Washington Journey Magazine

Some months ago I was referred to a local travel author for tips on capturing awesome landscape images. I shared my ideas and sent it off with some images. I was a bit surprised to get a call later from a “fact checker” to verify what I had said!

Months past and I assumed the article was scrapped, but behold, here it is in the Fall issue of Washington Journey Magazine.

Departures  — Journeys Issue: September/October 2017

Scroll down a bit for the article “Picture Perfect”.

The next Night Sky Class at the North Cascades Institute is scheduled for Sat. Sept. 16th. This class is through NCI, I am the instructor. We will visit Artist Point.

I will also be doing Night Sky Tours on Friday, Sept. 15 and Saturday,Oct. 21 Here is the Link. 

Classes in Burlington and Marysville start again September.

 

Andy Porter Images Media and Awards

A few recent splashes for one of my night sky images.

NIGHT SKY

First Beach Olympic Coast, near La Push Washington

The image won third place in the annual Alaska Airlines Photo comp, winning me 2 free RT tickets! You can see the Alaska web page here.

Another use of the image is from the Sierra Club, on their Daily Ray of Hope page.

The next New Moon is June 4th, here is the link if you would like to come out for a Night Sky Photo Tour!

Milky Way Photo Tours in the North Cascades

Summer is fast approaching! Time to make your plans for getting into the high country.

Glacier Peak

Glacier Peak

I schedule many of my trips around the Lunar Calendar.

Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier

I am offering Night Sky Photo Tours. We can either drive to a location along the North Cascades Highway to capture Night Sky Images and return the same night…

Liberty Bell

Liberty Bell

Or you can schedule a Hike-In Night Sky Photo Tour where we would pick one of these stunning location, hike in and capture images of sunset, Night Sky and sunrise.

Mount Baker

Mount Baker

Groups are small. I have extra backpacking equipment for a limited number of people. This link has the details of what photo equipment you will need.

Mount Adams

Mount Adams

After put photo tour we will meet and I will share my tips on how to edit these images with Photoshop.

Palouse Falls

Palouse Falls

Its a LOT of fun. The link here shows the dates for the summer.

Park Butte Lookout

Park Butte Lookout

I hope you will come hike with me.

Park Butte Lookout and Mount Baker

Park Butte Lookout and Mount Baker

Reserve your spots now, space is limited!

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

Elements of Coolness

Last week I was preparing materials for my latest photo class, on Photo Composition. I included basics on Subject and Theme, Rule of Thirds, selective focus, leading lines, framing and all the stuff I’d learned over the years, reading “How to…” articles and photo books.
flowers and clouds 4
Then I started thinking about what I actually do, in real life, when I am out taking pictures.

And I realized that while I do utilize all these things, what I really do is to focus my attention on adding what I call Elements of Coolness.

Isolation Lake, Enchantments

Isolation Lake, Enchantments


Looking at pictures taken by other people I am often awestruck at the magnificence they managed to capture. And after a while I began to notice that the images I admired the most had one, or in many cases, more than one really awesome aspect to them.
tractor-and-sky-1m
Generally the more Elements of Coolness in the image, the more remarkable the image is. Photos with several stay imprinted in my brain.
Maple Pass Loop Storm em
What is an element of coolness? Well, a reflection adds a very cool aspect to a photo. Bright colors do it for me (I’m a Color Junkie). A wide view from high on a ridge, wildlife, an awesome sunset, fireworks, people doing crazy stuff, flowers, mountains, stars, hot air balloons, the moon, a stormy sky…all of these are Elements of Coolness.
Sequim Balloon Festival

Sequim Balloon Festival


July 4th Carnival

July 4th Carnival


Sunset on the Port Townsend Ferry

Sunset on the Port Townsend Ferry


North Cascades Mountain Goat

North Cascades Mountain Goat

So, when I am planning to head out to capture images I have (of course) a plan of what I am going to take pictures of, as in flowers, or mountains, or whatever. Mostly I am considering how I can add cool components to the shots. I await sunrise or sunset. I watch the skies and look for crazy clouds or weather. Water and reflections are a magnet for me. I get out there and scan for lines or patterns.

Samish River

Samish River

I plan outings based on the moon cycle, flowers blooming, trees changing, sun setting and stars shining.

Colchuck Lake, Enchantments

Colchuck Lake, Enchantments


My goal is to add as many elements of coolness as I can to the image. Sometimes its luck, like when I visited Palouse Falls this spring and happened to choose a night when some intrepid soul had started a camp fire down in the basin at 1am!
Palouse Falls

Palouse Falls

But more often than not I am able to add coolness elements by going back several times. Once you’re at a place once you get a feel for the place. When you return you can even bring things with you, like more people, or a dog…or a photogenic tent.

Sahale Glacier Camp

Sahale Glacier Camp


I went to photograph lookout towers several times and had issues with illuminating the inside. A headlamp just wasn’t cutting it. So, on my latest trip I hauled a special flashlight that opened up and threw out a nice broad, softer light.
Park Butte Lookout and Mount Baker

Park Butte Lookout and Mount Baker


Next time you see an image that you fancy, count up how many elements of coolness there are. Sometimes there is only one, like a picture of the tulips, but when you start adding more elements, wow, the image really takes off.
Tulips at Sunrise

Tulips at Sunrise

Start a list of your own. Think in terms of how you can add cool elements. Work out learning new techniques for image capture (like nighttime shooting) so that your list is bigger. And Voila!, you will soon have cooler images of your own.

Zion Canyon, Zion National Park

One of the most commonly captured images is from this view point, on the bridge over the Virgin River. The main highway makes a sharp curve and crosses this bridge. You will often see the bridge lined with photographers.
This shot was taken at about midnight, with a Canon 6D and a Rokinon 14mm lens.
I just got lucky on the satellite crossing and of course Orion looks stunning hovering above the scene…
Zion River and Orion

Deception Pass State Park – Nighttime Imaging

Encouraged by last Tuesday’s photo shoot along Baker River I headed out to Deception Pass on Friday night to see about some shots. There was a crescent moon, which was almost set by the time I got out there, maybe 10pm or so. Clear skies, cold, good time for capturing stars.
stars 7 em
I started up on the bridge, got a few shots of the channel with Orion…
stars 3em

Then I jumped the railing, trying to get a better angle with the moon below the bridge. This view afforded silhouettes of the lower bridge structure as well.
stars 2em

stars 6em
There was so much ambient light that it was difficult to capture the real strip of the Milky Way, so I decided to head down to Bowman Bay.

The road to the parking area was closed, so I hiked down and across the spit to see about some long distance view of the bridge, but that didn’t really pan out. However Bowman Bay had some great lighting…
stars 4-1em

stars m-1 em

And the long pier also suggested some interesting shots…
stars 5em
Nighttime photography is really a blast!

As for camera settings:

I used a Canon 6D, with a 24-105 mm lens, tripod and cable release. Aperture at f/4 (wide open), shutter speed at 8 to 13 sec. and ISO at anywhere from 12,000 to 20,000.