Seizing a World of Nights: Announcing Our 2020 Workshops and Tours

As we enter our fifth year of workshops, I must simply say, we are so very humbled and grateful for all of you–readers, attendees, friends and all.

Now … it’s time to announce our 2020 itinerary! Our dream locations span the world. From coastlines to mountain peaks, boats to four-wheel-drives, we will explore this amazing planet and work together on capturing photos of the darker side of its beauty.

Let’s go find those amazing places, improve our skills and become the best night photographers we can be.

Note: Several workshops have already sold out. As always, we announced them to our alumni and our email list first. However, if that workshop truly speaks to you, be sure to sign up for the waitlist! There is no fee to do that, and we’ve had many waitlisters become happy alumni! See our 2020 Workshops page for updates on what is sold out and what is still open.

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park

A Slight Change in Direction

You may notice above that we're going to Joshua Tree this year. Didn't we do that in 2017? Yes, we did.

From our beginning, we have been committed to offering a workshop at every U.S. national park, one at a time, without repeating. However, for four years we’ve heard the refrain from our most loyal attendees: “Please go back; we want a chance to go with you.” So we’ve listened, and we’re adjusting our mission. We are still committed to running a night photography workshop at every national park possible, creating new experiences, exploring new places, seizing new nights. But we will also do this: Once per year, we will host a workshop in one of the parks we’ve visited before. For you. Because you’re right. These places are too amazing not to revisit.

And this year we start with Joshua Tree, a gem of the desert in southern California.

Our 2020 Night Photography Workshops & Tours

Without further adoing, below is what we’re up to in 2020. This includes all our workshops and tours. A simple rundown, with links, dates, photos and brief descriptions. A ton more info is available about each event by simply clicking on the links provided.

Passport Series Workshops

Our signature event workshops. We take a deep dive into a national park, and a deep dive into the fundamentals and intricacies of night photography, exploring and photographing some of the most beautiful places that have been set aside for the preservation and enjoyment of all. Involves shooting every night, and at least a partial daytime curriculum of lessons and/or image reviews.

  • Joshua Tree, April 25-30

  • Shenandoah, June 6-12

  • North Cascades, August 2-7

  • Badlands, August 9-14

  • Yellowstone, September 20-25

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park encompasses sections of two different deserts—the Mojave and the Colorado—both full of opportunities for remarkable images. We will extensively explore this IDA Dark Sky Park. People come for the trees and bouldering on the rock during the day, but at night these features take on a heightened surreality and make for great foreground subjects while the Milky Way stretches across the sky. We will also have special access to Keys Ranch, a photogenic “ghost ranch” that has several buildings, old cars and lots of machinery to light paint. The workshop will feature dark starry skies, Milky Way explorations, as well as a gentle waxing moon that we can mix with our light painting to create wonderful night images.

Dates: April 25-30, 2020
More Information: Joshua Tree National Park

Shenandoah National Park

Road-trip through time as we fully immerse ourselves in the scenic Shenandoah area. We’ll visit historic towns like Harpers Ferry and venture deep into the surreal underworld of the Luray Caverns. Then of course there is the 105-mile Skyline Drive, which features 75 beautiful overlooks of the rolling Blue Ridge Mountains. We’ll do some daytime hikes to photograph waterfalls, and nighttime shoots to capture the Milky Way rising above the Appalachians. You are sure to enjoy an incredibly immersive experience in our nation’s 20th national park.

Dates: June 6-12, 2020
More Information: Shenandoah National Park

North Cascades National Park

In the northern regions of Washington state, some of the least-visited and most beautiful mountains in the U.S. rise dramatically from the landscape under untainted dark skies. An alpine wilderness rife with dramatic peaks, lush forests, placid lakes, gushing waterfalls, curious wildlife and more. We will explore by day and night, visiting and photographing different regions of this peaceful, special place.

Dates: August 2-7, 2020
More Information: North Cascades National Park

Badlands National Park

Nestled in the Northern Great Plains, Badlands National Park comprises 244,000 acres of otherworldly landscapes, grassy prairie and wildlife such as bison, black-footed ferrets, mountain goats and bighorn sheep. We’ll be visiting during the 2020 Perseid meteor shower, and will be focusing on capturing the incredible eroded landscapes with Milky Way, meteors and some moonlight.

Dates: August 9-14, 2020
More Information: Badlands National Park

Yellowstone National Park South

At well over 2 million acres, Yellowstone is the second largest park in the lower 48. Covering three different states, this park has such a diversity of scenery and biospheres that we decided it was just too much to cover in one workshop! This, the first of our Yellowstone workshops, will cover the southern end of the park. From the Upper Geyser Basins and Old Faithful to the awe-inspiring yellow stone walls of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, we’ll explore and photograph some of the more iconic features in the southern half of our first national park.

Dates: September 20-25, 2020
More Information: Yellowstone National Park South

Adventure Series Workshops

A workshop or tour that explores one or more of the many inspiring night photography locations in North America. Examples include national monuments, national forests, scenic byways, urban ruins and more. May also include specialty experiences in narrowly defined regions of national parks, or even narrowly defined themes in broader spaces. May or may not involve a formal daytime education component.

  • Charleston March 29-April 3

  • Trona Pinnacles & Alabama Hills, May 4-9

  • Maine–Mid-Coast, July 12-17

  • Maine–Monhegan Island and Acadia, July 19-24

  • Colorado High Country, October 4-9


This gem of the south is a night photographer's dream. We'll explore the natural—the boneyard beaches, the sandy shores, the dark skies over the Atlantic. And we'll explore the man-made—the cobblestone streets, the Civil War forts, the historic cemeteries. And so much more. Welcome to the ghosts and charm of one of America's prettiest cities.

Dates: March 29-April 3, 2020
More Information: Charleston

Trona Pinnacles & Alabama Hills

Two fantastical places in the southern California desert, both known for rock formations that photographers love to make art with. Trona Pinnacles, a collection of 500 spires of rock rising from a dry ancient lake bed. And the Alabama Hills, a set of arches and other formations in the stark and mesmerizing Owens Valley. We'll be there in full moonlight for a light painting-intensive workshop, capturing the nighttime beauty of these surreal and wild places.

Dates: May 4-9, 2020
More Information: Trona Pinnacles & Alabama Hills


The Maine coast epitomizes coastal New England. Rocky points extending out into the sea, spruce forests and sandy beaches, small harbors full of fishing boats and lobster traps, villages with country stores, churches and lighthouses. We’re used to seeing iconic—or some would say cliché—images of this scenery. We’ll take those photos, and you, a couple of steps further by photographing this quintessential scenery at night, with a special emphasis on techniques for photographing different types of lighthouses.

Dates: July 12-17, 2020
More Information: Maine—Mid-Coast

Maine–Monhegan Island and Acadia

Our night photography expedition of the Maine coast continues for a second week. A small island community, a village surrounded by the Atlantic, a lighthouse standing tall upon a hill, an 80-year-old shipwreck. Then we drive up the coast to an amazing national park, small but diverse, with rocky coastline, crushed-stone carriage roads, the Milky Way hovering above. Monhegan Island and Acadia National Park await, in the dark, ready to be photographed.

Dates: July 19-24, 2020
More Information: Maine—Monhegan Island and Acadia

Colorado High Country

Skies seem clearer at higher elevations and Colorado has plenty of those. We’ll be exploring the state’s San Juan Mountain range, which is the largest within the Centennial State and contains some of the highest and most jagged peaks in the lower 48. It also has a ton of jeep roads which allow fun access into these alpine landscapes.

Dates: October 4-9, 2020
More Information: Colorado High Country

Voyager Series Workshops

Photography tours outside the United States, often overseas, sometimes far overseas. We endeavor to trek the globe finding beautiful landscapes and fascinating cultures to immerse ourselves in, especially in the dark. International tours usually forgo classroom or formal meeting time in favor of exploration.

  • Lofoten Islands, March 8-16

  • Orkney Islands, May 16-23

  • East Greenland Schooner, September 4-13

  • Barcelona, November 15-20

  • Easter Island, January 25-February 1, 2021

Lofoten Islands

This will be a winter workshop focused on photographing the rugged snow-covered mountain islands, northern lights, pristine fisherman huts, and the untouched beauty of this remote and breathtaking region of the world. March is a perfect time to visit Lofoten—the milder winter temperatures make the overall experience ideal for catching the auroras over a snow-globe winterscape.

Dates: March 8-16, 2020
More Information: Lofoten Islands

Orkney Islands

During our tour we’ll explore the remarkable ways that past and present collide at the crossroads of the Celtic and Viking worlds. A cluster of 5,000-year-old archeological sites on the archipelago are collectively designated as a World Heritage Site called The Heart of Neolithic Orkney. The main sites consist of two major circles of standing stones, a massive chambered cairn, and the remains of an ancient village that was exposed on a clifftop during a storm in the 19th century. Orcadians live with these monuments in their backyards—these relics are part of the cultural, as well as physical, landscape that influences the way the locals interact with the world.

Dates: May 16-23, 2020
More Information: Orkney Islands

East Greenland Schooner

Experience the extraordinary scenery and Inuit culture of Greenland’s captivating coastline. This trip along the striking and sparsely populated east coast of Greenland will begin and end in the village of Kulusuk, but everything in between is truly an exploration. Glacier hikes, stand-up paddleboarding, sea kayaking, and of course photography––you’ll have the opportunity to do all of these and more on one of our grandest adventures yet.

Dates: September 4-13, 2020
More Information: East Greenland Schooner


Barcelona, Spain’s premier city of culture and art, is rich in delicious dichotomies. From the 13th century gothic Barcelona Cathedral to the 19th century Art Nouveau masterpiece of the La Sagrada Familia. From the respectful and beautiful graffiti to the citywide art installations. Here world class food, art and architecture are woven together to create one of the most beautiful and photogenic cities in Europe.

Dates: November 15-20, 2020
More Information: Barcelona

Easter Island

Few places on Earth are as mysterious or compelling as Easter Island. The giant stone figures known as Moai oversee this remote island 2,200 miles off of the coast of Chile. Most of Rapa Nui, as it’s known to the locals, is a national park. Not only is it hard to get to Easter Island, it is notoriously difficult to access the park at night. In Late January of 2021, National Parks at Night will be taking a maximum of 12 people for an unforgettable week with the Moai.

Dates: January 25-February 1, 2021
More Information: Easter Island

Skills Development Series Workshops

Classroom- and education-intensive workshop experiences designed to teach specific skills and goals, such as post-processing, night portraiture and the like. Usually comprises more classroom or studio time, but will always include some amount of shooting.

  • Post-Processing Intensive–Catskill, January 12-17

  • Post-Processing Intensive–San Francisco, April 18-23

  • Catskill Night Portraiture, October 29-November 3

Post-Processing Intensive–Catskill

You’ve spent a lot of time building your camera skills and honing your photographic vision. Now it’s time to take it to the next level. Post-processing has become an integral part of nearly every discipline of photography. Just as the black and white photographers of the 20th century were able to creatively interpret their work in the darkroom, we can now use modern technology to enhance our photos, and even to create images that were impossible only a few short years ago.

Dates: January 12-17, 2020
More Information: Post-Processing Intensive–Catskill

Post-Processing Intensive–San Francisco

Same as our post-processing class in Catskill (above), but in the beautiful Bay Area.

Dates: April 18-23, 2020
More Information: Post-Processing Intensive–San Francisco

Catskill Night Portraiture

Master the fundamentals of night portraiture with our expanded five-night workshop. Mash up night photography with classical portrait lighting to create dramatic long-exposure portraits. Level up your creativity and craft.

Dates: October 29-November 3, 2020
More Information: Catskill Night Portraiture

But Wait, There’s More!

Don’t see the perfect fit for your schedule or location? Throughout the year we continually announce our Ambassador Series destinations with our partners at Atlas Obscura, Rocky Mountain School of Photography and more.

Also, remember to always monitor our Speaking Engagements page. We give lectures and photo walks in the New York City area and all over the country. And if you want us to come directly to your camera club or meet-up group, feel free to contact us. (Click here to see what we can offer.)

We also offer one-on-one tutoring in-person or via videoconference that can help you build your portfolio, organize your images or give you targeted, individualized education to elevate your photography skills.

Finally, we’d like to express a deep thanks to all our alumni—the 300-plus fine photographers who have accompanied us over the past 3.5 years to wonderful night photography locations such as Acadia, Big Bend, Biscayne, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Dry Tortugas, Death Valley, Great Sand Dunes, Great Smoky Mountains, Olympic, Redwood, Zion and more. We appreciate you so very much.

Do you want to see their work? Check out this playlist of all the workshop slideshows.

Seize the Night

Are you ready to leap with us into 2020 and beyond? Sign up today to #seizethenight!

Matt Hill is a partner and workshop leader with National Parks at Night. See more about his photography, art, workshops and writing at Follow Matt on Twitter Instagram Facebook.


Finishing What We All Started: Wrapping Our 2018 Workshops

About two weeks ago I bid farewell to eight workshop attendees in Death Valley, who were all part of National Parks at Night’s second Ambassador Series adventure with Atlas Obscura. Why do I mention this? What’s the significance? Because those farewells marked the end of our 2018 campaign of leading eager night photographers into some of the most fantastic and fascinating destinations in the U.S. and abroad.

Over the past 12 months we’ve led workshops in six national parks, two national historical parks, a national scenic byway, a western outdoor art garden, and three countries. Back in June we recapped the adventures from the first half of our year in the blog post “So Far, So Good.” Now, to round out our coverage, we recap our second half. Below you’ll find words, images and videos that reveal the journey we enjoyed with our attendees in 2018.

Capitol Reef National Park

June 17-22
by Matt Hill

Deep in southern Utah is one of the lesser-known jewels in a majestic crown of the state’s beautiful parks: Capitol Reef. Featuring gold-tier dark skies and an impressive geologic scale, it was an ideal place to host a June workshop.

Gabe and I began with our first-ever backcountry experience. A smaller group traveled out to the Temples of the Sun and Moon to camp overnight. With 4x4 high-clearance vehicles and a sense of adventure, we conquered the remote northern tip of Capitol Reef’s Cathedral Valley.

The main workshop began a day later, with a full complement of eager night photographers. It’s hard to say which location was my favorite, so check out the above slideshow with images from Sunset Point, Fruita Orchard, Chimney Rock, Capitol Gorge and more.

We covered a lot of ground, including star points, star trails, light painting, light writing and night portraiture. All in all, we had an amazing, tight group of people who came together in the desert to make beautiful images and to enjoy the natural and gargantuan scale of Capitol Reef’s features.

Redwood National and State Parks

June 25-30
by Lance Keimig

In June, we held a very special workshop at Redwood National and State Parks, which coincided with the national park’s 50th anniversary.

In 1968, Congress protected lands adjacent to three California state parks with the creation of Redwood National Park. In 1994, the California Department of Parks and Recreation and the National Park Service concluded that joint management of the four-park area would be the best way to protect the fragile resources of the Redwood Coast.

There are not many experiences that can compare to the awesomeness of walking in a redwood forest. Trees as tall as football fields are long, and sometimes 15 feet or more in diameter, have a way of clearing one’s mind and soothing one’s soul. They also tend to be rather difficult to photograph, in part due to their sheer enormity and in part because it can be difficult to work with your jaw dragging on the ground. It’s truly a breathtaking experience, similar to standing above the chasm of the Grand Canyon.

Our workshop was based at the historic Requa Inn in Klamath, California, which we had reserved in its entirety for our group. The small boutique hotel and restaurant proved to be the perfect base to explore the park––it was welcoming, comfortable and convenient, being situated more or less in the middle of the long stretch of shore that encompasses the redwoods and coastline that we were there to admire and photograph.

Because we had the run of the entire hotel, we were able to set the cooking schedule to our needs, with a late breakfast and early supper, enabling us to both sleep in and to get out into the forest to photograph while there was still some available light to work with. Did I mention it was dark in the forest? Only 3 percent of sunlight penetrates the canopy and filters down to the forest floor, so theoretically, the same goes for moonlight and starlight—so yeah, it was dark in there.

Chris and I arrived a couple of days early and determined that the best strategy for the group would be to arrive in the forest before sunset and figure out a composition or two while we could still see our cameras on the tripod in front of us. Light painting was a critical component of every shot, and workshop veterans and newbies alike were both challenged and inspired.

While the true stars of the park are the trees, the coastline of far-northern California is spectacular in itself, and we divided our time between the two. We spent a night outside of the park at the outstanding beach in the small town of Trinidad. And one of the highlights of the workshop occurred on the last night when two of our veteran participants led an impromptu light writing extravaganza for everyone at the aptly named Big Tree. It was a great way to end a spectacular week.

Blue Ridge Parkway

July 29-August 4
by Chris Nicholson

This summer we embarked on our first road trip, cruising along about two-thirds of the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway, stopping both day and night to photograph the rolling hills, the winding road, the tunnels, the bridges, the farmland, the landscape and more.

We also photographed rain. Quite a bit, in fact. Precipitation fell almost every day of the trip, at some hour. It started on the second night, as we were planning to shoot Mabry Mill; not much was lost, as we returned the next day and shot it under perfect overcast conditions. The third night rain washed us out once more, but again not much was lost, as we retreated to the hotel meeting room for a two-hour tethered demo on light painting.

The fourth night, the rain retreated long enough for a great shoot at the Moses H. Cone mansion. Large holes opened in the clouds, revealing beautiful starry skies, and we light-painted the whole mansion with Luxli Viola LED panel lights. Alas, on the fifth night rain came again, but the group was not to be denied—we all donned rain gear, and one participant bought a portable picnic tent from a nearby Walmart that protected about half a dozen camera setups, and for about three hours we photographed car trails through one of the parkway’s iconic tunnels.

On the last night, the group ventured dry and high—all the way to the Richland Balsam Overlook, at 6,053 feet, the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway. We finally had a wonderfully clear night, and were able to photograph the Milky Way spanning over the landscape.

Our road trip was not all about photography, though. We shared a great many experiences, including dinner at the Peaks of Otter Lodge, brunch at the Mabry Mill Restaurant, bluegrass music in the breezeway at the Blue Ridge Music Center, BBQ in Asheville, and more. See ya on the road!

Rocky Mountain National Park

September 15-20
by Chris Nicholson

When we first scheduled our Rocky Mountain National Park workshop for September, one of the things we hoped for is that we might catch some fall foliage. It’s hard to predict—you know the foliage will turn, but trying to figure out which week it will, over a year ahead of time, is an exercise in silliness. So you just take a shot and hope for the best.

Well, boy did we nail it. Right as the workshop was beginning, the aspens of Rocky Mountain started lighting on fire with fall color, and our workshop attendees were all over it.

Of course, there’s much more to this park than autumnal color. So much more. And we photographed all of it.

We photographed the valleys, the waterfalls, the lakes, the ponds. We made a day-trip to Grand Lake, where we had a group BBQ lunch, then hiked to and photographed the beautiful East Inlet. We braved the night cold of the tundra, where we photographed a lightning storm skimming the horizon. We made Milky Way images at the edge of mountain meadows, where we could hear the bugling and the clashing antlers of elk in the darkness.

Then after the main part of the workshop ended, it was time for the optional backcountry add-on. We hiked about 2 miles up into the woods with five attendees to Dream Lake and Emerald Lake, two of the most scenic places in the park. We reached Emerald Lake in daylight, ate a picnic dinner, then started shooting as night fell. In the darkness, we slowly worked our way back down the mountain, photographing at each successive amazing location along the way, finally ending our night with one of the most stunning valley views in all the national parks, bathed in moonlight on a clear Colorado evening.

Chaco Culture National Historical Park

September 23-26
by Lance Keimig

As you likely know, there are a number of designations for National Park Service properties: national parks, national monuments, national seashores, national recreation areas, and national historical parks, among others. Matt and I led NPAN’s first workshop to a historical park in September, at New Mexico’s Chaco Culture, the site of the densest collection of ancient Puebloan structures in the world.

Photography at Chaco is all about the massive pueblos, as well as how they fit into the landscape. The various archeological sites at Chaco Canyon range from about 800 to 1,000 years old, and are the most significant feats of engineering from the ancient world in the American Southwest. We arranged for special nighttime access to the sites, which are closed to the public at sunset.

Many of the parks we visit are remote and hard to get to, and Chaco is no exception. The nearest accommodations are well over an hour away, but there is a campground at the edge of the park. In order to minimize travel and get the most out of our time at Chaco, we elected to base ourselves at the campground and to use one of the spaces at the park’s visitor center for our classroom. Many of our participants opted to bring an RV, but a good number decided to rough it and go for tent camping.

Our workshop coincided with this dark sky park’s annual astronomy festival—which was ironic because we were there during the full moon, specifically so that we had moonlight to illuminate the landscape while we focused on light painting the structures. Dr. Erica Ellingson and Nick Conant were there from the Fiske Planetarium at the University of Colorado at Boulder to present Ellingson’s Ancient Light program on Chacoan astronomy in their mobile planetarium, and we were able to arrange an extra presentation of the program for our group.

Chris and Matt had just completed their Rocky Mountain National Park workshop, and they drove to Chaco from Denver so that Chris could join us for the first couple of days and nights.

Of particular note was a high level of coordination and cooperation among the workshop participants, which proved essential while working in the tight quarters of the archeological sites. That’s not really a big surprise, because our groups are amazing, and we are truly fortunate to work with such great people on a regular basis.

This was my last workshop of the year, and it was a great way to end it. Thank you to my partners at National Parks at Night and to all of the wonderful workshop participants I’ve had the pleasure to work with over the year.

Catskills Night Portraiture (Fall Session)

October 12-14
by Matt Hill

I co-led our second night portraiture workshop in Catskill, New York, with Tim. Over one intense weekend we worked with two local models, Rip and Galaexius, to make iconic and creative portraits in the Hudson River Valley and some cool locations in the Catskill Mountains.

During the daytime, we did hands-on learning with lighting and posing models, as well as studying how to build up to a properly balanced exposure. In the evenings, we applied that knowledge in the field down at the river, as well as at the nearby natural art installation, Opus40.

Our models were the bomb, and our attendees really stretched themselves to do the complicated task of not only making a great photograph at night, but also a thoughtful and deliberate portrait.

We liked the experience so much, we’ll be bringing the idea back in a five-night format. Stay tuned … and on the mailing list. ;-)

Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark

November 15-18
by Gabriel Biderman

Our last workshop of the year was in an incredibly unique location, the Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark. Located in Birmingham, and built in 1880 and operated until 1970, Sloss is the only 20th century blast furnace in the U.S. being preserved and interpreted as a historic industrial site. And we were the first group to lead a dedicated night photography workshop there!

Our focus of the workshop was to interpret the location in black and white and to add a heavy dose of light painting. We had a diverse group of attendees—including several locals from Birmingham as well as people from Germany and both U.S. coasts—who came to explore the site with us.

We were also thrilled to work very closely with Sloss. They gave us a private tour of the whole site to kick things off, and they worked very closely with us through the whole process.

One of the big things that made this workshop so different for us was that we could return to the same location each night. The preserved footprint of Sloss is one-third of what it used to be, but it’s packed with a vast amount of subject matter. Participants could focus on a different subject each night, or they could revisit, reinterpret or finesse the same.

That flexibility of repetition was especially helpful for honing our light painting skills The variety of ways that we could interpret Sloss—wide overall exterior shots, tons of abstract details, and rooms that were pitch dark—offered infinite opportunities to create by adding light to the scene.

An unexpected surprise was the amount of stars that could be seen above the Furnaces. We could really heighten the sense of time against this timeless machinery. And because of the unseasonably cool temperatures, we were able to set up rigs to get 1-hour-plus exposures without much concern for long exposure noise in our images.

Our classroom time was spent discussing black and white techniques, as well as sharing one another’s work. Each day we were eager to get back to Sloss and cover more ground. We were fortunate enough to witness an iron pour one night, as Sloss continues to operate a workshop area for educational purposes.

We always end our workshops with a slideshow of our images, typically shared in our classroom. However, Sloss offered to have us showcase our images at their visitor center. The event was open to the public and showcased a nocturnal look at the site. We were also invited to have our work in a group show later in 2019. Rumor has it that we’ll be returning to Sloss as well as exploring other historic industrial sites in the near future!

Death Valley After Dark: Astronomy and Photography in the Backcountry

December 5-8
by Chris Nicholson

Our second partnership with Atlas Obscura was also a departure for us, in that this workshop was about not only night photography, but also astronomy. Out in the field with us day and night was Tyler Nordgren, astronomer and author of the book Stars Above, Earth Below: A Guide to Astronomy in the National Parks.

The workshop was an experience of photographing and exploring the night skies of the park’s most remote fascinations, including Racetrack Playa, Eureka Sand Dunes and the Wildrose Charcoal Kilns. We also visited some spots that are easier to access but are just as amazing, including Badwater Basin, Salt Creek Flats and Ubehebe Crater.

And that was only the tip of the adventure iceberg. We rented red Jeeps from Farabee’s for hours upon hours of backcountry driving, we camped at the Racetrack, we enjoyed fresh-cooked chili at the tent site, and we shared an outdoor pancake and coffee breakfast on a very cold desert morning (after a very cold desert night).

In addition to the night (and day) photography, Tyler continually waxed poetic about the universe above us. We learned about constellations and nebulae, we looked through his telescope and image-stabilizing binoculars at galaxies and a comet, and he taught us more than we could have imagined about the Milky Way and zodiacal light.

We’re looking forward to many more opportunities to seize the night with both Tyler and Atlas Obsura.

Astronomer Tyler Nordgren powered his telescope with one of the ONsite recharging packs that Tether Tools provided for our Death Valley backcountry workshop.

Partner Participation

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: When we form brand partnerships, we look for the relationship to benefit our workshop attendees too. Nikon, Coast Portland, B&H Photo, Peak Design, Light Painting Brushes, X-Rite, BenQ, Bay Photo, Irix Lenses, Valleret, PhotoPills, Tether Tools and Luxli all offered loaner gear, discounts, gifts and other perks at various locations. As always, our gratitude is unending.

Looking Forward

Wow. 2018 was amazing. And we couldn’t have done it without all the photographers—ranging from 16 to 80ish, male and female, from night photography rookies to veterans—who attended and made these workshops and tours so memorable.

It makes us want to do it again! And do it again we shall. If anything gets us more excited than our memories of 2018, it’s our anticipation for 2019. We’re heading to six national parks: Big Bend, Bryce Canyon, Glacier, Great Smoky Mountains, Grand Canyon and Lassen Volcanic. We’ll also be visiting Cape Cod, Devils Tower, the Outer Banks, San Francisco and Valley of Fire. We’re venturing overseas again too, to Morocco, Easter Island and Cuba. And we’re running two firsts: a Post-Processing Intensive in Catskill, New York, and a multinight backcountry backpacking adventure to Shi Shi Beach in Olympic National Park.

Several of the 2019 workshops still have seats available. As for the sold-out experiences? You can still sign up for the waitlist for any workshop at no cost and with no risk. If a spot opens up, we’ll invite you to apply.

So come join us, to seize the night!

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


Oh, the Places We’ll Go—15 Destinations for Epic Night Adventures in 2019

It’s hard to believe that we are entering our fourth year of leading night workshops to beautiful and spectacular places. But here we are, announcing our adventures for the next year.

We threw our dream darts all over the globe, from the mysterious giant stone Moai statues of Easter Island to the sand dunes of Morocco. In between, volcanoes, canyons, towers, ghost towns, lighthouses and great, smoky mountains will be our subjects under the stars.

We will also offer a trio of National Parks at Night firsts:

  • our first backcountry camping adventure
  • our first urban night workshop
  • our first dedicated post-processing course

Oh, and did we mention we are going to Cuba and will tour the country in the very cars we love to photograph there?

So come dream with us and dedicate some time to leveling up your night visions!

Note: Several workshops have already sold out, as we announce them to our alumni and email list first. However, if that workshop truly speaks to you, be sure to sign up for the waitlist! There is no fee to do that, and we’ve had many waitlisters become happy alumni!

A Trio of Trip Types

We offer three styles of learning experiences: our Passport Series and Adventure Series, and our brand new skills development workshops.

Passport Series

At Passport Series workshops, we take you to a national park and teach you how to interpret the night sky against a variety of landscapes and lighting elements. We often have these cherished locations to ourselves and offer classroom time as well as hands-on education.

Adventure Series

At Adventure Series workshops, we take you to other fascinating natural wonders that may be on or near national and/or protected lands in in the U.S. or beyond! These workshops may have a little less “classroom” time and a bit more field time as we are constantly exploring beautiful places during the day and night.

Skills Development

In 2019 we’re introducing the skills development workshops, designed to kick up your processing power in Lightroom and Photoshop! We will guide you to get your photographs organized and looking better than ever before. It’s time to take it to the next level. Five nights and six days of skills improvement, plus a little shooting at night and then applying what you learned to those RAW files during the day.

The Amazing Destinations

You can click on any of the links below to learn a lot more about all the workshop locations. For a quick read about what each experience will entail, read on …

Dates Location Series
January 20-25 Post-Processing Intensive in the Catskills Skills
Feb 19-March 1 Easter Island Adventure
March 20-29 Morocco Adventure
April 11-16 Valley of Fire & Nelson Ghost Town Adventure
April 21-26 Great Smoky Mountains National Park Passport
May 19-24 Outer Banks & Cape Hatteras National Seashore Adventure
June 9-14 Bryce Canyon National Park Passport
June 16-21 Grand Canyon National Park South Rim Passport
July 8-12 Devils Tower National Monument Adventure
August 5-10 Shi Shi Beach Backcountry Adventure
August 18-22 Lassen Volcanic National Park Passport
October 2-6 Cape Cod and the Province Lands Adventure
October 13-18 Big Bend National Park Passport
November 3-8 Golden Gate NRA & San Francisco Adventure
December 7-15 Cuba Adventure

Passport Series

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Join us for the gently moon-kissed cliffs, mountains, coves, riversides, preserved cabins and churches of this historically pivotal national park. From the rolling valley of Cades Cove to the peak of Clingman’s Dome, we’ll explore the mercurial and mystifying skies of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Dates: April 21-26, 2019
More Information: Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park

In the surreal and vast expanses of the Utah landscape, we will spend a magical week exploring the otherworldly hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park. The crimson, orange and yellow rock spires make the perfect foreground for our night photography.

Dates: June 9-14, 2019
More Information: Bryce Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park South Rim

It’s one of the greatest natural spectacles in the world. Join us in our first year of exploring the many layers of the Grand Canyon. Our focus during the 100-year anniversary of the park will be the popular South Rim. Known for its spectacular sunrises and sunsets, this workshop will emphasize many ways we can interpret the rim—from long exposures to panoramic and time-lapse techniques. We will also prove that the Grand Canyon is much more than a “rim shot.” We will seek the many traces of humankind that can be found along the canyon: Native American ruins, historical buildings and woman-made structures.

Dates: June 16-21, 2019
More Information: Grand Canyon National Park South Rim

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park is home to steaming fumaroles, meadows freckled with wildflowers, clear mountain lakes and all four different types of volcanos. Jagged peaks tell the story of its eruptive past while hot water continues to shape the land. Lassen Volcanic National Park offers opportunities to explore and photograph a majestic landscape that is distinctly a part of the American West.

Dates: August 18-22, 2019
More Information: Lassen Volcanic National Park

Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park is pretty raw country. It’s also pretty. Especially in the right light, and double especially at night. All the rock formations, all the canyons, all the mountains and valleys and dirt roads and ruins—all sit under some of the quietest and darkest night skies of North America. The landscape is at once harsh and beautiful, at once hard and delicate, at once tough and mesmerizing. And we’ll be there to capture it all under the October stars of Texas.

Dates: October 13-18, 2019
More Information: Big Bend National Park

Adventure Series

Easter Island

Few places on earth are as mysterious or compelling as Easter Island. The giant stone figures known as Moai oversee this remote island 2,200 miles off of the coast of Chile. Most of Rapa Nui, as it’s known to the locals, is a national park. Not only is it hard to get to here, but it is notoriously difficult to access the park at night. In February of 2019, National Parks at Night will be taking 10 lucky people to do just that.

Dates: February 19-March 1, 2019
More Information: Easter Island


Morocco is a land of large bustling cities, tranquil seaside towns and remote mountain villages. Our photo tour avoids the major cities in favor of smaller, quiet places away from most of the tourists and tourist traps. The port city of Essaouira, the kasbah at Ait BenHaddou and glamping in the Sahara desert will be the highlights of our adventure.

Dates: March 20-29, 2019
More Information: Morocco

Valley of Fire & Nelson Ghost Town

Join us for the broad, red mountains, valleys and arches within Valley of Fire State Park and the abandoned wonderland of the Nelson ghost town. We’ll explore having fun with light and stars in these desert jewels of the American southwest.

Dates: April 11-16, 2019
More Information: Valley of Fire & Nelson Ghost Town

Outer Banks & Cape Hatteras National Seashore

The Outer Banks—what a name, and what a place! Home to tasty crab cakes, the honored ground of first flight, pristine national seashore and perhaps the most iconic lighthouse in the United States. And at night, when you look up, oh my! You take in the stars and the Milky Way in that incredible Atlantic darkness while the ocean breezes tousle your hair and bring salt to your lips. And beneath it all, a camera and a tripod, capturing the majesty of what this special place offers.

Dates: May 19-24, 2019
More Information: Outer Banks & Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Devils Tower National Monument

Join us to explore the strange stone mountain of America’s first national monument. Revered by Native Americans in folklore, shrouded in mystery, we’ll explore the mercurial skies of Devils Tower.

Dates: July 8-12, 2019
More Information: Devils Tower National Monument

Shi Shi Beach Backcountry

Shi Shi Beach is a remote photographer’s paradise, reachable by six miles of round-trip hiking, plus a little more to reach nearby Point of the Arches. We will hike first to Second Beach for a warm-up night of camping and photography, then to Shi Shi for a two-night, three-day, adventure among the stars and the starfish, the sand and the sea stacks. We will photograph ebbing and flowing ocean waters, tidal pools, Pacific sunsets, and of course the Milky Way and the beautiful Olympic night skies.

Dates: August 5-10, 2019
More Information: Shi Shi Beach Backcountry

Cape Cod and the Province Lands

Cape Cod’s Province Lands comprise a captivating collection of simple scenic wonders. Ponds. Beaches. Sandy dunes. Pine forests. Lighthouses. Old dune shacks. Cranberry bogs. Atlantic waves cascading onto the coast. These old shores hold countless treasures for the night photographer. We’ll explore them all, and more of what Cape Cod offers, during one of the peak of the region’s finest season: a New England autumn.

Dates: October 2-6, 2019
More Information: Cape Cod and the Province Lands

Golden Gate National Recreation Area & San Francisco

Like a beacon at the end of the world, San Francisco’s diverse land and skyscape will guide our exploration into our first urban workshop. We will focus our lenses on the winding streets and bright city lights, but also explore the coastline, bunkers, bridges and ruins that intersect the beautiful Bay Area. We will challenge you to re-interpret the city with a multitude of long exposure and processing techniques that will leave you with a unique and fresh view of The City by the Bay.

Dates: November 3-8, 2019
More Information: Golden Gate National Recreation Area & San Francisco


On this photography and cultural tour you’ll experience the best of Cuban culture on an island with photo opportunities everywhere you look. In Havana we’ll explore life in the streets both day and night, plus the vibrant art and music scenes, architecture, people and cuisine. We’ll road-trip to Las Terrazas and Viñales Valley (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) to photograph Cuba’s magical landscapes. This boutique tour will give you access to Cuban experiences you’d never be able to create on your own. All you’ll need is an adventurous spirit and flexible mindset (it’s Cuba!).

Dates: December 7-15, 2019
More Information: Cuba

Skills Development

Post-Processing Intensive in the Catskills

You’ve spent a lot of time building your camera skills and honing your photographic vision. Now it’s time to take it to the next level. Post-processing has become an integral part of nearly every discipline of photography. Just as the black and white photographers of the 20th century were able to creatively interpret their work in the darkroom, we can now use modern technology to enhance our photos, and even to create images that were impossible only a few short years ago.

Dates:  January 20-25, 2019
More Information: Post-Processing Intensive in the Catskills

But Wait, There’s More!

Don’t see the perfect fit for your schedule or location? In the coming months we will announce our 2019 Ambassador Series destinations with our partners at Atlas Obscura, Rocky Mountain School of Photography, and a brand new partner whose name we’re not yet mentioning. (Hint: It’s big.)

Also, remember to always monitor our Speaking Engagements page. We give lectures and photo walks in the New York City area and all over the country. And if you want us to come directly to your camera club or meet-up group, feel free to contact us. (Click here to see what we can offer.)

We also offer one-on-one tutoring in-person or via videoconference that can help you build your portfolio, organize your images or give you targeted, individualized education to elevate your photography skills.

Finally, we’d like to express a deep thanks to all our alumni—the 300 fine photographers who have accompanied us over the past 2.5 years to wonderful night photography locations such as Acadia, Biscayne, Capitol Reef, Dry Tortugas, Death Valley, Redwood, Zion, Great Sand Dunes, Cape Cod, Centennial Valley and more. We appreciate you so very much.

Do you want to see their work? Check out this playlist of all the workshop slideshows. Want to see some of their accomplishments? Check out our Alumni Spotlight.

Seize the Night

2019 will have 365 nights. Which will you be spending with us? Sign up today to #seizethenight!

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


So Far, So Awesome! Recapping Our First Workshops of 2018

It’s hard to believe that the year is almost half over. Our workshop season, however, is just kicking into high gear. Matt and Gabe are leading a group in Capitol Reef National Park, and Chris and I are about to do the same in Redwood National and State Parks. But this week’s post is about celebrating the amazing experiences we had with the attendees of our first six workshops and tours of 2018.

We started the year by visiting one of the lesser-known national parks, Biscayne in Florida, and in the spring we offered our very first night portraiture workshop, in Catskill, New York. For 2018 we added a second international tour, and notched both Iceland and Scotland in our passports before the end of spring. We also partnered with two of our favorite institutions—Rocky Mountain School of Photography and Atlas Obscura—to create two opportunities to seize the night in California.

We’re also working hard on a new series of workshops and programs for 2019, to be announced later this summer. (Want to be among the first to know about them? Be sure you’re on our email list!)

It may sound like we’re tooting our own horn, but what all of this really means is that (as Matt proclaimed in a lecture earlier this year) this is the golden age of night photography. It is not because we are teaching a lot of workshops, but because so many of you are out there photographing at night and continuing to produce so many amazing images.

As we move on with the second half of 2018, let’s see where the first half brought us …

Biscayne National Park

January 29-February 3
By Gabriel Biderman

They said it couldn’t be done—a night photography workshop was impossible at a location that’s 90 percent water. Well, here at National Parks at Night, we love a good challenge and we made the most of the 10 percent of land in Biscayne National Park!

The first night of the workshop was the day before the second blue supermoon of 2018, and we came prepared. Our friends at Nikon shipped us an 800mm lens with a 1.25X teleconverter, which we matched to the D500 with its 1.5X-crop APS-C sensor. With that, we practically lassoed the moon. That “kit” was set up on a Gitzo tripod and students could stick their memory card in the camera and track and capture the moon. The rest of the first night was spent getting our night feet wet with the many subjects to photograph around the Dante Fascall Visitor Center, the only mainland section of the park.

The next two nights we were transported by charter boat to Elliot and Boca Chita keys. Elliott provided a supermoon moonrise, mangroves, dock and other subjects. But Boca Chita is definitely the crown jewel of the location. We literally “lit up” the ornamental Honeywell lighthouse, photographed the Miami skyline, light painted the cutest little chapel, and explored the many views along this picturesque curved key.

We also got to spend an evening at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, which offered spectacular views of off-shore Stilstsville at sunset, which is in the northernmost part of Biscayne National Park. Baggs is also home of the oldest standing structure in greater Miami—the Cape Florida Light, which we were able to wrap lots of star trails around as well as climb up and sing an opera song or two!

Our last night was even more special, as we were able to gain access to Stiltsville, a grouping of wooden stilt houses that are 1 mile from Miami.  The structures are still recovering/rebuilding from Hurricane Irma, but we were able to watch a spectacular moonrise over Leshaw House as well as shoot a few other unique “floating" houses from the dreamlike location of the Baldwin-Sessions house.

Tim and I have taught many workshops, but this was definitely one to remember—from being transported to and from the islands by boat at night, to just the amazing camaraderie that we had with all the students and people who helped make this adventure happen. We want to give a big thank you to Biscayne National Park, Biscayne National Park Institute, Stiltsville Trust and Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park for helping us put together this amazing experience.

Iceland South Coast

March 12-20
By Lance Keimig

Our first international tour of 2018 was remarkable for two things: some really bad weather, and a truly extraordinary group of travelers.

After an outstanding exploration of the remote Westfjords of Iceland in the late summer of 2017, we scheduled our second Iceland adventure to the more frequently visited south coast. This is where most visitors to Iceland end up, and for good reason. Some of the most spectacular waterfalls, along with the famous glacial lagoons and the ice beach can be found there.

We arrived and spent our first day and night in Reykjavik, and had an amazing meal at the Fish Market with many courses of truly delicious and innovatively prepared seafood dishes. The next day we headed south under sunny skies and spent some time with a friendly herd of Icelandic horses before making our way to Vik.

Alas, then the weather took a turn for the worse, with rain and ferocious winds. Our intrepid group made the best of it and we photographed when and where we could, and we even had an impromptu light painting lesson in the hotel meeting room when it was too wet to go out and photograph.

The nasty weather continued the next day, and the forecast was only getting worse––100 percent chance of nothing but cold, wind and rain for the entire remainder of our trip. Iceland can be like that sometimes, and you do what you can to make the best of it.

I’d never seen it quite that bad before, but we had a hardy group of outside-the-box thinkers who found a solution and presented it to Chris and I. The next thing we knew, we had changed our entire itinerary and were headed to the north coast, where the forecast was not only for clear skies, but also for lots of aurora borealis. Yup, we did it! The entire group agreed, and we changed our plans and our fortunes, and we found some great new locations and made a lot of great photographs.

I won’t ever forget how this group collectively transformed a gloomy experience into a very memorable trip. Don’t be surprised if you see a National Parks at Night trip to North Iceland show up on our website in the next few years. Maybe the weather on that one will lead us back to the south, and we can finish what we started.

Joshua Tree at Night

April 15-20
By Lance Keimig

Our friends at the Rocky Mountain School of Photography invited us to lead another workshop for them in 2018, and Gabe and I did that at Joshua Tree National Park in mid-April.

This was our first chance at the Milky Way for the year, and we planned the workshop to begin at the new moon and progress to nearly the first quarter. Conditions were perfect––cool nights, clear skies and a largely novice group of night photography converts. We had a few welcome NPAN alumni from Zion, Great Sand Dunes and Cape Cod to help lead the newbies on our dessert adventure.

Arch Rock, Hidden Valley and of course Key’s Ranch were highlight locations again this year, and we were happy to be working with the Desert Institute again as our park liaison. After our RMSP workshop, we led a second, one-night outing for the Desert Institute.

In addition to some truly stellar images, one of the memorable aspects of this workshop is that our group was not hesitant to stay out late and wait for the Milky Way to rise over the horizon—which, depending on the location, was not until 1 a.m. or later. Way to go, gang!

Catskills Night Portraiture

April 27-29 (Spring Session)
By Matt Hill

Students, model, Matt and Mabel in our headquarters backyard shortly after a massive thunderstorm.

In April, I hosted our very first night portraiture workshop. It was also the inaugural workshop in the newly renovated teaching space at our headquarters in the village of Catskill, New York.

This workshop was very intimate, catered farm-to-table by a local chef and designed for advanced students who want to make long exposure portraits of people at night.

From Friday afternoon until Sunday afternoon, we worked on lighting, posing and storytelling. Our wonderful local model, Galaexius Quasar, worked with us in studio and on location in the area to bring to life fantastic ideas.

We had challenging weather, but on the first night, that was a real boon. The clouds and misty rain added a moodiness that complemented the scene.

Nikon D750 with a Nikon 105mm f/1.4 lens. 15 seconds, f/4, ISO 200.

The second night brought a very energetic thunderstorm. We decided to stay dry and warm and proceeded to build long exposure portraits in the studio until the weather cleared. After that, we went in the backyard, popped a couple of smoke grenades and made some more magic.

By spending time working on individual skills, both students really leveled up. I’m so happy we did it, and I’m looking forward to the six-person workshop in the fall that I am co-teaching with Tim Cooper.

Dark Skies, Desert Beasts: Borrego Springs, California

May 10-13
By Gabriel Biderman

Dark Skies and Desert Beasts was the official title of our first Ambassador Series workshop with Atlas Obscura. It was held in the dark sky community of Borrego Springs, California, and our focus was the 130-plus surreal sculptures of Ricardo Breceda that created an amazing “Night Sky Museum” with the Milky Way as our backdrop.

For those who are unfamiliar with Atlas Obscura, they have been the go-to online guide to the strange and unusual all over the world for the last 10 years. It was an honor to work with their team, to introduce them to the beauty of the night and to create a unique experience.

Borrego Springs is part of the Sonoran Desert and has been an oasis in the valley for many years—though now more people seek its dark skies than ever before. We enhanced the California vibes even more by staying at an Old West and vintage trailer themed resort!

We spent our afternoons in class, reviewing students’ work and going over the many techniques of night photography. We explored a different section of the Galleta Meadows each night. The variety of sculptures—from the iconic “dragon” serpent that cuts through the main road to the spectacular standoff between the grasshopper and scorpion—were just amazing to aim our lenses toward. But there were so many other beasts to play with too, from dinosaurs and wild horses, to sabertooth tigers, camels, sloths and jeeps driving into the stars!

We scouted each area during the day, and we dropped Google pins and took test shots for sculptures that inspired us so that we could be more productive once the sun set.

Our group of students were amazing and worked so well together, each taking a crack at light painting to reinterpret these pieces of art into something they could call their own.

It was definitely a challenging workshop, operating under little to no moon and maintaining focus on some fairly close subject matter while keeping those background stars sharp!

However, both Tim and I were incredibly impressed with the work that was created and the camaraderie that was forged with all! We had so much fun that we are already planning on a return to Borrego and more collaborations with Atlas. Stay tuned!

Scotland: The Hebrides

May 13-23
By Lance Keimig

Our second international trip of 2018 was to the Isle of Skye, and the Hebridean Isles of Lewis and Harris.

Skye has some of the best landscapes in Europe, and Lewis and Harris are rich in Neolithic archeology. I had been there the year before in March, and things were pretty quiet as you might expect at that time of year. It was immediately apparent that like Iceland, Scotland has seen a major increase in tourism in the last couple of years, and no place in Scotland more than Skye. It was interesting to note that unlike in Iceland, where it seems that much if not most of the tourism centers around photography, that wasn’t the case in Scotland. Some of the locations I’d been visiting for years, often having them to myself, were now absolutely swarming with tourists (and the busy season was only just beginning).

Fortunately, there are still plenty of places to appreciate the spectacular landscapes and appreciate the culture and history of Scotland if you’re willing to come back after dark! That’s what we did!

We had five full days and nights at the wonderful Uig Lodge on the Isle of Lewis. We had some good weather, some mediocre weather, a smashed iPhone (mine) and a real beater of a minibus (thanks, Sixt, but we’ll look elsewhere next time). Again NPAN travelers showed their mettle and faced every challenge head-on to come home with new friends, good memories and great images.

Chris and I took a couple of days before the tour to explore an area in the southwest of Scotland, and he even found the exact apartment in Campbeltown where he had lived for six months as a child while his dad was stationed at the U.S. naval station nearby. National Parks at Night will be leading more tours to some of the other Scottish islands in the future, so stay tuned!

Partner Participation

When we form brand partnerships, we look for the relationship to benefit our workshop attendees too. Nikon, Coast Portland, B&H Photo, Peak Design, Light Painting Brushes, X-Rite, BenQ, Bay Photo, Irix Lenses, Valleret, PhotoPills and Luxli all offered loaner gear, discounts, gifts and other perks at various locations. As always, our gratitude is unending.

Looking Forward

As you can see, it’s been a pretty exciting year so far, with more to come. As of June 22, all of our remaining 2018 workshops are full with the exception of our second week at Glacier National Park led by Tim and myself. You can still sign up for the waitlist for any workshop at no cost and with no risk. If a spot opens up, we’ll invite you to apply.

We’ll be announcing our 2019 workshops and tours in August, first to our esteemed alumni, then to our email subscribers, and then to the general public. We hope to see you out there under the Milky Way!

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


It's a Wrap! Recapping The Second Half of Our Second Year

Earlier this year we recapped our first three workshops of 2017. Now that the year is nearly over, after finishing our last workshop of the fall just a few weeks ago, we run down how the rest of itinerary went.

Rounding out our second year of workshops was a procession of amazing locations, students and celestial events, including the total solar eclipse, an impregnable fort in the ocean, deep canyons and dark skies, ancient Puebloan ruins, eye-popping aurora borealis, and alien desert landscapes.

Enjoy this review of the highlights. …

Natural Bridges and Hovenweep national monuments

June 21-25, 2017

By Gabriel Biderman

Each year we have partnered with the Rocky Mountain School of Photography to offer a night photography workshop. This year we were very excited to teach for them at one of the darkest sky locations in the United States: Utah’s Natural Bridges National Monument and Hovenweep National Monument.

This was a very challenging workshop, but as with any challenge, if you succeed then it is incredibly rewarding. The biggest hurdle was part of the beauty—both locations are very remote. We based our workshop in the town of Bluff, which was one hour from Natural Bridges and about 50 minutes from Hovenweep. Combine that with a summer Milky Way focus, and we weren’t starting to shoot until 9:30 to 10 p.m. and weren’t calling last shot until 2 or 3 a.m. To everyone’s credit, we were thrilled with each location and got home safely each night!

The first two nights we divided the class in two and had them either climb the 1-mile descent down the slippery rocks and ladders to the majestic Sipapu Bridge or photograph the Milky Way perfectly aligned over the Owachomo Bridge. The third night we explored the smaller canyon that was lined with Indian “castles” and ruins along the edge.

We had stellar Milky Way skies but the challenge again was hot, hot, summer nights. The daytime temperature was 114 F and at night it cooled to a pleasant 85 F. Long exposures without noise reduction were limited to 30 seconds or 1 minute to prevent excessive noise from the heat.

Natural Bridges National Monument.  Nikon D750  with a   
   15mm Zeiss Distagon f/2.8 lens   
 /* Style Definitions */
	{mso-style-name:"Table Normal";
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 . 75 stacked 1-minute exposures at f/2.8, ISO 6400.

Natural Bridges National Monument. Nikon D750 with a 15mm Zeiss Distagon f/2.8 lens. 75 stacked 1-minute exposures at f/2.8, ISO 6400.

The last night of the workshop we gave the students a choice: Go back to either Hovenweep or Natural Bridges. I led a group to Hovenweep, where we collaborated on a 2-plus-hour star trail, while Matt led a group of daring souls to the edge of Sipapu. Matt asked, “Who wants to do something creatively risky that might not work—but if it does, it will be a shot to remember?" In short, they split into two teams—one for shooting on the canyon rim, and one for safely hiking 600 feet down into the canyon, then hiking through with flashlights for the 45-minute star stack. (See above.)

Dry Tortugas National Park

July 27-30, 2017

By Gabriel Biderman

One of our more adventurous Passport Series workshops of 2017 was in Dry Tortugas National Park, which sits about 70 miles from Key West in the Gulf of Mexico. We were very fortunate to partner with the Key West Art and Historical Society and Dry Tortugas National Park for this immersive experience.

We kicked things off the day before the workshop with Tim and I presenting our favorite night park images at the Night Sky Symposium held at the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center. Kelly Clark, cultural resources specialist from Dry Tortugas, led off with an overview of the restoration and upkeep of the massive Fort Jefferson, then two local astronomers gave a very thorough overview of Florida night skies.

The next day we met the entire workshop class and spent the day going over night photography as well as learning the history of Key West with a private tour of the museum at the Art and Historical Society.

That night we put our night photography skills to the test at Fort Martello, where we practiced light painting and tested our high ISOs and long exposure parameters in the hot and humid heat of Florida. Then at midnight we boarded our private boat for a three-day tour. We woke to Fort Jefferson tiny on the horizon. The next two days and nights would be a full-on focus of Dry Tortugas. Most people get to visit this park for only two to three hours when the Yankee Clipper boat brings them in and out. Though the park has room for about 20 people to tent-camp, visitors don’t get access to the inside of Fort Jefferson after sundown. But we did!

We kept cool during the day by snorkeling and swimming, and also used daylight hours to scout for the best compositions. At night we had full access to the fort, and each window and path led us to fantastic nightscape images.

Life on the boat was a little cramped but the crew was amazing and the food top-notch! On our ride back to Key West we all started working on editing our photos for a public presentation at the Art and Historical Society. This turned out to be a huge hit—about 50 people attended. We put all the students’ work together and gave a brief talk about our recent adventures, followed by an hourlong Q&A and a celebratory group dinner.

Follow-up: Key West and Dry Tortugas were hit hard by Hurricane Irma. Fortunately our friends were safe and damage was minimal to their lives. A part of the famous walkway around the moat of Fort Jefferson was broken, so you can no longer walk all the way around—but I guess that makes for new picture opportunities. Stay tuned; we hope to partner with Dry Tortugas and the Key West Art and Historical Society again in the near future.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

August 10-14, 2017

By Matt Hill

Our intrepid group of night photography adventurers joined Lance and I in the mysterious and wildly unpredictable southern oasis of beauty in Colorado. Great Sand Dunes is a rather small park with only one entrance and basically one parking lot from which you can access the dune field and Medano Creek. That is, without renting a 4x4, deflating your tires and driving in the arid backcountry.

This was my fourth visit to Great Sand Dunes, and my second visit during the Perseid Meteor Showers—the very event we came to teach and capture. August is also monsoon season. Yeah. The park is nestled against the Sangre de Cristo Mountains on the east in a valley 50 by 100 miles wide. When a storm rolls through, it can come from practically any direction, including over the 13,000-plus-foot mountains towering over the dunes, which start at about 8,000 feet and rise to over 8,700 feet. Needless to say, we had to roll with whatever the weather threw at us, and boy did it throw.

We began with a night by Medano Creek at the foot of the dunes. The creek was abnormally high from the recent daily afternoon thunderstorms. We witnessed the surreal “surges” that look and sound like rolling waves on the ocean, only they rush downcreek up to 3 inches higher than the normal flow—an odd sight in what otherwise appears to be a strictly dry, desert scene. A couple hours into shooting, a storm front came blowing in from the east over the mountains and whipped sand around madly. So we packed up and headed into Alamosa to finish out night-shooting historic train cars.

Our second evening we planned for an ascent onto the dunes, but heavy clouds helped us choose Plan C instead: a Tibetan Stupa high on the mountainside overlooking the valley a bit north of the park and accessed from a primitive road leading south from quaint Crestone, Colorado. The group spent the evening marveling over the somber beauty of the spiritual space, with the Milky Way arcing overhead and with the view of the valley below.

Our third evening was the big one—the hike up the dunes. The skies played nice and we huffed and puffed our way up the equivalent of 70 flights of stairs on what felt like cane sugar. At 8,000-plus feet! Not for the faint of heart, yet our entire group made the hike (and we’re hella proud of them!). We were rewarded with an amazing view of the Perseids, a lightning storm playing behind the Sangre de Cristo mountains, and the obvious signs of civilized life (read: light pollution) to the south in Alamosa.

Our fourth and final evening included sunset at Zapata Falls overlooking the valley, some far-off storms and a compressed view of the dunes snuggled up to the mountains.

We had a ton of fun playing with light writing, light painting and doing some night portraiture. Everyone got to do some work on their goals and the result was a grand slideshow of our students’ efforts. Bravo and brava to all of our students. This workshop was challenging in so many ways, yet they exceeded, and we are really honored to have had this killer adventure together.

Centennial Valley, J Bar L Ranch & Solar Eclipse

August 17-22, 2017

By Gabriel Biderman

The green and luscious Centennial Valley has miles of big night sky and a population under 100 in the summer. The beauty is eternal, the community kind, and the cowboy hats fit like a fedora! Add to that the first total solar eclipse that any of us on the workshop had ever photographed and you have the makings of an ultimate experience.

Weather is always a factor, and when we landed in Montana, smoke-filled skies burnt our eyes. Montana and much of the rest of the West was experiencing some of the worst forest fires in history. Luckily for us some rain came just in time, right before the workshop kicked off. So we headed south to Exit 0 in high spirits.

Everyone arrived in time for dinner on the first night, created by our Chef Eric, who was catering all our meals from his free-range kitchen. Our first night brought us crisp, clear and star-tactic skies. We strolled down to the river and shot the reflecting and rising Milky Way over the water. We had a very experienced group and everyone experimented a little bit and came away with some spectacular shots.

The daily schedule consisted of breakfast, morning horse rides or nature walks, group lunches, one-on-one sessions with me, down time, a group dinner, and then night shoots. I really enjoyed the bonding aspect of this workshop; everyone had solo or shared a rustic cabins, but were often found hanging out and working together on images or practicing shooting the sun.

Instead of formal classes, I opted for the aforementioned one-hour individual sessions with each participant. This proved to be incredibly successful to further bond us, as well as to help answer attendees’ specific questions and push their visions along. Some people showed portfolios, others went over gear, and some were a combination of all.

Bailey’s beads (aka, the diamond ring effect) during the 2017 total eclipse. 1/15, f/22, ISO 800. © 2017 Gabriel Biderman.

Of course this was all building up to Monday, August 21—the day of the total solar eclipse. We had all been practicing tracking and shooting the sun during the day, which slightly calmed our nerves about how much the sun moves across the frame through telephoto lenses! We pushed the Planner feature of the PhotoPills app to the max to find the perfect location to view the eclipse—a remote, crowd-free place with an interesting landscape. We ended up on a dirt road sandwiched between the Sawtooth Mountains and Beaverhead Mountains. (To read more about how we photographed the eclipse, see our August blog post, “Eclipse Lessons: What We Learned from Our Day in the Sun.”)

All in all, it was an incredibly thrilling workshop and experience. I look forward to more adventures with my friends, and to experiencing the next total eclipse in 2024!

Westfjords of Iceland

August 27-September 5, 2017

By Lance Keimig

Gabe and I led National Parks at Night’s first international trip, to the Westfjords of Iceland at the very end of August and beginning of September. We chose the Westfjords because it is the least visited part of the country, and we chose to go at the end of their short summer because of the possibility of seeing the northern lights without having to suffer the dead of winter.

I think the group would tell you that it was worth every bit of effort to get to that far northwestern corner of the tiny island nation in the North Atlantic. We were fortunate too in that auroras graced us with their amazing presence on multiple nights, including one night when the entire sky glowed green for hours on end. We had chosen a location with panoramic views in all directions to photograph, because at 64 degrees north latitude, an aurora can appear anywhere in the sky––and it did! The lights were so ubiquitous and long-lasting that Gabe even made a series of individual “aurora portraits” of the entire group (see our “group photo”collage, above).

It was unanimous that Djupavik was the group’s favorite location, and it’s ours too. The site of a former herring processing factory, Djupavik was converted into a small hotel in the late 1970s by a couple from Reykjavik with a unique vision, and is now lovingly run by their son-in-law Magnus. There’s little doubt that we’ll be back.

Note: Speaking of going back, we have a few spots remaining in our upcoming March trip to Iceland, which will take us along the south coast to see both some of the best-known waterfalls in the country, and also to some off-the-beaten-path locations that are just as amazing for photography.

Olympic National Park

September 17-22, 2017 and September 24-29, 2017

By Chris Nicholson

If you’ve ever heard me talk about Olympic National Park, then you know it’s one of my favorite places. So it could probably go unsaid that I was very much looking forward to leading a workshop there—to share the experience of Olympic with my co-instructor Matt and with the 18 amazing photographers attending the two back-to-back workshops, many of whom had never been there.

The two workshops were similar, but also varied a bit, as weather and other factors often allow for a fair amount of serendipity.

During the first week we started at Lake Crescent and later Elwah River Valley (which just a few years ago was a lake, until the century-old dam was dismantled to restore historic salmon runs). At the latter, we were able to use information gathered during our daytime scouting with PhotoPills to plan on shooting the Milky Way hovering over the valley with the river leading right to it. It was an amazing scene! On the second night, fog and snow greeted us at Hurricane Ridge, and we used the conditions to create some moody light painting. Later we moved down to sea level, where we shot for the rest of the night at the Port Angeles waterfront.

Then we headed out to the coast to shoot at Ruby Beach on the third night, the Hoh Rain Forest (and Ruby again, as the stars returned) on the fourth, and ended the workshop under beautiful skies at Second Beach.

The second week we changed a few locations. We started at Hurricane Ridge, and on the second night we hiked to Marymere Falls, where we light painted the 90-foot waterfall with a pair of Luxli Viola LED panel lights, with Matt changing the intensity and color temperature remotely via his iPhone. On the way out through the new-growth rainforest, everyone stopped at different points to photograph the majestic trees, before ending the night on the shores of Lake Crescent.

Once on the coast, we started with the hike along Rialto Beach to shoot the entire third night near and at Hole-in-the-Wall. The fourth night we shot at the Hoh Rain Forest and Ruby Beach again, where we got the amazing treat of seeing and photographing an aurora over the sea stacks and coastal cliffs, as bioluminescent plankton lit up the waves beneath. Then we once again ended the workshop at Second Beach, albeit this time in moody fog and mist.

During both workshops we focused primarily on light painting, Milky Way and star trails, and Matt did a fair amount of side instruction for participants who wanted to learn about night portraiture. Over the course of both workshops, Matt and I got to spend 17 days in this amazing place (which we talked about in a video we released shortly afterward). There were a variety of experiences that we won’t soon forget—a sentiment I hope and trust that the attendees share.

Eastern Sierra

October 30-November 4, 2017

By Lance Keimig

Tim and I led the last National Parks at Night workshop of 2017, to California’s Eastern Sierra. Highway 395 stretches across the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountains, and passes through some of the best night photography locations in the U.S. This workshop focused on the southern end of the route, where we photographed at the Alabama Hills for three nights, and the Owen’s Valley Radio Observatory and Laws Railroad Museum for one night each. We had hoped to visit the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest too, but with temperatures in the single digits at night, the group’s sentiment was a resounding “No!” (A few members of the group also stayed an extra night and followed the Bishop petroglyph trail through the BLM-managed Volcanic Tablelands.)

The arches and rock formations of the Alabama Hills are challenging to photograph and light paint, but our group took to it with aplomb. Lighting the arches well requires some scrambling over steep and uneven surfaces, and in the case of Lathe Arch, wedging yourself and your camera into a narrow crevice to get low enough to have a good angle.

We chose to hold this workshop around the full moon because of the challenging nature of the topography, and because we wanted to emphasize light painting. With so much emphasis on Milky Way photography these days, it was great to get back to our night photography roots and work in bright moonlight for a change.

The sheer scale and number of radio telescopes at the observatory was a treat for all to experience. The Cal Tech staff was generous in giving us access to their facility, and we made the most of it.

Even though we normally scout each location in person and try to plan every detail of our workshops before the attendees arrive, sometimes opportunities appear that are too good to pass up. Such was the case with our surprise visit to the Laws Museum, a place that was unknown to both Tim and I until the signal tower caught our eye as we were passing by on the way to check out the petroglyphs.

Considering the richness and diversity of both the natural and historical sites in the region, a workshop along the northern part of the Highway 395 corridor is sure to follow someday.

Wrapping Up

Last, but always first in our hearts, is a big thank you to the most important people in our program—our participants. The energy and enthusiasm these photographers brought to the workshops cannot be paralleled.

We were thrilled to work with everyone who attended our workshops in 2017, and look forward to all the new places where we’re learning and shooting in 2018. Browse our new adventures here and grab a seat before they sell out.

BenQ sent a SW2700PT 27-inch display to some workshops this year, including Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio (above), for attendees to use for image editing and review.

Secondly, we’d like to thank all our brand partners who helped make the experience that much better for the workshop attendees:

  • Nikon sent some of the best photography gear ever made for students to use for free. The kit they shipped to each workshop included a wide range of cameras, including the D5, D850, D810A, D810, D750 and D500, plus a huge selection of lenses, including the awesome 14-24mm f/2.8, 20mm f/1.8, 28mm f/1.4 and more!
  • Coast gave away HP1 flashlights at our Passport Series events, provided a grand assortment of free loaner lights at all our workshops, and 30 percent discounts for all our participants and followers. (Want to take advantage of that last one? Use code “parksatnight” at
  • B&H Photo sent along loaner gear such as intervalometers, remote shutter releases and bubble levels.
  • BenQ provided projectors for presentations and the crystal-clear SW2700PT 27-inch display at two of our workshops for attendees to use while editing.
  • Light Painting Brushes provided a Deluxe Starter Kit for attendees to practice light writing.
  • X-Rite supplied an i1Display Pro to profile and calibrate anyone’s laptops and the instructors’ projectors.
  • Bay Photo provided free prints to award to attendees in random drawings, as well as a 25 percent discount to all the students.
  • Peak Design supplied a random giveaway as well, in the form of their Clutch strap.
  • Irix Lenses sent 11mm f/4 and 15mm f/2.4 Blackstone lenses to several workshops for students to borrow and love.
  • Luxli sent their brand new Viola light panels to several workshops as free loaners, prompting all five instructors and scores of students to buy them.

Finally, here’s to you, for reading, subscribing and attending. We appreciate you, and your support. Seize the night, y’all.

Matt Hill is a partner and workshop leader with National Parks at Night. See more about his photography, art, workshops and writing at Follow Matt on Twitter Instagram Facebook.