Night Skies of the Gunflint Trail Photography Workshop


Learn how to photograph the night sky in northern Minnesota. During the Night Skies of the Gunflint Trail we’ll explore some of the darkest locations in Cook County. Cook County is one of the darkest areas east of a line that runs from North Dakota to Texas. It offers some of the darkest skies in the world. According to the Dark Sky Finder, a small section of the county reaches Bortle Level 1, which is the darkest the sky can get on earth. Most of the county is shown as a level 2 or 3 by the Dark Sky Finder. Combine the dark sky with the numerous lakes, twisted pines, cedar and spruce trees and we have some of the best foregrounds to combine with the night sky.


  • July 19 to 23, 2017 – Format change to 5 full nights – Full. Email me to get on the waiting list.
  • July 11 to 15, 2018

Cost: $699 ($350 nonrefundable commitment fee due on registration. Remainder due 60 days before the workshop.)


This event is in cooperation with and under a Special Use Permit from  U.S.  Forest Service, Gunflint Ranger District.

SKU: Night Skies of the Gunflint Category: Tag:


Teaching Topics

This night photography workshop concentrates on the following teaching topics:

  • Predicting where the Milky Way will be
  • The changing positions and angles of the Milky Way
  • Finding the galactic core
  • Planning photo shoots based on the Milky Way and the moon and twilight
  • Finding dark skies
  • Computer programs and smartphone applications for planning photo shoots
  • Camera settings for night photography
  • The 600 rule vs. 500 rule vs. 400 rule
  • How to focus at night
  • Composition for effective night photos
  • Adding people to your shots the right way
  • Using Adobe Lightroom to process your Milky Way photos

This workshop includes a FREE copy of my Adobe Lightroom Night Sky Presets. I use these presets to process my own Milky Way photos. The workshop also includes a pdf of the classroom presentation. It will be provided on a USB drive during the classroom session, so bring a laptop. You can copy the presentation and presets to your laptop from the USB drive.

Note: If we have clouds, we will still be outside learning techniques for low level landscape lighting to subtly light the landscape to enhance your Milky Way foregrounds — this is not light painting. If we have a thunderstorm, we will attempt to capture lightning.


The schedule is tentative and may change based on conditions. This is a field workshop with the majority of the time spent in the field capturing images. There is one planning classroom session. You will be able to work on your images during the day and if you have any concerns or problems I’ll be available for an hour before each scheduled class to discuss. But plan on being in the field for most of the workshop. Image review will be completed via the Internet after the workshop.

Day 1: 6pm to 2am depending on conditions

The night sky photography workshop officially begins at six with a slideshow and lecture covering some of the teaching topics. After the slideshow, we’ll head out to photograph the night sky and make sure that everyone understands how to make an image. We will spend the night photographing the night sky.

I’ll also demonstrate how to process Milky Way images using Lightroom and my night sky presets. I designed the presets so that you can fine tune your images and maximize the potential in 30 seconds or less. You’ll receive a free copy of the presets and the presets manual.

Day 2: start at 9pm

Most likely this will be the night will travel furthest up the trail to several of my favorite night sky destinations that offer great views of the Milky Way and the northern sky. We’ll try to photography 3 to 5 different locations depending on the pace of the group. Two of the locations will have views of the northern sky over water.

Day 3 to 4: start at 8pm or 9pm

We start early and we’ll attempt to capture the twilight after sunset. After that, we’ll head out to photograph the night sky.

Day 5: start at 8pm or 9pm

We start before sunset and shoot until midnight.

Required Photography Equipment

Camera: Recent DSLR or mirrorless camera. Full frame is best, but APS-C or m-4/3rds sized sensors will also work. Lenses ranging from 14mm to 35mm with fast apertures, i.e. f/2.8 or faster. Most of the time, you’ll shoot wide.


Gear: A sturdy tripod. Ball head. Shutter release cord. Hot shoe bubble level. Headlamp. Bright flashlight.

Other Suggested Equipment: Your camera’s manual. If you want to work on images during the day, your laptop. Adobe Lightroom loaded on your computer if you plan on trying my presets.

I’ll send out a full equipment list a month before the workshop.

Registration and Cancellation Policies

Additional information

Max Participants

8 to 10


This workshop is for all levels of photographers and works best for photographers using digital cameras

What's Included

Quality small group and one-on-one instruction. Conference room for classroom time. Free continental breakfast at Aspen Lodge. Fun!

What's Not Included

Transportation to Grand Marais and photography locations. Car pooling is highly recommended. Lodging. Meals except for breakfast which is provided by the lodge.

Lodging Partner

Aspen Lodge in Grand Marais, MN is the lodging partner for this workshop. It is on the east side of Grand Marais across the street from a popular restaurant, My Sister’s Place. Aspen Lodge offers views of Artist’s Point, the East Bay and the Coast Guard Station. It has a giant whirlpool spa, a sauna and a pool. It’s within walking distance of downtown. The conference room and lobby is on the second floor. Call 800-247-6020 to make your room reservations.

Getting There

Grand Marais, Minnesota is 110 miles north of Duluth, Minnesota on Highway 61. Duluth boasts a small international airport. It’s 260 miles north of Minneapolis, Minnesota, which has an international airport that also acts as a regional hub. Grand Marais is 128 kilometers south of Thunder Bay, Ontario on Highway 61. Thunderbay has a small airport. Car rentals are available at the airports.


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