September Newsletter: Basic Night Sky Lightroom Preset

 In Newsletter, Picture

August Wrap-Up

August was a busy month in the Grand Marais area, it kicked in with Fisherman’s Picnic, then we had the Grand Portage Rendezvous Days and Powwow. That was followed by an extremely busy week for kayak guiding, which was followed by another extremely busy week of kayak guiding. And then, everything stopped and the town wasn’t busy anymore. Despite being busy, I managed to get out shooting a few times and managed to make about 1,000 photos! If you haven’t gone to the Rendezvous Days and Powwow and you’re a photographer, you’re missing out. You need to go next year (you can see a few of my photos at the link above).

Basic Night Sky Lightroom Preset

person standing on a cliff under the Milky Way with a headlamp onNow and then I get requests to explain what I do to make my night sky images pop using just Lightroom. I put together a free Night Sky Lightroom Preset. This free lightroom preset will give you a good starting point to start your adjustments. It does the following:

  • Boosts contrast using curves
  • Increases the exposure
  • Reduces the highlights and increases the white
  • Pumps up the clarity
  • Masks out the sharpening in the sky
  • Adds noise reduction

You can download my Basic Night Sky Lightroom Preset by clicking the link below. It’s free.

How to Import it into Lightroom: First, unzip the file onto your desktop. Window comes with a compression program that you access by double clicking on the file, or right-clicking on the zip file and select “Extract.”  Double clicking opens a new window and extracting creates a new folder on the desktop. If you double click, drag the preset from the window that appears onto your desktop. If you don’t have a program, pick up PeaZip. You import the preset into Lightroom by opening Lightroom, going to the develop panel (select a photo and press D), go to the Preset panel which is on the left side, create a new folder by right clicking on the panel. Name the folder something like, “Night Sky Preset.” Then, right click the newly created folder and select “Import.” Find the downloaded preset on your desktop and install. NOTE: I create a separate folder in Documents for all my presets and move them to there before I install them in Lightroom.

Beauty in Nature Photography: Natural or Divine?

lily pads on two island lakeI think it’s natural to look out into space or deep within ourselves and wonder if there is something greater out there creating beauty in nature, but I’m not so sure that beauty in nature emanates from the divine (even if it did, could we understand that beauty or would divine beauty consist of something entirely different).

When I think of beauty in nature photography, I’m reminded of a fundamental tenet of the Buddhist philosophy. That is the tenet of self-reliance, in that you determine your future and there isn’t an outside force acting to determine it for you or creating the reality around you.

I’m a big believer in self-reliance; I’m a big believer that as an artist and a human that I have the personal capacity to experience and interpret a chaotic universe in a way that makes it beautiful. As an artist, I have to rely on myself to find meaning in the universe, to recognize beauty and to find the specific elements that align in the right ways in nature to make a great photo. I don’t believe that what I photograph is beautiful because of some unknown outside divine force. I believe that it’s our own humanity, the humanity that evolved throughout eons that came to appreciate and find beauty in nature that makes something beautiful. So, when you’re looking out into space and wondering if there’s is something bigger out there that creates beauty, I suggest looking into the past and trying to understand how evolution could have caused humanity to come to appreciate the chaos around us.

In my photos, I want and try to tap into that evolutionary growth — the primal understanding of beauty. I want to make sure that humanity’s past is reflected deeply in my photos in a way that harkens back to a time when we were just a colony of cells emerging from a soup. Capturing that primal spirit is a goal of mine. I hope that my pictures do capture it, but even if they don’t knowing that I find and create beauty out of the chaos around me gives meanings to the stars.

Great Smoky Mountains Fall Photography Workshop

Sunset from Clingmans Dome in the Smoky Mountains.It’s completely official. I now have all the required commercial use authorizations and permits to run a photography workshop in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park — and let me tell you that it was an expensive permit to get! I’m really looking forward to getting into the park to photograph the fall colors. And this year’s workshop is an unique chance for you to go to the park with me and learn how to scout a park in a limited amount of time and still come home with great shots. I’ll be out there for four days before the workshop scouting the park for fall colors and using the knowledge I have from shooting spring in the park for many years (and the 100s of miles of backpacking that I’ve done there). I’m going to transfer what I learn to you using lesson plans that teach you how to maximize your research and scouting while still getting into the right places at the right times to get great photos. After the workshop, you’ll know how to head to a big park and be able to hit the hots spots and scout it out. I’ll also teach photography techniques and make sure that you learn enough to make great images.

I’m keeping this one small with a max of 4 people. Two spaces are already full.

When: October 18th to the 20th (Meet on the 17th to talk)
How Much: $450 per person.

Lodging is on your own for this one. I’m camping and you’re welcome to camp near my site.

Register here: Great Smoky Mountains Fall Photography Workshop

Upcoming Workshops

2014 Photography Workshops

I’m have a waiting list started for people that want to sign up for the 2014 workshops. Registration will open later in the year, but if you know you want to do one of these, I’ll put you on the waiting list. The winter and spring workshops typically fill up quickly.

  • February 7 to 9, 2014 — Lake Superior Winter Photography Workshop
  • April 18 to 20, 2014 — Spring Waterfall Photography Workshop
  • June 27 to 29, 2014 — Lake Superior Kayak Photography Workshop
  • August 20 to 24, 2014 — Northern Night Skies: Night Photography Workshop – 5 day
  • September 24 to 28, 2014 – North Shore Fall Photography Workshop  – 5 day
  • October 3 to 5, 2014 – Fall Photography Workshop – 2.5 days – Photography clubs can book this entire workshop.
  • October 17 to 19, 2014 — Great Smoky Mountain National Park Fall Photography Workshop
  • November 7 to 9, 2014 — Gales of November Photography Workshop

Select August Photos

Here are a few photos from August that I took and really like.


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The fog over Grand Marais after a strong thunderstorm. MinnesotaThe sun rises behind the tombolo on Lake Superior near Grand Marais, Cook County, Minnesota.