Northern Night Skies: Night Photography Workshop


Cook County, Minnesota on the north shore of Lake Superior is 92% public and undeveloped land. With a summer population of about 10,000 people mainly living near the shore of Lake Superior, there isn’t much in the way of night pollution. On the Bortle night sky darkness scale Cook County’s skies rank 2 to 3 (with 1 being the darkest and 9 the brightest). Parts of the county even reach a Bortle rank of 1. When it’s dark out, the stars fill the sky, the Milky Way is bright and because of our proximity to the magnetic north pole, we get northern lights more often than other areas at the same latitude. August generally has clear nights or nights with lightning and thunderstorms, and this night photography workshop takes advantage of those clear summer nights. For five days, we’ll work on capturing night images and learning how to process them.


  • August 16 to 20, 2017 – Full. Email me to get on the waiting list.
  • August 8 to 12, 2018

Cost: $699 ($350 nonrefundable commitment fee deposit due on registration. Final payment is 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: Northern Night Sky 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
  • Low level lighting

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 presentations.

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 Night Photography Workshop on Lake Superior is based around a waning crescent moon in one of the darkest locations in the lower 48. We’ll spend lots of time photographing the Milky Way, learning how to shoot star trails and if the northern lights come out, we’ll concentrate on those. If we’re luckily a lightning storm will roll through town and over Lake Superior. If that happens, we’ll photograph lightning over the big lake. You’ll also have an opportunity to learn how to photograph tents, use low level lighting and how to add yourself or another person to a photo to increase its impact.

The schedule is tentative and may change based on conditions.

Day 1 (Wednesday): 7pm to 1am or so

The night sky photography workshop officially begins at seven with a slideshow and lecture about camera control, composition and general night photography principles for capturing nightscape images. After the slideshow, we’ll head out to photograph the night sky and make sure that everyone understands how to make an image. Most likely this will be a Lake Superior night unless the northern lights are out. If the aurora show up, we’ll head inland.

Day 2 (Thursday): 7pm to 2am or so

We start in the classroom with a slideshow and demonstration on how to process night sky 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. After the presentation and classroom session, we head out into the field to photograph the night sky. We’ll try to hit two to three different locations for a variety of foregrounds and image types. Most likely this will be an inland night at several of my favorite night sky destinations that offer great views of the Milky Way and the northern sky.

Day 3 (Friday): 6pm to 2am or so

We start in the classroom by sharing two to three images that you’ve taken and processed during the workshop. You’ll receive constructive feedback that will help improve your photography over the following nights. We’ll also have a slideshow about how to shoot star trails. Then we’ll head out into the field to photograph the night sky. The plan is to create one or more star trail images.

Day 4 (Saturday): 6pm to 1am

We start in the classroom with an optional two-hour processing session. Alternatively, based on interest, we’ll head out to shoot the sunset instead of spending time in the classroom. If we do the classroom session, you’ll have time to process your images, ask questions and get ready for the night. After the classroom, we’ll head out to different locations than those in the previous nights.

Day 5 (Sunday): 1pm to 3pm, 9pm to Midnight

We meet at 1pm to review images from the workshop. Each person will share five images that they made during the week. For people that want to stay Sunday night, we’ll have a final session of night photography.

Registration and Cancellation Policies

Additional information

Max Participants



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. 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. For the workshop, rates are 10% off the regular rack price. The conference room and lobby is on the second floor. When making your reservation, ask for a “Bryan Hansel Photography” room. 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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