In-Field Instruction

What Does The In-Field Training Content Look Like?

Students receive all training content in electronic format (in addition to the live training) giving them easy access all the clickable links and resources.

Topics We Like To Cover In The Field

  • Focusing In The Dark
  • Composition In The Dark
  • Dialing In Exposure With The Histogram
  • Night Photography Beyond The Milky Way
  • Light Painting
  • Panoramic Shooting Techniques
  • Evolving Camera Technologies
  • More Advanced Techniques

When Does The In-Field Training Take Place?

In-field training typically takes place during the less-exciting twilight period to help make the most of the good conditions.

Typical Schedule In-Field Training

  • Begin: 7 pm in early and mid-summer months (May through August) and 6 pm in late summer (September)
  • End: 3-4 am in early and mid-summer months (May through August) and 2-3 am in late summer (September)

End-Time Flexibility

While night photography instructional sessions typically run for 8 hours or more, students are encouraged to stay for the parts they're able to enjoy comfortably. And with the excitement of shooting the night stars combined with the variety of the different locations, students are often surprised at how quickly the time flies by.

With the training taking place primarily in the early evening hours, some students are able to take in the training and get their shots by midnight or so and decide to call it a night. Most however choose to stay out longer to make the most of the opportunities to learn and to get even more nightscape captures. The choice is yours and Mike & Darren encourage students to do what they find most comfortable - whether it be on the short side (4-5 hours) or the long side (8 or more hours).

Breaks

Students are encouraged to bring snacks & drinks and to take breaks as needed. They're also encouraged to stay hydrated when shooting out in-the-field. Breaks are common after the group finishes shooting a location and returns to vehicles in the parking lot.

WHAT SHOULD I BRING?

Suggested Photo Gear

  • Camera - Most Current DSLRs Work Great!
    • Live-View - Camera should be capable of Live-View which allows users to compose and see a preview of an image on the LCD without having to open the shutter to capture an image first. Most DSLRs have Live-View.
    • Histogram - Camera should be capable of showing a Histogram after an image is captured. This is used to help the photographer confirm proper exposure which prevents any loss of details and colors. Most DSLRs can show a histogram during image review.
  • Lenses
    • You'll want your widest, brightest lenses (ideally with a minimum aperture of f/2.8 or wider). Lenses with a wider aperture will work in night photography although it's bit more challenging and the results are usually not quite as good.
    • See Mike's recommendations on the best lenses for night photography.
  • Tripod
  • Batteries & Charger
  • Memory Cards
  • Remote Trigger (ideally one with an integrated timer)
  • Camera Bag or Backpack
  • Photo Gear Insurance
  • Additional Items for Magic Cloth Training (optional)
    • Neutral Density Filter (either a variable nd or a 6 stop nd)
    • Mouse Pad (with black on one side)

Upgrade Concerns

Students often feel some hesitation in taking the night photography plunge before they can upgrade their equipment. Having learned on some older gear, Mike is a strong advocate of learning on older equipment. In-fact, he's found that the night photography techniques are often easier to learn on an older camera - which can be a valuable learning tool.

That said, a significant improvement can often be seen with a purchase or rental of just one lens. This is where Mike recommendations on the best lenses for night photography can help and the Sigma 20mm f/1.4 and others in this article are some great choices.

Rental Options

If your gear truly won't do what you want, consider renting from a reputable dealer. Often, renting just one bright lens for use during a night photography workshop can make a big difference in the results. If your brightest, wide lens will not open to f/2.8 or wider you may benefit from renting one that does. So while it may be effective to learn with an older camera, when it comes to getting the best image quality possible on the pictures you're able to capture during the workshop, renting may give you a significant advantage.

In Colorado, Mike prefers to work with Pro Photo Rental based in Boulder. Their service has been great and if you rent a body with 2 lenses, they'll give an additional 15% off the order total (on top of any length-of rental discounts that start at 7 rental days). Call them at (303) 588-6799 if you have any questions or to line up your rental.

Outside of Colorado, Mike likes to use Lens Rentals based in Tennessee. They have a good reputation and good availability on a wide variety of equipment - including some listed in Mike's article on the Best Lenses for Night Photography.

Beyond the Photo Gear

  • Warm Clothes - including long pants, a light jacket or fleece (bring one more than you think you'll need), warm gloves, a warm hat, shoes or boots with socks, and just in-case it gets especially cold in the Tetons or on Mount Evans, a Warm Winter Jacket and long underwear. To be properly prepared, Mike suggests bringing clothes that prepare you for one season colder than we are in. As an example, if we're in the fall (i.e. September), Mike comes prepared with a winter coat, hat, gloves, and boots with jeans instead of thin pants or shorts. He may not wear them, but he brings them just in-case.
  • Headlamp
  • Water, snacks, etc.
  • Photo Gear Insurance

What Should I Expect When It Comes To Hiking?

  • Hiking is only needed at one location in Arches National Park - Delicate Arch. All other shooting locations require no more than a short walk from the parking lot.
  • The trail to Delicate Arch is described moderately difficult with 500 feet of elevation gain over 1.5 miles (3 miles round trip). Some of the trail is well marked while other sections are on the steeper open slickrock where guides often help with navigation.
  • If you're hiking to Delicate Arch, bring good walking shoes, water, snacks, and a layer to put on when it gets colder.

What Do The Instructors Focus On?

  • Training Lectures & Demonstrations - where instructors train planned content (typically during twilight)
  • Location Guiding - where instructors show students where to go to get great pictures
  • Light Painting - when instructors provide light painting demonstrations and services for student images
  • Direct Student Assistance - where instructors work directly with students on skills & techniques
  • Open Discussion - when instructors and students have a fluid, open dialogue in a variety of subjects
  • Demonstration Style Shooting & Training - where instructors shoot pictures with students to identify unique opportunities and demonstrate for students
  • Marketing Pictures - when instructors capture the scene for use in marketing future events

What Happens If The Weather Is Bad?

  • Understand That Some Clouds Are Good - Mike really likes partly cloudy skies for night photography. They can add a lot of drama and depth to a nightscape image. It just takes some patience to get the clouds where you want them - which leads to the next point.
  • Show Patience - Conditions often change from bad back to good again and it's often well worth it to wait a little while at a location for that to happen.
  • Read The Conditions - Mike & Darren often like to take advantage of changing conditions by adjusting the plan a bit. Based on the latest information, they can choose locations that give students the best opportunities to shoot great photographs.
  • Be Flexible - When skies get really active, there's a chance of seeing some lightning and learning tips & techniques on how to get great photographs of lightning directly from Darren.
  • Spend More Time Post-Processing - in rare cases where the weather is exceptionally bad, Mike & Darren make the most of the time with additional post-proccessing time working on student images

What Are The Different Workshop Locations Like?

  • In general, workshop locations fall into one of two categories: mountains or desert. And with three distinctly different settings, there's something interesting for everyone and people often like to try them all.
  • Events taking place in Arches & Canyonlands National Parks have more of a desert feel where both Grand Teton National Park and Mount Evans have more of a mountainous, alpine setting. And where we mostly explore the mountain valleys of Grand Teton National Park, Mount Evans is the highest road in North America with the top reaching over 14,000 feet so we tend to make use of our access to areas around the upper peak.
  • In terms of average temperatures, Arches & Canyonlands is typically warm & comfortable while the Tetons can feel chilly even in the summer months. And with the upper elevation of Mount Evans reaching up over 14,000 feet, winter clothes are recommended in every month of the year (including July & August). It's best to be prepared for cold snowy weather even in the summer months in both the Tetons and on Mount Evans.
  • Foreground subjects in Arches & Canyonlands typically include sandstone arches and other interesting features where foreground subjects in both the Tetons and Mount Evans typically include more mountains and old abandoned buildings. All foreground subjects are hand-selected and pre-scouted for maximum photographic interest.
  • With the exceptionally high elevations of Mount Evans, we suggest taking a few steps to minimize the risk of altitude sickness. Our top three suggestions include getting plenty of rest, drinking plenty of water, and giving yourself plenty of time to acclimate to the higher elevations. For those flying into Colorado, this means you'll want to fly into town a day or two in advance of the workshop to give yourself time to acclimate.

Can I Get Some Private Instruction Too?

  • Absolutely! Mike and Darren enjoy working a relaxed, private setting where they can give even more attention to students with lots of one-on-one time. It's usually most helpful out in-the-field but but sometimes students ask for help in the classroom on their post-processing skills.
  • Students often like to make the most of their photography workshop training by getting ramped up on their skills before the event starts but sometimes, students have a very specific goal in-mind and after the workshop works fine for that too. Contact either Mike or Darren to work out the details.