Night Sky Panoramas, May 12-16, 2018 - Aaron Priest Photography
Night Sky Panoramas

Night Sky Panoramas, 4-Night Workshop

6 participants max
May 12-16, 2018

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 4-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 we have a Nodal Ninja 6 and 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 Classic for improved panorama features.

This comprehensive workshop will feature more than 12 hours of shooting (weather dependent) and over 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: More post-processing 2pm – 6pm, shooting 10:30pm – 2:45am
Last day: Wrap-up of post-processing by 1pm

Workshop Topics:

• Camera settings for panoramas
• Settings 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

Milky Way Reflection & Moonrise

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. 

*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, a full frame sensor is essential (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, D750, D800, D810, D810A, D850, Df, D3s, D4, D4s, or D5. If renting, the D750 is a particularly good value. 
Canon: 5D Mark III, 5D Mark IV, 5DS, 5DS R, 6D, 6D Mark II, 1D X, or 1D X Mark II. If renting, the 6D & 6D Mark II are a good value. 
Sony: a99 II, a7 II, a7S, a7S II, a7R, a7R II, a7R III, or a9
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, 14mm f/2.4 (very good), 24mm f/1.4 (very good), or 35mm f/1.4
Tamron: 15-30mm f/2.8 VC (very good)
Sigma: 14mm f/1.8 (exceptional), 20mm f/1.4, or 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

This is by no means an exhaustive list! There are many specialized cameras and lenses not included here. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

Click to view a 360° spherical panorama

Airglow over Cadillac Mountain

Panoramas get big fast, especially with 24 megapixel and larger 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. 4 rooms area available at the guesthouse -- book here

Payment to Acadia Images, LLC

Photo Gallery

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Airglow and Star Trails over Cadillac Mountain

On July 26, 2014, Matt Pollock and I captured a spherical panorama of green airglow, the Milky Way, and star trails over Bar Harbor from Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, Maine. I’ve shot several spherical panoramas of star trails with my Panoneed robotic panning head, but Matt and I wondered how difficult it would be with a manual panning head. Obviously, we didn’t want to be rotating it every 30 seconds or so for 2 hours, so we decided to shoot three 40 minute timelapses with a Nikon 10.5mm f/2.8 fisheye that has had the lens hood shaved off for full frame use, rotating every 120° to capture three stacks of star trails that I blended into a single panorama of star trails. 10.5mm is not wide enough to capture the entire sky, and anything wider is usually f/3.5 or smaller aperture (within a reasonable price range anyway!). Surprisingly, it worked very well!

The full sphere consists of 5 photos of the sky blended with 4 photos of the ground, plus another 249 images for the star trails (3 x 83) layered on top. It took about 22 minutes to shoot the Milky Way and ground from 11:30 – 11:52 PM, and 2 hours of shooting star trails from 01:06 – 03:07 AM. In between we shot some dark frames and tried various shutter speeds and ISOs for ideal exposures, and setup the dew heater on the lens so it wouldn’t fog up. We’d been battling with fog and clouds for a few nights in a row and almost gave up on this night as well, but decided to stick it out another hour or so and we were rewarded when the fog suddenly lifted after 11PM. We had three other cameras, tripods, sliders, and remotes in the truck that we really should have set up to shoot some motion-controlled timelapse video, but we were too busy looking at the stars and chatting all night to think about any of that!

Camera settings: ISO 6400, f/2.8, 40 seconds, & 3550°K white balance for the sky blended with ISO 6400, f/2.8, 160 seconds, & 3786°K white balance for the ground. Star trails were shot at ISO 1600, f/2.8, 25 seconds, & 3550°K white balance. I removed several airplane trails before stacking.

Hardware used: Nikon D810, Nikon 10.5mm f/2.8 (lens hood shaved off for full frame use), Promote Control, and Really Right Stuff TVC-34L tripod with leveling base & multi-row pano package.

Software used: Edited with Lightroom, stitched with PTGui Pro, and blended with Photoshop. Pixel Fixer was used with a dark frame to remove hot pixels from long exposures at high ISO. Star trails were stacked with Advanced Stacker Plus.

2014100StarTrailsAcadia National ParkBar HarborCadillac MountainMilky Waymount desert islandair glowgreennightnight skypanoramastar trailswide

From Acadia National Park & Mount Desert Island