A Unique Workshop
Westcliffe is Colorado’s first Dark Sky Community and the second highest in the world, which makes it an excellent place for astrophotography. All of the sites used on the workshop are located on private cattle ranches, and no hiking is required to reach our destinations.
One of the things I like the most about astrophotography is watching all of the transitions throughout the night. I enjoy seeing the stars and the Milky Way become visible as the sky darkens and witnessing the morning twilight and sunrise. I often think about how many people don’t get to experience these wonders because they’re either asleep, or they live in an area with a high level of light pollution. I encourage my students to spend some time away from their cameras so they can take a moment to be fully present and gaze up at the sky in one of the darkest places they’ll ever visit.
Upcoming 2024 Class Dates
Saturday, May 4 ~ Thursday, June 6 ~ Friday, July 5 ~ Sunday, August 4 ~ Saturday, August 31
all classes start at 7pm and end after sunrise the next morning
Sign-up for the Night-Sky Photography Workshop Westcliffe, CO
Signup to take part in a fun one-of-a-kind workshop and grow your Astrophotography adventure in Westcliffe, Colorado.
Sign Waiver and Release Before Workshop
Sign-up for a Night-Sky Photography Workshop in Westcliffe, CO
How to photograph the Milky Way and the stars as points of light.
How to photograph star trails
Light painting techniques (lights will be supplied).
Tracking techniques using the Move Shoot Move and StarAdventurer trackers
Stacking techniques to reduce noise
Second highest designated dark-sky community in the world
Westcliffe is the first town in Colorado and the world’s second highest that’s designated as an International Dark Sky Community by the International Dark Sky Association, so it is an excellent place to view and photograph the night sky and the Milky Way.
Westcliffe is a former mining town that sits at an elevation of 7,867 feet above sea level in the middle of the Wet Mountain Valley about 1.5 hours southwest of Colorado Springs. The views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains from Westcliffe are spectacular.
Part of our proceeds go to support Dark Skies, Inc.
Our basecamp in the foothills for the workshop
The cost of the workshop includes use of a rental cabin in Westcliffe. The cabin is a completely renovated 1970’s A-frame that we mainly use as a meeting place and classroom. We do not plan to sleep at the cabin, but it will be available if anyone needs to get some rest during the night or before driving home. Pets are not allowed.
If you need additional accommodations, consider getting a room at the Westcliffe Inn.
A one-of-a-kind workshop capturing the beauty of the Milky Way and the night sky
Explore the wonders of astrophotography in a captivating natural setting! Join us on this photographic adventure as you hone your skills and capture breathtaking images of starry night skies.
Attendance is limited to 8 participants to maximize the quality of your experience.
The tentative schedule for each workshop is as follows:
6:00 PM – Check in (Please do not arrive early)
7:00 PM – Classroom Instruction
9:00 PM – Photographing the night sky at up to 4 locations through sunrise
7:00 AM – Breakfast at the Silver Cliff Inn
Times are subject to change based on weather, sunset conditions and the times the Galactic Core of the Milky Way is visible.
What to Bring
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.
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
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 the barns and the windmill at two of our locations and practicing light painting techniques. If the weather is poor, we will spend time discussing post-processing techniques at the rental cabin.
All attendees must sign a waiver and release agreement to participate in these workshops.
Activities will take place between 7,800 and 9,300 feet. If you are visiting from out of state, it is recommended that you first spend some time during your visit to Colorado at lower elevations and drink plenty of water to avoid altitude sickness.
We will not be serving meals at the rental house, but you are welcome to bring food with you to eat or prepare.
Those wishing to stick around for the sunrise portion of the workshop can join us at the Silver Cliff Mountain Inn for breakfast. Meals are not included in the price of the workshop.
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. If you aren’t sure, take the Questionnaire and we will reach out to you.