheese). Students are responsible for making their own lodging reservations. I encourage students to stay at the Ridgeline Hotel for their own convenience, but there is no obligation to stay at the hotel to take the workshop.
The Ridgeline Hotel is offering a significant discount to students who book their sleeping room no later than June 11, 2020. To receive your discount, please call 970 480-0110. Be sure to mention the group name, Glenn Randall Photography, but make the reservation under your own name. Students are responsible for paying for their lodging.
The field session during the workshop will take place at 12,000 feet. Students should come prepared for a cold, high-altitude shoot. We will be shooting next to the road, so no hiking is required, but we will be setting up on rocky, uneven terrain.
To get the most out of the workshop, students should bring a laptop with image-editing software installed. I will demonstrate techniques using Lightroom Classic (the desktop version) and Photoshop CC, so students may wish to download trial versions of those two programs if they don’t already have them installed. You may also wish to install Sun Surveyor on your smart phone or tablet. The desktop version of the Photographer’s Ephemeris is a free web app. Although I recommend bringing a laptop, bringing one is not a requirement for taking the course.
Registered students will receive a complete list of items to bring.