Dinosaur Provincial Park (DPP) is a dark sky area I go back to at least once every Milky Way season. The skies provide me with something different every single time which is very helpful in ensuring the resulting images have variety. I find the weather there is very mild for a night photography spot and depending on the exact location you chose to shoot at, there is (usually) barely any wind trying to freeze your fingers and batteries. I’m also running a workshop here at the end of May!
There is a bit of light pollution around the rim of the canyon. As the Milky Way moves around through the night and the months, it’s position in relation to some of the lights changes. There is something very bright in the SE section, and if there are any clouds there, light pollution becomes very prominent. I have used this to my advantage though. For example, my first time shooting at DPP, I ended up with some mystical looking photos and the light pollution added to the atmosphere.
During the trip this month I wanted to shoot images with as many techniques as I could. These techniques range from single shot images to light painting (with or without blending), using trackers, stacking and panoramas. I’ll go over an example of each and a brief overview of why you would try any of these techniques.
Single Shot + Light Painting
This first image was a single exposure, and I used a small LED panel to light up the foreground.The LED panel emits a very low amount of light, and it has a 3500k filter attachment to match the approximate colour temperature I set for white balance on the camera. This technique is known as Low Level Lighting. The noise in the image won’t look too bad on a computer screen, but shooting at ISO8000 does introduce a lot of noise.
One way to reduce noise in high ISO images is to stack a series of identical (mostly) shots. The stars are moving through the sky so each shot of the Milky Way you take will have stars in different positions. The foreground is stationary, so it is easy to stack and average out the noise using a process in Photoshop. To stack the sky, without manual rotating and aligning the images, I used a program called Starry Landscape Stacker. The program identifies the sky and ground, aligns and stacks for you.
For a few shots, I used my star tracker. I have a full post on what a star tracker is and my thoughts on using it. The tracker allowed me to get pinpoint stars by moving my camera at the rate the stars move. Tracking also allows me to do longer exposures and thus reduce my ISO and noise in the image.
Tracked + Light Painting
This image combines using a tracker and light painting. I used the star tracker to capture the sky, then took another shot with the foreground lit up using my LED and the tracker off. I kept all of the setting the same as for the sky, but shorted the exposure time since I could turn up the brightness on the LED.
Panorama + Blending Two Exposures
Early season Milky Way panoramas are some of my favourites to shoot. The arc of the galaxy is low in the sky and is relatively easy to capture with a wide angle lens. For this one, I took a series of shots that exposed for the stars. Then I took another set with longer exposures to bring out the detail in the foreground. I stitched each panorama separately then aligned and blended the two panoramas.
As mentioned at the beginning of this post, I am running a night photography workshop at Dinosaur Provincial Park, May 30 – June 2. I’m so excited to have been able to book this as it is one of my favourite spots and I’d love to share it with you, along with a lot of night photography knowledge. We’ll be able to get lots of practice during our time at the park. I’ve also arranged for a Red Seal Chef to keep us well fed and worry free through the weekend.
Another perk is that we have booked a guide to take us on a hike (its an easy one) out to a massive fossil bone bed. Fifty-eight dinosaur species have been discovered at DPP!
If night photography is something you want to try or get better at, I hope you’ll join me!