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Syllabus for Shooting the Stars Online


March 10, 17, and 24, 2021, 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Mountain Time (three two-hour classroom sessions, plus one individually scheduled one-hour one-on-one session for each student).


All group sessions and one-on-one sessions will be held online using Zoom video conferencing software.

Course Level

This workshop is appropriate for low-intermediate to advanced-intermediate photographers.

Tuition: $345

Enrollment is limited to 10 students

Course Description

Learn how to make spectacular photographs of the Milky Way online. 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. Classroom topics will include:

  • 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. Students will be able to follow along.

  • The best cameras and lenses for shooting the Milky Way.

  • Focusing and composing at night.

  • What aperture and shutter speed to use to achieve correct exposure, reveal the largest number of stars, and prevent star trails.

  • How to plan, 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.

  • How to process photos of the Milky Way in Lightroom Classic and Photoshop CC. I’ll start by showing students my approach to editing a single-frame shot of the Milky Way in Lightroom, then show students how to use Photoshop to combine two frames, one exposed for land, the other exposed for sky, to create an image that is richly detailed throughout.


Students will put their new knowledge and skills to immediate use by going out and shooting at night. Students with access to a dark-sky location will try to shoot the Milky Way; students who are restricted to locations near city lights will hone their night photography skills and shoot images they can use to practice the Lightroom and Photoshop techniques I’ll teach. I have scheduled the workshop so students can complete the assignment during a “Milky Way window,” a series of nights when the moon is below the horizon and the galactic center, the most photogenic part of the Milky Way, is above the horizon for at least one hour.

This workshop will be much more than an impersonal webinar. Enrollment is limited to ten students. All lectures will be delivered live via Zoom video conferencing software so students can ask questions. Group sessions will be recorded and the recording made available for download for six days after each group session. Students will also have the opportunity to record each session to their local hard drive. In addition to six hours of group lectures and discussions, each student will receive one hour of one-on-one time, again conducted via Zoom. Students can use the time to get help mastering Lightroom and Photoshop techniques for compositing night images using either the sample images I provide or their own images. Alternatively, they can use the time for a portfolio review of their existing night images or to discuss any aspect of nighttime or daytime landscape photography that interests them.

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 42 years. Over 2,000 of my photographs have been published, including 87 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 ImpressionsColorado Wild & Beautiful, and Sunrise from the Summit: First Light on Colorado’s Fourteeners. I have had 25 feature articles published in Outdoor Photographer, where I am a contributing editor.


Wednesday, March 10, 2021 

  • 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Mountain Time. Introduction to Milky Way 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.


Wednesday, March 17, 2021

  • 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Mountain Time. Discussion of the best cameras and lenses for night photography. 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. Instructions for completing the night-photography assignment.


Wednesday, March 24, 2021  

  • 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Mountain Time. Discussion of the results of the assignment. Demonstration of processing single-frame Milky Way photographs in Lightroom Classic. Students will be able to follow along using sample images I will provide in advance. 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.


One-on-one sessions scheduled by appointment. After the last group session, each student will have the opportunity to make an appointment for a one-hour one-on-one session. Students can use the time to get hands-on guidance as they practice the editing techniques they learned, to get more feedback on their images, either archival or shot during the workshop, or to discuss any aspect of daytime or nighttime landscape photography that interests them. Students will have until March 24, 2022, to use their one-on-one time.

Logistical Details 

A laptop with a webcam is required to take this course. Students will receive detailed instructions on using Zoom video-conferencing software prior to the workshop as well as instructions on how to download the sample images. To get the most out of the workshop, students should have access to image-editing software. 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, now called Photo Ephemeris Web, comes in two versions, one free, one paid. I recommend and will demonstrate the Pro version, which costs $30 per year, but subscribing to the Pro version is not a requirement for taking the course.

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