Times & Dates: 1pm Friday 6 September to 12pm Monday 9 September 2024
Duration: 3 nights /4 days
Explore the night skies of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve from our Twizel base camp. Award-winning astrophotographer and educator Mike White will build on your ability to take simple nightscape images by introducing you to techniques like Image Stacking and Panoramic & Mosaic photography. These skills will further improve your astrophotography techniques and give you added tools to help bring your creative visions to life.
Our workshops are delivered with a combination of both classroom-based theory and practical exercises in the field so that you not only become comfortable in operating your camera to capture the night sky but that you also develop a broader understanding of the principles involved.
The workshop is timed to take advantage of a waxing Crescent Moon phase to provide natural foreground lighting while still enjoying the beauty of observing the stars from a world-renowned Dark Sky Reserve.
How to Enrol
- Have a good read through the information on this page to make sure this workshop is a good fit for you.
- Select one of the Payment Options. You can either pay a non-refundable deposit to secure your place or pay for the full workshop fee in advance.
- Once you’ve paid to reserve your place, complete the registration form here.
What will I learn?
- Consolidate Nightscape techniques.
- Stacking Techniques: Shooting & Processing.
- Panoramic Techniques: Planning, Shooting & Processing.
- On location workflows.
- Post-processing workflows.
What might I see?
- Milky Way arch.
- Waxing Crescent Moon.
- Southern Cross Region including the Eta Carinae Nebula near the horizon.
Astrophotography is obviously very weather dependent. Our workshop has a flexible timetable to enable us to take opportunities as they come. In the event that we are unable to shoot astro due to weather conditions, we can explore additional practical techniques and post-processing skills or visit potential shooting locations.
Our workshops are unique in that our focus is on giving you the best opportunities to come away with some memorable images of the night sky. This might mean that we end up shooting into the middle of the night or we may be getting up early for a pre-dawn session. Therefore to ensure we’re ready for the challenges of astrophotography, we’ll be taking things easy during the daytime.
Our workshop programme officially starts at 1pm. After completing introductory formalities and some house-keeping, we’ll get underway with the first theory session in preparation for our first evening shoot.
Following an early dinner, we’ll be heading out into the field to consolidate basic astrophotography skills. From there, we’ll look at stacked image capture and single row panoramic captures. Our location within the Dark Sky Reserve will be selected based on weather and the best chance of clear conditions.
We’ll commence mid-afternoon with a review of the previous night’s images and an opportunity to work through any issues that may have arisen such as with the technical aspects of your camera’s operation. We’ll also include a session on advanced post-processing techniques including stacking for noise reduction.
After dinner, we’ll be heading back out into the field to refine the technical aspects of capturing panoramic and stacked images of both the night sky and foreground.
We’ll be spending the afternoon further developing your post-processing skills including learning non-destructive editing workflows that blend a stacked star field frame with a foreground landscape frame. We’ll also be exploring PTGui – the software of choice for working with panoramic and mosaic images.
Our final evening session will be an opportunity to bring all that you have learned on the workshop together so that when you next go out into the field, you can confidently compose and capture your own nightscape photographs using advanced capture techniques.
Following breakfast, we will meet for a review of some of the images that you have made during the workshop. We believe printing is a key component of the photographic process. Each participant will be helped to select and edit their favourite image from the workshop which will then be printed as an A3-sized archival-quality print to be taken home as a memento of your time under the stars in the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve.
The workshop will conclude at 12pm.
About Your Instructor
Mike White is a full-time astrophotographer and educator based in Twizel in the beautiful Mackenzie Country. Mike’s had a lifelong interest for all things astronomy and space and is passionate about sharing that knowledge with you. A former airline pilot and flight instructor, Mike also holds a National Certificate in Adult Education and Training Level 4. With decades of experience in teaching others, Mike creates a relaxed learning environment and breaks down technical jargon into easy-to-understand concepts. Mike will work with you to ensure you have a positive learning experience and that you leave the workshop feeling newly inspired to continue your photographic journey under the stars.
- Guided tuition by Mike White MNZIPP APSNZ.
- Printed set of workshop notes.
- An A3 archival-quality print.
- Three nights accommodation at a private Twizel property (with your own bedroom.)
- Daily breakfast provisions.
- Transport during the workshop.
The following expenses are not covered in your workshop package:
- Lunch, dinner and snacks.
- Transport to and from Twizel.
- Camera equipment.
Our workshop home base is at a private Twizel property located near Lake Ruataniwha. The property is exclusively ours for the duration of the workshop. Each participant will have their own space to relax in with a private room with either a King or Queen bed. Our location is a very modern 4 bedroom home with plenty of space, large living areas and views across the Mackenzie basin. We have a heat pump, fire place and even an outdoor hot tub to keep us warm after a night out under the stars. Full kitchen available for meal preparation and two full bathrooms. WiFi available.
Your partner is welcome to stay with you for the duration of the workshop however they will be responsible for paying any additional charges. Please note that partners are unable to attend workshop activities.
You will need to arrange your own transport to and from the workshop. Comfortable SUV transport will be provided during the workshop.
Drive times (approx.)
- Christchurch Airport to Twizel: 3h 45m
- Queenstown Airport to Twizel: 2h 30m
- Twizel to Lake Pukaki: 10m
- Twizel to Lake Tekapo: 45m
- Twizel to Aoraki/Mount Cook Village: 45m
Please be aware that Twizel’s high country location means that there are hills and winding sections of roads to navigate from either direction. In winter months especially, snow and ice can cover roads. Visit Waka Kotahi: NZ Transport Agency (https://nzta.govt.nz/traffic-and-travel-information/) to plan your trip with travel time information, traffic cameras and updates on delays, roadworks and road closures.
The region can be accessed through a number of airport gateways. New Zealand’s international airports are located in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown. Christchurch and Queenstown are the closest to the Mackenzie region. Charter flights are possible to the four Mackenzie-based airports located at: Lake Pukaki (next to Twizel township), Glentanner, Aoraki/Mount Cook, and Lake Tekapo.
Breakfast provisions will be made available daily for you to enjoy breakfast at your leisure. Please note any dietary requirements on your enrolment form.
Lunch and dinner meals are not included in your package. Twizel has two 4 Square supermarkets and numerous other takeaway and dine-in meal options. Please ensure you plan meals around any briefed workshop time requirements.
Our workshops are designed to maximise the learning opportunities for each participant and run with a maximum group size of 1 instructor and 4 students.
This gives us lots of time to spend with you, personally ensuring you get whatever guidance or assistance you need as you progress through the workshop.
Our workshops aren’t about the instructors taking their own portfolio images, so rest assured you’ll have our full attention.
This is an advanced level workshop for both amateur or professional photographers who are already comfortable capturing and processing single exposure images of the night sky. We’ll be building on this base knowledge with advanced techniques. The objectives of the workshop are to help you understand the principles involved in Image Stacking and Panoramic Photography; and spend time applying and practicing techniques in a structured, relaxed, environment with a patient instructor.
A reasonable level of physical fitness is necessary to participate in and enjoy the workshop. Most locations will involve walking short distances (up to 20 mins) along formed tracks. You must be able to carry your own equipment to and from the vehicle. You should be prepared to spend long periods of time (at least 2-3 hours) in cold, dark conditions. Any concerns you have about your health, including any relevant pre-existing medical conditions, will need to be disclosed to Mike White Photography before your workshop commences.
Participants should be prepared for walking on undulating terrain, uneven ground, or loose stones / gravelly surfaces. Snow and/or ice may also be present on formed tracks.
This workshop is designed for photographers using DSLR or Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens cameras.
A panoramic head would be useful for this workshop. There are many different types available to suit different budgets. On our workshops, we’ll be demonstrating the Nodal Ninja 6 – a compact, versatile unit that is capable of multi-row panoramic captures.
It is essential for your own safety and enjoyment of this workshop that you have appropriate clothing and the correct equipment for working in the outdoors.
You can download a gear list here that functions as a packing checklist.
If you are in doubt about any of the clothing or equipment required, please contact us to discuss further before the commencement of your workshop.
You will need access to the following software during the workshop:
- Adobe Lightroom Classic
- Adobe Photoshop
- Starry Landscape Stacker (Mac only. Please note this is paid software.)
Other software (including a trial version of PTGui) will be provided to you on a USB drive to transfer to your device. Please check all your software is up-to-date before attending the workshop to gain full benefit from post-processing tutorials (and minimise time spent downloading updates!)
We reserve the right to make any changes to the workshop programme as a result of the weather. As an outdoor activity, we have no control over the weather conditions on location. The safety of the whole group is our priority and will guide all decision-making.
Forecasting weather in New Zealand is a real challenge due to our topography and isolation in between two oceans. Although Astrophotography is dependant on the weather, periods of clear skies can appear even when not forecast. If the weather does limit shooting, we will provide an alternative programme including additional tutorials and post-processing sessions. We may even schedule some daytime landscape shoots if the weather is suitable allowing you to experience the Mackenzie landscape and take note of locations you’d like to return to. Your best option to enjoy the workshop is to come with an open mind to the possibilities and enjoy the experience as a whole. Forget the pre-conceived images you might have in mind.
We strongly recommend that you obtain travel insurance cover for this workshop. You are responsible for ensuring this policy provides adequate cover for unforeseen circumstances that may arise and prevent you from attending or completing the workshop such as: travel delays, workshop cancellation by us, natural disaster, medical directives (eg Covid), transport strikes or medical emergencies. We also strongly recommend that you have adequate insurance for the loss of, or damage to, your equipment.
To reserve your place on this workshop, please complete the checkout process from this page. You will be required to pay a non-refundable deposit of NZ$500. The balance of payment is due no later than 28 days prior to the start of your workshop. Your payment (less the non-refundable deposit) remains fully refundable until 28 days before the workshop commencement date.
Payment will be required via an Internet Banking payment. You will be provided with our account details during the Checkout process. If you wish to pay via a credit or debit card, please contact us and we will send you an invoice for payment. Please note a surcharge of 2.7% (Stripe Payment Processing Fee) will apply for all Workshop payments made in this way.
Ready to book?
We can’t wait to help you on your astrophotography journey, so if you’re ready to come and have an incredible experience with us, please start the booking process by adding this workshop experience to your cart at the top of the page.
Once your payment has been received, we’ll be in touch to make sure we get all the details taken care of before your workshop experience begins.