The Dark Side of Photography -- Star Trails and Night Sky Photography Workshop

The Dark Side of Photography: Bodie Edition -- Night Photography Workshop

Future dates coming soon!

Authorized permittee of the Bodie Foundation. Permit fees for the Bodie Foundation are covered in the workshop price and are essential in helping to preserve this state historic park.

Photos from the last workshop

© Brian Rueb - Aperture Academy Instructor

Photography in any type of light offers up many challenges. Night photography in a city full of lights is even trickier for getting that right exposure. What happens when you leave the light of civilization and wander into Bodie Ghost Town, one of the best preserved Ghost Towns anywhere on the planet?!

Welcome to the Dark Side of Photography: Bodie Edition!

The pun is intended. Night photography is tricky, and left to figure it out on your own can be a frustrating endeavor for sure. Join the instructors of the Aperture Academy for an in-depth workshop that will teach you how to capture star trails, the Milky-Way, light painting and more! Already have some experience? No problem -- with our small group everyone can learn at their own pace and skill level.

This workshop will be based out of Lee Vining California. After orientation, we will start with a classroom presentation to talk about the various techniques that will be taught so that once in the field, everyone will understand the camera settings and techniques. Then, after dinner the journey into the dark of night begins. We will photograph the many buildings and feautures that give Bodie its charm, as well as capture a variety of skies, all designed so you come away with stunning images and a solid understanding of how to get the most out of your night photography experiences.

© Brian Rueb - Aperture Academy Instructor

On the second day of the workshop we will once again visit Bodie and capture the now familiar Ghost Town in daylight. After a mid-day break we will photograph sunset over the surreal tufa formations of Mono Lake, one of the most recognizable and iconic locations for landscape photography in the Western United States.

Our third day will be spent importing, organizing, and post-processing the photos using Adobe. Your instructors will help you learn how to enhance and edit your images to make them stand above!

Results may vary based on weather and atmospheric conditions, however, you WILL leave this workshop with a solid understanding of the proper techniques for capturing the night sky.


Day 1:

  • 3pm: Orientation
  • Classroom presentation to talk about gear and techniques
  • 5pm-5:30pm: Depart for in-field shooting (transportation provided)
  • In-field shooting (approx 5-7 hours)

    © Brian Rueb - Aperture Academy Instructor
  • Return to Lee Vining (transportation provided)

Day 2:

  • Morning shoot at Bodie
  • 11:30am Break
  • Sunset shoot at Mono Lake (transportation provided)

Day 3 (Classroom post-processing):

  • 9am: Downloading images, sorting & organizing
  • 10am - 12pm: In-depth processing session
  • 12pm: Conclusion

  • Ability to walk 1-2 miles each day
  • Headlamp for safely walking during on-location visits
  • A Laptop with Adobe Photoshop® CS4 or later (or Adobe Creative Cloud @ $10 per month)

What is/isn't included?

© Brian Rueb - Aperture Academy Instructor

The workshop/tour price includes:

  • All workshop instruction
  • All on-location transportation

The workshop/tour price DOES NOT include:

  • Transportation to/from Lee Vining California
  • Lodging
  • Meals/beverages
  • Instructor gratuities
  • Travel insurance

Equipment To Bring

DSLR or Mirrorless Camera

Required: You'll want, and need, the full power and creative control of a Digital SLR or Mirrorless Camera to get the most out of your learning experience on this workshop.

We teach all brands and models of Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax and more!

Be sure to have extra batteries with you, and keep them fully charged, as long exposure photography takes more power than traditional photography.


Required: For best results, we strongly recommend a zoom lens between 14-24mm.

If you have it (or choose to rent it) a fisheye would also be an excellent lens for this workshop.


Required: Stability is everything in Photography! Using a sturdy tripod will help improve your compositions and get sharper images.

A tripod also helps you have both hands free to focus (pun intended!) on learning and getting "the shot"!

For long exposure photography a tripod is required.

Shutter Release/Remote

Required: A shutter release cord is a required tool for night photography. They are affordable and a great tool to have in your camera bag!

We strongly suggest a version with a timer, known as an Intervalometer. They are more expensive but the benefits make it a great investment.

We also strongly recommend you purchase the brand that matches your camera -- if you have a Canon camera, buy a canon remote. In our vast experiences the 3rd party brands are more affordable but also fail very easily.

Laptop with Photoshop®

Required: A Mac or PC laptop with Adobe Photoshop® CS4 or later.

If you do not have Photoshop® you can purchase Creative Cloud (CC) for a $10 per month subscription.
(Adobe Creative Cloud)

Buying Guide:

Rental Options:

Buying Guide:

Buying Guide:

Buying Guide:

What's Included/Not Included

What's Included in Your Workshop:

  • Hands-on Instruction by 2 or more professional photographers
  • Water (snacks for extended workshops)
  • Post Processing session

What's not included

  • Transportation
  • Instructor Gratuities
  • Meals during workshop breaks

Safety, Confidence, Being Prepared

Aperture Academy is a professional organization dedicated to safe, quality, positive experiences for our students, and a responsible stewardship for the breathtaking locations and beautiful wildlife we enjoy at every workshop.

We work with the United States Department of Interior, the National Park Service and the US Forestry Service to obtain all the proper permits to operate safely, conscientiously and legally. We carry much more than the required minimum of insurance, and our skilled instructors are certified as Wilderness First Responders, in CPR, as well as in the Leave No Trace Outdoor Ethics program. They are qualified and rated to drive Class B vehicles. And, have we mentioned that each is an accomplished, successful professional photographer?

Every "ApCad" member is dedicated to ensuring our students receive the best care and guidance possible, so each of them have the opportunity to get the most remarkable, enjoyable and enriching photography experience available anywhere in the world.

What to Bring

  1. Your Digital SLR or Mirrorless Camera.   If you have two bodies, bring both. This is a digital photography class, but if you have a favorite point-and-shoot or old film camera you like, bring it along, and if time permits, you can use it as well.
  2. Lenses.   Try to cover a range from very wide (17-20mm), for landscape images, to zoom ranges (100-400mm) for wildlife. It's not uncommon to see wildlife on workshops (even those structured for landscape instruction), so it's best to be prepared, if possible. We also encourage you to bring other lenses, like a macro or fish-eye lens if you have them, because there are always endless creative possibilities to be found on our workshops.
  3. Tripod.   This is a necessity for ALL our workshops. It can be windy in many of the areas we take you, so the sturdier your tripod, the better. If you haven't purchased one yet, you can e-mail our instructors; they would be happy to assist you in selecting a tripod that is perfect for you.
  4. Filters.   We do a great deal of work with filters in our workshops, so, if you have them, bring them. We highly recommend a Circular Polarizer, and a (3 or 4) soft-step graduated neutral density (GND) filter. We also use straight neutral density filters, which will help us get longer exposures in all times of day, but this isn't as important as the first two mentioned. We have a few extras that can be loaned out, but you're going to love what you see with the filters, and you'll want to have your own.
  5. Extra batteries.   Bring at least 1 or 2 extra batteries. Cold temperatures and long exposures can drain batteries very quickly. There is no worse feeling than arriving at the last spot of the night for sunset and having a dead battery.
  6. Extra memory cards.   Our instructors will show you the benefits of shooting in RAW format, which is a better method for photography, but takes up more space on a card. Having multiple memory cards will be to your benefit.
  7. Clothing & shoes.   Bring layers of clothing you can add if/when temperature and wind conditions change, and they can! And wear good, comfortable walking shoes!
  8. Lunch, or money for lunch. And snacks.   On two and three day workshops, we provide snacks and water. On one day workshops, we stop for lunch at a local food establishment where you can purchase food or eat what you have brought for yourself.
  9. Your sense of adventure!   We want to teach you what it is YOU want to learn, and have you come away with some good images. And, since the nature of outdoor photography means we're subject to weather conditions, which we can't control, sometimes we must be flexible with the itinerary. So, come ready for anything. Because we are dedicated to do everything possible to ensure you're in the best places at the best times to get amazing images.
  10. Your Thinking Cap!   Show up ready, because you're going to learn! Some tips: make sure to read the workshop details before you arrive, so you know what to expect, and what to bring; bring a list of questions you want to ask the instructors; check the weather forecast so you're aware of possible weather changes; and most importantly, show up with a brain that is ready for learning, and we promise we'll fill it up with as much information as you desire!

Workshop FAQs

:: What should I expect? ::

All workshops are designed to help you learn how to take better photographs and offer a complete immersion into digital landscape and/or wildlife photography. You will learn important photography techniques such as how to properly expose a composition, when to use a filter for best effect, and how to understand and adjust camera settings for optimum results.

Class sizes are kept small (approx. 12 students) to afford each participant one-on-one instruction and to maximize individual attention. The Instructor ratio is usually 6 to 1.

All trips require walking, and usually a little hiking, on uneven terrain. You will want to wear the right clothing, footwear, and keep in mind you could get a bit of a workout!

:: Why only Digital? ::

Digital photography offers unique opportunities for in-field photography workshops. By reviewing captured images as soon as they happen, we can examine exposure, composition and histograms, and instantly learn what works--and what doesn't.

:: What should I bring? What is required? ::

  • All workshops require a Digital SLR or Mirrorless Camera and a tripod. (Note: Filters (Graduated ND and Polarizer) and a shutter release cord are not required, but highly recommended.)
  • Bring a laptop on workshops 2 days and longer if possible, as we will spend time, when not in the field, reviewing and critiquing images.
  • It is advised for you to dress in layers, as all workshops are held on location and often temperatures and conditions can change rapidly.
  • Food and beverages will not be provided, so please bring plenty of water and nourishment.
  • All students are expected to arrive on-time and to work together as a group to learn, not only from instructors, but also from each other.

:: What kind, and how much, equipment should I bring? ::

Bring it all if you can! You never know what you might see. On many workshops we focus on landscape photos, but you never know when wildlife might enter the scene and provide the perfect opportunity to photograph them in their natural habitat. It's always better to go into the field with too much gear, rather than miss an opportunity because of not enough equipment.

:: Is transportation provided? ::

Each student is responsible for their own transportation during the workshop.

:: Can a non-photographer friend or spouse attend the workshop? ::

Non-photographer friends and/or spouses are welcome to attend, but will be subject to the full tuition fee based due to transportation availability.

:: Does weather ever alter or cancel events? ::

Only if conditions pose a safety risk. Often, poor weather can make for dramatic photographic opportunities, so if rain is forecasted, pack a light jacket or rain poncho and bring something to keep your camera dry (a hotel shower cap is ideal).

:: What happens if I have to cancel? ::

Because of the limited number of workshops and availability of one-on-one instruction sessions, once we schedule a spot, it won't be available for anyone else, therefore we can not offer a refund unless the cancellation is 90 days before the workshop date. This policy is necessary to assure us that those who sign up are serious about the adventure and will not back out, ruining the opportunity for someone else.

However, there is an exception to every rule. If, for some reason a workshop or one-on-one is cancelled by its instructor, you will be allowed the option to apply your credit to any workshop we teach. [Read our refund policy and other terms here]

:: Be prepared to take better photographs! ::

These workshops will help you develop skills, learn techniques and get to know your camera and equipment like never before. As a bonus, you will have a fun time and build friendships while learning to improve your photography technically. The result? You'll be capable of producing photographs as beautiful as any professional!

Students of the Aperture Academy are eligible for special discounts and promotions from our partners.
Bay Photo SinghRay Filters SmugMug
Nik Software Induro Tripods Thank Tank Bags

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