North Cascades Night Sky Photo Tours – 2015


Basic Information on Nighttime Imaging

Palouse Falls

Palouse Falls

Capturing stunning images of the Milky Way is surprisingly easy. All you need is a decent DSLR, a wide angle lens and few more simple tools and you’re good to go. The only real difficulty is getting the convergence of a night with no moon AND no clouds!

A simple web search of moon cycle will bring up the years calendar of the moon and its phases. Of course a ‘full moon’ we all know. A ‘new moon’ is when there is no moon at all in the night sky. To capture good Milky Way shots you need to wait for a night plus or minus two days from the new moon date.

Then you pray for clear skies!

Mount Rainier and the Milky Way

Mount Rainier and the Milky Way

Next is location: the further away you are from the light of cities, towns and roads the better. Higher elevations also tend to make for less atmospheric barriers. Here in the North Cascades there are several locales where you just park, amble a short distance and get some great shots. The main ones I use are:

  • Diablo Overlook located near Colonial Creek Campground on Highway 20
  • Washington Pass Overlook, located on Highway 20 (aka the North Cascades Highway) a little east of the Diablo Overlook
  • The Artist Point area, at the end of the Mount Baker Highway.

These last two spots are at an elevation of more than 5,000 feet and have the wonderful benefit of including towering peaks in your images! Their high elevation also limits availability: The North Cascades Highway is closed in winter and usually opens in May each year. The road to Artist Point is also snow-bound in winter/early spring and opens, depending upon snow pack, in June or July.

Andy Porter Photography Guided Night Sky Photo Tours– Cost: $150.00 per person

This year I am guiding Milky Way Imaging Tours in the North Cascades. The dates for this year’s Night Sky Photo Tours are:

  • March 20, Friday night Shooting Location: Diablo Overlook

    Stars at the Diablo Overlook, North Cascades National Park

    Stars at the Diablo Overlook, North Cascades National Park

  • March 21, Saturday night Shooting Location: Diablo Overlook
  • April 17 Friday night Shooting Location: Diablo Overlook or Washington Pass Overlook
  • April 18 Saturday night Shooting Location: Diablo Overlook or Washington Pass Overlook
  • May 15 Friday night Shooting Location: Diablo Overlook or Washington Pass Overlook
  • May 16 Saturday night Shooting Location: Diablo Overlook or Washington Pass Overlook
  • June 15 Monday night Shooting Location: Washington Pass Overlook or Artist Point
  • June 16 Tuesday night Shooting Location: Washington Pass Overlook or Artist Point

Planning Your Night Sky Photo Tour

What you need to bring for equipment

  • DSLR, (full frame sensor is better but any recent model will do)
  • A wide angle lens, 10mm to 24mm
  • Tripod
  • Cable release (you can use your built in timer, if you don’t have a cable release)
  • 2 fully charged batteries

What else to bring:

  • Several layers of clothing with the idea that the temps may be below freezing: hat, gloves, etc
  • Sturdy shoes
  • Water and snacks, energy bars, etc.

Outline and Itinerary

The outline for all Night Sky Photo Tours is to meet in Sedro-Woolley, have some coffee or a bite to eat while we discuss setting aperture, manual focus and other details for great star shooting and then head up the highway. Depending on the time of year we should have some great photo opportunities along the way of sunset and other spectacular views. The Cascadian Farms Fruit and Ice Cream Stand is along the North Cascades Highway and makes a fantastic spot to stop on the way up the valley.

Once we arrive we’ll locate our spots for shooting and have more time to further discuss image settings and composition. As the sun sets there will be all sorts of wonderful shots to get of alpenglow on the peaks. For trips to Artist Point we will make a stop at Picture Lake where we’ll get luscious shots of Mount Shuksan. This particular view of Mount Shuksan, from Picture Lake is THE most photographed mountain scene in all of North America. When we get there, you’ll see why!

When full darkness arrives (assuming it’s not completely cloudy!) we will easily be able to see the strip of the Milky Way overhead and start composing and capturing images. Each night the orientation of the Milky Way to our backdrops changes by the hour, as the earth rotates. How long we stay out each night will be decided by our views and how long you want to stay out!

Mount Baker and Park Butte Lookout

Mount Baker and Park Butte Lookout

Itinerary:

6:00pm: Meet in Sedro-Woolley, discuss nighttime image capture, and go over specifics regarding setting aperture, shutter speed, ISO and how to manually focus your lens.

7:00 – 8:00pm: Drive to our viewpoint, set up and capture images. Driving time to the various viewpoints is between 1 and 2 hours.

11pm to 1am: Leave our shooting location and return to Sedro-Woolley. In March and April the sun sets earlier and so we can start shooting the Milky Way earlier. In June and July it’s not really dark until 10 or 11pm, so these nights run later.

12am Midnight to 2am: Arrive back in Sedro-Woolley

10am (Next day) Meet for breakfast/coffee and review images and cover some basic editing techniques for nighttime shots. The last item is optional, based on if you are planning to spend the night somewhere in Skagit Valley.

Night Sky Photo Tours Registration and Payment- Cost: $150.00 per person

Here are the upcoming dates and locations for Night Sky Photo Tours:

  • March 20, Friday night Shooting Location: Diablo Overlook
  • March 21, Saturday night Shooting Location: Diablo Overlook
  • April 17 Friday night Shooting Location: Diablo Overlook or Washington Pass Overlook
  • April 18 Saturday night Shooting Location: Diablo Overlook or Washington Pass Overlook
  • May 15 Friday night Shooting Location: Diablo Overlook or Washington Pass Overlook
  • May 16 Saturday night Shooting Location: Diablo Overlook or Washington Pass Overlook
  • June 15 Monday night Shooting Location: Washington Pass Overlook or Artist Point
  • June 16 Tuesday night Shooting Location: Washington Pass Overlook or Artist Point

If you would like to sign up for a Night Sky Photo Tour follow this link!
I look forward to shooting the Night Sky with you!

Liberty Bell and the North Cascades Highway

Liberty Bell From Washington Pass Overlook

4 thoughts on “North Cascades Night Sky Photo Tours – 2015

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