Night Sky Panoramas, May 18-21, 2017 - Aaron Priest Photography
Night Sky Panoramas

Night Sky Panoramas, 3-Night Workshop

Accommodation at Acadia Images' facility included
4 participants max
May 18-21, 2017
$1500 

Capture the full spectacle of the heavens by learning how to shoot panoramas of the night sky. Learn everything from the basics to the complex of night sky panoramic photography in this post-processing intense 3-day workshop. If you have never tried a panorama, have tried but had problematic results, or want to learn how to perfect the technique this is the workshop for you. Please bring whatever panorama gear you have and if you want to try out panos for the first time there are two Really Right Stuff multi-row panning heads to experiment with. Post processing will be a major focus of this workshop and you will need to bring a laptop with Photoshop or Lightroom, and PTGui. We recommend Creative Cloud to have the latest versions of Photoshop and Lightroom for improved panorama features.

This comprehensive workshop will feature 12 hours of shooting (weather dependent) and 12 hours of post-processing.

Workshop Schedule (weather dependent):

1st day: Plan to arrive by 1pm and be ready for an intro class session 2pm – 6pm. We’ll head out shooting at 10:30pm – 2:45am 
2nd day: Get a good sleep and be ready to dive into post-processing from 2pm – 6pm. Once again shooting from 10:30pm – 2:45am
3rd day: Post-processing 2pm – 6pm, shooting 10:30pm – 2:45am
4th day: Wrap-up of post-processing by 1pm

Workshop Topics:

• Camera settings for panoramas
• Setting for capturing the night sky
• No-parallax-point identification 
• Use of panning heads 
• Single-row panos 
• Multi-row panos 
• Image post-processing for the night sky 
• Image post-processing for panoramas 
• Stitching and blending 
• Projections and distortion

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At a minimum you will need a camera*, lens*, a sturdy tripod, and a remote shutter release (wired or wireless). An intervalometer or Promote Control are a step up. Bring your own laptop with required software. If you have other equipment such as a panning head or nodal slide (which is necessary to eliminate parallax) you will have more compositional options and easier stitching. If multi-row or spherical panos are your endgame then you’ll want to have a multi-row panning head such as the ones from Really Right Stuff or Nodal Ninja. We have two Really Right Stuff panning heads available for use during the workshop.

*Equipment is paramount for advanced shooting techniques and you will want to have (or rent) good gear. You should have a camera that performs well at ISO 3200 or higher, full frame is preferable (see list below). The other basic gear you’ll need is a fast and wide lens. f/2.8 or larger aperture is preferred, and 14-16mm range is ideal for long exposures without stars trailing. For multi-row panos at higher resolution we recommend 24mm and 35mm f/1.4 primes.

Recommended Cameras:

Nikon: D600, D610, D700, D750, D800, D810, D810A, Df, D3s, D4, D4s, or D5. If renting, the D750 is a particularly good value. Some crop sensor cameras would be suitable for a secondary camera such as the D500, D7100 or D7200, but rent a full frame camera if you don't have one.

Canon: 5D Mark II, 5D Mark III, 5D Mark IV, 5DS, 5DS R, 6D, 1D X, or 1D X Mark II. If renting, the 6D has the cleanest high ISO. A crop sensor 7D, 7D Mark II, 70D, or 80D could be used as a secondary camera in a pinch, but rent a full frame camera if you don't have one.

Sony: a7R, a7S, a7R II, a7S II

Pentax: K-1 (the Astrotracer feature is quite impressive, requires GPS accessory)

Recommended Lenses:

Nikon: 14-24mm f/2.8 (exceptional)
Canon: 16-35mm f/2.8 II or III (Version III is much improved over II)
Rokinon: 14mm f/2.8, 24mm f/1.4 (very good), or 35mm f/1.4
Tamron: 15-30mm f/2.8 VC (very good)
Sigma: 35mm f/1.4 ART (very good)
For crop sensor cameras: Rokinon 10mm f/2.8, Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 II, or Tokina 11-20mm f/2.8

Click to view a 360° spherical panorama

Airglow over Cadillac Mountain

Panoramas get big fast, especially with 24 and 36 megapixel cameras. You’ll need plenty of available storage, both in camera and on your computer. Bring an external drive to backup your images on. While out in the field it’s best to take notes about the sequence you shoot, either on paper or on your phone, to refresh your memory when stitching later.

Smartphones (Android or iOS) have a number of apps that are useful for planning in the field (tides, moonrise/set, sunrise/set, Milky Way movement, weather, panorama calculations, etc.), and we will cover some of this as well.

It is likely to be cold in May. Bring plenty of layers and warm boots, gloves, hat, etc. We usually have extra handwarmers and rubber bands to put on lenses to prevent dew/frost, but feel free to bring your own as well! Bring extra batteries (camera and remote) to keep warm in your pocket and swap out every now and then.

Read this article on Night Sky Photography for more information on shooting the night sky, and visit Acadia Images' website for more information on the guesthouse and classroom.

Payment to Acadia Images, LLC

Photo Gallery


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Carriage Road at Eagle Lake

This spherical panorama was taken on one of the carriage roads that goes around Eagle Lake on Mount Desert Island, July 14, 2015, 2:06 AM during a night photography workshop that I co-instructed with Mike Taylor and Vincent Lawrence. I positioned myself in the middle of the road where I would get a good reflection of trees on both sides. While I was setting up this shot a beaver crossed the road, bumped my tripod leg, and made a horrific splash on the other side. I’m not sure who was more startled at the brief encounter!

The Milky Way arcs straight overhead at this time of year and hour, with alternating green and purple air glow. The Andromeda galaxy is visible to the north east over the light pollution of Bar Harbor.

I shot two spheres of different exposures—one for the sky and one for the ground—and blended them via luminosity masks in Photoshop before stitching with PTGui Pro. The tripod was removed from the nadir afterward in Photoshop. I’ll be teaching how to do all this in an upcoming May workshop in Acadia: http://galleries.aaronpriestphoto.com/Workshops

Camera settings: 10.5mm, f/2.8, ISO 5000, 30 seconds for the sky and 120 seconds for the ground.

Stitching data: 1 row of 7 photos plus a dedicated zenith for each exposure, as well as a dark frame of each exposure. I wanted a lot of overlap to compensate for the softness of the 10.5mm fisheye around the edges. The finished panorama is 65MP, this image is a 3:1 crop out of the middle.

Equipment used: Nikon D810, Nikon 10.5mm f/2.8 fisheye (lens hood shaved off for full frame use), Panoneed robotic head, Promote Control, and Really Right Stuff TVC-34L tripod w/ leveling base. Dark frame subtraction with Pixel Fixer, RAW conversion in Lightroom, exposure blended with Photoshop, stitched with PTGui Pro, and planned with my favorite app PhotoPills.

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From Acadia National Park & Mount Desert Island