You will need a camera that meets the following minimum requirements:
(1) Be able to place your camera into complete manual mode (M). You must be able to control the ISO, aperture, and shutter speed independently. Some lower end DSLRs will not allow you to control all three separately.
(2) Allows ISO of at least 3200. However, a camera that can shoot 3200 and 6400 ISO is ideal. Newer crop or full-frame cameras allow for much higher ISO these days. Mirrorless cameras perform well.
Notice I said minimum requirements above. You can still have a DSLR camera that isn't ideal for night photography - or not perform well. If you feel that your camera may be older or cannot perform well with higher ISO, you can always rent one a camera! If you are traveling a long way to get to our destination, then I highly recommend you bring the best equipment you can! Reach out if you have any questions.
Will my old DSLR do okay?
Most of the DSLR's made within the last 5 years are fairly good. They have better sensors and are good for night photography. Half the magic is in the camera (sensor) and the other half is in the lens! I'll get to the lens requirements next. If you have an older camera (older than five years), most likely it won't be able to handle high ISO settings without having noise in your image. I finally stopped using my Canon 5D Mark ii because it couldn't perform without a ton of noise on my images beyond 3200 ISO.
The best lens for folks who are new at night, star photography is a fast, wide angle lens.
Fast, meaning, the lens can open up very wide (wide aperture of at least 2.8). The smaller the number of the aperture (like f/1.4 or 1.8 or 2.0 or 2.8 the more light the lens will allow in during a specific amount of time.
Wide (10 - 24mm) so that you can get as much as the sky as possible (with some landscape).
The lens is really important here! Some folks come to the workshops and travel a long distance with a decent camera but a not so great lens. You don't want to go all this way and wish you had a better lens. You can rent lenses. Two rental companies are listed below:
You can bring other lenses. I will often shoot the Milky Way and do star trails with my 50mm prime lens or my 70-200mm or my 85mm. However, if you are a beginner, I recommend a wide-angle lens with at least f/2.8 at first.
It's very easy to think "a tripod is a tripod," but don't go cheap on the tripod if you think you will be doing any kind of landscape photography for more than one outing. We have seen too many people bring along a $20 - $80 tripod and it breaks halfway through the trip. You don't have to spend hundreds of dollars, but believe us when we say don't go on the 'cheap' on the tripod. There are several brands that are fairly dependable: Manfrotto, GItzo, and Benro.
A intervalometer for your shutter. An intervalometer is required for star trails or capturing meteor showers (if you want to do these). We will certainly show you how to capture star trails! Intervalometers are almost all the same. There really isn't any different between a $20 and a $50.
Critical note here: I strongly recommend a very basic intervalometer that fits your camera. Don't buy something complicated where you are wasting too much time trying to figure it out.
WARNING: Cameras with internal intervalometers - Some cameras have internal intervalometers. Some of these are still no good for star trails. You must be able to have 1 second in between each shot (and there are some very nice, new cameras that do not do this). So, if you plan on using your camera's internal intervalometer, make sure you can take multiple shots with only 1 second in between them. Be sure you have tried it and it will allow 1 second between each shot.
Extra memory cards. We recommend two or three, 64 - 128 GB cards.
Extra batteries for your camera, intervalometer, flashlight, headlamp, or anything else that uses batteries. We will be continuously shooting for two nights. If your batteries tend to not last past 2 - 3 hours, have an extra set on hand. Cold nights also affect battery life. There are places you can charge them during the daytime.
Your Camera Manual:
Your manuals!!! Bring them!! For your camera and intervalometer. I guarantee they will help if you are stuck. I may not be familiar with your camera brand, so having your manual will be helpful!
Mount Rainier Workshop:
There are some additional items you should have for Mount Rainier Workshop:
Bring all other lenses you would like for day photography too, including zoom lenses!
Lens warmer or rubber banded hand warmers will work around you lens as well to keep dew off your lens
ND filters for photographing waterfalls, recommend ND filters (ND 3 - 6 stop filters).
Layers for clothes and winter clothes!!! Including wool hat, gloves, hand warmers, and fleece lined pants. Even though it will be in August, it can be (and has been at times) in the 30's and 40's where we will be photographing.
Flashlight (brighter) for when walking trails at night.
Extra batteries for your flashlight (trust me on this one)
A small handy flashlight. I do not recommend headlamps and/or red lights. They are great to keep your night vision, but will ruin everyone's shot during a workshop.
A folding chair (this one is my favorite!) There is a headrest so you can doze off or watch the night sky while you sit down.
Gaffer's Tape or black tape - We use this to place over lights that may be on your camera. Some cameras have lights that flash during exposure (even the red lights) that we want to hide.
Lens cloth (multiple for Mount Rainier Workshop)
Bug sprayWater and snack food when we are in the field (Plan to have lots of water with you at Big Bend. We recommend bringing a gallon jug with you in your car along with your water bottle).
First aid kit and supplies (aspirin and/or ibuprofen)
Caffeine (to help you stay awake)
Hiking boots and long hiking pants
Post-Processing Equipment for Classroom Session (if offered)
Laptop with cord for charging
External hard drive to store all of your files
During our classroom session, we will be working with three softwares: Adobe Lightroom (Lr), Adobe Photoshop (Ps), and StarStax (Ss).
Make sure you have the most updated (non-cloud) version. Some of the tasks that we show in Lr and Ps are not on older versions.
Be sure to download the software to operate on your laptop ahead of time. Lightroom Classic CC is the desktop editor. Lightroom CC is the cloud based editor. We will not have internet so the capability of using any Adobe software via the cloud will not work. A good test is to try to work the software with your WIFI OFF. If you can upload pictures and edit, great!!
Is the laptop and software required? No, you can take the workshop without this, but you won’t be able to edit photos in our post processing sessions.
NOTE #1: Be sure to test out your Lightroom and Photoshop before you travel and make sure you can use the software without internet.
NOTE #2: If you do not download the latest version of Lightroom or Photoshop, then be aware that you may not be able to perform all of the edits that we talk about during our classroom session.
We will also show/discuss PhotoPills in the field. This is an app you can put on your mobile phone. It does cost $9.99. I use this app for most all of my planning for night photography. It is my favorite. It is not required, but if you want to learn about it, have it on your phone.