Skip to main content


Lesson 8 from: The Landscape Photography Workshop

Taylor Burk

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2200+ more >

Lesson Info

8. Astrophotography

Lesson Info


All right. We're gonna learn about Astro today. So in the previous episodes you could see that there was a full moon definitely not ideal for any kind of nighttime photography. So we're here and you can hear the cricket chirp, chirp. Maybe we're far away from the city here out into a forested area, very rural area where there's no light pollution. The moon is gonna be set. So there's gonna be no moon. It's gonna be really dark, and we're gonna be kind of in this vast like ocean scape area where there should just be an incredible bright night sky which is perfect for what we wanna be doing today. The gear that I'm bringing with me, it's selective in the way that there lenses with I can go to low apertures. These two are both. I can go down to 2.8 so I can let in a lot of light as opposed to say the lenses that go down to like F 5.6 or F 5.4 for Azure you want to get as low of an aperture as you can. So these are two wide angle lenses that go down to F 2. have a 16 to 35 and a 14 prime. ...

This is like a cheap I think I got it for like $200, or something like that. Just a cheap lens, but like specific for Astro is how I use it is just anytime I want a big huge open wide sky. I took on this 14 prime lens F 2.8, really good Astro lens. So bring that 16 and 35 classic 2.8, nice sharp lens. And then on here, I have a prime lens, and this goes down to F 1.4. So this will let in a lot of light which will help us keep our ISO down. I'm shooting on the full frame Camera 5D Mark IV cannon. So this is gonna be my setup. I'm also bringing the headlamp, which is ideal. You're gonna want one that has a red light on it. That's just gonna help, not blow anything up and getting too bright and mess up your vision. Then I brought a second little bike light just as a backup to have in case that one runs out, but I have extra batteries and all that kind of stuff. SD cards, just a big case of anything I might need. Yeah. So SD cards, wipes, batteries, a battery charger for my phone and my camera as well as a nice sturdy carbon tripod. Any old tripod will do. I really like this one, not the biggest fan of this head. It's, it's a cheap one that I put on this, but does the job. You see, I'm missing stuff. You don't need the lace and greatest whatever you have will work. There's a lot of times where I don't even use a tripod I'll just get creative and prop it onto some rocks, Or if I'm out skiing in the winter I'll slide it in between my skis and put a strap on it. So it's fun sometimes to get creative to see how you can get your camera stabilized. But yeah, so we have a moonless night. It's gonna be clear, there's no clouds, and we might even get some meteor showers tonight. So that's why we decided to film this later on as opposed to in the earlier episodes. So though further do let's, let's get out there start hiking and go find some compositions. (Orchestral music) All right. So after a short hike we just got to our location, and it is incredible. The Milky way is just like in your face. It's just expansive. It's insane. The whole sky is just stars and just really makes you just feel so small. And I, I love this feeling and I that's what I love about shooting stars is just that feeling of so insignificant and so tiny, and just this incredible just experience. I don't know, I'm not good with explaining those kind of things. You just have to see it for yourself. So when you're out here and you're trying to capture that feeling you want to, you know, have that wide angle lens on your camera to be able to fit it all into your frame. So what I recommend is getting your camera set up a nice dirty tripod, have a wide angle lens on. Ideally one that you can go down to F aperture of F 2.8. That would be ideal. You're gonna want a fully charged battery, an SD card with lots of room on it, and as far as your settings and stuff like that, I'll run through that. But another thing to keep in mind is if you're gonna be coming to places like this in the dark try and come a little earlier, just so you can scout it out, and kind of know what you want to shoot and make life a lot easier in this scenario. I've been here before, and I already kind of know what I want, but we just came on. You know, we got lucky with the conditions, we timed it out so that the moon was down, and the star, are shining. There's no clouds, very minimal glow from any cities or anything that in the distance, but it's just, this is perfect. So with your lens there's this 500 rule that you can use to start. So if you're at ISO 3,200, everything's in manual your lens is manual focus. Your camera's in manual mode, you go 500 divided by your focal length. So in this case, I have a 24 prime on so that would gimme 20 seconds. So I'm gonna start with 20 second exposure at F 2.8, ISO 3,200. And that should gimme a rough ballpark of what I want. I'm gonna put it into a ten second timer mode. So that way that there's no shake, or disturbance from that. I can press it, let it be. I'm gonna, you know, turn off all the lights make sure nothing's pointed directly into the camera, and it's able to do its thing without any disturbances. So you basically just wanna neglect it after you take that after you press that sharp button as far as white balance goes, I have in a cooler setting like kinda like the tungsten setting you're gonna wanna shoot in raw, so that you have full control over what your white balance is when you're editing and all the other things like exposure and contrast always wanna shoot in raw. So that should get you a good starting place. The key things here are a lens with a low aperture ideally 2.8 or lower wide angle and then making sure that you have a shutter speed That's not gonna give you a lot of motion blur. So there's gonna be some trial error involved but the 500 rule, like I mentioned, dividing by your focal length will be a good starting point. If you go to ISO 3,200 and F 2.8. So that should be enough to get you started. I'm gonna take some test shots, kind of figure out what looks good and set up my compositions. Okay, So with this shot here, there's a city way off in the distance on Vancouver island. The Nimmo that's lighting up along the horizon in the back, but what's really cool is this island with the trees here is blocking it and it's creating a back glow. So it makes the trees pop out, as well as the Milky way, which I think is really cool. And that's something kind of when I was looking for a composition, that was one of the things that drew my eye into it because the Milky way brings you directly down to it and it stands out on its own. And it creates a reflection on the water too that makes the trees pop out. So that's, that's kind of what I'm gonna focus on now is getting some shots there and try and dial that in the original settings I went with were, you know 20 second shutter speed, ISO 3,200 at F 2.8. I noticed that it was a bit too slow of a sharp because I was getting motion blur. So I updated my settings to 13 seconds at F 2.8 at 3,200 ISO. And it's looking a lot sharper. I'm really happy with what I'm getting there. So I'm just gonna keep playing around and just seeing what kind of competition I get and switch lenses out as well, and play around with maybe some foreground, maybe show you a little bit of light painting, and just that trial and error, you know it's a lot of it is just moving around and finding what you like and what you don't like. And just try and make the most of enjoy this time out outside in the dark and under all these stars. So we'll just keep playing around and see where we get. Right, so we're getting the wee hours of the night. Coffee could be helpful for those of you, who are big coffee drinkers, but we're gonna play around with a little technique called light painting which it can be useful in some ways where you want to highlight maybe some foreground, or maybe you're shooting your tent with the Milky way above, and you wanna light up your tent. So basically, all you're doing is everything, how you would before, but you're just using your headlamp to literally paint the light where you want to shine. So I'll show you here, two examples, one with and one without, and you can kind of see how, you know you're painting in the trees to make that visible as before it would just be a shadow, in a tent. You would just be inside your tent and you would just turn it on, turn it off. Maybe you have somebody in there and you can communicate that to or you're using the remote shutter. And you just literally try on error figuring out what settings work best. So it's not overexposed. In this sense of the trees I'm just gonna like lightly paint it over. So I'm not, overexposing the trees against the stars. So got my settings dialed in and take it. I'm just gonna lightly paint it, put it away. And then that little bit of light will be captured onto that camera onto the sensor. And it will look like this. And so then you can see before, and after, and just personal taste, what you think looks best and how you want to get created with it. You can also stand in front of the camera and spell your name out, or do things like that. If, if you want to get those kind of shots too. So that's light painting. I vividly remember my first time ever shooting the Milky way I was in Warterton National Park. Cause when I first got into photography was in this incredible dark zone, no light around the Milky way. And that's the stars were some of the best I've ever seen. And I was a little disappointed at first, because I just wasn't capturing it. And I was getting frustrated, nothing was working and eventually I just kind of stumbled upon some settings that did happen to work. And I remember that feeling of joy and excitement, seeing that photo pop up on the screen, all these stars and it was blurry, and it was not the best shot at all but I still just had that joy and excitement. And that's kind of where it hooked of this looks way better than what I can see. And I just am able to do it so much more justice with my camera. And I just wanted to shoot as much nights as I night stuff as I could. So I kind of got hooked on there and anytime I was out in the back country or camping or whenever I had the opportunity, I would just always try and get night shots and kind of joke how you turn into a bit of a vampire in the summer months because you're up late for sunset. You're out shooting the stars all night, and then you're up early for sunrise, and you just kind of sleep during the day. And it just, it's such a fun rhythm to get into and to be able to shoot everything like that and get all those cool conditions. So, so I'm just gonna run over some quick tips for you, for when you're outing watching stars next time. Biggest thing would be a wide angle lens and be able to capture all of it. You know, obviously you can shoot with whatever lens you want, but ideally you want something with an aperture that goes down to F 2.8 or lower. You can shoot it with a higher aperture. It just, you're probably not gonna get the best results for for good Astro photography. So low aperture. And then you wanna be in manual. You wanna make sure you're a manual focus, manual setting, so you can dial everything in. You're gonna want to keep in mind that 500 rule. So 500 divided by your focal link. So say you're shooting at that you're at 20 seconds F 2.8, ISO 3,200. If it's not looking sharp you can play around with, you know, your, settings. I would start with the ISO and the aperture and try and keep your shutter speed at a point where you're not getting too much motion blur, make sure you have fully charged batteries. Make sure you start with one and have extras. Make sure you have lots of room on SD card. Make sure you're shooting at a white balance. That's a lot cooler, because it look more natural. You're gonna want to make sure that you have a good tripod, or a solid base, and that you have a ten second timer, or a shutter release. So you're getting nice sharp shots and nothing's getting moved. You want to be on a cool, clear moonless night, unless of course, you wanna shoot the moon, you want to be start, like for the best start results, you wanna be far from any light pollution. There are some cases in what we're shooting here tonight is that we're using the light pollution behind the trees toward advantage to make it pop out. Create a bit more of a compelling image. You want to keep in mind that night photography takes a lot more time because it's a longer exposure. So, you're gonna get a lot less shots in a longer period of time. So just keep that in mind and try and get there early. If you can, before it's dark to set scout your locations and figure your compositions make sure you're shooting in, in raw mode not JPEG and make sure that if you have any, you know lights on the front of your camera that turn on when you're shooting, cover it with tape cover any kind of lights that would expose make sure your head lamps off when you're shooting, and you're not having any additional light sources near the camera. That point in those are few just kind of tips that will help you the next time you're out shooting. So hopefully, you can put those to good use, and get out there and enjoy these beautiful skies that we have, and just don't take it for granted. You know, don't forget to also put the camera down and just sit down, lay back and, and soak it all in. So hope that helps. And I'm excited to see what you get.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Astrophotography Checklist
Gear List

Ratings and Reviews

Selby Wilkinson

Incredible course! I learned so much watching this. I loved Taylor's teaching style and found it really helpful to get to see how he works out in the field. Everything about it was so well thought out - I appreciated the little details he included in the course like the PDFs and photo book recommendations. I would definitely recommend!

Jason Webb

This course is awesome! Great insights into landscape photography. Highly recommend.


This course was great--Taylor's approach and delivery of the topics is straightforward and extremely helpful. I am somewhat comfortable with my camera/settings and know some of the basic rules of photography, but his explanations help translate in how to use those tools to create YOUR own images no matter what you are trying to achieve. Can’t recommend this course enough to any aspiring landscape photographer.

Student Work