gear

How to Be Merry and Bright at Night: Our 2018 Holiday Gift Guide

The holidays are upon us, and once again it’s time for us to help you find the best gift ideas for those special photographers in your life. So, welcome to National Parks at Night’s third annual Holiday Gift Guide!

We’ve scanned our camera bags, suitcases, computer files and storage cubbies, and compiled a new list of things that help us enjoy our photography and all the conditions we find ourselves in because of it. From shoe dryers to phone apps, hand warmers to training videos, we’ve created a must-have/seriously-want list that will help you with those tough decisions of what to buy for yourself this holiday season. And, looking through it twice, you may even find the perfect gift for the loved ones in your life!

We’re providing all of our discoveries as a free downloadable PDF ebook, so you can read it and reference it on any device, anytime, anywhere. Inside you’ll find products from major brands such as B&H Photo, BenQ, Bay Photo and Nikon, along with great little finds from smaller companies and startups.

In addition to the product information, the ebook version includes:

  • a lot more photos

  • a few extra discount codes and offers

  • night photography tips from all five National Parks at Night instructors

Help us spread the cheer by posting our guide on your favorite social media channels and share it with other like-minded photographers, friends and nature enthusiasts!

If you prefer to read the guide in our blog, that’s okay too; we’re also publishing it right here, below. (Though, we will say the ebook version looks cooler.)

Carpe Longa Nocte (seize the long night)!

—Gabe, Lance, Matt, Chris and Tim

Note: If you decide to purchase any of the items in this gift guide, please consider using the links included, as many generate a small commission that helps us improve the National Parks at Night workshop program.


Acratech

GPS

Our absolute favorite ball head that keeps our long exposures locked in! Made in America and weighs in at .75 pounds, but supports up to 25 pounds! It accepts all Arca-Swiss L brackets and quick release plates. We prefer the GPS model with the lever lock, so it won’t be confused for the other knobs when we are adjusting our ball heads in the dark. If you own a travel tripod with the 180-degree rotating legs, get the smaller GPSS, which holds the same amount but has a smaller base plate so you can collapse the tripod legs around it for travel.

Special offer: Use promo code “NPAN18” at bhphoto.com for 5 percent off the GPS, until December 20.

Anderson Design Group

National Park Adventure Guide Book

We’ve seen the Anderson Design Group’s WPA-inspired postcards in all the parks and absolutely love them. Now they have been compiled into a travel-friendly National Park Adventure Guide! It has become our new “passport” to the parks. Stickers are included in the book for you to place in the appropriate park, once you’ve visited. Each place includes some basic info on the park as well as “10 Things to Do and See.” There is also a spot for you to take notes, to sketch or to stamp the official cancellation from the park’s visitor center.

Apollo

Moon Light

Send your night photographer over the moon with this photorealistic LED moon globe! Now you too can hold the moon in your hands, or bring it wherever you go. The Moon Light comes in a variety of sizes from 3.5 to 7.9 inches, giving you plenty of options to illuminate your home. Brightness and color are adjustable by simply tapping the moon. We can imagine using a few of these in an upcoming photoshoot as well!

AstroReality

Lunar Pro

The Lunar Pro is a hand-crafted, hand-painted 120mm 3D model of the moon that is so realistic, you may believe you have grown to cosmic proportions. If you want to study Earth’s nearest satellite in detail, load up their companion Augmented Reality (AR) app to view in real-time interesting facts and details about the geography on the moon. And when you aren’t dreaming of gray space cheese, this is sure to be a conversation starter on display in your office or living room.

Atlas Obscura

Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid

We have always been huge fans of Atlas Obscura. With their book An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders, they initiated us into the mysterious, introduced us to strange places and showed us undiscovered treasures. Now they have upped their game with their latest book, Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid. Why keep all the fun for ourselves? Share a copy with your favorite curious youngster. Or for anyone, really—plenty there for adults as well. This book is interesting for the kid in all of us.

B&H Photo

Gift Certificate

The most universal gift for any image-maker, audiophile or anyone looking for the latest computers, hardware, software, telescopes or home theater. Available in increments from $25 to $500, a B&H gift certificate is guaranteed to make that certain someone extremely happy! Pro tip: Add a trip to NYC with the gift card and visit B&H’s 70,000-square-foot superstore where everything is out on display.

Bay Photo Lab

Xpozer Print

Get your images off the computer and onto your walls! We’re big fans of all of Bay Photo Lab’s print surfaces, but traditional print media can be space-consuming to store and costly to ship. Enter the Xpozer, an ingenious new way to display your art. Printed on beautiful Vivid Satin paper that floats off the wall with Bay’s unique aluminum tension hanging system. This provides a cost-effective way to beautifully showcase your work, and is incredibly portable if you need to cart it around or send it off-site. Available in sizes from 16x16 to 40x80 inches.

BenQ

SW240

For the digital photographer, few things are more important than viewing our images on a high-quality, accurate screen. For years, BenQ has been making some of the best monitors available. And for years, we at National Parks at Night have benefited from using their incredibly accurate products. BenQ offers a particularly intriguing model that is within reach of any photographer: The SW240 has all of the qualities of its larger siblings, such as 99 percent coverage of the Adobe RGB color space and out-of-the-box calibration, while sporting the slightly smaller screen size of 24.1 inches. This high-resolution (1920x1200) monitor is perfect for demanding photographers with a smaller workspace. Its lower price tag doesn’t hurt either!

Benro

TrueNight Filter

Benro’s TrueNight filter is ideal for urban and suburban night photographers who desire a more natural look than artificial lighting in the sky. The TrueNight filter will give you a more pleasing color temperature, which is also easier to edit than trying to combat the yellow, orange and green tones from sodium and mercury vapor lighting. Available in 77mm and 82mm screw-in sizes (step-down rings also available for smaller lens filter threads), as well as a100x100mm drop-in.

Best Maps Ever

417 National Park System Units Map

There are over 400 official units of the National Park System! Start planning your next park adventures and checking off the NPS locations with this comprehensive map. Each spot has an icon for a pin to be placed, and trails, rivers, seashores and parkways managed by the National Park System are also outlined. The 2-by-3-foot wall map is heavyweight to last for a lifetime of exploration.

Chimani

Chimani App

If you’re venturing into national parks with a phone or tablet in hand or in pocket, you’ll want to install Chimani before you go. Chimani relaunched this year as one standalone app that features information about 417 units of the National Park Service, including all 60 national parks. Data includes times for sunrise and sunset, moonrise and moonset, and golden hour and blue hour, as well as information on photo locations, with hundreds of example images. Available for iOS and Android. Also look into the Chimani Perks program, a paid membership that avails discounts at and near parks all across the U.S.—hiking and rafting tours, bed and breakfast, hotels, local breweries, restaurants, cafés, gear rentals, gift stores, outdoor retailers and more.

Coast Portland

G9 Inspection Beam Pocket Light

Night photographers and flashlights go together like beans and cornbread, like hotcakes and molasses. Chances are, the night photographer on your holiday list has more than a few flashlights in their kit, and most of them are bright enough to burn a hole in a piece of paper from 3 feet away. For the last 3 years, our workshop attendees have all received a flashlight compliments of Coast Portland. This year, many got a G9, Coast’s diminutive fixed-beam inspection light. This little guy is almost perfect for navigating at close quarters in extreme low light environments or for adjusting your camera when you can’t find the button in the dark. And with a quick DIY hack, it is the perfect light: Just unscrew the cap and place a small piece of tissue in front of the bulb, and you have a diffused, dim light that won’t spoil your night vision, or your buddy’s shot.

Cosmic Watch

Cosmic Watch App

Want something to do with your time during a long rip or star stack? Download Cosmic Watch for your touch device and dive into learning more about exactly where you are in the cosmos. It’s both a timepiece that would look great on your desktop at the office, and an amazingly rich and detailed planetarium through which you can learn more about astronomy. Our favorite feature is that the app teaches you about time, and what time means. It’s heavy, dude. But what do you think about while practicing the art of dilating minutes and hours with your camera during long exposures?

CreativeLive

Night Photography Week

Video learning is huge. The problem is that not all online content is reliable or accurate. You might find what you need on YouTube, but why not invest a little for a vetted and trusted source? CreativeLive continues to produce some of the best online photography classes with world-renowned instructors. National Parks at Night is proud to have partnered with CreativeLive to present five complete courses on night photography subspecialties, one taught by each of our instructors. The courses are available bundled as “Night Photography Week,” or a la carte for the night photographer who wants to learn a specific skill.

DryGuy

Travel Dry

How many times have you been out shooting in the rain, or even shooting on a clear night, when you stepped into a stream or a bog—or experienc anything else that results in wet feet? Few things dampen the outdoor experience more than walking around in soggy shoes and socks. But, ya know, it happens. It often takes a couple of days to dry those shoes out, but you can accelerate the process with DryGuy Travel Dry shoe driers, often completing the task overnight. A workshop attendee gave us a set, and our feet have never been so happy.

eParks

Park Patches

If you’ve ever seen Matt’s National Parks at Night “boy scout” shirt, or hung out with the National Park Patch Lady (see below), it’s possible you’ve been infected by an enthusiasm to document your adventures with colorful patches. Alas, being night photographers, we sometimes miss the visitor center and don’t get to buy a patch. :-( Fear not, nocturnal adventurers! You can catch up on those missed patches at eParks, as well as pick up a bevy of other cools gifts you may have missed, such as shirts, posters and even the Passport to Your National Parks book for your cancellation stamps.

Hot Hands

Hand Warmers

Having your long exposure night photos ruined by condensation on the front of your lens is frustrating—but avoidable! Condensation on your lens can occur in humid conditions when the lens is colder than the air surrounding it. To avoid or alleviate the condensation, simply warm up your lens by activating two hand warmers, laying them on opposite sides of your lens and securing them with a couple of rubber bands or a koozie sliced down the side. Voila! Warm lens, no condensation. Outside Magazine tests gave the brand Hot Hands the highest marks for chemical hand warmers.

Huckberry

Hand-Blown Whiskey Glasses

Ever wanted to admire some of your favorite national parks through your favorite whiskey or bourbon? Well, you’re in luck. These precious, hand-blown whiskey glasses feature raised topographic impressions of Half Dome, Mt. Rainier and the Grand Canyon, among some other gorgeous global destinations. So crack a bottle of choice libations, and toast your adventurous spirit with friends.

Irix

150mm f/2.8 Dragonfly

Most of the time night photographers gravitate toward wide-angle lenses to capture the grandeur of nature or the city skyline. If you are feeling stuck in your ways or want to create images that stand out from the crowd, consider shooting with a longer lens to change your perspective. And if you’re into star trails but are too impatient to wait for those long exposures, telephoto lenses get the job done much faster than wide angle lenses! The folks at Irix have just announced a new lens, their 150mm f/2.8 Dragonfly. Like Irix’ 15mm and 11mm lenses, the Dragonfly is a weather-sealed, manual focus lens with their unique focus lock mechanism. It can produce 1-to-1 magnification scenes, but also makes a great night-portrait or medium telephoto lens. Available now for pre-order.

Ken Burns

The National Parks: America’s Best Idea

The magnum opus of national parks documentaries. This six-episode series details how the idea of saving and preserving wild spaces was born and popularized, and how the idea and its execution evolved through the 20th century. Learn about the people and places that literally changed the world.

Light Painting Brushes

Universal Connector

At the heart of the Light Painting Brushes (LPB) system is the deceivingly humble Universal Connector. Simply add this to any flashlight from 0.975 to 1.5 inches in diameter and you have a snoot to control the spill of light exiting your flashlight. It’s tiny, so it won’t take up much space in your bag, and can help you perfect those light painting masterpieces you’re dreaming about. When you’re ready to engage in light writing, pop on any of the dozens of cool accessories from LPB to start crafting light art from thin air.

LuminAID

Solar Inflatable Lantern

We first met the Solar Inflatable Lantern at the Atlas Obscura eclipse event in Durkee, Oregon, in 2017. By day, it charges via the embedded solar panel in 10 to 14 hours. At night, you inflate it to create a diffused cube of light with many, many color options you can cycle through by using the buttons on the top handle. The handle also allows you to hang it in a tree, inside your tent or anywhere you dream up. When deflated, the lantern can store in the bottom of your camera bag and you won’t even know it’s there.

Luxli

Cello

The Lucie award-winning Luxli Cello takes all the things you love about the Viola and doubles—no, triples—your capabilities. It’s twice as wide and as bright. The TLCI is 97 percent from 3000 K to 10,000 K. The Hue mode has saturation control (to dial back juicy colors to within your camera’s gamut). And they added 150 digital gel filters that apply to any color temperature you choose, making color matching your gelled flashlights or LED panels a breeze. Finally, the built-in Fx mode allows for all sorts of playful options, such as CCT change over time, police lights and fire effects.

Mandorra

Smoke Grenades

Now, we must say these are a no-no within the boundaries of national parks. But in places where smoke effects are permitted, well, now we’re going to make some cool stuff happen. Despite the aggressive names, we prefer smoke grenades over smoke bombs. Many smoke grenades come with a pull tab to activate (like a grenade) instead of lighting a fuse. But the effect, oh, the effect! Backlight or sidelight the smoke with a Luxli Viola for a smooth long exposure effect or arrest it with a speedlite for crispy smoke.

Manfrotto

Befree Advanced Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod with 494 Ball Head

Tired of cheap lightweight tripods? So are we. So thank you to Manfrotto for the Befree—a high-quality, lightweight travel tripod! Last year we listed the aluminum version, this year we’re happy to list the carbon fiber option. Weighing in at less than 3 pounds, this tripod and head system can handle nearly 18 pounds of camera while extended to its maximum height of 59.1 inches. You may find that this “travel” tripod becomes part of your everyday gear.

Misty Morning Artwork

National Park Mugs

Enjoy your favorite coffee with (in?) your favorite park, all while supporting an independent artist. A workshop attendee turned us on to these beautiful handmade mugs from potter, painter and illustrator Abbey Stieglitz. Mugs include depictions of Yosemite, Joshua Tree, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and more. Custom orders available.

Montem

Ultra Strong Anti-Shock Trekking Poles

If you’re going to be trekking to remote (or even semi-remote) places for unique photos, you’ll want to complement your inborn stability with some hiking poles. Particularly when bearing the weight of gear on your back, comfort and safety both dictate having poles for maintaining balance, reducing fatigue, and anchoring yourself on ascents and descents. Look into Montem Ultra Strong Anti-Shock Trekking Poles for a good rundown of desirable features, including low weight, shock absorption and adjustable height.

National Park Service

America the Beautiful Pass

With a deal this good, how could we ever exclude it from our gift guide? For less than a C-note the annual pass grants access to 60 amazing national parks, plus over 2,000 federal recreation sites including national monuments, wildlife refuges, national forests and grasslands, and sites managed by the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The pass covers entrance fees for a driver and all passengers in a personal vehicle. The cost of the annual pass is $80, or $20 for seniors over the age of 62. Seniors can also buy a lifetime pass for $80. Passes are free for American veterans, Americans with permanent disabilities and fourth-graders. Now that’s a deal!

National Parks at Night

2019 Calendar

With National Parks at Night’s “Long Nights, Beautiful Spaces” calendar, follow 2019 in the night photographer’s way, with all the info you need for scheduling shoots during new and full moons, meteor showers, festivals and more. Each month is adorned with a night photograph from some our favorite places: Olympic, Grand Canyon, Big Bend, Great Smoky Mountains, Lassen Volcanic and Bryce Canyon national parks, as well as Cuba, Devils Tower, Valley of Fire and more.

Biscayne and Redwood Prints

Biscayne and Redwood National Parks celebrated their 50th anniversaries this year. We were honored to be part of their ceremonies that culminated with a group print show of our workshop attendees’ photographs at both parks, sponsored by Bay Photo Lab. You can help continue to support those parks as well as get some great artwork on your wall when you purchase a print from our online gallery. You can choose from multiple formats—metal, canvas and paper, all at a plethora of sizes and price points. All profits go to Biscayne and Redwood. Support our parks!

Photography Books

Looking for some national park and night photography inspiration and education that you can always have at your fingertips? Choose from one of the four books written by members of the NPAN team!

  • Photographing National Parks by Chris Nicholson is a portable and concise look at each of our national parks and how to best capture them. Includes best locations, times and great info on each park to help you plan your next adventure.

  • Have someone new to the night? Gabriel Biderman and Tim Cooper’s book Night Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots (now in its third printing) is a great introduction to night photography, and it inspires you to get out there and seize the night!

  • Want an even deeper dive into the night? Lance’s book on night photography, Night Photography and Light Painting: Finding Your Way in the Dark, has long been the ultimate tome for those interested in a deep dive into the genre! The latest edition has an amazing chapter on the history of light painting and does an excellent job of balancing theory, history and enthusiasm for taking your night visions to the next level.

  • Light Painting is the most creative expression in night photography, and Tim Cooper’s ebook The Magic of Light Painting is a detailed exploration of all the illuminating possibilities that can happen when we practice the craft.

Night Photography Adventure Workshops

We simply love the outdoors, teaching and helping people get awesome pictures. So we’re super excited that many of our 2019 Passport Series workshops are already full. But we want you to share some of the magic as well! Our Passport workshops in Great Smoky Mountains, Grand Canyon and Lassen Volcanic national parks still have a few openings.

We also have some seats in our Adventure Series workshops. These workshops were developed so that we could visit the varied and limitless beauty that lies outside of our national parks and the more typical workshop schedule. Experience the stark beauty of Devils Tower National Monument, camp and hike the hither regions of Olympic National Park on our Shi Shi Beach Backcountry adventure, or immerse yourself in the culture and night vibe of Cuba. Wherever and whenever it may be, we’d love to have you join us in 2019. Come and help us Seize the Night!

National Park Patch Lady

I Brake For Brown Signs Bumper Sticker

Who doesn’t get excited by those brown road signs? They always point us to something fun, interesting or awe-inspiring. Show your love for our national treasures by sporting this “I Brake For Brown Signs” bumper sticker from our fellow parks enthusiast Sandra Ramos, aka National Park Patch Lady.

Nikon

Z6

We are very excited to see Nikon join the full-frame mirrorless world, and we have put the Z7 through the night paces. It’s frickin’ amazing, but those 100 MB file sizes make stacking stars a longer process than we prefer. We’ve been able to get our hands on the Z6 for a only hot minute, but it looks like the perfect companion to bring on our nocturnal adventures. The 24.5 megapixels will still give us tons of image quality to work with, without having to buy a new computer! The ISO image quality is an absolute game-changer. 6400 ISO is the new 1600, and we would not hesitate to use 12800 or even dabble with 25,600. If you are already a Nikon user, get the kit that comes with the FTZ adapter so you can use your current glass!

Palette

Starter Kit

The digital darkroom is far superior to the image-making technology of yesteryear, but let’s admit it—a mouse, touchpad or tablet doesn’t really provide intuitive controls for the sliders, buttons and checkboxes found in image-editing software. Enter Palette! Their system of interchangeable modules of physical sliders, buttons and dials allows you to take easy control of apps such as Lightroom, Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and more. Magnetic connections allow you to rearrange the modules however they make sense to you, and the control app allows you to set whatever commands and functions you want quick access to. New to the Palette game? Try starting with the Starter Kit, which features a slide, a dial and two buttons. When you’re ready to grow, simply add more modules individually.

Peak Design

Travel Backpack 45L

The Travel Backpack 45L is the ultimate travel backpack that adapts to all of your journeys. Beautifully, comfortably and simply designed with the single idea that no two trips are the same. The exterior is incredibly durable with easy-to-access pockets and the interior is totally customizable for both photo and general travel. The large camera cube is perfect for a pure photo trip, but the packing cube, tech pouch and larger wash pouch convert the photo backpack into the perfect weekender. Shipping in December!

Photographers Breakthrough

Adobe Lightroom: Inside Library and Develop

Understanding how to organize, find and enhance your images in Lightroom is an essential skill for any photographer. Produced by our colleague and noted author Tim Cooper, the “Adobe Lightroom: Inside Library and Develop” video is as beneficial to the first-time user as it is to those who have been using the program for years. This 33-part, 6-hour training video starts at the very beginning with catalog creation and image organization, and ends by demonstrating high-end image enhancement. Concentrating on only the Library and Develop modules allows Tim to fully explain and demonstrate the most relevant aspects of this powerful program.

Special offer: Use coupon code “night” during checkout for 20 percent off.

PhotoPills

PhotoPills App

Take Your Medicine. National Parks at Night just spent a weekend teaching with and learning more from Rafael Pons, the bard of PhotoPills. He’s the public face of the world’s best photography utility app, and he’s here to help. We’ve used and loved PhotoPills for years, but Rafa took us all, as well as our New York Night Photography Summit attendees, to the next level. The “pills” are individual utilities to help with different photography tasks. Convert exposures, calculate depth of field, determine where the Milky Way will be, or plan a photo idea from 3,000 miles away so you know in advance when the best time to get the shot will be. It’s really the only photo app you, and every photographer on your list, needs. Available for iOS and Android.

Shimoda

Explore 60

Creating a photo backpack that wears comfortably, and has smart organizational features inspired by serious backpackers, is a challenge. Fortunately, Shimoda nailed it. Their Explore 60 (it holds 60 cubic liters of gear) has an innovative harness system that adjusts for XL, L, M and S body types. The interior system has many module options, and each comes with a lightweight zipper bag for when you want to just go hiking without your camera gear. Matt lovingly calls his Shimoda 60L “the Kitchen Sink,” as it allows him to come prepared for almost anything on a workshop. Available in “blue nights” or “sea pine” colors.

Tether Tools

ONsite D-Tap Battery

Tether Tools is known for their studio solutions, and their new ONsite Power system is keenly geared to plugging in your computer wherever your shoot. However, it’s also a great solution if you need to recharge in remote locations. The ONsite D-Tap to AC Power Supply comes with two AC outlets and four USB connections, and when you connect the D-Tap Battery with V-Mount (sold separately) you get a ton of juice! It’s the perfect solution for day-to-night time-lapses, for long nighttime exposures, or for 2- to 3-day wilderness trips. Charge devices such as laptops, camera and flashlight batteries, tablets, phones and more—wherever power is needed. TSA approved for carry-on luggage.

Vallerret

Skadi Zipper Mitt Photography Glove

The Folks at Vallerret just don’t slow down. Their tireless pursuit of warm hands brings a crop of new releases this year including a revised version of the Markhof Pro model for mid-winter use, the Alta Over Mitt for Arctic conditions, and the new Skadi Zipper Mitt which provides the warmth and comfort of a mitten with the versatility of a glove. A warm, windproof merino wool and thinsulate lined mitten with an easy-to-grasp zipper covers a form-fitting glove that has touch sensitivity and allows for unimpeded camera adjustments in cold weather. The mitten is fully removable, and has an integrated leash so you don’t have to put them down if you need to momentarily take one off. The mitten has plenty of room for a hand warmer if you need it.

Van Cleef & Arpels

Midnight Planétarium Watch

Not just a watch. It’s a timepiece. One geared toward aficionados of the night. One that brings the story of the solar system to life on your wrist. Encased in pink gold, the Midnight Planétarium Watch depicts the real-life orbits of five planets—a serpentine Mercury, a chloromelanite Venus, a turquoise Earth, a red jasper Mars, a blue agate Jupiter and a sugilite Saturn—while a shooting star indicates earthly time. Priced a little over $200,000, which is far less than NASA spends to track the same information remotely.

Western Digital

My Passport Wireless Pro

Want to travel light on your next adventure but still have security for backing up your files? Western Digital’s My Passport Wireless Pro will make you think twice about hauling your laptop. This hard drive-plus offers direct download via SD slot, or you can plug your card reader into the USB 2.0 slot. From there you can wirelessly transmit and view the files on your tablet or phone. It’s compatible with both Mac and PC and can charge your USB connected devices as well. Available in capacities of 1TB to 4TB.

X-Rite

X-Rite i1 Photographer Kit

Are you trying to master your color management workflow? If you aren’t, then think again. Starting from a profiled and calibrated neutral setting for your camera and your computer monitor helps you to make better edit decisions. You’ll have the confidence of knowing that the colors you choose are the ones you will share with the world when you export your masterpieces. The X-Rite i1 Photographer Kit will help make that happen.

Yaktrax

Chains

Named after the sure-footed Himalayan yak, Yaktrax help you get a grip! Night photography presents all sorts of challenges from basics like finding your way in the dark to the technical limitations of pushing your camera to the limit. Slipping and sliding on snow or ice shouldn’t get in the way of getting the shot, and Yaktrax are a simple and affordable solution to the slippery situations you might encounter this winter. They create a solid, secure grip with a patented system of coils or chains that bite into the ice below your feet. We used them last year in Iceland and found that the basic Walk model provided a measure of confidence in packed snow, but the Chains model gave us extra traction on both snow and ice, allowing us to safely get wherever we needed to go in order to get the shot.

YES Watch

Equillibrium

We’ve always been a fan of the YES Watch, as a tool for keeping track of the times of sunrises and sunsets, moonrises and moonsets, and other similar information while globetrotting for photography. This year YES released a brand new model, the Equilibrium, that brings time tracking to a whole new level. Available with a wide choice of bevels, straps and finishes so you can customize your look.


Happy Holidays!

Remember, just like holidays, and just like gifts, gift guides are meant to be shared! Please feel free to forward this to anyone and everyone you think might be interested. Particularly if it’s someone who buys a gift for you!

And remember, this gift guide is also available as a PDF e-book that includes lots more photos, some exclusive discount codes, and photo tips from all five National Parks at Night instructors. You can download that for free right here:

NPAN 2018 Holiday Guide cover.jpg

Get your 2018 Gift Guide ebook

… for free!

From all of us at National Parks at Night, we wish you and your loved ones a wonderful holiday season.

Tim Cooper is a partner and workshop leader with National Parks at Night. Learn more techniques from his book The Magic of Light Painting, available from Peachpit.

Tips for Packing for a Night Photography Trip

A common question we get at National Parks at Night is, “What should I bring on one of your photo adventures?” It’s a question that applies to any trip where the purpose is night photography.

Trips like this require specific gear that you might not normally take on a regular photo excursion or vacation. The ultimate goal is not to overpack and burden yourself with extraneous stuff. My goal is to pack in a way where I end up using everything I brought, and I take notes on things that could have enhanced the experience.

The Packing List

These travel notes have turned into a Workshop Packing List that I can review each time I’m getting ready for the next adventure. This is invaluable, because it keeps me on track and not packing for hours and days sifting through all my gear! Feel free to download my list below and customize it to fit your needs.

This list covers about 90 percent of what I need to bring, but I also suggest doing research on the locations and thinking of anything specific you’ll need that will help enhance or interpret that location better. Definitely check the weather predictions—for both days and nights—so you can be prepared and comfortable for what’s heading your way.

Know Your Gear/Vision

I always advise bringing gear you are familiar with on workshops. When you order or rent new gear, try to have it arrive at least a few days before you leave and set aside time to get to know it. The last thing you want is to be fumbling around in the dark with unfamiliar equipment.

If you’re looking to build a kit, our recommended gear page is a good starting point. But everyone sees the world differently, so gear is a very personal choice. Study the way you see, and really understand the tools that are helping create your masterpieces.

LR 20mm.jpg

You can easily do that in Lightroom. Look at your favorite 4- to 5-star photos in the Library module and then scroll down the right hand side to the Metadata section. What lens did you use? If it was a zoom lens, what focal length? If a lot of your images were shot with a 14-24mm lens set at 20mm (as in the above screen shot), then perhaps you should consider investing in a 20mm prime lens. Often the prime lens will have a faster aperture than the zoom, which can help us collect more light for the dark skies we are visiting. Plus, that’s how you are seeing the world, so embrace it! (For more about this, see my 2016 blog post “Finding Your Focal Length: Use Metadata to Divulge Your Tendencies.”)

Insurance

I highly recommend investing in photography or travel insurance that will cover your expensive gear at home and on the road. Home owner/renter’s insurance often doesn’t cover your photo gear, especially if you are making money with it. Travel insurance isn’t that expensive, but I travel so much that photography insurance covers my gear 365 days of the year.

One thing that any insurance company will ask you to do is list all your gear with serial numbers. This is a good practice anyway, and I have this document accessible to me on the road just in case.

Which Bag is Best?

When I first started working at B&H Photo in 2001, I worked in the bag and tripod department. Obviously it was my job to find the best match for the customers’ needs, but what happened was that I became convinced that so many of their solutions could also be mine. Much to the chagrin of my wife, one of our rooms quickly filled up with 20 bags in the first three months! I didn’t know which one was best for me, so I had to try them all!

I can’t recommend that strategy for others. But I can pass along the valuable lesson I learned: It is, in fact, good to have a variety of bags that can offer multiple carrying experiences.

Understand what your body is capable of carrying and which styles of bag you prefer. Bringing a roller bag of gear is great on your back but not conducive to moving around on the trails at parks or on the cobblestone streets of Europe. For me, a compromise is best: I do bring a lot of photo gear on most trips, and for me a roller and a backpack is the best way to carry it all.

Roller

For a roller, my hardy, well-traveled companion is The Large case by Away Travel. It’s guaranteed for life, and large enough to carry pretty much anything I need to pack, from tripods to clothing. I generally use this case for any trip of five days or more. For shorter trips, I use a smaller roller by Travelpro.

Backpack

For a non-roller option, the Peak Design Everyday Backpack suits my needs perfectly. The 30L model fits up to a 15-inch laptop, plus a tablet and most of my cameras and lenses. It is super comfortable and the innovative divider system keeps me organized.

However, I always like to also bring a smaller bag on my trips. When I get on-site and go out for a shoot, I don’t need or want to carry all my gear all the time. When Peak Design released their Everyday Sling bag, I found my perfect daily companion.

The Sling is my go-to work bag, which fits lunch, an iPad and a little camera. When I went to the Galapagos Islands, I was able to fit any non-vertical-grip DSLR camera with a 150-600mm style lens! You can fit a whole mirrorless system in the bag as well. Don’t believe me? Check out the video I did with that bag in Galapagos:

Does It Fit?

Bags are definitely a personal choice, and, like with a good pair of shoes, we often don’t know how a bag “fits” us until we try it on. Some things to look for are:

  • Does it safely protect your gear?
  • Is it comfortable to carry or wear?
  • Does it fit your style?

B&H has a 30-day return policy that really can help you take the time to figure it out which of their 500-plus bags fits you best.

Just as important as bags are cable organizers and pouches. Tenba’s Cable Duo 4 helps me keep the variety of cables, cords, remotes, and other little bits and bobs organized inside my bag. Another option is the Duo 8 if you travel with lots of cables and cords!

Tenba Cable Duo 4 (above) and Duo 8

I always have two to six flashlights in the field at night. Instead of putting them all in my pockets, I use the Peak Design Field Pouch matched with their Leash Camera Strap, which gives me easy access to not only my assortment of lights, but also filters, Allen wrenches and Arca-Swiss plates.

Check-in vs. Carry-on

Traveling as a photographer isn’t easy. If you don’t have TSA Pre or Clear status, most U.S. airports want you to take all of your large electronics out of your bag—sometimes even all your cameras! That could mean needing to arrive to the airport even earlier. Be familiar with the restrictions, which definitely vary from country to country.

Also, pay attention to what sizes and weights your airline allows. Camera gear adds significant weight to our bags, and going over the limits could incur some serious fees. Plus, smaller planes can’t fit rollers. I’ve found that my Everyday Backpack fits on even the smaller airplanes, albeit sometimes only under the seat.

All I need for a night photography trip in two bags: My Peak Design backpack (top) containing my cameras and lenses comes on the plane as a carry-on, and my roller with everything else gets checked into the plane’'s belly.

I try to carry on all my important and expensive gear, and I check in my cloths, tripods, liquids, cables, etc. in my roller.

The main thing to remember is that we always need to carry on lithium batteries, no matter how small or big. These cannot be checked in. And they need to be either in a device, or stowed in a way so that the ends can’t come into contact with each other (wrapping them with a rubber band will suffice, though more techie options are available).

Final Thoughts and 3 Things We Can’t Live Without

That covers a lot about one half of packing, but the other half—the gear itself—is a whole other monster. I could explain my strategy here in even more words, but instead I decided I’d show you. So we created the following video, which breaks down all the gear I typically bring on a night photography workshop or trip. It goes into more detail about the gear and why each piece is important to me

Hopefully this will help you game-plan even better for your next adventure! Remember to take notes in the field and on your trip so that you can keep track of the gear that you brought and didn’t use, or that you left home and missed having. Creating your own checklist will make your gear, vision and packing experience a whole lot better!

Finally, not everything we travel with is a camera or lens. We all have ancillary items that might not help us take a picture, but they do help make our trip better. Here are three such items from each of the five of us:

For more information about the gear in Gabe’s bag and packing list:

Gabriel Biderman is a partner and workshop leader with National Parks at Night. He is a Brooklyn-based fine art and travel photographer, and author of Night Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots (Peachpit, 2014). During the daytime hours you'll often find Gabe at one of many photo events around the world working for B&H Photo’s road marketing team. See his portfolio and workshop lineup at www.ruinism.com.

UPCOMING WORKSHOPS FROM NATIONAL PARKS AT NIGHT

Five Questions: Moon Lenses, Smoky Summer Landscapes, Noise Tests and More

We get a lot of questions. We hope we have a lot of answers. Today, at least, we have the same number of each. Five, to be specific. Five questions from night photographers just like you, and five answers from the five of us.

If you have any questions you would like to throw our way for a future Five Questions blog post, please contact us anytime. Questions could be about gear, national parks or other photo locations, post-processing techniques, field etiquette, or anything else related to night photography. #SeizeTheNight!

1. Moon Lenses

The moon rising over Mesquite Flat Dunes,  Death Valley  National Park.  Nikon D750 ,  Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 . Dunes light painted with a  Coast HP5R  flashlight. © 2016 Lance Keimig.

The moon rising over Mesquite Flat Dunes, Death Valley National Park. Nikon D750, Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8. Dunes light painted with a Coast HP5R flashlight. © 2016 Lance Keimig.

Q: I wanted to get a shot of the recent super blue moon full lunar eclipse, but I wasn’t sure which lens would be a good one to use. I wanted to get the moon as part of the landscape, with an in-camera shot (rather than just a zoomed shot of the moon). It would have been OK if the moon wasn’t super huge in my shot—I just wanted a nice overall image. This was with my Nikon D750, and I have a 70-200mm lens. For the next time, should I rent something zoomier (a 200-500mm)?  — Tracy W.B.

A: Lens choice questions are really hard to answer. So much depends on the shot that you have in mind. We recommend using PhotoPills (see their website or in-app links for tutorials and ideas) to plan your shot if you have a location in mind, and then plan your strategy from there. If you don’t have a specific location in mind, then start by thinking about places you could shoot with a good view of the moonrise, figure out exactly where the moonrise will be using PhotoPills, and do some test shots beforehand to see which focal length will work best.

You shouldn’t need to rent a lens since you don’t have a specific shot in mind. Instead, build a shot around the lens you already have! — Lance

2. Cords vs. L-Brackets

Q: When I shoot in portrait orientation with my L-bracket on, I have the problem of not having access to my USB port to connect a remote release, since it is on the left side of the camera where the mounting bracket also is. Do you know of a way to solve that issue? — Michael M.

Custom-designed L-brackets (such as the Kirk model for the Nikon D750, pictured here) allow the photographer to access all the jacks, ports, controls and so on.

A: I love that you’re using an L-bracket! I could barely survive on a shoot without mine. But yes, I understand your issue, as it’s one I’ve had.

First, if you’re using a generic L-bracket, that could certainly cause this issue. Generic models have the advantage of being less expensive. But the more-expensive custom models (such as those made by Really Right Stuff and Kirk Photo) are designed for specific camera bodies. One of the advantages is that space is left around each jack and port, so you should have ready access to plug in anything you want.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t still run into problems. For instance, on my Nikon D3s with the Kirk L-bracket attached, I can’t connect a proprietary power cable to an external battery because of the way the plug is designed. Another example is exactly what’s happening to you: Plugs that stick straight out from the jack (rather than at a right angle) might not work when the L-bracket is mounted to a tripod head vertically (which kinda defeats the reason for using the bracket).

I suggest contacting the manufacturer of the accessory you’re trying to plug in and asking if they can supply or recommend an alternative cable. Or, if the accessory is the cable, only buy one with that right-angle-type connector.

Ironically enough, this could also be a case where a generic L-bracket could serve you better; one that’s designed a little taller than your camera could allow enough space to mount the vertically oriented body off-center, providing room for your connector underneath, out of the way of the tripod head. — Chris

3. Wildfires and Smoke in the Northwest U.S.

Q: My experience living in the Pacific Northwest is that, over the past four to five summers, forest fires in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and British Columbia have produced serious haze conditions for both day and night photography in July, August and September. You’re doing a workshop in Glacier National Park this summer. How would you adjust shooting for this possibility? — Dave E.

A: Yes, the past couple of years have been kind of smoky up here! I live in Montana, so I know what you mean.

However, I have been visiting Glacier National Park in summer for over 20 years and have been unable to make images only a couple of times. The images below are from last summer during the height of the fire season and during the infamous Sprague Fire in Glacier that burned down the Sperry Chalet. (Which, incidentally, is being rebuilt!)

Night photos in Glacier National Park during the 2017 Sprague Fire. Nikon D4s. © 2017 Tim Cooper.

That’s not to say there is no risk, but wind conditions, locations of fires, etc., play such a big part. It’s really hard to guess when fires will happen and when they will inhibit photography.

That being said, if I did run into an abundance of smoke, I would be looking all over the park and surrounding areas for clearer skies. All of us at National Parks at Night love light painting, full-moon shooting and all types of night photography. Shooting the Milky Way and star trails is just one part of what we focus on, so smoke certainly wouldn’t make us pack up the cameras for the night. I’ve been in many situations where the skies were overcast and the image-making was great due to other aspects of the scene. — Tim

4. Intervalometers for Fuji X-T Bodies

Q: I recently attended one of Matt’s speaking engagements and it definitely sparked an interest to experiment with some night photography in the coming months. I have a Fuji X-T2 kit that includes a 10-24mm lens, along with a nice stable tripod. I’m planning to purchase an intervalometer cable release next week. Have you used a wired or wireless intervalometer shutter release with an X-T2 with success? — Elliot R.

A: Yup. There are two intervalometers that I find work well with the X-T2. For a wired model, I recommend the Vello ShutterBoss II (ignore that it says it’s for Canon—it also works with your Fuji!). For wireless, I recommend (surprise!) the Vello Wireless ShutterBoss II.

I use the wired model all the time with my X-T1 for time-lapses. Gabe uses an X-T2 with the same wired release.

However, before choosing, I do recommend considering the pros and cons of a wired versus wireless intervalometer. See my 2017 blog post “Remote Question: Wireless or Wired Intervalometers for Camera Triggering?” — Matt

5. Noise With Varying-Quality Cameras

A side-by-side comparison of ISO 100 (left) and ISO 51,200 (right) images from a camera noise test.

Q: In the descriptions of your workshops you say to know your DSLR or high-end mirrorless, but I’m not sure what is considered “high-end.” I have a Sony Alpha a6000. I have tried a few times doing night photography using that with a Samyang 12mm f/2. I also see you guys mention full-frame; how important is full-frame versus crop sensor when doing night photography? I have seen amazing night photography pictures using the Sony a6000. — Kylee W.

A: While there are plenty of crop-sensor cameras that do well with night photography, I have found the a6000 and a6300 get rather noisy with long exposures. But everything is definitely subjective, and my tolerance for noise might be less than yours. The best advice I would offer is to test your camera, figure out how noisy it gets and establish your own parameters. You can run this test either in the field or in the comfort of your home.

Take a picture of something that has shadows in it (because noise appears in the shadow areas first). Put your camera on a tripod and take a series of shots at ISOs of 1600, 3200, 6400, etc.

Then (and, for this, you might have to turn your lights low and stop down your ISO and apertures), do a series of images at various shutter speeds: 15 seconds, 30 seconds, 1 minute, 2 minutes. ... Keep doubling your time and adjust your ISO and apertures (or lighting), and end at somewhere around 8 minutes.

Do these tests with your camera’s noise reduction features off, and then again with the noise reduction features on. See if that makes a difference.

Download the images to your computer and inspect them at 100 percent. Look for two things:

  1. When your image gets too grainy for your taste, that is the ISO that you will want to avoid.
  2. In your long-exposure images, look for red, purple and other colored specks. That is color noise from the long exposures. Again, determine the ISO at which that becomes unacceptable to you.

This test will help you establish the parameters in which you can successfully operate your camera (according to your own tastes) with both the high ISOs and the long shutter speeds that are needed for most night photography.

If you’d like to see a more detailed rundown on how to perform a high ISO test, along with sample images, see our 2016 blog post “Keep The Noise Down: How To Take An ISO Test With Your Camera.” — Gabriel

Chris Nicholson is a partner and workshop leader with National Parks at Night, and author of Photographing National Parks (Sidelight Books, 2015). Learn more about national parks as photography destinations, subscribe to Chris' free e-newsletter, and more at www.PhotographingNationalParks.com.

UPCOMING WORKSHOPS FROM NATIONAL PARKS AT NIGHT

'Tis Once Again the Season: Our 2nd Annual Holiday Gift Guide

It’s that time of year again, and the fellas at National Parks at Night are here to help you find the best ideas for that special person in your life. Welcome to National Parks at Night’s second annual Holiday Gift Guide!

We’ve compiled some of our favorite things that help us explore and enjoy our parks more, and that help us capture and create more dynamic images! We kept our eyes open all year, tested the tools, and collated the absolute best and unique gifts that will warm the heart and hearth of any fan of national parks and night skies.

We’re providing all of our findings as a free downloadable PDF ebook, so you can read it and reference it on any device, anytime, anywhere. Inside you’ll find products from major brands such as B&H, Peak Design and Nikon, along with great little finds from smaller companies and startups. You can download it below, or keep on scrolling.

Help us spread the cheer by posting our guide on your favorite social media channels and share it with other like-minded photographers, friends and nature buffs!

If you prefer to read the guide in our blog, that's okay too; we're also publishing it right here, below. (Though, we will say the e-book version looks cooler. It contains a lot more pictures, photo tips from all five National Parks at Night instructors, and a discount code that doesn't appear anywhere else online, including this website.)

We hope that perusing the items in the guide will inspire you to give some great gifts to the night photographers in your life. (And if you’d like to give us one or two of these things, we won't argue!)

Wishing you all the very best, and hoping that you are taking advantage of seizing the longer winter nights!

—Gabe, Lance, Matt, Chris and Tim

Note: If you decide to purchase any of the items in this gift guide, please consider using the links included, as many help earn a small commission that help us improve the National Parks at Night workshop program.


Atlas Obscura

Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders

To wander without being lost, we all need some sort of guide—whether that be spiritual or bound paper. For the latter, wander no further down the book aisle than Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders, a how-to and why-to for finding the world’s best off-the-beaten-path and out-of-the-box travel locations. A regular travel guide would bring you to New Zealand, while Atlas Obscura brings you to the glowworm caves of North Island; a regular guide would show you how to safari in South Africa, while Atlas Obscura tells you about the pub inside a giant baobob tree. Don’t be just a traveler—be a discoverer, with Atlas Obscura.

Atmosphere Aerosol

Atmosphere Aerosol

Sometimes, charisma is not enough. To make the right mood happen, you need a little help. Grab a can of Atmosphere Aerosol to create additional mood, or to reveal the path of your light sources. Truly exceptional results with light painting to add drama to any scene.

B&H Photo Audio Pro Video

Gift Card

Have a photographer friend and don’t know what to get them? Let photographers choose their own gift at the world’s biggest and best resource for all your photo, video and image-making needs! We’ve never met anyone who complained about receiving a B&H Gift Card any time of the year!

National Parks at Night

‘ISO 6400 and Be There’ T-shirt

Photographers who have been around the block a few times will no doubt remember the phrase “f/8 and be there,” the street and event photographer’s motto and standard answer when asked, “How did you get that shot?” We revised the terminology for 21st century night photographers, and it’s become a rallying cry for us at National Parks at Night ever since. Show off your stars and take it as a point of honor to get out from behind your computer and set up your camera under the starry night sky. This super-soft, navy blue, Next Level poly/cotton crew shirt is available in sizes from small to 3XL, and is printed with glow-in-the-dark ink so you can read it when it really counts!

Bay Photo

Metal Print

In this digital age, we often forget to take our amazing images off the computer and make prints that we can share—prints that will last a lifetime. We absolutely love the image quality and longevity of Bay Photo’s metal prints. Sizes range from 2x3.6 inches to 4x8 feet, and five distinctive metal surfaces help you bring out the best of your work. For our night photography we prefer their mid-gloss and satin surfaces. Bay Photo also makes books and calendars, and our favorite standard floating prints are their thin wraps. So give the gift of a print or help a photographer celebrate their work on the wall.

Special offer: New customers to Bay Photo get 25 percent off their first purchase. Exclusive to the National Parks at Night community and If you are already a Bay Photo customer: Use the promo code “NPANM10” for 10 percent off metal prints , excluding Clusters and Splits; good through December 29, 2017.

BenQ

SW2700PT 27" Widescreen LED Backlit QHD Monitor

We spend so much of our time looking at images on small screens––phones, tablets, laptops. While the quality and resolution of these screens has improved dramatically in recent years, they are no substitute for a quality display with accurate color that any serious photographer needs to produce quality work. BenQ makes some of the best there are. The National Parks at Night crew uses the SW2700PT 27" Widescreen LED Backlit QHD Monitor, which features 99 percent coverage of the Adobe RGB color space for more accurate color representation and features 2560x1440 QHD resolution with 109 pixels per inch for increased clarity. In short, display your photos with the best possible light!

Chimani

Chimani Perks

If you want an app to help you navigate the national parks and all they offer, you’ll find no need to look further than Chimani. Not only do their apps give you the what and where of the parks, but they provide the photographer with critical information, including sunrise, sunset, moonrise, moonset, golden hour, blue hour times and more, including photos of popular and out-of-the-way shoot locations. The apps are free (yay!) but the gift idea here is a membership to the Chimani Perks program, which provides discounts and special offers throughout the national parks and the communities that serve them.

Coast Portland

FL75R Headlamp

Along with a good flashlight for light painting, the headlamp is one of the most useful tools in the night photographer’s tool bag. In keeping with their tradition of high-quality, durable flashlights (preferred by National Parks at Night instructors), Coast offers an extensive line of LED headlamps. Our favorite is the FL75R, which features focusable wide-angle beams, low and high output, and dual-color beams with red to preserve your night vision.

Special offer: Use the code “parksatnight” for a 30 percent discount available only through National Parks at Night.

Cooph

Leather Card Holder Wallet

The perfect gift for the shutterbug in your life: a luxurious leather wallet with slots for four SD cards, credit cards, an ID and more. We discovered this at the PhotoPlus Expo in New York City this year and ordered one on the spot. Bye, old wallet! Hello, new friend.

CreativeLive

Night Photography Week Online Course

Can’t make it to a workshop this year? No problem, we’ve got you covered. Our team got together and spent a week recording our favorite night photography topics, with CreativeLive, the best in the business at bringing high-quality instructional videos via livestream and download. Our CreativeLive Night Photography Week videos cover everything from night photography fundamentals to scouting to astro-landscape to light painting to night portraiture. Great for the photographer new to night photography as well the seasoned enthusiast.

Epson

SureColor P400 Inkjet Printer

Quiz: How many dots does 5760x1440 dpi yield in an 8x10-inch print? 663,552,000. That’s what you can expect from this new Epson P400 printer that packs advanced tech with simplified use. Print borderless at 13x19-inches or stunning Milky Way panoramas up to 13x129 inches with roll paper. Prints for the win!

Special offer: $100 rebate until November 20, 2017. See details when clicking the link above.

Grey Learning

Mastering Lightroom Bundle

We understand. Everyone’s Lightroom catalog can get out of control. But don’t worry, our friend Tim Grey can help. Check out Tim’s “Cleaning up Your Mess in Lightroom” video. Tim’s a great instructor and his video will show you how to bring order to chaos in your Lightroom world. Or, even better … this video is part of Tim’s overall-excellent “Mastering Lightroom” bundle of downloadable tutorial videos, which will help you organize and optimize your photos to the level that only Grey learners achieve!

Special offer: Use coupon code “night” during checkout for 20 percent off any course or bundle.

Irix

11mm f/4 Blackstone lens

If you like shooting wide, you’ll love the Irix 11mm lens. A true rectilinear lens, this is no fisheye. Did we mention it’s wide? You’d better stay behind the camera when you use it, otherwise you might just end up in your own shot. Irix lenses are available in two versions: The all-metal Blackstone, and the lighter-weight Firefly. Both versions feature a solid and sure manual focus ring with an infinity detent and a unique focus-locking ring. Once you achieve infinity or hyperfocal focus, lock it down, and don’t worry about focus again.

Light Painting Brushes

9in Black Fiber Optic Brush

Perhaps no other light painting tool comes closer to actually being able to paint with light than these fiber optic brushes. They are especially useful for portrait work and they are most effective when used to actually brush the subject during a long exposure. The black version of brush shows light only at the ends of the fibers, for precise placement of the illumination. The white version creates broader, softer strokes, and lights a larger surface area. Paint the Light Fantastic!

Special offer: Use the code “LKW_20” for a 20 percent discount available only through National Parks at Night.

Luxli

Viola 5" On-Camera RGB LED Light

Night photography’s new darling tool! Ideal for light painting and Low-level Landscape Lighting effects. The Luxli Viola’s native color temperature adjusts from 3000 K to 10,000 K, and you can also dial in all the colors in the world. Bonus: Bluetooth control for remote intensity and color adjustments of up to nine Violas at a time. Wow.

Manfrotto

Befree Advanced Travel Aluminum Tripod with Ball Head

Manfrotto’s new update to the Befree tripod series boasts some cool features: the lightweight yet strong 494 ball head, M-lock mechanisms for fast setup or QPL Travel Levers for those who prefer flip locks, and a newly redesigned body that’s stronger and smaller.

National Parks at Night

2018 Calendar

Here’s a great gift for yourself or that night photography friend of yours. Our National Parks at Night 2018 Calendar, featuring photos from parks around the United States—plus Iceland and Scotland—is an inspiring way to stay up to date. Useful information such as important astronomical events, lunar dates and national park birthdays are included to help you plan your shoots.

Memento

35" Smart Frame

You haven’t seen a digital frame until you’ve had the pleasure of seeing a Memento. Situated in a wood composite frame and a beveled mat, the ultra-HD 4K display contains 7 million pixels that will make your photographs look even better than you can imagine. Controlled completely by Wi-Fi via a free app on your computer, tablet or phone (even remotely!), the frame can store up to 3,000 images. Group your photos in playlists to display at different times of day, and custom-set the interval from 5 seconds to one week to never. Moreover, the frame’s smart technology will dim the display in low light, and turn off when the room lights turn out. Offered in 25- and 35-inch models in five stain colors.

National Geographic

‘Night Vision’ book

A brilliant coffee table book released this fall, National Geographic Night Vision: Magical Photographs of Life After Dark After Dark offers a collection of 230 photographs from some of the best image-makers in the business. 400 pages of night photography from both natural and urban spaces all over the world, including national parks.

National Park Service

Annual Pass

We can only assume that you must be a fan of our primary source of inspiration, the United States’ 59 amazing national parks! You probably know that the America the Beautiful pass gains access to all of those parks for a full year, but did you know that the annual or lifetime senior pass also gets you access to over 2,000 federal recreation sites including national monuments, wildlife refuges, national forests and grasslands, and to sites managed by the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers? The passes cover entrance, fees for a driver and all passengers in a personal vehicle. The cost of the annual pass is $80, or $20 for seniors over the age of 62. Seniors can also buy a lifetime pass for $80. Passes are free for American veterans, Americans with permanent disabilities, and fourth-graders!

Nikon

D850

2017 is the centennial of the Nikon Corporation, and the D850 is a truly worthy camera to be released on such a momentous occasion. If you haven’t heard about the D850 by now, you must still be shooting film. Designed as a replacement for the venerable D810, this camera is a night photographer’s dream. Super high resolution, extremely wide dynamic range and outstanding high ISO performance, all in a weatherized housing that is only slightly heavier than a D750. National Parks at Night just had our first experiences with this great new camera at our last workshop of 2017. Now it’s on all of our holiday wish lists!

NiSi

Natural-Night Filter

Even in some of the darkest locations in the world, the night sky is still tainted by light pollution, much of which is due to ubiquitous high pressure sodium vapor lights. The NiSi Natural Night Filter minimizes scattered light from sodium vapor and mercury vapor street lights. Natural-Night is available in 100x100mm and 150x150mm square filters, and 77mm and 82mm threaded filters. The result is more pleasing, natural-looking skies in your astro and astro-landscape photos.

Outdoor Photographer

Magazine subscription

The photography world is full of fine publications, and one that speaks directly to us and our like is Outdoor Photographer—dedicated to helping photographers capture their very best images of the natural world. From how-to articles to location advice to travel stories to gear reviews and more, Outdoor Photographer will keep readers focused on the latest and greatest news in our niche. Available in print and digital subscriptions.

National Parks at Night

Night Photography Adventure Workshops

We simply love being outdoors, teaching and helping people get great pictures. Many of our 2018 Passport Series workshops are full, but we do have a few slots open on our Biscayne, Redwood and Rocky Mountain national park events. Last year we added the Adventure Series workshops to our lineup too, so that we could visit the varied and limitless beauty that lies outside of our national parks and teach special topics or advanced techniques. Experience the unfettered creativity of night portraiture, explore the depths of a metal machinery in Sloss Furnaces, or light paint the ancient Pueblo ruins of Chaco Canyon. Our road trips include the Blue Ridge Parkway and the south coast of Iceland. Come seize the night with us in 2018!

Palette

Aluminum Expert Control Surface Kit

There’s a communication barrier between photographers and their computer. We need to tell them what to do, but we’re limited by the languages of key presses, mouse movements, trackpad gestures, tablet scribblings, et al. Palette eases that communication by providing a suite of custom-configurable modules that you can use to tell Lightroom and Photoshop (and more!) exactly what to do with intuitive motions and tools. Slide a slider for exposure, turn a dial for color temperature, push a button for picks or rejects, and so on. Choose your options to fit your workflow, and finally you and your computer will be speaking the same language. Multiple kits available—the Expert Kit is a great place to start.

Peak Design

Everyday Sling 10L

Big bags are great for transporting your gear from point A to B, C and beyond. But we always bring a smaller bag with us that is better for a smaller, simpler, scouting kit. The Peak Design Everyday Sling 10L has been a favorite of ours this last year. We can fit a DSLR or mirrorless camera plus two to three lenses and a flash. There’s lots of room for extra batteries and cards, and you can even strap a travel tripod to the bottom. We were so impressed with the Everyday Sling 10L that we made a video in the Galapagos showcasing how much you could pack in it! Looking for something even smaller? Peak Design just announced the even more compact Everyday Sling 5L. It’s perfect for a DSLR and up to a 24-70mm/24-105mm lens or a mirrorless camera plus two lenses, and also works excellently for transporting the DJI Mavic Pro and Spark Drones.

Special offer: Receive a free gift with a purchase over $65 by using the link above.

PhotoPills

Photo-Scouting App

For the shooter who wants to get the most out of their night photography, there isn’t a more full-featured tool than the app PhotoPills. Our favorite feature is Night AR (Augmented Reality), where you can observe the location of the Milky Way, moon and more—all overlaid on the scene in front of you, with sky positions now and in the future. That makes being in the right place at the right time easy! Available for iOS and Android.

Ranger Doug’s Enterprises

WPA Posters

The original national park poster program was launched in 1938 and lasted until 1941. They used WPA artists to give their now nostalgic interpretation of our national parks. Due to the posters’ fragile nature, only 2,000 original copies have survived. However, Ranger Doug Enterprises (founded by an actual former national park ranger) has faithfully reproduced these serigraph images as posters and cards. They make the perfect memorabilia to hang on your wall. Or, send a postcard to a friend with detailed plans on your next national park adventure!

Room Essentials

LED Tea Lights

Tea lights, really? Yes! A super inexpensive and lightweight addition to the light painter’s tool kit. They are easy to place in hard-to-paint areas and are great for long exposure night photography. These low-output LED light sources mimic the natural light of a candle, and last for over 100 hours.

National Parks at Night Instructors

Photography Books

NPAN books strip.jpg

The National Parks at Night instructors have written five books that are definitive guides to popular photography subjects, all of which make excellent gifts. Moreover, the complete set can keep the photographer in your life well informed and educated about topics ranging from national park locations to how to shoot in the dark.

Ruggard

RTC-10 Timer-Remote Case for Tripods

Like a Snuggie for your intervalometer. Avoid stressing the jack on the side of your camera by storing your intervalometer or remote shutter release on your tripod leg in this handy case by Ruggard. Simple to attach with hook and loop fastener, and always there when you need it.

Salomon

XA Pro 3D and XA Pro 3D GTX

We’ll never stop saying it: The first priority when working in the dark is safety. And one of the starting points of safety is where your feet meet the earth. Walking around in the dark in the wilderness requires footing you can rely on, and Salomon is one of our favorite solutions. Their XA Pro 3D trail-runners have a wide heel base that helps prevent rolling an ankle, an aggressive tread that keeps you from slipping while toeing from spot to spot, and light weight that makes moving around a breeze—particularly with expensive camera gear on your back or your shoulder. Available in breathable mesh and Gore Tex waterproof models (we own and use both!).

SkyGlow

Book & Time-Lapse Video

Harun Mehmedinovic and Gavin Heffernan have been making incredible time-lapse movies promoting dark sky awareness for several years.  A year ago they Kickstarted the SkyGlow astrophotography book and time-lapse video series. Educate yourself on dark sky locations and light-polluted cities in North America in their beautiful coffee table book.

Special offer: Use the code “SKYGLOW15” for 15 percent off everything in their store until December 26th. In addition, the first 500 orders priced $25 and above will also receive a signed 10x7-inch archival quality print!

 

Tether Tools

Jerkstopper ProTab Cable Ties

Keep your cables and cords nice and tidy with Tether Tools ProTab Cable Ties. Great for keeping all those wires that we have in our life organized, and for keeping them from being tangled together when packing and transporting. We find the medium size works best for our computer, charging, headphone and intervalometer cables. But they have larger sizes perfect for extension cords, surge protectors and the like.

USAopoly

Trivial Pursuit National Parks Travel Edition

Which national park is home to Exit Glacier? In which state are 17 of the 20 highest peaks in the U.S. found? Which chatty, problem-solving avian found in Arches National Park is a prominent figure in both European and Native American folklore? Do you know those answers? Then you win! With Trivial Pursuit National Parks edition, one up on the essential and obscure facts about America’s beloved National Parks anywhere. Heck, you can even play the game with other people! We discovered this in the gift shop at Olympic National Park and bought it on the spot. Included is a plastic hard case that feels like a weather-beaten sign, carabiner and die for play. Fits neatly in a camera bag!

Vallerret

Ipsoot Photography Glove

Finding the right glove for night photography has been an ongoing project for us at National Parks at Night. There are lots of options to choose from, but until now the right glove for truly cold weather proved elusive. The challenge was to design a glove that offers both protection from extreme cold and the dexterity to operate a camera in those same conditions. The Ipsoot photography glove from Vallerret is a heavier duty glove that provides extra protection against the elements for when it really gets cold. If a little cold won’t slow you down, and you still want to get out there and shoot in the dead of winter, the new Ipsoot Glove is the answer.

Special offer: Use code “NPANworkshop” for a free pair of merino wool liners with the purchase of gloves at the link above. (Add the liners to the shopping cart for the code to work.)

Vello

Three-Axis Hot-Shoe Bubble Level

It’s hard to see in the dark, and even though lots of cameras have a built-in level to help us keep our horizon line straight, we find that the external Vello Three-Axis Hot-Shoe Bubble Level does a far superior job. This bubble level really shines when we shoot off axis—such as when we shoot upward to include more sky. The level is simple, small and slides right into your hot shoe to keep you on the level!

X-Rite

i1Studio Spectrophotometer

Don’t assume you’re seeing the right colors or brightness. Know it. Calibrate your monitors, mobile devices, projectors and printers with the all-encompassing solution: X-Rite’s i1Studio. Included is a mini ColorChecker for making camera profiles and color-balancing your RAW files. If you don’t use color management, then when you post or print, your final product might not match the way you want it to! Be calibrated; be sure.


Happy Holidays!

Remember, just like holidays, and just like gifts, gift guides are meant to be shared! Please feel free to forward this to anyone and everyone you think might be interested. Particularly if it’s someone who buys a gift for you!

And remember, this gift guide is also available as a PDF e-book that includes lots more photos, an exclusive discount code on one of the products mentioned above, and photo tips from Chris, Matt, Tim, Lance and myself. You can download the PDF by clicking right here.

From all of us at National Parks at Night, we wish you and your loved ones a wonderful holiday season.

Gabriel Biderman is a partner and workshop leader with National Parks at Night. He is a Brooklyn-based fine art and travel photographer, and author of Night Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots (Peachpit, 2014). During the daytime hours you'll often find Gabe at one of many photo events around the world working for B&H Photo’s road marketing team. See his portfolio and workshop lineup at www.ruinism.com.

UPCOMING WORKSHOPS FROM NATIONAL PARKS AT NIGHT

A Look Through the Years—How Night Photography has Changed, and How it Hasn't

Lance Keimig, "Sand Pit," 2016. This image could have been made 30 years ago when I started photographing at night, but it was shot a year ago, in October of 2016.

Recently Chris and I were chatting about how various aspects of night photography have changed with the advances in technology, and how others haven’t. It was a lively conversation, and he suggested that I write a blog post on the subject. I thought it was a great idea, especially as it would allow me to talk about my favorite subject: historic night photographers!

Delay Tactics

One of my favorite early night photography stories is about the English photographer Paul Martin, who began photographing at night in earnest in 1895. Others had made the occasional foray into night photography before him, but it was Martin who really set the wheels in motion, and whose work caught the attention of Alfred Stieglitz and his colleagues at the Camera Club of New York.

Martin wrote in his 1939 autobiography, Victorian Snapshots, that at one point he had decided to continue to photograph in darkening conditions after the sun went down, making longer and longer exposures and altering his development to get the best results. Eventually these early night images were published as the book London by Gaslight.

Like with most pioneers or innovators, the general public seemed to think Martin was crazy. People approached to tell him that it wasn’t possible to take pictures in the dark, and that he should go home to his wife, or maybe back to the asylum! On more than one occasion he was accosted by the “bobbies,” who questioned his motives.

These are experiences shared by almost anyone who has been photographing at night for more than a few years. Though, for better or worse, night photography has become so commonplace today that unless you find yourself on the wrong side of a fence, you rarely have to explain your motives to the police or anyone else.

Paul Martin, "A wet night on the embankment," 1895. Martin covered his camera lens during the exposure to shield it from a curious policeman’s lantern.

Back in the 1890s, police carried kerosene lanterns with them on their beats, because flashlights (or what the British call “torches”) hadn’t been invented yet. On more than one occasion, Martin had a long exposure ruined when a policeman walked in front of his camera and raised a lantern to get a better look at the photographer and his gear. (Remember that in those days, street lights were dimmer, and far fewer in number, so the nighttime environment was considerably darker in London than it is today.) Eventually Martin was able to anticipate and react to impending disaster by removing his hat and placing it over the lens until the policeman’s curiosity was satisfied!

New Jersey Photographer Laureate George Tice’s best-known image is the remarkable “Petit’s Mobile Station, Cherry Hill, NJ, 1974.” Tice told me some years ago that the 2-minute exposure on 8x10-inch film actually required about 10 minutes to make because he had to cover the lens whenever cars passed in front of the camera. He would get only 10 or 15 seconds of exposure on the film before a car pulled into the station or passed on the road on the left side of the image. Each and every time, he covered the lens.

George Tice, "Petit’s Mobil Station, Cherry Hill, NJ, 1974." Tice’s best-known image was a 2-minute exposure on 8x10 film that took 10 minutes to expose because the photographer had to repeatedly cover his lens due to cars passing through the scene.

No doubt many of us have employed this same device used by Martin and Tice to prevent an unwanted car or plane trail in our compositions; it’s something I’ve done for decades in my own images. Some things never change.

But most do.

Deliberation

Many of the changes in night photography since digital replaced film are obvious. The ability to “chimp” is a good example. Night photography has become far more accessible because of the instant feedback we get from the image preview, the blinking highlights and the histogram.

Other related changes are less obvious unless you have had the experience of shooting at night with film. There is certainly a great satisfaction in knowing that you’ve “got the shot,” but what is lost is the sense of anticipation that comes from not knowing until you unwind the wet film from the reel in the darkroom.

Working so deliberately usually leads to a higher success rate, and that’s one aspect of my field workflow that I have maintained as much as possible.

The combination of low sensitivity and reciprocity failure meant that night photographers shooting film were lucky to make 10 or 15 exposures per night, and without the ability to review images in the field, we generally took a slow and methodical approach to our work. When considering variations for exposure uncertainty and complex light painting, a good night meant one or two “keepers.” Working so deliberately usually leads to a higher success rate, and that’s one aspect of my field workflow that I have maintained as much as possible over the years. Still, there have been nights in the digital age when I’ve made over 100 exposures––quite a lot for a night photographer.

Justification

I have already alluded to one of the other changes I’ve noticed over the course of my career. Back in the 1990s, I would be questioned all of the time by passers-by wondering what I could be photographing in the dark. Non-photographers would say things like, “There isn’t any light, how can you take a picture?” or “Are you a ghost hunter?” or “There’s nothing there, why are you photographing that old building?” Sometimes I still get those questions, and if the person seems genuinely interested, at least now I can show them the back of the camera.

That leads to another change worth noting. I used to carry a small selection of prints in my camera bag to show to the police or security guards who invariably caught me on the wrong side of the fence. More than once, being able to show a print or two along with a business card eased the concern of the authorities and kept me from being arrested, or at least from being detained. They could somehow understand that an “artist” with a camera was not a threat. In the jittery years following 9/11, that was a real concern. Although to my knowledge there has never been a terrorism event that involved photography, somehow night photographers have often been suspected of bad intent.

Balboa Park. It looks like they mean it.

Gear

We all know how much technology has changed the way we work. Our cameras have improved to the point where almost any can record sharp images of the Milky Way, whereas cameras used to be limited to long exposures and star trails. Moreover, lenses are sharper, batteries last longer, tripods are lighter and flashlights are brighter.

Until very recently, one incredibly frustrating camera feature remained stubbornly stuck at 30 seconds: the shutter speed dial! Over the years, I’ve spoken with numerous camera company reps about why their camera’s shutter speeds don’t go any longer than 30 seconds, and unfailingly I’d get the same answer: “Why would you need to expose for longer than 30 seconds? You could just raise the ISO.” Despite the relative ease and lack of engineering required to enable longer shutter speeds, it wasn’t until the Nikon D750 that we even had a Time setting at our disposal.

Many recent cameras have built-in intervalometers, but again with exposures limited to 30 seconds. Finally, with the release of the Canon 5D Mark IV and 6D Mark II, we have DSLRs with programmable shutter speeds that extend exposures not just to minutes, but as long as 99 hours! Hopefully other manufacturers will follow suit with their future models.

Color

Mixed lighting was always the bane of architectural photographers, especially when natural color rendering was important. For night photographers, it’s often that same mixed lighting that attracts us to a scene in the first place. The early work of photographer Jan Staller was a major influence on me, and his technique of printing to correct for one light source while allowing the others to do what they would created some of the most surreal images I had ever seen.

Lance Keimig, "Mixed Lighting Examples," 1995. These two images were shot on Fuji color negative film in 1995 under a combination of sodium and mercury vapor lights. There is no right or wrong white balance here–– whatever looks right to the photographer, is right.

The incredible control we have over color in our pictures, and the flexibility to set white balance after the image has been captured, both give today’s photographer a flexibility that was inconceivable only 20 years ago. Back then, if you couldn’t control the light sources, you either shot black and white or accepted the crazy colors as they were recorded.

Composition

One thing that hasn’t changed—and will never change—are the principles of composition and design. A good photograph will always be a good photograph, and a crummy one will always be a crummy one regardless of the technology that was used to create it. For that, we can sleep well in the morning.

Lance Keimig, Stromness, 2008. Shot on Fuji Neon Across 120 film with an Ebony 23SW view camera and Nikkor 65mm f/4 lens. 10 minutes, f11. This image was made in the tiny fishing village of Stromness on Orkney in northern Scotland. It was the house of the poet George Mackay Brown. The technology doesn’t matter, the image works because of the combination of vision and craft.

Lance Keimig is a partner and workshop leader with National Parks at Night. He has been photographing at night for 30 years, and is the author of Night Photography and Light Painting: Finding Your Way in the Dark (Focal Press, 2015). Learn more about his images and workshops at www.thenightskye.com.

UPCOMING WORKSHOPS FROM NATIONAL PARKS AT NIGHT