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Photo Workshops in Colorado

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Colorado Photography Festival

Nature Photography Classes

Stars, Meteors and the Milky Way
at Rocky Mountain National Park

3 Night Workshop with Jason J. Hatfield
August 11-13, 2015

How to shoot star trails 3 nights of photography and instruction around Rocky Mountain National Park. Includes classroom instruction on techniques and processing. All sessions will be taking place around the new moon for the best shots of the Milky Way and darkest skies. We will also be shooting during the peak of the Perseids meteor shower!

Cost: $575.00

Workshop limited to 12 participants
Only 5 openings left

Who is this Workshop for?:
Those that understand the essentials of digital photography. A knowledge of night photography is not required, but this is not a beginners class on digital photography. Itís essential to know your equipment: how to set aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and other settings in the dark. Some moderate hiking will be required at high elevations.

Application: You can register for the festival and join this workshop here.


August 11th: The group will meet in the late afternoon for introductions followed by heading to our first location. We will arrive before sunset to discus location scouting and shooting techniques to prepare for our first night of photography. After shooting we will break for sleep and lunch before our next meeting.

Night photography instruction August 12th: We will meet after lunch to learn post processing techniques and review our photos from last night. Reviewing your photos will allow you to see what you did well and what you can improve upon for tonightís shooting session. We will break for dinner before heading into the park for the next night of hands-on instruction and photography.

August 13th: We will again meet after lunch and review each other's work to continue your learning and find opportunities for improvement. With two nights of photography under our belts our last class will focus on image processing where I will help you turn your images into works of art! After our dinner break we will meet for our final night of photography. All of our previous work should allow you to create your best images yet and give you something great to work on when you get home. After our night of shooting we will head to our hotels or home with new skills and hopefully new friends!

Possible Shooting locations:
  • Overlooks of Longs Peak from Trail Ridge Road
  • Night Photography Workshop
  • Overlooks of Estes Park from Many Parks Curve and Rainbow Curve
  • Alberta Falls
  • Lake Irene
  • Rock Cut
  • Alluvial Fan Falls
  • Ute Trail
  • Bear Lake
  • Sprague Lake
  • Horseshoe Park
  • Moraine Park
  • Betty Dick Barn
Required Camera Gear:
  • Your digital SLR or mirrorless camera body, if you have two please bring both. Please bring your instruction manual.
  • Lenses: A lens with an aperture of 2.8 or larger (2, 1.8, 1.4, etc) is required. Wide angle lenses work best best for most night photography but please try to have kit that covers everything from very wide to normal (~16mm-50mm on a Full Frame camera, 10-30mm on a Crop Form camera). If you don't have any lenses that meet the requirements I recommend manual Rokinon/Bower/Samyang Lenses. They are relatively inexpensive and just as good or better than camera brand lenses. You can contact me here for recommendations.
  • Rocky Mountain National Park Photo Workshop
  • Tripod - A sturdy tripod is essential to night photography. Aluminum or carbon fiber legs are the best. Please no cheap Sunpak tripods or the like, the vibrations they transmit will ruin your images.
  • Shutter release cable with intervalometer. Inexpensive units like the one I use http://amzn.com/B003LYKLCO) can be found on Amazon & Ebay. Make sure to purchase the right one for your camera.
  • Extra batteries + Charger - Bring at least 1 extra battery. Long exposures and cold temperatures will drain your batteries more quickly.
  • Extra memory cards - The more space the better! Faster cards also increase your battery life.
  • Appropriate Clothing - We will be photographing at high elevations and this time of year we will be subject to warm days that drop dramatically at night. Temps can be in the 30s or lower at night. Bring warm coats, gloves, hats, layers, long johns, hand/toe warmers and anything else that keeps you warm! We will mostly be standing in the same place so plan your layers around that.
Recommended Gear & Extras:
  • Laptop - The post processing portion and other parts of the class will be hands-on. A laptop is highly recommended to follow along but not required. I primarily work on a MacBook but I am familiar with both Windows and Mac units.
  • Food and snacks - Hot drinks and tasty food will go a long ways towards keeping you alert and warm :)
  • Something for taking notes
What You Will Learn:

Shooting Techniques: Camera setup along with the importance of learning your camera (it can be a lot harder to use in the dark if you're not familiar with it). Camera settings such ISO, aperture, and shutter speed; for night photography we want to capture the most light possible so we tend to use high ISOs, large apertures, and long exposures. This varies from traditional landscape photography and will be very different for those not familiar with it. We will cover how to photograph the Milky Way, meteor showers, star trails, and how to incorporate light painting.

How to shoot the Milky Way Post Processing: We will cover image prep and editing in Lightroom along with using Photoshop and plugins to create the best possible images. The majority of my work is edited in Lightroom so Photoshop is not required, but it will allow you to create the most creative and interesting images. Post-processing techniques will include noise reduction, sharpening, color balancing & enhancement as well as some other tweaks to improve your images. Advanced post-processing techniques will include image blending and compositing as well as star trails.

Location Scouting: Creating amazing nightscapes starts with finding a great location and I'll impart the needed skills in this workshop. We'll discuss picking a subject (star trails, Milky Way, meteor showers, etc) and finding a foreground to accompany it. We'll also cover techniques for planning the time to photograph, finding dark skies, using or avoiding the moon and researching/reading the weather.

Important Information:

Lodging & Transportation: Each student is responsible for his/her own lodging and transportation. Estes Park has numerous hotels of varying quality as well as numerous nearby camping spots on federal and private land. Carpooling to class (location will be provided) is encouraged, I leave it up to you for our photographic locations in case you want to stay out later on your own or turn in earlier.

Class on photographing meteors Night photography can be affected by the weather so I will keep the schedule flexible along with keeping open the possibility for sunrise or sunset shots. Clear skies are desired for the best photography conditions but some clouds can add interest as well. I can't control the weather and I will make all attempts to photograph no matter the conditions, so please come prepared. If skies are completely overcast we will discuss alternative options such as light painting and daytime shooting; refunds and rainchecks cannot be given and shoots will only be canceled in the event of dangerous conditions (lightning, blizzard, Godzilla attack). Luckily in Colorado it's not common to have multiple days of overcast skies!

Staying awake all night for three nights in a row is not healthy for those used to a day schedule; and lets be honest, we make more mistakes and have a harder time learning when we're tired. With that in mind, night photography sessions will not be all night; if we have clear skies for all three nights shooting time will be split evenly into half-night sessions, otherwise it will adjusted based on the weather.