1st Annual NightScaper Conference - Speakers Review

Darren and I have long been fans of collaboration and when we first heard that Royce Bair was putting together a first annual NightScaper Conference in Moab, Utah, we knew we were excited. Sure enough, this was a wonderful chance to share with other Nightscape photographers from Utah and beyond.

Royce lined up 3 days of seminars with 12 speakers and a choice of 18 workshops before, during, and after the conference. As one of the speakers, I’m a little biased so I’m limiting my opinions (a bit).

With dates set for May 1-3, 2019, the event sold out in what I believe was just 34 days. And when the time arrived, everyone made their way to Moab, Utah. Seeing all the familiar faces and meeting all the new ones was a real treat! As an added bonus, the rain and clouds left Moab and skies cleared as the conference began.

Wayne Pinkston is on deck at the first annual NightScaper Conference in Moab, Utah.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Day one kicked off with Christine Kenyon giving answers to common nightscape questions. Clarence Spencer then opened the door to astro-modified cameras and all the wonderful colors & capability they bring. Wayne Pinkston got more technical in showing off his approach to night photography before Mike Shaw pulled back a bit with a look at composites and blends. The Photog Adventures team with Brendon Porter and Aaron King showed how to plan your next Milky Way adventure with PhotoPills. My personal favorite for the day was the Photog Adventures team (showing off PhotoPills) although I thought they were all interesting. I did not get to see Eric Gail’s Wednesday evening talk about Gaia GPS.

Many thanks to organizer and presenter, Royce Bair

Mike Berenson pauses his presentation for a quick pose with NightScaper Conference attendees

Thursday, May 2, 2019

On day two, Vince Warner kicked things off talking about his vision for the right tripod for night photography. I’ll be interested to see where he is in a few more years. Eric Gail then had one of the most interesting talks in showing off the incredible capabilities of Google Earth as a scouting tool. Thank you Eric! Royce Bair then shared six ways to improve the quality of your nightscape images. I (Mike Berenson) then showed multiple live demos in my presentation titled “Stacking, Tracking and Blending, Oh My!”. Ron Risman then showed a window into his world of time-lapse videos. Finally, the Photog Adventures team returned for some more much appreciated demos with PhotoPills. This is where Aaron King and Brendon Porter got to really show off how useful it can be. I did not see Joyce Harman’s Thursday evening presentation “Saving Dark Skies Locally”.

Ryan Smith and Clarence Spencer before their presentations at the NightScaper Conference

Friday, May 3, 2019

Shreenivasan Manievannan kicked off day 3 with an inspiring demonstration on the recently improved capabilities of GoPro cameras. Bettymaya Foott followed with an eye opening discussion from the International Dark-Sky Association’s perspective. It was most enlightening to see how light pollution maps have changed over the past 3 years. Eric Benedetti then shared how he uses various tracking mounts and techniques to capture super-sharp long-exposures of the night sky. I was personally looking forward to this one and I was not disappointed. Thank you Eric. David Swindler then showed his polished approach to training night photography and shared why he loves locations around Kanab, Utah. Ryan Smith finished off the event with his presentation on making the most of your photography efforts with revenue from print sales.

NightScaper Conference registration with Royce Bair

Beyond The Seminars

Many people (ourselves included) couldn’t stop with the daytime seminars. Yea the parks were busy, but that made a great opportunity to get out at night and use some of the lesser known locations around Moab. In-fact, I heard it was very busy in Arches National Park near Balanced Rock and the Windows area. This makes it nice that Darren and I have been scouting locations that use our BLM permit (outside the national parks) for years. We were ready.

I know in talking to some of our students and some more conference attendees, they really liked being able to learn from so many varied night photographers in one location. I heard from several people who took one of our workshops in combination with someone else’s - all on the same trip. For those people (and many others), the impact on their capability was huge. I’m sure others had a less favorable experience but the people we worked with were very pleased.

A Community Of Collaborators

On the collaboration side, I thought it was great being able to see more on other people’s techniques. With all the evolution of techniques over the years, the opportunity to learn when others shared was huge. We’ve seen night photography grow to the point where there are several areas of specialty - which gives us new, deep areas to learn about. These discussions with people who’ve spent years learning about these areas of specialty (tracking, astro-modifications, etc.) were fascinating. And what made it especially valuable was a renewed spirit of collaboration where people inspired and helped each other to try new techniques.

A NightScaper Conference Tradition

With the conference over and the feedback collected, it’s clear that a lot of people really enjoyed the first NightScaper Conference. And now as eyes transition toward the future, we’re excited once again to learn about the Second Annual NightScaper Conference scheduled to take place in Kanab, Utah on May 20-22, 2020. Building on the momentum from the first event in Moab, this one looks to be even bigger. It’ll certainly be exciting to meet well known photographers at the event including Yuri Beletsky, Ben Canales, Jack Fusco, Brad Goldpaint, and more.

Darren and I look forward to seeing you there!

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