Photographing the night sky like a master - a book review

May 28, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

If you're looking to learn how to take amazing photographs of the night sky, you've come to the right place.

I've been lucky to get the opportunity to photograph some amazing night skies in my time as a photographer. I've been inspired by other artists and have done meticulous research and planning, self-teaching myself as I go. I've also been lucky to be able to get great information and teachings from other photographers online, asking questions about technique, locations, editing processes, and more. This process of learning took several years of reading articles online, asking questions in groups and forums, and practice in the field. So, I was thrilled when one of the photographers I followed from the very start of my journey, Grant Collier, asked me recently to review his new e-book on night photography. I've been contemplating writing my own e-book on this very topic for awhile now; however, I feel like there's no way I could have done a better job than Grant has in this tremendous guide. It is an absolute slam dunk.

To start out with, Grant covers all of the basics that are essential for any beginner or intermediate night photographer to learn, including how to focus, using aperture, ISO, etc. In his book, you will learn how to take photographs of meteors, the Milky Way, the moon, comets, eclipses and more. 

Here are some of the highlights and topics covered:

  1. Planning your shots using apps and programs
  2. Composition techniques
  3. Camera settings
  4. Natural light sources
  5. Light painting
  6. Star trails

In search of the AuroraIn search of the AuroraMy brother and I ventured to Trillium Lake near Government Camp, Oregon for the first time to see if we could catch a glimpse of the Aurora. We never did get to see the Aurora; however, I was able to come home with this sweet star trails sequence showcasing the awesome night skies above Mount Hood and Trillium Lake. While I'm not a master by any stretch of the imagination, I think I've elevated my night photography to a very high level, using advanced techniques and even teaching my own workshops along the way. Going into reading Grant Collier's e-book, "Collier's Guide to Night Photography in the Great Outdoors" I did not think I was going to learn much, having practiced a great deal and read many, many guides and tutorials; however, I was pleasantly surprised by not only the depth of his materials but also the details he goes into to give you all of the tricks of the trade, in the field and for post-processing. Within the first pages I began learning new things I had not thought of before, and by the end of the book, I picked up several great ideas and post-processing concepts that had eluded me for the past few years. Certainly many of my more recent images, like this one of the Milky Way over Mount Hood, could have benefited from some of the ideas Grant sets forth in his book. I found myself saying "I never would have thought to do that" a few times as I read!

Mount Hood and the Galaxy AboveMount Hood and the Galaxy AboveMount Hood beneath the blanket of the Milky Way Galaxy. Taken from Tom, Dick and Harry Mountain near Portland, Oregon and Govenment Camp.

Here are just a few advanced post-processing topics that Grant covers in his awesome e-book:

  1. Blending multiple exposures
  2. Focus stacking
  3. High Resolution panoramic stitching
  4. Lightroom adjustments
  5. Photoshop adjustments
  6. Star enhancement (light balance and exposure)

I feel like if Grant's book was around when I was getting started, it would have saved me many, many hours of research and trial and error. Through Grant's book you learn everything you need to get started, including some very advanced techniques.

My only critique of the book would be that I wish there was even more examples and step-by-step instructions given for some of the post-processing techniques he shares in the book. The book also assumes you have a basic knowledge of Photoshop and Lightroom, including the use of layer masks, and also requires you utilize some advanced tools that are not free or standard with photoshop (like Tony Kuyper's luminosity mask actions, or programs such as Star Spikes). With that being said, if you have a basic understanding of how to use layer masks in Photoshop and are struggling with your post-processing, I can guarantee that Grant's book will make you a better artist. Just one example I can share - I used techniques that Grant covers in his book when I shot and processed one of my favorite photographs of the night sky - this one below of the Geminid Meteor Shower.

Gemind Meteor ShowerGemind Meteor ShowerThe Geminid Meteor Shower is arguably the best meteor shower of the year. I stayed up until 3 AM to get the shot here, taken at the Paint Mines in Calhan, Colorado. Minor light pollution from Colorado Springs is seen at bottom left, with 12 meteors in the frame. It was an amazing sight to behold, with meteors flashing in the night sky causing the ground to get lit up. It was so cool!

In summary:

If you want to capture awesome photos of the night sky in the great outdoors, take my advice, purchase Grant Collier's new e-book. It is filled with everything you need to know about photographing the night sky.

Full disclosure: The links to Grant's e-book in my review are affiliate links - if you purchase his book I get a small % of the sale - which will help keep me afloat. Thanks for your support!


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