Not only is it the start of a new year, but 2020 is the start of a new decade. Inspired by the new
1. Discover New Locations
Let’s be honest; do you really need to have a shot of a location that has already been shot approximately 5,034,293 times? Perhaps, if you can find a new way to capture it. The most enjoyment I have had in photography has been discovering and shooting locations that have seen little to no attention.
There are Facebook groups devoted to a wide variety of interests, and I can tell you that myself and at least one other MWP author scout some of these groups looking for new locations. Plus, if you belong to some of these groups and advertise your work, there might be a chance you can make a buck or a thousand off print sales because you found that one location that has sentimental value to a large number of members.
2. Introduce People to Milky Way Photography Through Meetups and Workshops
Over the last year, I have talked to friends about having meetups, and I have had workshops on my goals list for a while. Meetups are great because you reconnect with old friends and make new ones.
3. Get my Business Back on Track and Expand
The business of photography of business is a fickle creature. I spent a lot of time in 2018 preparing for my move back out West. Researching and promoting. I had lined up what I thought was a sure-fire beginning once I got relocated only to find my business to come to a screeching halt. I was not making money hand over fist before the move, but enough to keep me mildly happy. The last year has been a disaster. I love shooting weddings and portrait sessions, and the only time I got to do these was through meetups, giveaways, and collabs. I did get to shoot high school football regularly and got paid to do it, which was a bonus.
As I mentioned before, workshops are on my goals list, and I have identified locations in which I want to show people and help them learn what I know. Now I have to make them a reality.
4. Become a Better Photographer with my Phone Camera
Yeah, I said it. The reality
- I believe that by doing so it will make me better, and
- I can use my skill with a camera phone to promote my work faster and smarter.
I had a recent conversation with a good friend. He came to me when he started down this dark journey of creating pixels, and then he kind of went off on his own. Although he probably would not admit to it, he has become a social media influencer (in a good way). He continually posts pretty good images on his feed. I asked him about it one day after one particular image came across his feed. “It’s all my phone.”
He proved a very valid point that photography is about chasing the light, capturing that light, and bending it to his will. We have to have good light before we can create great images.
5. Expand my social media
Lastly, grow my social media following, and you can help now by following me on Facebook at Facebook.com/blackmesaimages and on Instagram at @stanley_harper
1. Do Some Off-Season Hiking to Prepare for 2020 Night Sky Adventures
As 2019 was coming to a close, I was thinking about my future goals. I am at a point in my life where I pretty much have the gear that I want (this, however, does not include the Jeep I have been lusting after), the kids are grown and out of the house, and I seem to be busier than ever with photography.
Last year I headed to Iceland and the Faroe Islands. After my first day in Iceland, I concluded that it’s not about how much gear you have, but more “it’s all about the adventure.” That has become my personal mantra.
And with that said, I owe it to myself to be prepared to take on these adventures. Part of putting this out here is personal accountability. There I said it!
I got an early start on my 2020 goals on Christmas Day by hiking at Hughes Mountain Natural Area, a Missouri Dept. of Conservation managed land. The 1.4 billion-year-old Precambrian rock outcrops on Hughes Mountain are among the oldest exposed rocks in the United States. It was a beautiful day with unseasonably warm temperatures in the upper 60’s, a perfect day for a hike.
2. Finish Editing my 2019 Images
If anyone has the secret to getting all of their images edited from last year, please share it here! I believe I still have photos from 2018 that need some attention as well. Seriously though, isn’t this probably on every photographer’s goal list for each new year?
After each shoot, I always cull out the duds but hold on to those images that have potential with some editing. Then there are the images that I know I want to finish, but I am not sure how I want to move forward with the edit. I revisit folders of photos in waiting, and sometimes one will catch my eye, and I know how I want to present it. I am a perfectionist at heart, and sometimes that is my downfall. As I gain new editing techniques, I hope to get more work out there in 2020.
3. Write More Articles for MilkyWayPhotographers!
Check back with the MWP website frequently for all things Milky Way, including my upcoming articles: “The Cheap Way to Roadtrip” and “Don’t Be Afraid of the Light.” Putting this out here should be enough to get me to finish these, which have been in the works. Accountability… lol.
4. Get Out and Use my Astro Tracker
I have had my Star Adventurer Astro Pack for a year now. I need to devote some night sky time to capturing some tracked images. This past year, I saw limited shooting due to the weather not cooperating here in Missouri, and when I headed out west. Many nights that I shot locally had humidity levels above where I like them to be. I wound up going with shorter single-exposed MW images.
5. Create Time-Lapses and Star Trails
That is a major goal for 2020. My personality is that I like to get as much shooting into as in little time as possible. Many nights I will shoot the Milky Way in several different locations within one area. Time-lapses and star trails will force me to slow down, which will be a good thing. While the time-lapses and star trails are running, I can be experimenting with the Astro Tracker and do different compositions in the same location.
6. Photograph the Milky Way at the Locations I Have Bookmarked.
I don’t collect many things. But what I do is of photos and maps of potential future Milky Way shoot locations. I have quite a few images with a PhotoPills MW alignment set for a future date, captured locally and far away, on my cell phone of places I have passed with intentions of getting back there one day.
Various Google Maps marked with these little gems wait impatiently for me on my computer. I have so many that I can’t get to all of them in one trip out west or locally. I can’t help it; part of the fun of the Milky Way chase for me is pouring over maps or driving back roads looking for these non-Milky Way photographed places.
Now if the weather would just cooperate on my next trip. I might be able to check a few off my list.
1. Shoot More
2019 was a seriously bad year for me in the field. I was constantly too busy to take two days off to drive somewhere dark, stay overnight, and drive back the next day. The times I was free, I was often greeted with cloudy skies.
In 2020, I will have to get more adventurous and start driving far into the various Bortle 1 and 2 areas surrounding my region including places like Big Bend National Park, Chiricahua National Monument. And revisit some of my favorite places like
Even if it means driving 4+ hours one way to get clear skies, I won’t be making excuses for not being able to shoot the Milky Way this year!
2. Work on Single Exposures
Blends are easy, and composites are even easier. Single exposures can be hard. Lighting the foreground, getting the right color temperature, making sure the light isn’t too bright or too dim, getting the direction and angle right, keeping the stand and light out of your frame, avoiding creating hotspots, getting the foreground and sky in focus, and avoiding star trails because you’re not using a tracker are just some of the things you have to worry about when doing single exposures.
The reason I want to get better at single exposures is that they are ethically sound images of the night sky. They are a single frame of a scene that actually exists with a sky placement that is actually realistically possible.
In 2020 I will spend no time in Photoshop creating scenes and images that couldn’t exist otherwise.
(Blends, however, are okay if your tripod doesn’t move and your focal length stays the same.)
3. Teach More
As much as I love doing astro-landscape photography, I love sharing it with other people even more. I want everyone with a camera to experience the excitement I felt when I first saw the Milky Way core pop up on my Canon 60d display screen almost four years ago.
Part of that involves teaching the basics, so those night photography newbies don’t have to go through all of the initial frustration and trial and error I did when I started.
Milky Way Photography is supposed to be fun. Even though there are still days I want to chuck my camera bag off a cliff, I can at least help others enjoy it.
4. Lead More Small Outings
As part of my wanting to make things enjoyable, some people don’t learn well in a classroom setting. The few times I’ve taken others out with me to try shooting the Milky Way, I saw some of them make more progress in a single night than I did in my first year of night photography. It’s just because they had guidance, and they weren’t too stubborn to ask for help.
I want to keep doing that. I might not do it in a formal workshop type of setting, but a few amateurs shooting along side of me could learn plenty by asking questions about my thought process, how I set up lighting, what settings I use, and so on.
Not only that, but as much as I like shooting alone, night photography can be a fun social thing. Very little bad comes out of going out with a bunch of people that are just as crazy as you are because they enjoy staying up until 4 AM just to get pictures of stars in the middle of nowhere.
5. Write More
Since joining the staff here at MilkyWayPhotographers.com, I’ve met a ton of great people across the country. I’ve also been given the title of “Ruler of the Pentaxians,” by Marybeth Kiczenski because my Pentax-specific articles have done so well. And I’ve become notorious (no
It is also a good incentive to get out and try new things, go to new places, and get new gear, all for the sake of sharing what I learn with our site readers. Our goal at MilkyWayPhotographers.com is to share our real-world experiences with locations, apps, gear, weather, and Milky Way duct tape, in hopes of passing our many learning experiences on to you.
“Ya done messed up, A-A-Ron!”Key and Peele in the classic “Substitute Teacher” skit
Failures of 2019 won’t be repeated!
1. Process more photos!
I’m going to borrow from Kirk right from the start.
I am just as bad at processing my photos!
And I don’t even have the problem where I have 1000+ images of a rock wall in 2-hour after sunrise light that is making it hard to cull out the best images from that morning!
I get in my own way when it comes to processing. Ever since I started Photog Adventures in 2016, I found it difficult to edit the video footage, record and edit the podcast, distribute everything AND edit all of my worthwhile images from an adventure. That has to stop!
In 2019, I made a goal to process every day. I failed by February.
Classic New Year’s Resolution, right?! This coming year, I am going to take two hours every week to process. By simply giving it only THAT much time, I will be amazed at how caught up I get on my images!
2. Gear. Gonna get me some!
Many who go out with me on my workshops have probably thought but never told me how weird it is that I don’t have tons of gear.
It’s not necessary, but kinda expected, that your workshop leader has not only experienced every lens out there but OWNS nearly every lens! But I disappoint/educate photographers all the time how just one lens can get great results.
In 2018 when I took on the Great Milky Way Chase by going out for 23-straight nights, I decided to use ONE LENS and ONE SETTING for every night to see how different the results can be based solely on composition and location. Nothing changed on the exposure side.
Using my f1.4 24mm Rokinon, everything was not only great, but it caused me to LOVE my Rokinon f1.4 so much more than my Tamron 15-30mm f2.8 because of the giant aperture!
Despite the great field of view I get with the 15mm Tamron, I got hooked to the sandy-texture of non-clipped galactic core highlights of the 24mm Rokinon! It was worth it to lose the 15mm view for a tighter 24mm.
All thanks to large aperture, light bucket capabilities! I have barely gone back ever since!
So in 2020, my wishlist contains two lenses known for their quality glass and giant light bucket apertures: the wide-angle f1.8 14mm Sigma and the tight f1.4 50mm Sigma.
My f1.4 Rokinon is so fantastic and has been these last two years, but I need to replace it. But getting some more fast lens options, one that is as wide as 14mm and the 50mm for great stacking would be amazing!
If it comes down to it and I need to save some money, I will wait on the 50mm and get the much more affordable and Eric Benedetti approved fantastic f1.4 Rokinon 35mm. That will be PERFECT for my NEXT goal of 2020!
3. T-R-A-C-K-I-N-G! Star Tracking baby!
Before my lens goals…after….or who knows maybe in a few weeks! I am going to get my own Skywatch Star Adventurer Astro Package! I am going to join the likes of Eric Benedetti Bryony Richards, MaryBeth Kiczenski, Neale Zingle, and Phil Sisto to only name a FEW of my favorite star tracking photographers! Many of you, I didn’t name, and I apologize!
Star Tracking Milky Way Photography has always been my plan, but I have been doing business and education most of the time. Not more of my own photography and 2020 is going to be a year where I get to go out and do more of my own photography, and mastering a new skill is going to be a blast!
1. Read four books on night photography
I love the YouTubes and the Interwebs; they are a great way to learn new ideas. However, entertainment seems to be more important than education at times. It can be challenging to find consistent, quality information online, especially when getting into less popular subjects. Between all the false leads served up by Google and the time spent watching videos until I figure out they aren’t going to discuss what I’m looking for, it can take a lot of time to consume whatever useful online information you do find.
Last year, I bought “Creative Nightscapes and Time-Lapses” by Mike Shaw. This book claims it is an “all-in-one” guide for everything you need to make nightscape photos and time-lapses. I bought a copy of it from Mike in May, and I finally got around to reading it in October. I wish I had sat down with it sooner! Mike covers not only how to shoot and post-process your night photos, but he also discusses how to conceptualize your images before you head out into the field. You can read my review of it here.
As I was working on my review of Mike’s book, I realized something I seemed to have forgotten about books. They are still a great way to put a lot of information into one place. No googling, no sitting through lame videos. Just a book with well planned-out formatting, illustrations, and an index. It’s so easy to find what I’m looking for in this book. And then I realized, that’s a property of all well-written books.
So, one of my goals for 2020 is to ready five books on night photography. I already have four of them – The Astrophotography Manual: A Practical and Scientific Approach to Deep Sky Imaging by Chris Woodhouse, Night Photography and Light Painting: Finding Your Way in the Dark by Lance Keimig, and How to Photograph Nightscapes and Time-Lapses: Volume 1, How to Photograph and How to Process Nightscapes and Time-Lapses: Volume 2, How to Process by Alan Dyer. Each of these books is written by an expert in their field. And there are well over 1,000 pages of info in these books! And I can quickly find what I’m looking for in them by merely flipping through a few pages. What my fifth book will be, I don’t know. I have a year to figure that out!
2. Process more photos!
I’m always behind in my photo processing. I went out shooting about 20 nights last year, so I have lots of images – over 500GB of photographs. I think I’ve processed less than ten pictures. It’s getting bad enough that my “friends” have a running joke about me having terabytes of unprocessed shots. And the sad part is, they’re right, I do have terabytes of unprocessed photos.
So I’m going to start the year off by working on some of the shots. I plan to set aside a couple of hours a week to work on them. I not only stay up late like any good Milky Way photographer, but I also get up early in the morning. So I’ll be making time. Definitely. For sure, I’m gonna do it!!
3. Work with the gear I already have.
After getting a big home remodeling job done in 2019, I’ve had to cut back on my discretionary spending. After doing this for several months, I’ve decided to keep it up for the year. I have an excellent camera for Milky Way photography, a Sony a7III, and a couple of cameras for time-lapses (two Sony a6300), and a pretty good selection of fast lenses. And I have all the stuff to go with them – tripods, lots of memory cards, headlamps, light panels, a couple of camera bags for various situations, and I know how to use my planning apps. I simply need to get out and use them!
So I have no plans on upgrading anything. My last purchase was the awesome Sony 24mm f/1.4 GM lens, and if I can’t shoot great photos with all that gear, then that’s on me, and not my gear! Oh, but wait – there is that Dynamic Perceptions slider I’ve been eyeing for the last couple years…
4. Do more kinds of night photography – not just Milky Way Photos.
There are nearly three weeks of the month when the moon is bright enough to interfere with Milky Way photography, and I want to work on being able to shoot something outdoors at night at
And that’s why I bought Lance Keimig’s book, Night Photography and Light Painting: Finding Your Way in the Dark, to learn more about the various forms of night photography. Lance has decades of experience shooting at night and light painting his subjects. His book covers photographing not only the Milky Way and the landscape by starlight, but also by moonlight and artificial lights. He’s a fantastic light painter. His book is loaded with awesome images, along with excellent descriptions of how he shot them. I’m sure to find inspiration in it!
5. Meet up and shoot more with friends.
One feature of photography I enjoy is the social aspect of it. It’s a great way to get out and meet new people. Whenever I’m out shooting, and I see someone that, by virtue of the location, time, or gear, looks to be as interested in photography as I am. So I walk up and say “Hi.” Often, it ends with a short chat, some shorter than others…
But sometimes, it turns into an interesting conversation. Last November in Bandon, after dodging the waves next to a couple of other photographers after the sun had set, I talked with them for a few minutes. I mentioned I was going to be shooting the Milky Way later that night. They headed down the beach for a while, but on the way back, we started talking again, and I found out one of them was local to me. So we exchanged contact info and are planning on shooting later this year.
Photography is also a great way to spend time with current friends. (All your friends are photographers, right?) While at the 2019 Nightscaper Conference, I was able to shoot each night (and days too!) for over a week with my friend Drew Armstrong. Since we live over 750 miles apart, we don’t often shoot together.
But during that week, Drew and I went out shooting with several other people new to me. Drew hooked us up with his friend David Hunter. The three of us spent a crazy, freezing night out on Cedar Mesa. Later that week, Drew and I got out to shoot with Marybeth Kiczenski, who I’d become friends with by working together right here on MilkyWayPhotographers. Drew and I had met Marybeth once the previous year, so it was like a mini-reunion!
Drew and I wrapped up the week by spending several nights out with Neale
These nights out photographing are cherished memories for me now. Sure, perhaps I could have had equally good memories on my own, but I think they are better memories since I was able to share them with the others that were there experiencing them along with me.
I’ve also run into a couple of notable people over the years just by chatting with photographers I meet. One was Steve Terrill, a noted Oregon-based, large format landscape photographer. I met Tony Kuiper, creator of the TK Luminosity Masking Panel, at the Wave one year. And I met Michael Shainblum, a landscape and time-lapse photographer I’d been following on YouTubes, at Secret Beach a
6. Work on being more creative.
Here’s a hard one for me! I find I sometimes don’t have the inspiration that I see in my friends when we’re out shooting together. A great example of this is when I was at Shore Acres State Park on the Oregon coast this last November. The ocean swells were high that day, and if you’re not familiar with Shore Acres, it’s renown for awesomely sky-high crashing waves on days like that. My two buddies were both firing away, finding inspiration in the ocean waves. They were exploring subjects and trying out shots.
And I stood there and watched them for a while. Eventually, I was saw something inspirational and tried out some shots. But getting to that point took some time as I saw nothing that stood out to me.
I first become serious about photography in the early 80s. I immediately jumped into shooting large format, as that was a format that worked well with landscapes. But the catch with it was the amount of money that film and processing cost.
But now, in the digital age, I need to let myself go. I can shoot until my multiple batteries die, and I’ve filled the several hundred gigabytes of memory cards I have if I want. I need to explore, and not look for the “best” shot of the day and only shoot that. After all, I may find some extra inspiration when I get the images into the computer. I may see something awesome that I didn’t fully realize was there, as I was shooting in the field.
And Your Goals Are?
Let us know in the comments what are your 2020 Photography Goals. We suspect you’ll have some we have too, but we didn’t include!
- Best Landscape Photography Apps for 2021 - April 16, 2021
- Out of Chicago In-Depth – Learn Milky Way Photography - August 19, 2020
- Our MilkyWayPhotographers Favorite 2019 Photos - January 11, 2020
All great ideas I guess mine will be try not to be so lazy and get out and shoot!!
Unless Mother Nature is not trying kill me.
Ha, Jeff! Definitely keep Mother Nature happy! I’m looking forward to your shots from this year!
1. Travel to Southern Utah and shoot some rocks.
I have signed up for three of Aaron’s workshops/adventures and I am really looking forward to these (even if one is in New Mexico).
2. I hope not to drop my camera this year.
Last year, while coming down a steep slope, I slipped and went down to my left knee. It was not that much of a jolt, but my Canon RP came off of the tripod head and bounced down the muddy slop towary Dowell Creek Falls. I watch and chanted “Please stop before the creek”. It did, but my CP filter was toast and would not come off of my Canon EF 17-40mm. I put on a different lens and the camera seemed OK, so I continued shooting.
CP filter – $80
Lens – $350 dollars (purchased a used replacement)
3. Based upon Aaron love of the 24 mm Rokinon, I will purchase one myselft
4. Organize at least two Portland PhotogAdventures Listener Adventures this year. Travel back down to the Southern Oregon Coast (Aaron, please find a way to join us this year) and Mt. Hood in the snow early this year. Another could be waterfalls in the Columbia Gorge.
Great list, John! Count me in on the Adventures!
ISO Invariance – what is it? and how do I use it to my advantage. that my focus for the start of this year
I have many goals which are probably common to all of us, such as getting organised and getting out more but my main aim for this year is to understand and experiment with the ISO invariant sensor in my Sony A7iii. So as i understand it, shoot at ISO800 and then increase the exposure 3 stops in LR will give the same result as a ISO 6400 image but the sensor is better at recording colour detail (yes, that is the correct spelling with a U) at a lower ISO, so hopefully more colour in the result image.
I guess I need a clear sky and to shoot the same image twice, once at ISO 800 and once at ISO 6400 and to compare the images, but you will need some confidence to ignore the histogram at ISO 800! Should I still stack a number of images?
Got a couple of trips planned for this year and if all goes well i might pay the tracker later in the year, but i concerned it will just be another gadget collecting dust.
Another Sony user here. I tested my a6000 when I first learned about ISO-invariance. You don’t need clear skies, you can do the testing during the daytime. Just pick a time when the light is not changing quickly. I did my tests midday.
Put the camera on a tripod. If you have something like a Macbeth Color Checker, include that in the scene. (You could get a range of paint chips from the hardware store and make your own.)
Set the camera to Manual and ISO to 800, and then find an f/stop that gives you a shutter speed of 1/60 sec.
This is your “base” photo. Then take a series of 5 underexposed photos from 1/125 to 1/2000. Then go back and shoot the same shutter speed series, but bump up the ISO to match the increasing shutter speeds so you get a “normal” exposure for each image, i.e. 1/125 and ISO 1600, then 1/250 and ISO 3200, ending with 1/2000 and ISO 25600.
Then load them all into Lightroom and bump up the first series where you underexposed the photos by the corresponding amount of underexposure.
On my a6000, is was amazed at how similar the underexposed/bumped in Lightroom shots looked to the normal series of exposures. They all got grainier, as expected, but the color balance also warmed up in both sets. They do look very similar. I think the pushed shots look a little less grainy. I should do more testing to confirm that…
So it does work, and you do have to get used to it looking underexposed on the LCD/histogram. I typically kind of split the difference – I rarely shoot above ISO 3200 and then add in exposure in Lightroom. But I’m nowhere as high of ISO as my Canon buddies tend to shoot. And that should give you more color in your photos by shooting at the lower ISO.
If you stack, you’ll still want to stack. It reduces noise which will still be present in the “underexposed” ISO-invariant photos.
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