Beginning Astrophotography Workshop 2020

April 24th-25th, 2020

CANCELLED- In light of Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s March 31 executive order extending school closures and other efforts related to the mitigation of COVID-19 through at least May 3, the Beginning Astrophotography Workshop has been cancelled. A new date to reschedule the workshop will be announced soon. Please check back later for updates.


Learn how to produce stunning photos under the dark skies at McDonald Observatory! This two-night workshop is designed for beginners to astrophotography, or photography of any kind. In this workshop you will learn how to use your own equipment to its fullest potential, as well as explore McDonald Observatory during both the day and night. You’ll learn from professional photographer Jason Weingart, who has years of experience in teaching photography, and from McDonald staff member Stephen Hummel. This workshop is limited to 14 people to ensure every participant can benefit from one-on-one interaction with the instructors. You will gain access to areas usually restricted to the public at night, as well as a chance to look through a research grade 36”/0.9m telescope and a special tour of the observatory during the daytime. The workshop will complement the activities of the Dark Skies Festival on Saturday April 25th.

In this workshop, you’ll learn how to:
•    Plan a shot using star charts, light pollution maps, and software
•    Properly set up for shooting the night sky
•    Manually focus your camera in the dark of night
•    Reduce noise in your images
•    Properly edit your images
•    Use a telescope for visual use or photography (if you have one)

By the end of the workshop, you’ll be able to produce high-quality images that you’ll be proud to hang on your wall!

Tickets are $500 per person. No discounts are offered for seniors, students, or military.

Jason Weingart


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

The Beginning Astrophotography Workshop will take place on April 24th and 25th. Expect to stay up very late into the night on both evenings. Instruction may continue well past midnight, but you are welcome to leave early if desired. If you want to shoot the brightest part of the Milky Way, expect to stay up until at least 3am. You are welcome to take a break and come back during the night. There will be no workshop related events occurring in the mornings, so you are free to sleep in.

Plan to arrive at the Visitors Center before 2pm on April 24th to check in. After checking in at the Visitors Center, the majority of the workshop will take place on Mount Locke next to several of our large research telescopes. The summit has fantastic views of the surrounding mountains and terrain. After a tour of the observatory and indoor instructional period, instruction will continue outdoors.

While outdoors at night, there will be very low levels of illumination to preserve our dark skies and night vision. No white lights or camera flash will be permitted outdoors, especially around the research telescopes. Note that the summit of Mount Locke not only is an active research area, but also a residential area. All participants are expected to be respectful of the rules and instructions set by the program hosts.

Dinner on both the 24th and 25th will be provided. Please let us know of any dietary restrictions in the comments section when purchasing your registration below. Breakfast and lunch are not included with the workshop.

Unfortunately, this program is not wheelchair accessible. Stairs and small ladders will be used during the program.

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

In the event of weather that prohibits outdoor viewing, more instruction may be offered indoors. If there are storms a safe distance away, alternate instruction on weather and lightning photography may be offered. Unlike our other programs, no refunds or opportunities to reschedule will be offered due to weather except in cases of ice or snow that make travel unsafe.

Cancellations are only refundable one month prior to the program (March 24th), minus a $5 processing fee. Cancellations made after this deadline are not eligible for a refund. A minimum of five participants is required for this workshop. If fewer than five people sign up by April 21st, the workshop may be cancelled. You will be notified via email and refunded in full. This is a highly unlikely scenario.

Minimum Equipment Requirements

Attendees must bring these devices in order to participate in the workshop.
•    Laptop with access to Adobe Creative Cloud Photoshop and Lightroom (free trial at, and LR Timelapse (free trail at
•    Tripod, the sturdier the better
•    DSLR or mirrorless digital camera and lens (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
•    An intervalometer or remote shutter
•    A lens with an aperture of f/4.0 or lower, and a focal length of 24mm or less.
•    Camera bag to carry your equipment easily
•    Red flashlight- preferably dim, or at least dimmable

Completely Optional Equipment
If you already have these devices and want to refine your skills with them, great! If not, don’t worry about it.
•    Your telescope (Not all telescopes are suitable for astrophotography, however you will still have an opportunity to receive instruction on how to use it best for either visual or photographic purposes.)
•    A portable star tracker or equatorial mount
•    Dedicated astronomy cameras, such as planetary cameras or cooled CMOS/CCD sensors
•    Camera control software such as BackyardEOS/Nikon, Sequence Generator Pro, or others
•    Alternative processing software for astrophotography, such as PixInsight or DeepSkyStacker
•    Any lenses for your camera you may have

Stephen Hummel / McDonald Observatory

Schedule of Events

Event times are subject to change.

Friday, April 24th:
10am-2pm Check in period at the Visitor’s Center
2-4:30pm: Introduction at the Visitor’s Center, guided tour of the observatory
4:30-5pm: Gather at Astronomer’s Lodge (AL)
5-6pm: Dinner at the AL
6pm: Camera basics and framing a scene (AL meeting space)
~8:45pm to Early Morning: Outdoor photography and instruction, optional viewing with our 36” Telescope

Saturday, April 25th:
3pm-5pm: Editing Astrophotography Images (AL meeting space)
5pm-6pm: Dinner at the AL
6pm: Timelapses, stacking, and other techniques
~8:45pm to Early Morning: Outdoor photography and instruction, optional viewing with our 36” Telescope

Depending on the weather, outdoor instruction may be substituted with indoor instruction or activities.


No lodging is included with the workshop. The indoor portions of the workshop will take place in a meeting space at the Astronomer’s Lodge on Mount Locke. Attendees of the workshop are welcome to stay at the Astronomer’s Lodge, which avoids the need to drive to an off-site hotel during the night. Limited rooms are available and are only available to attendees of the workshop, not the general public.
To make reservations, please call (432)-426-4139 or email

For a list of other places to stay near the observatory, please see the Fort Davis Chamber of Commerce website.


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


Know Before You Go

Dress warmly (especially for evening programs) and bring your reservation confirmation with you. The Visitors Center is open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Central Time (and additional hours on Star Party nights) every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day. The phone number is 432-426-3640.

When to Visit
Special Needs & Concerns
Pet Policy & Service Animals
Visiting with young children
Cell Phone Usage
StarDate Café Hours of Operation
Frequently Asked Questions
General Information Printout