Night-Sky & Milky Way Photography Workshop

Paint Mines in Calhan, Colorado

Watch our full workshop walkthrough video

A Unique Workshop

Paint Mines nighttime photography workshop with aura and stars
Paint Mines Colorado aurora with lights on the horizon with alien rocks in the foreground and lots of stars

Visiting the Paint Mines after dark is like stepping onto the surface of another planet. The hoodoos and surreal landscape, combined with the celestial backdrop create an otherworldly experience for night-sky photography. The occasional yelping from a nearby pack of coyotes always puts a smile on my face and is an abrupt reminder that we’re still on planet Earth. A night spent at the Paint Mines is one that you won’t soon forget.

The Paint Mines Interpretive Park is one of El Paso County’s gems, and it’s an excellent place for night photography. Being there after dark requires a permit. Arrangements have been made with El Paso County Parks to conduct these workshops.


Upcoming 2024 Class Dates

all classes start at 9pm and go all night

Saturday, April 6th

Tuesday, May 7th

Sunday, June 9

Thursday, August 1

Sign-up for a Night-Sky Photography Workshop at the Paint Mines in Calhan, CO

Cost is $300 per person. Part of the proceeds go to benefit El Paso County Nature Centers.

How to Register:

Call Bear Creek Nature Center

Use the El Paso County Parks Website
Click the link to the right and expand the Special Events section to choose a date.

Sign Waiver and Release Before Workshop

Sign-up for Night-Sky Photography Workshop at Paint Mines in Calhan, CO

Paint Mines Interpretive Park

A unique place to capture beautiful astrophotography

The Paint Mines are located about 45 minutes northeast of Colorado Springs in Calhan, CO. The park is known for its hoodoos and the colorful pigments that were used by indigenous people to make paint. The area of the park that contains the largest hoodoos offers the best opportunities for photographing the night sky.

Workshop Topics

Night Time Workshop Milkyway

How to photograph the Milky Way and the stars as points of light.

Night Time Workshop Shoot Star

How to photograph star trails

Night Time Workshop Light Paint

Light painting techniques (lights will be supplied).

Night Time Workshop Tracking

Tracking techniques using the Move Shoot Move and StarAdventurer trackers

Night Time Workshop Layering

Stacking techniques to reduce noise

A Beautiful Hike

A fifteen minute hike into the hoodoos

We need to hike into the park to reach the hoodoos, which means that you will have to carry all of your gear with you, including your camera, lenses, tripod, water, food, snacks and warm clothes. It is important that you are physcially able to hike over rough terrain in order to participate in the workshop and get the most out of this experience.

The Workshop

Learn astrophotography in a beautiful alien landscape

Prior to class students will be emailed informational videos.

The tentative schedule for each workshop is as follows:

We will meet at the main entrance to the park next to the restrooms about 9 pm, and then move to the second parking lot after a brief instruction session. If conditions are right and time permits, we’ll spend some time capturing some images from the overlook, which offers great views of the park, especially under moonlight. We’ll hike down into the park and photograph the night sky among the hoodoos. The hike into the park to the area with the largest hoodoos is approximately ½ a mile. The plan is to stick around to photograph the sunrise, but you are not required to stay the entire night. We also have access to a farmhouse close by that we can visit if the group would like to do so.

What to Bring

Camera Gear

You should be familiar with your camera gear and have the knowledge to adjust your aperture, shutter speed, ISO, white balance, etc. while in manual mode. You should know how to switch from auto to manual focus and view the histogram on your LCD screen. We recommend that you familiarize yourself with all of your equipment before attending a workshop and suggest that you practice operating your camera in the dark so that you get a feel for where the buttons and dials are located.

Camera – your camera should be capable of shooting at 6400 ISO in order to get photos of the Milky Way and stars as points of light.

Camera manual

Extra batteries for your camera and other battery-operated devices

STURDY tripod! – A $20 Wal-Mart special will not be adequate

Remote or Intervelometer – A remote with a locking shutter or a way to set a bulb timer is necessary for exposures longer than 30 seconds.

Lenses – Lenses in the 14-24mm range will produce good results for the night sky. You will need a lens that opens to f/2.8 or larger in order to photograph the stars as points of light. Bring other lenses for sunset, sunrise and wildlife photos.

Other Important Gear

Warm clothes – It’s best to dress in layers with insulating layers close to your body. Windproof jackets and pants are recommended to keep you warm in windy conditions. Watch the video below to learn how to dress in layers. Not dressing properly is one of the biggest issues I come across with my workshop students, especially those who live in warm locations like Texas and Florida.

Gloves and a winter hat – It’s not unusual for temperatures to drop down into the 30’s and 40’s at high elevations during the summer months. Having these items will help keep you comfortable throughout the night.

Sturdy boots or hiking shoes

Rain gear – A lightweight poncho will do fine as well as a waterproof parka and waterproof pants.


Water – It’s important to stay hydrated at high altitudes


Thermos for coffee or tea

Lightweight camping chair

Important Information

Weather & Safety

We’ll keep an eye on the weather, but we don’t have any control over Mother Nature. If the sky is cloudy, we will spend time photographing practicing light painting techniques.

All attendees must sign a waiver and release agreement to participate in these workshops.


We will not be serving food so please bring snacks to eat throughout the night.


Refunds are not given unless the workshop is cancelled.

Need Extra Help?

Do you think you’ll need extra help to prepare for the workshop? If so, you can hire Mike for a one- or two-hour Zoom session to brush up on your camera skills or discuss your equipment needs. Message Mike to make arrangements for a pre-workshop session.

Workshop Testimonials

Walter Steadman
I did much YouTubing prior to this night trying to learn about Night Photography and there is a lot out there on it, but none were anywhere close to the quality I felt I received from this hands-on in-person training. I would highly recommend this course for those who have never done night photography and even those who have and just want to get better
Seth Harrison
Mike's knowledge of both photography techniques and the local geography are invaluable, and the size and structure of the workshop made it easy to get any and all questions answered. I would highly recommend Mike's workshops, and am hoping to attend another one sometime in the future.
Kit Mulligan
Had a wonderful night filled with astrophotography with Mike Pach and 3 Peaks Photography. Lots of help and instruction along with help with composition.
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Check out our other Astrophotography Workshop in

Westcliffe, Colorado

Request 1-on-1 Session

2 Hour Zoom Session
Discuss Camera Skills & Needs Before Paint Mines Workshop

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