Alan Dyer is a name that’s probably familiar to people that have been interested in astrophotography for more than ten years. Alan is the author of numerous astronomy articles, a lecturer, and flat-out an outstanding astrophotographer, nightscaper, and Milky Way photographer. Each of his photographs is masterfully composed, exposed, and processed. The beauty and depth of his body of work are why Alan Dyer is my Monday Motivation.

I first ran into Alan’s work in Astronomy magazine in the early 1990s. As my interested in astrophotography was building, I bought his book, The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide, which he co-wrote along with another accomplished astrophotographer, Terence Dickinson. It’s an excellent book, and it’s still one of the best written and photographed astronomy guides.

Alan Dyer / AmazingSky.com Swirls of auroral curtains over Båtsfjord, Norway while we were in port on the southbound portion of the Hurtigruten coastal cruise on the ms Trollfjord. This was March 1, 2019.  The stars of Taurus and the Pleiades are at left; Cassiopeia at upper right.  This is a single 0.8-second exposure at f/2 with the 15mm Venus Optics lens and Sony a7III at ISO 1600.
Swirls of auroral curtains over Båtsfjord, Norway while we were in port on the southbound portion of the Hurtigruten coastal cruise on the ms Trollfjord. This was March 1, 2019. The stars of Taurus and the Pleiades are at left; Cassiopeia at upper right. This is a single 0.8-second exposure at f/2 with the 15mm Venus Optics lens and Sony a7III at ISO 1600.

Alan Dyer has credentials to prove his expertise. Widely regarded as an authority on astrophotography and commercial telescopes, Alan has published articles as a contributing editor to several astronomy magazines including Astronomy, SkyNews, and Sky & Telescope over the last 30 years. He wrote and produced planetarium shows at the Edmonton Space and Sciences Centre. Alan’s appeared on Spaceweather.com, Astronomy Picture of the Day, Universe Today, National Geographic, TIME, NBCNews, and CBSNews. If all that isn’t enough, he has a main belt asteroid named after him – (78434) Dyer. Wow!

Alberta-based = Amazing Skies

Alan lives in Strathmore, Alberta, mid-way between the eastern edge of the Canadian Rockies and the Alberta badlands, surrounded by miles of wheat farms. Strathmore is in a Bortle Class 5 zone, but it’s a short drive east into the plains or west into the Rockies to find Class 3 and even truly dark Class 2 skies. In addition to excellent access to dark skies, Alan is far enough north to enjoy the Aurora Borealis.

Alan Dyer / AmazingSky.com A panorama of Morant’s Curve, a famous viewpoint on the Bow River in Banff National Park, with an eastbound train on the CPR tracks under the stars of the winter sky. Illumination is from the 13-day gibbous Moon off frame at left.  Orion is at centre; Sirius and Canis Major at left; and Taurus and the Pleiades at right. The main peak at centre is Mount Temple; the peaks at right are the ones around Lake Louise.  I shot this March 19, 2019 at the start of the evening, from the new viewpoint on the Bow Valley Parkway. Morant’s Curve is named for the famed CPR photographer Nicholas Morant who often shot from here with large format film cameras.  Now, how did I do this? I was shooting multi-segment panoramas at the viewpoint when a train whistle in the distance to the est alerted me to the oncoming train. I started the panorama segment shooting at the left, and just by good luck the train was in front of me at centre when I hit the central segment. I continued to the right to catch the blurred rest of the train snaking around Morant’s Curve. It took some adjustments of the masks in the panorama segments to get the train to blend well from segment to segment. This was stitched with PTGui as Photoshop would not handle this well. PTGui allows adjusting the masks on the individual segments. The equirectangular projection used stretches out and distorts the constellations a bit at top.  Each segment is 8 seconds at f/3.2 and ISO 800 with the 24mm Sigma Art lens and Nikon D750 in portrait orientation. I added a Luminar Orton glow effect to the ground for artistic effect.
A panorama of Morant’s Curve, a famous viewpoint on the Bow River in Banff National Park, with an eastbound train on the CPR tracks under the stars of the winter sky. Illumination is from the 13-day gibbous Moon off frame at left. Now, how did I do this? I was shooting multi-segment panoramas at the viewpoint when a train whistle in the distance to the west alerted me to the oncoming train. I started the panorama segment shooting at the left, and just by good luck the train was in front of me at centre when I hit the central segment. Then I continued to the right to catch the blurred rest of the train snaking around Morant’s Curve. It took some adjustments of the masks in the panorama segments to get the train to blend well from segment to segment. This was stitched with PTGui. Each segment is 8 seconds at f/3.2 and ISO 800 with the 24mm Sigma Art lens and Nikon D750 in portrait orientation. I added a Luminar Orton glow effect to the ground for artistic effect.

AmazingSky.com

Alan runs AmazingSky.com. His website has numerous examples of Alan’s night photography. The name of his site is not an idle brag; his photography proves just how amazing the sky is! Just sit back and watch the slide show on his home page. It takes several minutes for it to play, and it’s worth your time to see his work. Make sure you have your browser screen maximized to see the photos at their best!

AmazingSky.com is where you’ll find Alan’s books and workshops. You also see his free and paid tutorials. In additional his photographs, he has several guides available for free, including his 10 Tips for Time-Lapse Photography. He lists his upcoming talks.

Alan Dyer / AmazingSky.com
A photo group from the Natural Habitat tour company shoots the Northern Lights at the Northern Studies Centre in Churchill, Manitoba, February 8, 2019. This is a single exposure with the 15mm lens and Sony a7III.

AmazingSky.net

The AmazingSky.net is where Alan has his blog with photos from every genre of astrophotography fill his websites – solar, lunar, planetary, deep sky, Aurora, Milky Way, time lapse, panoramas, nightscapes. Alan does them all. He discusses his latest photos in depth and shares his adventures taking them.

Alan Dyer / AmzingSky.com
The Northern Lights from at sea when leaving the Lofoten Islands, Norway heading toward the mainland, from Stamsund to Bodo, March 3, 2019. This photo was from the Hurtigruten ship the ms Trollfjord. Orion is setting in the west at left. This display was with a Kp Index of only 1 or 2 and was active and bright only briefly around midnight. This is a single 1-second exposure for at f/2 with the 15mm Venus Optics lens and Sony a7III at ISO 6400.

Camera Choices

Alan also discusses his camera choices on his blog. He’s a long-time Canon user, started with a Canon 300D Rebel in 2004. Currently, it’s the Canon 6D and 6D MkII. But he says his favorite camera is the Nikon D750. In the last year, he started using a Sony a7III for his nightscapes, taking advantage of its low-light video capability to shot real-time video of Aurora. He’s written an in-depth review of the Sony a7III for use with Astrophotography.

Croaking frogs serenade us as Alan films a STEVE in real-time.

AmazingSky on YouTube

Alan has a couple of dozen videos on his YouTube. Several of them are Tutorials, but one that caught my eye was his real-time video of an unusual and elusive auroral phenomenon named STEVE – Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement. He shot it with his Sony a7III in real-time. The video starts with a time lapse of the STEVE and then switches to the real-time video in 4K. As if a real-time STEVE was not enough, listen to the croaking frogs and look for the meteor he caught in a couple of frames. And did I say this was real-time video?!

How to Photograph the Northern Lights by Alan Dyer

AmazingSky on Vimeo

Alan has a Vimeo channel with over 30 videos. His videos look great on the Vimeo platform, where the quality of his video and time lapses can show through. One of the films I enjoy most here is his “Moonlight on the Prairie.” Shooting during the hours the Moon is up is a much underutilized technique. All nightscape photographers need to convince their Milky Way friends to stay out even when the Moon has risen can keep shooting.

Moonlight on the Prairie shows the beauty of shooting under moonlight.

Flickr and Photoshelter

Galleries of Alan’s work are at
Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/amazingsky/ and
Photoshelter: https://amazingsky.photoshelter.com/index

He has portfolios of his recent work, nightscapes, Aurora and atmospheric effects, constellations, deep sky, and eclipses. Both are a true showcase for his excellent photography.

Alan Dyer / AmazingSky.com
A band of subtly coloured aurora over the snowy trees of the northern boreal forest, Churchill, Manitoba. This was Feb 9/10, 2019. Cassiopeia is at left. This is looking north. This is a single 6-second exposure with the Venus Optics 15mm lens at f/2 and Sony A7III at ISO 3200.

The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide

Alan Dyer’s co-authored book, The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide is a great way to take the step from Milky Way photography into astrophotography. Alan along with Terence Dickinson, another expert astrophotographer, has laid out all the background knowledge needed to do this. In addition to easy to understand writing, the photographs in this book are outstanding!

The book is in three parts. Part One covers how to choose equipment like binoculars, telescopes along with accessories like eyepieces and filters, and then how to use them. The second part introduces various aspects of observing, such as naked eye astronomy, how to choose an observing site, observing the Sun, Moon, Comets, Planets, Deep Sky Objects, and how to find your way around the night sky. Part Three covers advanced techniques such as digital photography, high-tech astronomy such as using “Go To” telescopes, and how to care for your scope. The book wraps up with a Milky Way Atlas.

First Edition to Third Edition

My copy of the Backyard Astronomer’s Guide is a first edition, published in 1991. It’s up to the 3rd Edition, updated in 2010. While that seems like a long time ago in our rapidly advancing and technology dependent activity, there’s still a lot of great information in this book.

You can buy the latest edition (3rd) of The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide. Check out the example pages on the Backyard Astronomy website, or head on over to Amazon and order your copy.

If you’re interested in seeing work from the film era of astrophotography, I recommend picking up the first edition of this book. The layout of the first edition is much the same as the current edition, filled with awesome shots, and all taken on film.

Alan Dyer / AmaxingSky.com
Orion and the winter stars setting on a spring evening at Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta, with the Zodiacal Light rising out the urban sky glow from distant Calgary. Sirius is at far left, with Orion setting behind the badlands hill, while the Pleiades is in the Zodiacal Light band at right, with Mars just below the Pleiades. High haze and aircraft contrails add the natural star glows. The ugly yellow glow of light pollution contrasts with the delicate natural glows of the Zodiacal Light and Milky Way. This is a panorama stitched from 3 segments, all with the 24mm Sigma Art lens and Nikon D750, for 20 seconds at f/2.2 and ISO 4000. Stitched with Adobe Camera Raw.

Nightscapes eBooks

Alan Dyer has a set of books on Nightscape photography – How to Photograph and Process Nightscapes and Time Lapses. Initially, it was available only in Apple iBooks format. In 2018, Alan released a PDF version of it, splitting it into two. Part One covers How to Photograph, and Part Two on How to Process. A Kindle version is available as well.

These are excellent guides; I bought the PDF version shortly after it was released. They combine easily understood writing with Alan’s outstanding photography. You can purchase all formats on this page on Alan website.

Solar Eclipses

It’s been a couple of years since the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse. I’m certain many of you were as burned out as I was from all the photos of the eclipse afterward. But with time, all things pass. Watching Alan’s footage from that day brings back all the awesome feelings I had that day. He had five cameras recording the event.

Alan Dyer’s film, Totality over the Tetons.

You’re probably not going to be surprised, but Alan has a guide on How to Photograph the Solar Eclipse. I used this to plan my exposure strategy for the 2017 eclipse. For those in North America, the Total Solar Eclipse of 2024 is going to be soon upon us!

Workshops

Alan teaches workshops as well. He offers several including How to Shoot and Process Nightscapes and Time-Lapses, How to Shoot & Process Deep-Sky Images with your DSLR, Photoshop for Astronomy, and Shooting Stars with Your DSLR. If you’re looking for a workshop in the Calgary area, contact Alan for dates.

PhotogAdventures.com Podcast 107 with Alan Dyer.
PhotogAdventures.com Podcast 107 with Alan Dyer.

Alan Dyer / Photog Adventures Interview

If you’re a Patreon member of PhotogAdventures.com podcast, you can hear an interview with Alan. Alan talks about how he can go out can capture the Milky Way Core in the south and then turn around and look north to photograph an amazing Aurora! He talks about how Auroras inspire him to shot more time lapses, and he gives several processing tips. It’s a fun interview, and it’s great to hear Alan talk about these subjects.

If you’re not a member of the PhotogAdventures Patreon, you can be for only $5 a month. It’s a great way to get access to dozens of other interviews with PhotogAdventures, and it helps them to produce content for the shows.

Alan Dyer / AmazingSky.comA
A photographer and volunteer at the Churchill Northern Studies Centre (Brian) shoots the aurora from up the Rocket Range Road at the Centre. This was Feb 8, 2019 on a brutal night with brisk winds and high wind chills. This is a single exposure with the 15mm lens and Sony a7III.

Alan Dyer’s Contact Info

Website: http://www.amazingsky.com/index.html
Blog: https://amazingsky.net/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AlanDyerAmazingS
Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/amazingsky/
Photoshelter: https://amazingsky.photoshelter.com/index
Twitter: https://twitter.com/amazingskyguy
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNeoZTl8WubNLAbA_WyYJBw
Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/theamazingsky
Member of The World at Night Photo Group:  https://www.twanight.org

Thanks to Alan Dyer!

Thanks to Alan Dyer for supplying photos for this article. All the captions for the photographs in this article were supplied by Alan.

I reached out to him the afternoon before press time, and he sent me several photos for use in this article. I appreciate the prompt reply to my request and his graciousness in allowing us to use his work on MilkyWayPhotographers.com.

Alan Dyer / AmazingSky.com
A wide panorama of Orion and the winter stars setting on a spring evening at Dinosaur Provincial Park, with the Zodiacal Light rising out of the twilight and distant yellow sky glow to the west at centre. Sirius is at left to the southwest, with Orion setting behind the badlands hill, while the Pleiades is in the Zodiacal Light band at centre, with Mars just below the Pleiades. Perseus, Cassiopeia, and the Andromeda Galaxy are setting at right in the northwest. High haze and aircraft contrails (one at centre) add the natural star glows. The lingering twilight adds the sky colour. This is a 240° panorama stitched from 17 segments, all with the 24mm Sigma Art lens and Nikon D750 in portrait orientation, each segment 20 seconds at f/1.4 and ISO 3200. Stitched with Adobe Camera Raw. A mild Orton glow effect was added to the landscape with Luminar 3 plugin.

More Monday Motivation

If you have any suggestions for a Monday Motivation, someone that you think is so inspirational you want everyone else to know about them, drop us a line or leave us a comment below. We’ll check them, and maybe we’ll include them!

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