Intermediate Astrophotography Workshop

Access to the Observatory grounds is ONLY allowed for visitors with reserved passes. All access requires advance reservations, which are subject to capacity limits. 

May 12-13, 2021

In this 2-night workshop, you will learn how to create stunning nightscape images, how to capture rare and fleeting red sprites, and how large telescopes can be used for imaging. You'll learn from experienced imager and Dark Skies Specialist Stephen Hummel, and  Matt Dieterich of Planewave Instruments. Not only will you have the chance to explore the night sky from the dark, clear skies at McDonald Observatory, but you will also have exclusive access to the latest telescope technology from Planewave Instruments. 

This workshop is designed for astrophotographers who have already mastered the basics of photography and are familiar with camera operation in manual mode, how to manually focus, and are familiar with basic controls in Photoshop and Lightroom. 

In this workshop, you will learn:

  • How to take stunning wide-field night images
  • How to create star trails and timelapses
  • How to use a star tracker
  • How to find and photograph sprites and other Transient Luminous Events (TLEs)
  • How to stack and calibrate images
  • How to set up a telescope for imaging

Tickets are $600 per person.

A spring storm rages a few miles from McDonald Observatory (Stephen Hummel)


You are expected to bring your own photography equipment to the workshop. Please see the list of equipment below for details on what to bring. 

In addition to your own equipment, instruction will be provided with a PlaneWave Delta Rho 350. This fast (F/3, 14-inch aperture) telescope system represents the latest in telescope technology, and attendees of the workshop will be among the first members of the public to use it!

Portable star trackers for DSLR or mirrorless cameras will also be available for loan during the workshop (tripods not provided).

Plan to arrive at the Visitors Center before 5:00pm on May 12th to check in. After checking in at the Visitors Center, the majority of the workshop will take place outdoors on our Visitor Center patio, on Mount Locke next to several of our large research telescopes, or in a large field suitable for setting up telescopes. 

While outdoors at night, there will be very low levels of illumination to preserve our dark skies and night adaptation. No white lights or camera flash will be permitted outdoors, especially around the research telescopes. 

Dinner will be provided each night. Please let us know of any dietary restrictions in the comments section when purchasing your registration below. 

This program is not suitable for children under 13, and minors under 18 must be accompanied by an adult with a ticket.

Minimum Equipment Requirements

Attendees must bring these devices in order to participate in the workshop.
•    Laptop with access to Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom (free trial at
•    Tripod, the sturdier the better. A ballhead mount is preferred.
•    DSLR or mirrorless digital camera and lens, or dedicated astronomy camera (Sorry, a cell phone camera won’t be enough)
•    Batteries for your camera and a charger.
•    Memory card(s) and a card reader or USB cable to retrieve pictures from your camera.

Preferred Additional Equipment for the Best Experience

•    A portable star tracker or equatorial mount
•    PixInsight (free trial at
•    Your telescope (If you have one)
•    Camera bag to carry your equipment easily
•    Red flashlight
•    An intervalometer or remote shutter

The Pleiades and California Nebula (Matt Dieterich)

Schedule & Details

Event times are subject to change.

Wednesday, May 12th

4:00pm: Check-in period opens (Visitors Center)

5:00pm: Introduction, Wide-Field Photography

6:00pm: Dinner Break

7:00pm: Finding Polaris, Startrails, and Using a Star Tracker

8:00pm: Sprites and TLEs

8:30pm - Midnight: One-on-one instruction and shooting on Mt. Locke

Thursday, May 13th

4:00pm: Check-in period opens (Visitors Center)

5:00pm: Post-Processing

6:00pm: Dinner Break

6:45pm: Stacking and calibration frames

7:45pm: Break

8:00pm: Setting up a telescope

8:30pm- Midnight: One-on-one instruction and telescope instruction


For any questions about this program, please email Stephen Hummel at the Frank N. Bash Visitors Center at McDonald Observatory.