Announcing National Parks at Night

Posted on 2 Comments


Seize the Night.

Thanks for being a subscriber on  I have a very special announcement:

I am teaming up with four other very talented photo educators to create a new night photography workshop series focused on teaching in some of the most beautiful locations to be found. It’s called National Parks at Night and I invite you to learn more about our program: Our stable of instructors include

Tim Cooper, Matt Hill, Lance Keimig, Chris Nicholson and myself.

Our first workshops in 2016 include:

Acadia National Park

Arches National Park

Crater Lake National Park

Death Valley National Park

And since time is both our friend and the enemy, we have decided to teach in each location only once. There are many National Parks and only so much time. So if you dream of photographing any of these, sign up soon!

We will have small class sizes, and that means you get personal attention. All our instructors teach first – your experience is most important. And we all want to have fun in the extraordinary locations. We hope to see you at one or more workshops!

Please sign up for the email list on to receive future announcements from the program.  

The website “goes live” Thursday October 23 at 10am. Until then, you can use the password, “seizethenight” to get a private preview.


Crater Lake National Park



The Journey to Glacier National Park

Posted on 2 Comments

Two weeks ago, I was in Missoula, Montana to introduce the Rocky Mountain School of Photography’s 2015 Summer Intensive students to B&H. I’ve been visiting the school since 2006 and it is always a thrill to help usher in the next generation of photographers. SI is an immersive 11-week course over the summer, in which the students learn and improve their photographic skills. We were there for week 1 and showcased the tools that would help prepare them for a successful foundation as a photographer.   Of course I kicked things off with a group shot with the Theta 360 camera! None of the students had seen that camera before and as I passed around the interactive image on my phone…the magic of photography created panoramic smiles around the room.

Ricoh Theta 360 RMSP Group Shot



All these years that I have been coming to Missoula, I’ve never made it to Glacier National Park. Known as the Crown Jewel of the Continent, I was determined to make it out there this year. To find the best spots to shoot, I tapped the minds of my good friends, Tim Cooper and David Marx, who have been teaching workshops there for many years.   The no-brainer decision was to rent Harley Davidson Street Glides and make it an official road trip!  My coworker, Jason Geller and I, followed the yellow lines as we chugged past Flathead Lake. The many twists and turns finally guided us to the entrance of the western side of Glacier.

Even though it is open year-round, the season had really just started for Glacier, and only 15 miles of the Road to the Sun were open. There were hardly any tourists and we had the road to ourselves. Glacier isn’t just about the journey on the Road to the Sun; there are many destinations along the way. 

The weather totally cooperated with no rain and minimal clouds in sight. Our cabin was a stone’s throw from Lake MacDonald, and the sun wasn’t setting until 10pm, I knew it was going to be a late night of shooting!   We walked along the shore looking for the best vantage points during the day and I returned at 11pm when the first stars began to appear. The moon was waning and wasn’t going to play a huge factor, as it wasn’t due to rise until 1am and actually never made it over the ridge of mountains before dawn. However, with pure darkness not appearing until after midnight and twilight starting just after 4am, I didn’t have a large window to work with. National parks are wonderful to shoot at night, mainly due to such minimal light pollution, and of course dramatic landscapes. Glacier did not disappoint.

Milky Way over MacDonald ~ Fujifilm XT1 w/10-24 lens ~ 30s at f/4 ~ ISO 6400


I had two systems with me: the Sony A7s mounted with my favorite lens – the Zeiss 21mm 2.8. Right now, the A7s is the undisputed king of Milky Way capture because the attainable higher ISOs (I feel comfortable up to 51,200) can give you more optimal apertures and shutterspeeds. In this case, however, it wasn’t cutting it. The lens just wasn’t wide enough for me to capture the majestic Milky Way, Lake MacDonald, and the Lewis Range of Rocky Mountains.   My other kit, that I brought for more daytime shooting, was the Fujifilm XT1 and the 10-24 lens (15-36 equivalent lens). This was exactly the focal length I needed and pretty much shot it vertically and at the widest focal length. The XT1 is no slouch at night; if you can keep it under 6400 ISO I would put it toe to toe with all the other contenders.

I absolutely love the 10-24 f/4 lens for night work. I used to always lean on the Zeiss Touit 12mm 2.8 lens, but I find the 10-24 to be sharper, wide open. Yes you lose a stop at f/4 but the wider focal length allows you to squeeze ½ stop back with a longer shutter speed. I was forced into ISO 6400 with an exposure time of 30 seconds at f/4.   Embracing the grain with Milky Way images is typically not a bad thing. I converted it to B&W using DXO FilmPack 5 for the image you see above. The brightest part of the Milky Way, the Galactic Core, is the cluster of stars on the right hand side. I wasn’t able to include any more of it because of tree interference.

So I switched gears and decided to go for a 1 hour+ star trail shot. The temperature was around 60F, so I knew I would need to take multiple shots and “stack” them later in Photoshop. I did a few quick test shots, with my main consideration of lowering the ISO. Celestial shots can work with higher ISO grain, but generally we like our star trails to be richer and cleaner.


MacDonald Trails_Fujifilm XT1 w/10-24 lens ~ 2m stack = 1 hour 20m at f/4 ~ ISO 3200

My end decision was ISO 3200, f/4, for 2 minutes. This was a stop more than the equivalent Milky Way shot and brought my histogram more to the middle. Higher ISO’s and wider apertures will also increase the amount of stars your camera can capture. I would have generally gone with a lower ISO and longer shutter speed – like 1600 and 4-5 minutes, but I like the brighter stars and stronger sense of movement achieved from this shorter stack of 2 minute shots.   The north star just made it into the upper left hand side and I absolutely love the long trails reflecting in the lake. I was fortunate enough not to experience any planes trailing through my image. But I did appreciate the car lights opening up the Road to the Sun several times throughout my 40 shots.   The total time that is “seen” in this image is 1 hour and 20 minutes. I would have gone longer but moonlight was really making a bright impact on the image and I was worried about it washing out too many stars. I am thankful that it lit up the mountain range beautifully, enhancing the detail and their reflection even more.

The last shot I’d like to share with you is from MacDonald Creek Falls, which really shouldn’t have the name creek in it at all – because it was moving like the Mississippi! This was one of those rare daytime shots that I take.  I used a Hitech/Formatt 6 stop full ND filter, to take this shot from 1/15 of a second to 5 seconds. 1/15 of a second didn’t emphasize the motion of the water enough. The 10 stop ND would have made it around 1 ½ minutes, which would have made the “creek” too smooth. I also love the human element in this image – that’s Jason on the bridge. We didn’t plan this, but when I saw him walk over the bridge I started yelling over the roar of the falls and he did a damn good job of reading my hand signals! I also love that with 5 seconds we still retain the shape of the water as it moves us throughout the photograph.

Bridge over Smooth Waters ~ Fujifilm XT1 w/10-24 lens ~ 5 seconds at f/13 ~ ISO 200

The next day we looped along the southern end of glacier and wound our way up the eastern side with a beautiful stop at Two Medicine Lake.  Around each twist and turn in the road, an awe-inspiring vista awaited, as well as a precarious 6-8k drop!  We only had one night to spend at Glacier on this trip…but I’ll be back – The Road to the Night Sky is a constant journey.

Carpe Noctem!



Take your Lightpainting to the next level at the Woodlawn Cemetery Workshop

Posted on

Woodlawn_Reisinger ~ Fujifiilm XT1 with 10-24 lens ~ 15 minutes ! f/5.6 ~ ISO 200


Matt Hill and I got to visit Woodlawn the other night and prep for our workshop next week.  There are so many cool sculptures and structures to lightpaint there – that we didn’t want to leave!  One of the first rules of light painting is not to “paint” from the same angle as your camera – that creates the most uninteresting light that lacks shadows and depth.

The Reisinger memorial provides a very nice challenge of how to paint.  I took a flash with a 3/4 cut CTO gel and stood behind or to a 90 degree angle to each column.  This pop of warm light created the dramatic shadow from the center far column and wonderful side or rim light to the others.  I was surprised to also see so many stars could be seen – note the vivid start trails that popped here in the city.

There are still a few spots left for next week’s workshop and the moon will not be up while we are shooting so we will have the darkest skies, brightest stars, and a ton of fun things to paint!

Carpe Noctem!

6/14 Bannerman Island Workshop with Matt Hill

Posted on 1 Comment

Bannerman Castle 03 ~ Mamiya 7 with 43mm lens ~ 1 1/2 hours at f/11 ~ Fuji Acros 100 filmBannerman Castle 03 ~ Mamiya 7 with 43mm lens ~ 1 1/2 hours at f/11 ~ Fuji Acros 100 film

Join photographers Gabriel Biderman and Matt Hill as we lead you on a night photography tour of one of the oldest and most inspiring locations in all of NY – Bannerman Castle. This turn of the century castle rests upon the small, lonely island of Pollepel about an hour north of NYC in the middle of the Hudson River. Perhaps you’ve seen it on a train ride north or on a boat tour from Beacon; it has mystified generations of people and now you will have the opportunity to photograph it at night.

This will be a rare overnight excursion, so bring a tent if you think you will sleep, last time we shot until 9am! Thom Johnson, co-founder of the trust and author of the book Bannerman Castle (NY) (Images of America), will be on the island for a historical tour before we set up our tripods and focus on creating some truly outstanding images under the full moon.

Gabriel and Matt will go over the basics of night photography and how to successfully meter, capture star trails, star points, paint with light, and hone your “night vision”. The majestic Castle and Residence will be the main focus but there are many little details on the island that will be yours to capture, including the Twin Towers, rising from the water, that guard the south harbor. This will be a very hands-on, one-night workshop that is sure to add some amazing images to your portfolio.


We are making this unique opportunity available only one time in 2014:

Saturday June 14th from 6pm until 9am Sunday June 15th.

Fee: $350 for one night.  Payable by check/money order to the Bannerman Castle Trust. Please contact me for this information.

Boat transportation to the island and from Cornwall on the Hudson are included in the price. We recommend that you bring your own food, snacks, and water. Tents and sleeping bags are recommended, if you want to sleep. No animals live on the island but there is poison ivy.  Please wear the appropriate shoes and clothing (shorts are not recommended). Portable toilets are located on one side of the island.

This is an extraordinary night adventure and is limited to 6 people.

Technical Requirements:
Film and/or Digital SLR Camera, Tripod, & Cable Release

Who should attend: You must be familiar with your camera, especially in Manual Mode. A full list of suggested gear will be sent to you upon payment.

Cancellation Policy:   $50 cancellation fee if you need to cancel once you have paid. If we need to cancel due to weather, we will do our best to reschedule for later this year, and full refund would be available.

To check out more of my 2014 night photography workshops, including an epic 10 day adventure to Namibia – one of the clearest places in the world for stargazing, go to the recently updated workshop page.


Carpe Noctem!
Bannerman Fogrise - Photo by Matt Hill

Photo by Matt Hill

All the World’s Sunrises and Sunsets

Posted on 4 Comments

Were you able to see the total lunar eclipse on April 14th-15th?   I was fortunate enough to be out in Vegas teaching the Dusk to Dawn Workshop, and we were able get some pretty spectacular images as well as witness the whole 3+ hour event.   As I was doing my research in preparation for shooting the moon, I came across this wonderful description as to why the moon appears red during the eclipse.   Imagine yourself witnessing the eclipse from the moon – during the darkest time of the eclipse, when the earth is totally in front of the sun – you would still see a ring of fire – the sun around the earth.  What you’d be witnessing is all of earth’s sunrises and sunsets.  And it is that red and orange light skimming along the edge of the earth’s atmosphere that is reflecting off the moon.  Pretty cool, right?

kaguya_lunareclipse copy

Here is one of the few images that we have of the earth eclipsing the sun – from the moon’s point of view.  Taken on February 10th 2009 by the Japan’s Lunar Explorer “Kaguya (Selene)”.  The “circle of sunlight” is “a ring of a thousand simultaneous sunrises and sunsets

This “Blood Moon” as it was originally dubbed by Christian pastors John Hagee and Mark Blitz, prophesized that this was the beginning of the end of the world.  I think just the opposite.  It seems to have renewed an interest in astronomy and an excitement of planning where you will be during the next Blood Moon.  You see, this is the first of four, or a tetrad, that will occur over the next 1 ½ years.

Shooting the eclipse can be a tricky thing, so here are a few ideas to consider before capture.

Lens selection: When shooting the moon you need a fairly long lens, at least a 300mm or preferably a 500-600mm on a full frame camera, especially if you want to get a nice big moon with lots of detail.

Composited Multi Moons:
This seems to be the rage with eclipses now and it is fairly easy to do with digital.  You need patience and time for this one, as you have to commit one camera to shooting the moon as it changes over 1-3 hours.  You’ll have to pay close attention, as the exposures will vary dramatically as the bright white changes to the darker rust red moon.  Afterwards, you’ll pick the best moons and layer them onto one image.  One of my favorites was done by my good friend Jeff Cable and he goes into great description on how he composited it together here.

Blood Moon

Foreground considerations:
Another cool way to capture the multi-moon eclipse is by  including the foreground.  This requires a little bit more photoshop skills as you will need to shoot the foreground separately and realistically as the base layer and then add the moons later.  My favorite shot of the eclipse with an interesting foreground was by Sean Duggan – check out his blog for more details on his amazing image.

Sean Duggan ~ Lunar Eclipse Over Donner Peak

We were finishing up our light painting shoot at the Neon Boneyard when the eclipse started.  It would have been cool to capture the entire eclipse there but unfortunately they didn’t want to stay open late for us until 1:30am!  We had the option to either head out to Red Rock and get a darker sky with the moon over mountains, but I thought it would be more interesting to play the moon against the newest star of Las Vegas  – the High Roller Ferris Wheel.

This provided a challenging and space age foreground for us to combine with the moon.  My image was shot with the Sony A7r and a Metabones adapter with a Nikon 70-200 and 1.4 teleconverter.  This gave me an equivalent focal length of 300mm and it’s a composite of two images – one exposed for the moon at 4 seconds at f/4 and the other freezing the lunar pod at 1/15 second.

Lunar Landing ~ Sony A7r with Nikon 70-200 2.8 lens

As most of you know, I also love to play with time, and a little later I wondered what it would look like to capture a 15-minute evolution of the moon and revolution of the wheel.

Revolution and Evolution ~ Sony A7r and 55 1.8 lens ~ 15m at f/8 ~ ISO 400

I hope these images have inspired you to get ready for the next few lunar eclipses!  The upcoming dates are October 8th, April 4th, and then September 28th.

Rumor has it I’ll be in Iceland for the last one…

– Carpe Noctem!