The Dark Side of Photography -- Star Trails and Night Sky Photography Workshop

The Dark Side of Photography -- Star Trails Photography Workshop

Future dates coming soon!

(This workshop is limited to 10 students)
Authorized permittee of the National Park Service
Photos from the last workshop

Photography during the day is tough. Night Photography in a city full of lights is even trickier for getting that right exposure. What happens when you leave the comforts and light of civilization and still want to get some great images using the light of the stars?

Welcome to the Dark Side of photography!

The pun is intended. Star photography is tricky and left to figure it out on your own it could be a frustrating endeavor for sure. Join the rebel instructors of the Aperture Academy for a night of photography and fun under the stars!

Yosemite in Winter Photography Workshop Students

This workshop is designed to teach you what you need to know to get started with photography at night. How do you make the stars streak? How do you capture them so they're not moving at all? How do I make my foreground visible as well? We'll cover everything from star trails to light painting in this photographic adventure in the dark.

Going out in the dark at night alone can be a daunting even frightening experience. Why not join a group of other like-minded photography enthusiasts, and professional instructors and make a night of it. We'll drive you to the location and our instructors will help you capture the beauty and take the mystery out of star photography!

This workshop will begin at the Aperture Academy Studio. We will spend the first 30 minutes with a classroom presentation to talk about the various techniques that will be taught so that, once in the field, everyone will understand the camera settings and techniques. We will then travel south to Pinnacles National Park so that we can escape the light pollution of the city to increase the quality of stars in the night sky!

Results may vary based on time of year, weather, and atmospheric conditions however you WILL leave this workshop with a solid understanding of the proper techniques for capturing the night sky.

This goal of this workshop is to teach you the fundamentals necessary to photographically capture pinpoint stars, star trails, light writing/painting, and the Milky Way.

Below is the itinerary for this workshop. (Start and end times vary with the time of year for sunset):

Day 1:

  • 30-45 minute classroom presentation to talk about gear and techniques
  • Depart for Pinnacles National Park (Transportation NOT provided)
  • On-location workshop (approx 4 hours)
  • Return to Aperture Academy Studio (Transportation NOT provided)

Day 2:

  • 1pm-4pm Downloading images, sorting & organizing
  • 3-hour In-depth classroom instruction (You will need to bring in your own computer with Photoshop CC and Lightroom Classic already installed)


  • Ability to walk 1 mile uphill (each way) on a trail with very uneven surfaces, and climb some narrow stairs
  • You will need to bring a small flashlight
  • A sense of adventure!

Equipment To Bring (No filters are needed for this workshop)

DSLR or Mirrorless Camera

Required: You'll want, and need, the full power and creative control of a Digital SLR or Mirrorless Camera to get the most out of your learning experience on this workshop. We teach all brands and models of Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax and more!


Required: Stability is everything in Photography! Using a sturdy tripod will help improve your compositions and get sharper images. A tripod also helps you have both hands free to focus (pun intended!) on learning and getting "the shot"!

Intervalometer or Shutter Release Cord

Required: A corded shutter release allows you to take a photo without touching the camera. This helps ensure a sharp photo and is very important for long exposures in dark areas, or at night. They are affordable and a great tool to have in your camera bag! (Ideally purchase a cord that plugs in as remotes are notoriously problematic)

Computer with Adobe Photoshop & Lightroom Classic CC

Required: A computer with Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom Classic Creative Cloud is required for this class so that you can participate in the post-processing portion of the workshop.

Buying Guide:

Buying Guide:

Buying Guide:

Buying Guide: Need Gear?    Visit BorrowLenses for a special package designed specifically for Aperture Academy students for this workshop.

What's Included/Not Included

What's Included in your workshop:

  • Hands-on Instruction by 1 or more professional photographers
  • Water (snacks for extended workshops)

What's not included

  • Transportation
  • Instructor Gratuities
  • Meals during workshop breaks

Safety, Confidence, Being Prepared

Aperture Academy is a professional organization dedicated to safe, quality, positive experiences for our students, and responsible stewardship for the breathtaking locations and beautiful wildlife we enjoy at every workshop.

We work with the United States Department of Interior, the National Park Service, and the US Forestry Service to obtain all the proper permits to operate safely, conscientiously, and legally. We carry much more than the required minimum of insurance, and our skilled instructors are certified as Wilderness First Responders, in CPR, as well as in the Leave No Trace Outdoor Ethics program. And, have we mentioned that each is an accomplished, successful professional photographer?

Every "ApCad" member is dedicated to ensuring our students receive the best care and guidance possible, so each of them has the opportunity to get the most remarkable, enjoyable, and enriching photography experience available anywhere in the world.

What to Bring

  1. Your digital SLR camera.   If you have two bodies, bring both. This is a digital photography class, but if you have a favorite point-and-shoot or old film camera you like, bring it along, and if time permits, you can use it as well.
  2. Lenses.   Try to cover a range from very wide (17-20mm), for landscape images, to zoom ranges (100-400mm) for wildlife. It's not uncommon to see wildlife on workshops (even those structured for landscape instruction), so it's best to be prepared, if possible. We also encourage you to bring other lenses, like a macro or fish-eye lens if you have them, because there are always endless creative possibilities to be found on our workshops.
  3. Tripod.   This is a necessity for ALL our workshops. It can be windy in many of the areas we take you, so the sturdier your tripod, the better. If you haven't purchased one yet, you can e-mail our instructors; they would be happy to assist you in selecting a tripod that is perfect for you.
  4. Extra batteries.   Bring at least 1 or 2 extra batteries. Cold temperatures and long exposures can drain batteries very quickly. There is no worse feeling than arriving at the last spot of the night for sunset and having a dead battery.
  5. Extra memory cards.   Our instructors will show you the benefits of shooting in RAW format, which is a better method for photography, but takes up more space on a card. Having multiple memory cards will be to your benefit.
  6. Clothing & shoes.   Bring layers of clothing you can add if/when temperature and wind conditions change, and they can! And wear good, comfortable walking shoes!
  7. Lunch, or money for lunch. And snacks.   On two and three day workshops, we provide snacks and water. On one day workshops, we stop for lunch at a local food establishment where you can purchase food or eat what you have brought for yourself.
  8. Your sense of adventure!   We want to teach you what it is YOU want to learn, and have you come away with some good images. And, since the nature of outdoor photography means we're subject to weather conditions, which we can't control, sometimes we must be flexible with the itinerary. So, come ready for anything. Because we are dedicated to do everything possible to ensure you're in the best places at the best times to get amazing images.
  9. Your Thinking Cap!   Show up ready, because you're going to learn! Some tips: make sure to read the workshop details before you arrive, so you know what to expect, and what to bring; bring a list of questions you want to ask the instructors; check the weather forecast so you're aware of possible weather changes; and most importantly, show up with a brain that is ready for learning, and we promise we'll fill it up with as much information as you desire!

Workshop FAQs

:: What should I expect? ::

All workshops are designed to help you learn how to take better photographs and offer a complete immersion into digital landscape and/or wildlife photography. You will learn important photography techniques such as how to properly expose a composition, when to use a filter for best effect, and how to understand and adjust camera settings for optimum results.

Class sizes are kept small (approx. 12 students) to afford each participant one-on-one instruction and to maximize individual attention. The Instructor ratio is usually 6 to 1.

All trips require walking, and usually a little hiking, on uneven terrain. You will want to wear the right clothing, footwear, and keep in mind you could get a bit of a workout!

:: Why only Digital? ::

Digital photography offers unique opportunities for in-field photography workshops. By reviewing captured images as soon as they happen, we can examine exposure, composition and histograms, and instantly learn what works--and what doesn't.

:: What should I bring? What is required? ::

  • All workshops require a Digital SLR camera and a tripod. (Note: A shutter release cord is required, and an intervalometer is highly recommended.)
  • Bring a laptop on workshops 2 days and longer if possible, as we will spend time, when not in the field, reviewing and critiquing images.
  • It is advised for you to dress in layers, as all workshops are held on location and often temperatures and conditions can change rapidly.
  • Food and beverages will not be provided, so please bring plenty of water and nourishment.
  • All students are expected to arrive on-time and to work together as a group to learn, not only from instructors, but also from each other.

:: What kind, and how much, equipment should I bring? ::

Bring it all if you can! You never know what you might see. On many workshops we focus on landscape photos, but you never know when wildlife might enter the scene and provide the perfect opportunity to photograph them in their natural habitat. It's always better to go into the field with too much gear, rather than miss an opportunity because of not enough equipment.

:: Is transportation provided? ::

Each student is responsible for their own transportation.

:: Can a non-photographer friend or spouse attend the workshop? ::

Non-photographer friends and or spouses are welcome to attend but will be liable for their transportation. For more information, please contact the Aperture Academy staff.

:: Does weather ever alter or cancel events? ::

Only if conditions pose a safety risk. Often, poor weather can make for dramatic photographic opportunities, so if rain is forecasted, pack a light jacket or rain poncho and bring something to keep your camera dry (a hotel shower cap is ideal). We reserve the right to re-schedule any workshop due to weather at any time prior to any scheduled workshop, though we will try to give as much advance notice as possible. Our goal is to make sure you have the best experience possible.

:: What happens if I have to cancel? ::

Because of the limited number of workshops and availability of one-on-one instruction sessions, once we schedule a spot, it won't be available for anyone else, therefore we can not offer a refund unless the cancellation is 90 days before the workshop date for one-day workshops and 120 days before the workshop date for 2-3 day workshops. This policy is necessary to assure us that those who sign up are serious about the adventure and will not back out, ruining the opportunity for someone else.

However, there is an exception to every rule. If, for some reason a workshop or one-on-one is cancelled by its instructor, you will be entitled to a refund, or may choose a credit for a different date. [Read our refund policy and other terms here]

:: Be prepared to take better photographs! ::

These workshops will help you develop skills, learn techniques and get to know your camera and equipment like never before. As a bonus, you will have a fun time and build friendships while learning to improve your photography technically. The result? You'll be capable of producing photographs as beautiful as any professional!

Students of the Aperture Academy are eligible for special discounts and promotions from our partners.
Bay Photo SinghRay Filters SmugMug
Nik Software Induro Tripods thinkTANK

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