Five Questions: Very Large Files, Pollution Filters, Fuji lenses and More

This installment of our “Five Questions” series features inquiries about large image files, light pollution filters, lenses for Fuji, organizing files in Lightroom and old Canon cameras..

If you have any questions you would like to throw our way, 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!

Giant Files Missing from Lightroom

A 4 GB, 38-layer PSB file from Matt. Files this big don’t show up in the Lightroom catalog.

Q: I have run into an issue with large file sizes when image stacking. In Lightroom, after I choose Open as Layers in Photoshop, the final layered file is greater than 2 GB. I saved it in PSB large document format. The file was saved to the disk, but is not showing up in my Lightroom catalog like PSD files do, nor does it show up in the Import window in Lightroom. It looks like Lightroom cannot see the file at all. So I tried flattening the file, but then I got a moiré pattern in the image. Have you seen this before? What is your process for saving and working with very large Photoshop files? — Craig

A: That is correct—for some reason, Adobe hasn’t allowed Lightroom to see PSB files. So your options are to either work with that file only in Photoshop, or to flatten it so it saves as a smaller PSD file.

But yes, flattening can occasionally create its own challenges. We have seen that moiré issue with stacked photos before. It happens sometimes, but not others, and we haven’t been able to identify a pattern of when or why. We’ve asked others who are Adobe-knowledgeable, and haven’t found an answer—but we’ll keep trying! What I can tell you is that the moiré seems to happen more often when working with images from higher-resolution cameras, and that sizing down the image a little before flattening seems to help. — Chris

Filtering Light Pollution

Light pollution from Miami over Everglades National Park. Nikon D3s, Nikon 17-24mm f/2.8. 20 seconds, f/2.8, ISO 6400. © 2013 Chris Nicholson.

Q: Do you use light pollution filters of any kind? I don’t remember any of you mentioning them, and I don’t see them in your gear list. Are they just a scam? It seems like such a filter would help when you can’t get to a dark sky area. — Brien

A: Night sky filters mostly help with color shifts from light pollution, and can increase contrast in the sky. We’ve tried a couple of them, but have not tested them scientifically––yet. There will be a blog post comparing them for effectiveness before too long.

That said, I think the general consensus is these filters they can improve skies somewhat, but probably don’t provide $250 to $300 worth of improvement, which is what they tend to cost. I wouldn’t call them scams, but I also probably wouldn’t call them a great investment if resources are limited.

If you decide to try one, please let us know what you think by sharing in the Comments section or on our Facebook page. — Lance

Night Lenses for Fuji

Q: I own a Fuji X-T2 and have a 14mm f/2.8 lens. I notice that at least one of you has posted photos using an X-T2 with their 10-24mm f/4 lens. These photos look great. I have been looking at that lens and/or the Fuji 16mm f/1.4 to get a stop or two of additional light, given that the tests I see appear to indicate the corners are much softer at f/1.4, better at f/2 and pretty good at f/2.8. My interest in the 10-24mm is the flexibility and range down to 10mm, but I am concerned about the stops of light I would give up. What is your experience with these lenses, and do you think I should instead look more deeply at a Samyang or Rokinon 12mm or 10mm? — Larry G.

fuji lenses.jpg

A: Several of us have been shooting with Fujifilm since the X system came out, and our two favorite lenses for the night are the Fuji 10-24mm f/4 and the 16mm f/1.4.

The 10-24mm gives an excellent zoom range that’s good for including lots of night sky. The f/4 does limit light, which makes it challenging for Milky Way shots, but if you were to shoot at ISO 6400 or 12,800 and use Starry Landscape Stacker, then you could get away with it. However, the 16mm f/1.4 would be our preferred Milky Way lens for Fuji—it’s an excellent focal length and you can shoot wide open or stop down to f/2 without a worry.

That being said, if I were to buy into the Fujifilm lens system now, I’d have to give their new 8-16mm f/2.8 lens some serious consideration. It’s wider, faster and heavier than the 10-24mm, but the f/2.8 aperture gives it the versatility to shoot in any day or night situation.

On the higher end of tried-and-tested night lenses, I’d also recommend:

For budget and manual focus lenses:

  • I’m not a fan of the Rokinon/Samyang lenses—I’ve had too many with soft, out-of-focus edges. (Though I might try Samyang’s new 10mm f/2.8.)

  • Matt and I both own the inexpensive 7Artisans lenses—the 12mm f/2.8 is pretty good and Matt really likes his 7.5mm f/2.8 fisheye.

Finally, with adapters, any lens can be at your disposal:

  • Our favorite night lens is the Irix 15mm f/2.4 that comes in Canon, Nikon and Pentax mounts. It’s manual focus with a click stop at true infinity, it has hyperfocus markings, and you can lock your focus. It comes in two versions: Firefly and Blackstone. Optically they’re the same, but the Firefly is polycarbonate and the Blackstone is magnesium alloy. The former is lighter, and is best for hikers and photographers who are otherwise weight-conscious; the latter is more rugged, made for extreme situations, and has engraved fluorescent markings that are easy to read at night. — Gabriel

Organizing Photos in Lightroom

Q: I really want to move into Lightroom, but I do not organize my images by date. It just won’t work for me because I really want to group photos by place and such so I can look at a “place” together with all times I’ve been there. I know that’s what collections are for, but I cannot even begin to fathom reorganizing everything into dates and collections. Can I use Lightroom that way? — Therese I.

A: You’re in luck, because the Lightroom engineers designed the catalog to be pliable enough to use in whatever way feels comfortable to individual photographers. So when organizing photos, do whatever makes sense to you.

There are two strategies I see most often:

  • Organize into folders by date, and use keywords, collections, etc., to catalog and find them. This is what I do. That works very well for the way I think, because I have a very good memory for dates—show me an image of mine and I can tell you the month and year I shot it. A folder in my catalog might be “2016-05-20_Acadia.” So I do have location info in the folder name, but it’s only secondary. However, this approach doesn’t necessarily work so well for a fair number of other people whose brains don’t categorize information the same way mine does. Many other folks tend to …

  • Organize images into folders by region, country, city, etc. So there might be a folder structure of United States -> Southwest -> Arizona -> Grand Canyon. Using this strategy, you could still search by date, as that info is built into the metadata.

Really, it just comes down to which way your brain tracks these things better. Like I said, I’m in Group 1, as are Gabe, Matt and Lance. Tim is in Group 2. Lightroom is flexible enough to make your own system within the confines of the software. The important thing is to pick a strategy that is easy enough to implement while effective enough to be useful, and then to be diligent about sticking with the procedure you choose so that you can always find your images quickly and effortlessly. — Chris

Old Canon vs. New Anything


Q: What is your thought on the Canon XSi for landscape and night photography? I was thinking of upgrading to a their DLSR cameras, but was wondering if a Nikon camera would be a better option. — Nichole P.

A: The Canon XSi is more or less an entry level camera from 2008, and, to put it mildly, would be a subpar choice for night photography. We recommend a current camera that is at least one notch up from entry level.

To an extent, it matters what kind of photography you’d like to do. If you want to photograph the Milky Way, then the above recommendation is a minimum, and we’d encourage you to step up to a full-frame camera like the Canon 6D Mark II, or even the original 6D (which you could get on eBay for about $500) if you are on a tight budget. Over at Nikon, the D750 is an outstanding value, or the D5500 or D5600 would be OK.

Most importantly, I recommend buying a current generation camera. Even with lower-priced models, current cameras are far superior to those that were made even just a few years ago. — Lance

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


Sliding Into Sharper Skies: Lightroom Brings Texture to Night Photography

Lightroom’s new Texture slider.

Back in May, Adobe introduced a new slider to the Presence area within the Basic panel in Lightroom’s Develop module. This new tool was originally intended to be a “smoothing” slider that would soften skin texture somewhat more naturally than the Clarity slider does. But during development, the engineers found that while it was great at smoothing skin tones, it could also be used to add texture to our photographs.

Thus, the new Texture slider is aptly named. It really does enhance texture in our images! But as with all new photography tools, we wanted to push its limits and see what else it can do, particularly for night photography. As it turns out, when paired with the Dehaze slider, Texture can really enhance the look of our night photographs.

For those of you looking for a quick read, that about sums it up. By adding in a fair amount of Dehaze and a little Texture, your night skies will come alive! In the example below, Dehaze was set to +44 and Texture to +5. These are by no means default settings, as each camera produces different files and each scene requires its own approach. This does, however, give you starting point.

For those of you looking for a deeper understanding, read on.

A Deeper Understanding

The general effect of the Texture slider is somewhere between Clarity and Sharpening. To fully understand how this slider works, let’s take a look at all the sliders that enhance detail and contrast in our images: Sharpening, Texture, Clarity and Dehaze. We’ll begin with Sharpening.

Understanding Sharpening

Each of the aforementioned sliders, in essence, increases contrast. It’s the areas they increase contrast in that separates them from one another. Sharpening, on one end of the scale, adds contrast at the pixel level. Dehaze, at the other end, is much broader in its application of contrast. Let me show you what I mean.

Sharpening increases apparent sharpness by finding an edge, and then darkening one side and lightening the other. This increases contrast around that edge, making it appear sharper. The images below show an unsharpened enlargement (11:1) of a night sky, and the same section after adding Sharpening. Notice how the stars appear to have a dark ring around them? This is the contrast being added by the sharpening slider.

Also notice that even the pixels in the sky without stars have been sharpened. This look is what makes an over-sharpened image look “false.” Lowering the value of the Detail slider can correct this negative effect. The images below show the sky sharpened with Amount at 150 and Detail at 25, and the same image with the Detail slider lowered to 2.

Finally, let’s look at the real comparison. The images below are completely unsharpened and then sharpened with Amount at 150 and Detail at 3.

As you can see, the adjusted image has an increased apparent sharpness in the stars without appearing to be over-sharpened in the surrounding sky.

Of course, you would never want to sharpen your images at a magnification of 11:1. And the slider settings presented are not what I would necessarily suggest. These magnifications and settings were used to better help you understand the concept of sharpening. Sharpening should be done at magnifications of 1:1 or 1:2. Experiment with each magnification to suit your taste. Likewise, experiment with your sharpening sliders, keeping your Amount higher and Detail lower.

Note: The other sliders in the Sharpening box are Radius and Masking. The Radius slider controls how large the “halo” around the edge becomes. A higher Radius equals a thicker halo ring; a lower Radius setting creates a more natural look (a setting of 1.0 could be your benchmark). Adobe defines Masking as: “Controls an edge mask. With a setting of zero (0), everything in the image receives the same amount of sharpening. With a setting of 100, sharpening is mostly restricted to those areas near the strongest edges.” So increasing your Masking slider relegates the sharpening to only the areas with well-defined edges—which is typically the place we want the sharpening to effect.

Congratulations! You’ve made it through it a quick primer on Sharpening. The reason I dove a little deep here is that a basic understanding of Sharpening helps create a better understanding of the other contrast controls—Texture, Clarity and Dehaze.

Understanding Dehaze

Now, let’s jump to the other end of the spectrum with Dehaze. While Sharpening adds contrast on the pixel level, Dehaze increases contrast across your image on a much broader scale. The following images are at a 4:1 magnification. We see a comparison of no contrast controls applied, versus the Amount slider in Sharpening increased to the maximum of 150, versus Dehaze set to +100. (Again, these adjustments are not recommendations, but rather exaggerations to show the effect.)

Contrast added with Sharpening.

Contrast added with Dehaze.

Below, let’s look at those two contrast adjustments side by side—Sharpening at 150 and Dehaze increased to the maximum of +100.

The Dehaze slider is actually increasing contrast between the sky glow and foreground. Compared to Sharpening, notice how Dehaze makes the foreground darker and the sky glow brighter. This makes the foreground and sky more separate from one another (i.e., there’s more contrast between them).

You can also see how Sharpening actually brightens the foreground and adds texture throughout. It does not, however, significantly separate the sky glow from the foreground.

Below is another example, comparing the image straight from the camera with a version with Dehaze set to +60.

This really shows how Dehaze darkens the sky around the Milky Way. Again, this is a broader application of contrast as opposed to Sharpening’s more localized approach to separating individual stars from their surroundings. For our night skies, the Dehaze slider can be simply magic. (See more on this in my 2018 blog post “Dehaze: The Night Photographer's Secret Weapon.”)

Note: Along with an increase in contrast, the Dehaze slider also significantly increases contrast and somewhat darkens the whole image. After pumping up Dehaze, it’s not uncommon for me to decrease the blue saturation and increase Exposure.

So What About the Texture Slider?

The Texture and Clarity sliders fall between Sharpening and Dehaze. The breakdown of the different sliders looks like this:

  • Sharpening. Pixel-level addition to contrast around the edges. No real increase in saturation. Can increase grain and noise in the image.

  • Texture. Edge contrast added on a broader scale than Sharpening. Increases the apparent texture without the amplification of grain or noise that is sometimes accompanied with Sharpening. No noticeable saturation increase. The net effect is one of increased sharpness.

  • Clarity. Contrast added throughout the image on a broader scale than Texture. Looks more like an increase using the Dehaze slider but with slight sharping of the edges and no noticeable increase in saturation. The net effect is one of increased local contrast.

  • Dehaze. Adds contrast and saturation across a broader area of the image. Virtually no sharpening effect added. Separates especially well in brighter, low-contrast areas. This is why it works so well on our night skies.

  • Contrast. The broadest application of contrast. Also adds saturation. It does not take into account bright areas or dark areas, nor does it control edges. It’s the bludgeon of contrast controls with a very heavy-handed effect. Consider this to be an image-wide increase in contrast.

So the Texture slider is really like a less focused Sharpening slider. It creates edge sharpness without increasing noise and grain. You can see the effect here:

Used in combination with the Dehaze slider, Texture can produce night skies that are both crisp and colorful. However, like with the Sharpening slider, you should adjust with a soft hand. Kid gloves. A little goes a long way.

Putting it All Together

The following is a workflow that I used to process a recent image from our Bryce Canyon National Park workshop. Figure 1 shows the image captured with a Luxli Viola at camera left to illuminate the foreground. The Luxli output was balanced to complement the Milky Way in the background. The exposure was 15 seconds, f/2.8, ISO 6400.

Figure 1. Bryce Canyon National Park. Nikon Z 6, Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens at 14mm, light painted with a Luxli Viola. 15 seconds, f/2.8, ISO 6400. Unprocessed.

Figure 2 shows the image after basic Lightroom adjustments—I decreased Blacks to -32 and increased Whites to +4.

Figure 2. Blacks -32, Whites +4.

Then, as we see in Figure 3, I added a local adjustment on the foreground using the Adjustment brush and increased the Texture to +45. This increased the sharpness and texture of the hoodoos in the foreground. (This is the type of application that Texture is actually designed for—adjusting actual texture in a surface.)

Figure 3. Local Adjustment of the foreground, Texture +45.

The last adjustment was to the sky only, increasing Dehaze to +30, Exposure to +35 and Texture to +3. Figure 4 shows the final image.

Figure 4. The final image with another local adjustment of the sky: Dehaze +30, Exposure +35,Texture +3.

Everyone will develop their own special recipe of slider settings for their night skies. And indeed these may even change from one scene to the next. The important thing to keep in mind is the effect of these settings. A better understanding of what each slider produces will arm you with the knowledge to craft a truly fine photograph.

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.


Photo Management for the Road Warrior: A Lightroom Travel Workflow

A question I am frequently asked is how I manage all of my photographs while traveling. I travel a lot. I’m on the road about half of the year. During this time I create tons of photographs, all of which I download and edit on my laptop. How, then, do I sync these photos with those in my primary Lightroom catalog back home? Easy. Let me show you how.

A Great Workflow for Small Lightroom Catalogs

When teaching Lightroom, I typically recommend having only one catalog. This alleviates much confusion and complexity for the new Lightroom user, and it complies with the philosophy of the way the software was designed.

I also suggest creating the Lightroom catalog on an external drive and storing all of the images on that same drive. (Click here for a simple explanation of how the Lightroom Catalog works.)

This strategy keeps all of your images, settings and catalog in one place. Then you can take that drive on the road with you, and work on the road just as you would work when home. When you return from your trip, you can plug that drive into your desktop computer and launch the same Lightroom catalog you had been working with while traveling. Finally, when it comes time to back up, you simply purchase two other drives of the same capacity and clone your master drive to the two backup drives.

This system works incredibly well … until you have too many images to carry around with you. (More on that later.)

Creating a Catalog on an External Drive

So how do we go about doing this?

1. Plug the external drive into your computer and open a Finder/Explorer window.

2. Navigate to the external drive.

3. Create a new folder on the drive called “Primary Lightroom Photographs” (or whatever else makes sense to you). This is where you will store all of your actual photo files.

4. Double-click on the Lightroom application while holding down the Alt/Option key (Apple) or the Alt key (PC). This will force Lightroom to open the Select Catalog dialog box (Figure 1).         

Figure 1.

5. Click the Create a New Catalog button (circled in red in Figure 1).

6. Navigate to your external hard drive and create a folder there with a name such as “Primary Lightroom Catalog.” This folder will house your Lightroom catalog (in the LRCAT file format). You will also see your Primary Lightroom Photographs (or whatever you named it) folder (Figure 2).This is where you will store your actual images.

Figure 2.

7. When you want to launch this catalog, navigate to the external drive, click on the Primary Lightroom Catalog Folder and double-click the LRCAT file (Figure 3).

Figure 3.

Larger Lightroom Catalogs, Larger Hard Drives

OK, back to that pesky problem of having too many photos for the aforementioned approach to work. Once you create enough imagery, it will be impractical to keep all of your images with you on a portable external drive. In this case you’ll want to have a large hard drive at home. I use a LaCie 16TB RAID Array (Figure 4).

For those of you who are afraid to delete any of your images, or for those who perhaps shoot a lot of video, you’ll want even more space than I have. You’re in luck, as even bigger versions are available. LaCie, for instance, offers their series of RAID arrays in sizes rangings from 8 TB to 168 TB! Purchasing a large hard drive allows room to expand, and it serves as a single location to keep all of your images.

To create a Lightroom catalog on one of these workhorses, follow the directions above, but instead of using a portable external drive, use your RAID (or equivalent).

Taking it with You

That solves your storage needs at home, but what about on the road? Well, once you have all of your images on your home-based hard drive, you use a smaller hard drive to take with you when traveling. That smaller drive won’t contain every image you have, but it will give you the capability to add to your home-based catalog quite easily once the trip is over.

There are countless sizes and brands from which to choose, but again I go with LaCie for their consistent quality. If you feel you’ll need a ton of storage on the road (4 to 8 TB), I recommend the Rugged series of hard drives. Tough, reliable and with ample storage, these drives will serve even the most prolific photographer. I use a superfast 2 TB SSD drive. These drives have no moving parts to knock around and are lightning fast. They range in capacity from 500 GB to 2 TB.

Once again, create a new catalog on your “travel drive,” this time in a folder called something like “Travel Catalog.”

When you are on the road, simply plug in this smaller drive and use it as you would use your larger home-based drive. This means that when you want to launch Lightroom, you navigate to this travel drive, go into to the folder that contains your catalog, and double-click on the LRCAT file. This will launch this specific catalog and alleviate any confusion if you have multiple catalogs on your computer.

When downloading your images on the road, be sure to import them into the Travel Photographs folder on this drive. This strategy keeps both your catalog and your images in one place: on your external travel drive.

Syncing Your Lightroom Catalogs

When you return home from your trip, it’s time to sync your catalogs.

1. Plug your travel drive into the same computer that your home-based drive is plugged into.

2. Launch your Primary Catalog from your home-based hard drive.

3. From the File menu, choose Import from Another Catalog (Figure 6).

Figure 6.

4. Navigate to your travel drive, click on your LRCAT file (Figure 7) and then click Choose.

Figure 7.

5. You’ll be shown the dialog in Figure 8. Check all of the boxes at the upper left to import all of your images from your travel drive to your home-based drive. By default all the images in the right-hand window will be checked. If they’re not, click the Check All button.

Figure 8.

6. Under file handling, choose “Copy new photos to a new location and import.”

7. Click the Choose button (circled in Figure 9) to select the folder on your primary drive that you would like to put the images in. In this example, I’ve navigated to the Primary Lightroom Photos folder on my Primary drive. Once again, click Choose.

Figure 9.

That’s it! Sit back and let Lightroom copy all of the images from your travel drive onto your primary drive. The beautiful thing about this method is that it not only copies your images but it also includes their adjustments, keywords and any other changes you’ve made while on the road.

When the process is complete, back up your entire primary drive—both the catalog and the RAW files. Only then should you erase the images from your travel drive. (I never want to delete that travel drive until I have at least two other copies of those files.)

In Short …

The key is to keep it simple. Your primary drive should contain only two folders: Primary Photos and Primary Lightroom Catalog (Figure 10). Always launch your Primary Drive Catalog while at home and keep this catalog organized.

Figure 10.

When you create your travel drive folder hierarchy, it should look the same. One folder for Photographs and one for the Catalog (Figure 11).

Figure 11.

Now you can use your lightweight travel drive on the road, and easily marry those images with your main catalog at journey’s end. Using this simple system will save you tons of time both at home and on the road.

Moreover, there’s a bonus! You can use this same Import from Another Catalog command to consolidate any extra Lightroom catalogs you may have lying around. Launch your Primary Catalog and choose Import from Another Catalog. Then simply point to whichever stray catalog you would like to import into your Primary. Repeat this process for each of the extra catalogs you may have. Once all of your images are in your Primary Catalog, you can delete all those older catalogs. And then back it up!

Note: If you’d like assistance setting up Lightroom to work this way, the National Parks at Night crew is happy to help! See our Tutoring page to learn how to connect with us one-one-one.

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.


Five Questions: Great Smoky Mountains, Zion, Bryce, Black and White Printing, and More

You ask questions, we give answers. (And then you ask more questions, and we give more answers. Let’s keep the conversation rollin’!)

This installment of our “Five Questions” series features inquiries about camera choice, Lightroom’s Dehaze feature, file settings for black and white printing, and location info at Great Smoky Mountains, Bryce Canyon and Zion national parks.

If you have any questions you would like to throw our way, 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. Great Smoky Mountains Closed at Night?

Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Nikon D850 with a Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art lens. 30 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 64. © 2018 Matt Hill.

Q: Your Smoky Mountains National Park workshop looks interesting, but isn’t the park closed at night? I once tried to get in before dawn and the gate was locked. — Linda

A: Yes, the workshop will be both interesting and fun. (Promise!)

Great Smoky Mountains is usually open 24/7/365.25. But there’s a caveat. You may have been trying to enter Cades Cove—one of the most popular destinations at GSM. The gates at the beginning of that 11-mile loop road are closed at dusk and opened at dawn. But that is only to keep motorvehicles out; visitors can park nearby and walk or bike through Cades Cove anytime.

In fact, we will be going into Cades Cove twice during our workshop. The first time will be on foot. We’ll saunter a comfortable walking distance, which still offers plenty of shooting opportunities, such as the horse meadow, Sparks Lane, the Carter Shields Cabin and the Oliver Cabin. Our second jaunt into Cades Cove will be as an add-on opportunity that will avail the entire loop road to us.

Night photography in Cades Cove can be a blast, and is worth venturing into for sure. You’ll find amazing sky views, as well as loads to light paint. — Matt

Note: We still have a few spots open for our Great Smoky Mountains workshop this spring. Interested? Click here!

2. Missing dehaze

Q: How come my Lightroom 6 does not have the Dehaze slider? Are there any add-ons to LR that have the same quality Dehaze function that I can use?  — Bailing L.

A: The reason Dehaze slider isn't showing up for you in Lightroom 6 is because the feature wasn't added until the next version of the software, which was when the subscription-only model of Lightroom Creative Cloud was launched. In fact, Dehaze was the major feature added to the program right after launch to entice more people to sign up.

And I gotta say, while I’m not a fan of the subscription-only model, there’s an argument to be made that the Dehaze feature alone is worth the upgrade. It's an amazing tool with a lot of ancillary uses. One such application is to make starry skies and the Milky Way “pop,” as can be seen in this blog post by Tim.

If you don’t want to upgrade, there is one alternative that I’ve heard about, but I’ve never tested it: Prolost Dehaze. If you take it for a spin, please let us know how it works out for you. — Chris

3. Things to Shoot in Zion and Bryce

The Amphitheater at dusk, Bryce Canyon National Park. Fuji X-T2 with a 10-24mm f/4 lens at 10mm. 3 seconds, f/7.1, ISO 200. © 2018 Tim Cooper.

Q: I’ve already booked hotels for your Valley of Fire and Grand Canyon workshops. So excited! While in the region, I'm thinking about hitting Bryce Canyon and Zion. Do you have any advice about good areas to shoot without 4-mile hikes? — Julianne K.

A: There’s a ton to see and shoot at both parks without having to hit long trails.

In Zion, be sure to drive into the main canyon and also up through the tunnel toward Checkerboard Mesa. Stop at any pullout along these roads and enjoy the incredible scenery! You can’t miss.

For short walks in Zion I recommend:

  • Weeping Rock and the trails around it

  • Temple of Sinawava and the trail to The Narrows (though not into The Narrows, as that’s a more serious endeavor)

  • the area near the bridge that crosses Pine Creek

At Bryce, any viewpoints along the 15-mile road offer awesome overlooks of the canyon. Think sunrise for these viewpoints (especially Sunrise Point).

Middle-of-the-day shooting is better when you hike down a bit below the rim. Check out Navajo Loop Trail and Queens Garden Trail. No need to hike the entire loop of either, but just going down a little will get you into some terrific scenery! — Tim

Note: Due to a cancellation, a spot just opened up for our Bryce Canyon workshop this summer. Interested? Click here!

4. Choice for Multipurpose Camera

Q: I have two specific photography interests—night and underwater. I’ve been using a Canon 5D Mark III for night photography and time-lapse. I also use a Nikon D7000 for underwater. I’m planning to replace the D7000 with a higher-resolution camera, hopefully one that I can use for both underwater and night photography. My options are to buy an underwater housing and lenses for the 5D Mark II, or stay with a DX-format (Nikon D500) with a new housing, or go with something else like a Nikon D850. I would like to get to the point where I am using Nikon or Canon, not both. Which camera would you recommend to meet my needs? — Richard R.

A: Camera choice is a personal decision, and there are lots of factors to consider. I have yet to find the perfect camera, or one that offers everything I’m looking for in one package.

Given that you have Canon glass for full-frame cameras, I’d concentrate on comparing the 5D Mark IV to the D850. I think the Mark IV is the best camera Canon has ever made, and the first one that surpasses the 6D for high ISO night photography. The D850 is an awesome camera, but if you use live view focusing at night, I’d probably go with the Mark IV, especially if you have a number of L lenses. Why not rent them both and see which feels better?

The D500 is certainly a capable camera, but if you can afford to go full-frame, I think you’ll be happier that way. If you favor wide lenses, definitely go full-frame; if you tend to shoot long, then the D500 might be a better choice. — Lance

5. Image Settings for Printing in Black and White

Q: I sent a black and white image from the Sloss Furnaces workshop to Bay Photo to have printed for the NPAN exhibit there. I converted to black and white in Lightroom, exported to Photoshop for star stacking, flattened, and then brought the file back in to Lightroom. But Bay Photo is telling me that the image is not in the correct format—that instead of grayscale it needs to be converted back to RGB to make a black and white print. So I then tried keeping the photo in color and just dropping Saturation and Hue to 0 to create a black and white image “in color,” but that washed out the shadows. I’m lost here. Any suggestions or insight? — Martha H.

A: Very cool that you’ll be participating in the exhibit! This is the third park that our workshop attendees will have a show in. It will be running April 1 to June 1 at the Sloss Furnaces visitor center.

As for your question: In short, any file that is sent to a printer should be an RGB image, not grayscale. Even if you convert an image to black and while in Lightroom, it still sends an RGB image over to Photoshop. Below is a screenshot of an image that I converted to black and white in Lightroom and then sent to Photoshop. If I go to Image > Mode, you can see that the file is a 16-bit RGB image. This is normal and the way it should be.

The difference? An RGB image can be black and white, or it can be color. A grayscale image can only be black and white. My guess is that you did something in Photoshop to convert it, intentionally or not.

To fix the problem for Bay Photo:

  1. Reopen that image in Photoshop (from Lightroom, choose Photo > Edit In > Edit in Adobe Photoshop CC 2019).

  2. Go to Image > Mode, and click on RGB Color.

  3. Save the file.

Now when you export the image from Lightroom, you will create a JPG in RGB. — Tim

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


The First Steps to Processing Milky Way Images in Lightroom

Capturing the Milky Way is one of the great joys of night photography. But why do some photos of this celestial phenomenon look better than others?

Post-processing your photos can really make the difference between a grab shot and a masterpiece. The good news is that you don’t need a doctorate in Photoshop to bring out the brilliance. A few simple tricks in Lightroom can go a long way in making your stars and Milky Way stand out.

In This Video

In the video below, I illustrate several tips, including:

  • adjusting white balance to make skies look more like “night”

  • using Dehaze to boost the look of the Milky Way

  • applying local adjustments to target effects

  • HSLing the image to nail the color

  • brushing some punch into the galaxy

So open up an image and follow along with the video to learn how to process your Milky Way images in Lightroom!

Note: Did you like that video, and think you’ll like more? Please consider subscribing to the National Parks at Night YouTube channel to get notified about all our new videos when they come out.

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.