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Astro Jackpot

Astro Jackpot

When we added an astro workshop to our schedule we expected it to be popular. Astro photography has seen a lot of interest since astro-capable cameras have become more affordable in recent years. What we did not expect was to be overrun by demand, and then some. We had to add a second workshop which booked out as well. We would have loved to add a third one, but ran out of suitable weekends.

 
Astro-nauts

Astro-nauts

 

Astro photography is a diva. Getting spectacular results depends on a lot of things to come together: It starts with the Milky Way, which is only visible in the winter months. A brightly shining moon will wash out the view of the Milky Way, so the ideal time for astro is around new moons or on days when the moon sets in the afternoon. And while a cloudy sky adds to a landscape photograph, it will ruin shooting the stars. Organising an astro workshops is quite anxiety-inducing :)

Aurora Australis enters the stage

Aurora Australis enters the stage

So how did it go? In one word: stellar! The weather played along nicely, and on the second workshop a huge geomagnetic storm caused an aurora that paid us a short visit. Mild, clear and windless nights in winter are rare, and as orange lights were dancing along the horizon, we knew we had won the lottery! 

Steel wool + egg beater + rope + backup fire extinguiser = fun

Steel wool + egg beater + rope + backup fire extinguiser = fun

We have gotten pretty good at making our own weather through sheer willpower. We decided to bring a few props anyway, just in case it clouded over. Since our students were quite perceptive, we had spare time to get the toys out. No worries, one of us was standing by with a fire extinguisher, just in case :) 

Dennis' shot with Rob in the frame

Dennis' shot with Rob in the frame

Conditions for astro really do not get much better than this. Thanks again to everyone who gambled with us. We hope you took a memory card full of awesome images home. 

Rob returning the favour

Rob returning the favour

UPCOMING WORKSHOPS

Hero Holiday Queenstown 2017

Hero Holiday Queenstown 2017

Sometimes you have to be lucky. With our recent Hero Holiday in Queenstown we could not have been any luckier, had we scripted it. We were literally wedged in between two cyclones. One of our students made it just in time after being delayed by flooding of biblical proportions on the North Island.

Heroic posing

Heroic posing

But our luck did not stop there. Our group of students was not only incredibly charming, most of them were veteran photographers as well. They say that doctors make the worst patients. We hope we passed the test of making the workshop interesting for total newbies and experienced workshoppers alike. We even had a landscape painter with 30+ years of experience attending, of all things! Many thanks to Lindsay for not shooting down our creativity modules at every turn. I'm sure you could have!

Getting it all lined up

Getting it all lined up

Labelling a workshop with 14-hour days a Holiday is something of an inside joke. Then again there's no better way to get people used to the idea of being at the mercy of sunrise and sunset times than to jump right in. Fortunately our guys were total champs at getting out of bed at ungodly hours, then standing in the cold and dark, listening to our ramblings at 6am in the morning. 

Sweet classrooms

Sweet classrooms

It can be heartbreaking to drag people away from a beautiful location just because the clock is ticking. We try to keep a good balance between utterly polar factors like spontaneity and scheduling. A few times we had to drag people on to the next thing on our list. Since no one was kicking and screaming, we considered that a win. It's a good strategy anyway: Maximise your chances by moving on to do something different every now and then. It's too easy to get stuck on one thing.

Suddenly, astro!

Suddenly, astro!

One of my favourite moments of the whole workshop happened when we arrived at Lake Hayes in the very early morning. While astro photography was not part of the curriculum, we ended up compressing some of the lessons of that morning in favour of shooting the stars. Why waste time talking when conditions are perfect to hit the shutter button?

Click, click

Click, click

There was so much to enjoy about this trip. The group was awesome and laid back, the weather went easy on us, and hey, after all it is Queenstown! There's something to be said for conveniently accessible world-class spots, followed by amazing food after a day of hunting and gathering the light.

We are pretty lucky, aren't we?

UPCOMING HOLIDAYS

Rob and Dennis were the ultimate professionals who shared heaps of valuable knowledge, including apps, planning and safety equipment. We applied that knowledge at awesome locations!

The excellent organization and planning meant that not a moment of the long days was wasted. It was also great to hang out with a like-minded group of enthusiastic people. I would recommended the Hero Holiday to others without hesitation.
— Nick Farrelly about the Hero Holiday at Mount Cook 2016

Two Boy Scouts in Queenstown

Two Boy Scouts in Queenstown

'Just another day at the office!' is what went through my mind when I took this selfie of Rob and me. An evening like that is what made us fall in love with the outdoors and photography in the first place: Sitting on a mountain, overlooking a vast, overwhelmingly beautiful landscape, and knowing that we, as photographers, can take a slice of it home with us. One click at a time.

The Remarkables and the Lower Shotover 

The old saying that 'the more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in battle' applies. We want our students to experience a healthy balance of learning and fun, so our non-shooting hours were spent chasing around Queenstown. We had a long list of locations from shooting here previously. But the nitty-gritty of fitting them into four days required feet on the ground. Not that we needed much of an incentive to go to Queenstown!

The shore of Lake Wakatipu is not short of subjects

Getting some face time with astrophotography legend and Queenstown local Jordan McInally was a special treat. At some stage a spontaneous 600m climb up the Remarkables was in short order considered, approved, and finally rejected due to a lack of sleep, gear and stamina. One of us even forgot his tripod, but I'm not going to tell names. You know who you are!

One of Jordan's special astro places

Rob and I absolutely cannot wait to get on the road in April. While a scouting trip is fun, it is the experience of exploring as a group of enthusiasts that makes these weekends truly special. With an office like that, working weekends is a burden that we will happily put up with.

Moke Lake on a gloomy morning

What: Hero Holiday Queenstown
When: Friday 7/4/2017 - Monday 10/4/2017
Mission: Learn how to plan, shoot and edit your own landscape hero pic
Included: Accommodation, tutoring, handout materials, welcome package, a lot of ideas, a big smile on your face
Price: $1500
There are still a few spaces available. More information here.

Dennis & Jordan looking for the mother of all compositions