I Have Been Doing It All Wrong

How dark are our night skies


So wrong have I been, what an eye opening experience it was for me the other night. My very own perception of things were wrong. What I saw the other night totally changed my perspective and processing techniques.


What am I talking about? This

nature photography with the Milky Way

and this


What is wrong with these?

Almost everything about the skies. They are totally black. Isn’t that what the night sky should look like? Yes and No. To our eyes looking up with no reference our eyes and brain translates a black sky, but using a reference against the sky, we see a whole new perspective of our night sky, it is literally glowing throughout the sky. Try this experiment, and this requires an extremely dark sky with no light pollution. Sorry everyone who lives in a city, you will have to travel a good long distance, and sorry to those living on the east coast of the US or most of Europe, you are going to have to travel for a couple days by car or hours by plane to get skies dark enough. To truly experience this effect you will need to travel to a location that has skies rated at a Bortle Class 2 at minimum. For  more information on the Bortle Classification of sky darkness go here http://www.bigskyastroclub.org/lp_bortle.html. For a link to a listing of the darkest skies go here http://darksitefinder.com/maps/world.html, this site allows you to zoom in really close. Notice how bad Europe and the East Coast of the US is? Now back to the easy provided you are in a dark location experiment, hold your hand up to the sky, notice a very dark void against a brightly glowing sky? That is air glow, the light of all those millions of stars filling the whole sky, your hand literally looks like a black hole against brilliant light (the glow of light pollution does not count, don’t try to be sneaky). Just that experience has changed my whole processing of the night sky, I always attempted to build a contrast resulting in a black sky. NO MORE from me, It is far more impressive to include as best as I can the amazing star glow I am witnessing every time I go out.


The above shot is a simple silhouette of the foreground. The sky really does glow enough to create a clearly defined silhouette when viewed against it. If you notice to the right of the center of our Milky Way are the planets of Mars and Saturn as the two brightest “stars”.

The other night I was at Vega State Park which is at the foot of Grand Mesa far from the slightest light pollution, the air glow was able to illuminate the ground enough for me to walk without needing a light. The kicker is that we are so accustomed to artificial light, either through light pollution of the cities, house lights, electronic equipment or dash/headlights from our cars it takes a couple of hours for eyes to adjust to that level of darkness, it is best to be at these dark locations from evening and allow our eyes to gradually adjust to the darkening skies naturally to enjoy the benefit of seeing the night like we were intended. I am by no means recommending going on a hike at night or a stroll through the woods at night without the proper illumination, so don’t even think of doing such, but the next time you have an opportunity to spend a night in a truly dark location do it, put up your tent and pull out your camp chair and sit back watching the stars move across the sky, your eyes will clearly make out the dust lanes in our view of the Milky Way



to view all of these photos at their uploaded size just right click on your mouse and click on “view image”. All above photos were taken about 15 miles north of the tiny town of DeBeque in western Colorado, you still get a slight glow of the city of Grand Junction in each of these images, but the overall sky is rated a Bortle Class 2. Vega State Park, images will be posted in an upcoming blog post, is about 40 miles south of that same tiny town of DeBeque. Again with each photo above Mars and Saturn are also visible to the right of the core of our Milky Way.

So how many of you live in a region that gives you an opportunity to see truly dark skies? How many of you are on the US east coast or Europe? Wanting to experience these amazing dark skies? I am considering doing photo tours and perhaps some workshops coming up in the future if anyone is interested.

Galactic Core Returns

Once again the center of our Milky Way has risen above the horizon for us in the Northern Hemisphere and will remain so until the end of October. At this point it sits low enough in the sky to make some dramatic panoramics.

nature photography with the Milky Way



The above image is a 12 image stitched panoramic from just west of my town in western Colorado. You can see the glow of the lights of the town and the much larger town of Rifle further east in the center of this image. to the far right  is the faint edge of Grand Junction’s light pollution and to the far left is Mt. Logan of the Roan Plateau.

At this point I will not be able to photograph this for another couple of weeks, these last few days it has been cloudy and rainy and will be that way for a couple more days, once it clears out I will have to contend with moonlight as we approach the full moon. Once the moon is no longer a factor the Milky Way core should be even higher above the horizon. Perhaps high enough to photograph it in the mountain areas


This current storm system is giving me an opportunity to get out and take some landscape photos of western Colorado desert regions with rare dramatic storm light. Plus some heavy snowfalls in the nearby Elk Mountains including McClure Pass.


Above Photo: Haystack Mountain above a meadow with farming communities not too far outside of town in western Colorado. Most of this region is desert but there are obvious pockets of greener soil


Above is a 3 photo stitched image of Chair Mountain from the Marble Valley, it is at the foot of McClure Pass, the road is visible below Chair Mountain as a dark straight line through the trees. This area has received several inches of fresh snow during this powerful spring storm, a huge opportunity for me tomorrow to head up here for some new photos.

Recent and a New Discovery

new astrophotography with a discovery


The above is one of my newest photos. Taken on a high mesa above my current town in western Colorado. Despite the winter Milky Way, as a general rule, being quite faint, this location afforded me some extremely dark skies where the Milky Way is still quite brilliant in the sky. The light pollution of my community is down to the lower right distance. Despite the small light pollution of my current town I discovered in this image a faint deep space object called M33 also known as the Triangulum Galaxy and is faintly visible in the upper portion of the sky just left of the Milky Way. The far more visible and famous M31 Andromeda Galaxy, the closest major galaxy to us, is quite visible just left of the Milky Way just above the center of this photo, it is far easier to see in this photo. The Triangulum Galaxy is so faint that it is almost invisible to the human eye, or at the very least at the extreme reaches of the ability of the human eye_MG_7747M33

the above photo shows the Triangulum Galaxy circled and with it blown up from the original full resolution photo. Ok so not exactly the photo of the century for this object, but it is an exciting discovery knowing that the 14mm Rokinon with a 35 second exposure at 6400 ISO on a 5D II captured such a faint object. What could I do with a long lens and a motor drive?


Just for those not familiar with M31 or the Andromeda Galaxy, I circled it in the above photo. the Andromeda Galaxy is quite visibile with the human eye, but only in dark locations. Sorry those of you living in urban areas you are going to have to get out to distant suburbs at the very least to see it with your eyes. it is currently to the northwest part of the sky and is visible to just past midnight before setting. The Andromeda is a spiral galaxy just like ours, but is at least twice the size of our own Milky Way, and at only 2.5 million light years distance, it is quite the spectacle during the Autumn and Winter skies, almost as impressive as the Orion Nebula.


Did I mention the Orion Nebula? M42 also known as the Orion Nebula perhaps the most visible of the star forming nebulae from Earth, it is only 1,300 light years away, practically a neighbor and is about 30 to 40 light years in size. Home to perhaps 1000 forming stars and as recently suggested a black hole. The above photo was taken with my 70-200 lens at the 200mm focal length and 5 second exposure at 6400 ISO again. The only issue I had with getting this was the short exposure, shooting with a 200mm lens gave me little time for an exposure without trailing from the Earth’s rotation the greater the focal length the shorter the exposure before the motion of the stars is recorded, what I had to end up doing was taken several 5 seconds exposures and stacked them together as a smart object. It took some work to align the stars and Nebula with each shot as the objects kept moving in each shot with the Earth’s rotation. The Warp tool in PS works wonders for that. I suppose a motor drive on my tripod would be awesome, but that is sometime into the future.

The following photo is the same scene and location but shooting at 70mm, the Nebula is still clearly visible on Orion’s sword located between the 3 stars in the depressed section of the mountains_MG_1926

Star Trail Patron

Star Trail Photo and Patron Program update


recent photo taken just a couple miles from my community. I posted this first on my Patrons page, it is on a public posting so go check it out. There will be many more upcoming for my pledged Patrons. If you like what you see on this page and would love to see more head over and become a patron, plus if you would love to know how to make a photo like this, become a subscriber and get regular tips and tricks from me (not all levels gets it though). Also the highest level on my patron program will receive full workshops from me in the field in person every 4 months.

There are already some content for patrons up now, and as I go along there will be plenty more including behind the scenes.

If you love photography and want to learn how to make these kind of star trails or clean images of the Milky Way even with consumer grade DSLRs, or if you just want to go beyond the basics of photography. become a patron (remember not all levels will give you instructions). There are lots of great locations out here in western Colorado that are really spectacular that very few people know exists and you as a premium patron will experience first hand. I can devote 2 workshops per year to astrophotography and 2 others for landscape and nature photography. We will start out each workshop in a class room setting where I will go over camera basics (classroom will usually be held, when available, at the Battlement Mesa School House). That will be a full day, the evening will include scouting locations (gives you a chance to see the location before the shooting begins). The following day will be the shooting, we can start with a sunrise or sunset shot or both for a landscape workshop. For a astrophotography workshop we can start with a sunset shoot and continue on for the night shooting.

I will be limiting the number of patrons who receive instructions from me so hurry over, no one has claimed them yet, but it could happen fast.

Or if you just love seeing more of my photos and want to support me even further or want to see what goes on when I am out in the field. Become a patron for as little as $1 a month.


New Patreon Content With New Photo

Patron Campaign and sneak peak of ongoing project

I just added another Creator Post to my patron page, I actually had a dickens to get it working right (gotta love html when you don’t know html). This is available free to everyone, get even more when you sign up to become a Patron. There is even a new photo on that post, but you are going to have to read the whole thing to find it 😉 One I am quite proud of actually, well like I am not proud of everything I release.




Here is the video of me describing the patron campaign in a little more detail with a link, in the video, directly to the home page. When you sign up you’ll have access to exclusive content and behind the scenes. A high enough subscription will bring you lots of tips and tricks every month leading up to a full workshop that I will hold every 4 months. It’s an opportunity to meet me in person on location where you can experience the amazing scenery and skies of western Colorado and eastern Utah and learn the ins and outs of landscape and astrophotography. Many of these places in western Colorado you will not find another photographer or tourist, now isn’t that a treat all it’s own (just be aware of the friendly ranchers in the area who might stop by making sure no one is needing help)


come later this year I will be releasing a huge project that I started a couple months ago. Below is a sneak peak of it

The actual full length of the clip is 3 times this

New Photos with Capture One Pro

What can I say, I am quite impressed with the file handling of Capture One Pro. As I posted last time about my transition from Adobe Lightroom to Capture One Pro by Phase One, at that time I had just started and the verdict wasn’t even deliberating yet. Well it’s come back with it’s verdict. We the Jury find the Program “awesome” on most accounts, the biggest issue I have with it that perhaps I will get the hang of over time is the importing and exporting of files. Other than that Capture One not only completely replaces Lightroom in my work flow, but almost all of Photoshop’s usage as well. I now use Photoshop only for the most advanced and complex work or cleanup and sizing for web.

The above photos were older photos taken a few years ago. All of them reprocessed in Capture One. What impresses me is how it maintains a strong contrast and sharpness straight from the camera. it also provides better and more accurate color renditions too.


I also get cleaner and sharper images through Capture One with less post processing with far less noise and artifacting. The above photos are recent photos processed for the first time. All images above were taken with an ISO of 6400, quite impressed how clean these came out with little noise given the high ISO. Photos taken with a Canon 5D MKII, a good camera for night photography but still older sensor technology not quite up to most current DSLR’s such as the Canon 6D or Nikon D800 or Sony A7R II. Perhaps these high performing DSLR’s are not necessary with the file handling of Capture One Pro?  I am not going to get into an argument over that =)