Capturing the Night Sky with Andy Porter

The following entry contains excerpts from our instagram takeover with @andyporterimages.

We have been focusing a lot of our attention on all the snow falling to the ground and the wonderful conditions it makes for snowshoeing, skiing, and snowball fights! 

So we decided to take some time to look up to the sky and focus on the stars, in honor of our upcoming Night Photography field excursions. We asked local night sky photographer, Andy Porter to take over our instagram account and share some of his favorite images, tips and camera settings on how to capture that perfect night sky photo. 

Looking to boost your photography skills? Sign up for one of our Night Photography classes with Andy Porter at Lake Diablo February 21-22 or February 22-23. Or wait until August 15-16 and meet us at Artist Point!

The Washington Pass Overlook, on Highway 20, is an ideal spot for night sky imaging due to its remote location and south facing view. Liberty Bell Mountain and the great loop of the North Cascades Highway also provide a dramatic canvas for the stars. 

The settings for my Milky Way shots are:
Aperture: f/2.8
Shutter Speed: 30 sec
ISO: 4,000

Thousands of people visit Washington Pass Overlook during the day, but anyone been there at night to see this star-tastic sight?

Park Butte Lookout is perched precariously on a ridge just south of Mt Baker. The orange glow from inside the lookout was done with an old cheap flashlight, with an incandescent bulb which was very dim. Mt. Baker is slightly aglow from the lights of Bellingham and the stars that seemingly emanate from its crater.

Park Butte is open to the public on a first come first serve basis and is a pretty popular backpacking destination spot for good reason. Who has ever stayed in this amazing fire lookout? 

Picture Lake and its iconic view of Mount Shuksan is even more magnificent under the Milky Way. This image was captured whilst on a North Cascades Institute Night Sky Photography Class. Access to this spot is easy, it’s right along the Mt. Baker Highway and close to Artist Point. Artist Point is only open in the summer and early fall, but provides easy access to a fantastic night sky location.

With an unimpeded view of Mt. Shuksan, Picture Lake is one of the most photographed vistas in America. What is your favorite scenic stop along the Mt. Baker Highway?

Images of star trails use different settings. The result is an image with better detail in the foreground. The bright green glow at the horizon is the Aurora Borealis. From time to time the glow is visible here in the North Cascades.

Aperture: f/2.8
Shutter Speed: 20 minutes
ISO: 100 

Can anyone name this fire lookout? Bonus points if you have stayed overnight and enjoyed the starry night sky.

Sahale Glacier Camp is the highest established camp site in the park, at more than 7,200 feet. The views are unbelievable, and if you’re lucky enough to make it there on a new moon (and when there are no clouds!) this is what you’ll see. My friends in the tent manned the light, my exposure time was 30 seconds, and during that time they would turn on the light in the tent for 1 second or less.

 You’ll need a backcountry permit, sturdy hiking shoes and determination to get to photograph the stars at this popular camp spot.


Want to be able to capture that perfect night sky photo when you’re out on your next outdoor adventure?

Sign up for one of our Night Photography classes with Andy Porter at Lake Diablo February 21-22 or February 22-23

You’ll begin with a locally sourced, delicious dinner at the Learning Center, followed by a short evening photography workshop on the Art of Night Photography. Conclude the evening by heading out to Diablo Overlook where Andy will guide you in capturing your own images of the North Cascades night sky.


About Andy Porter

For me photography and outdoor travel have always been linked. In 1976, I planned my first trip on the Pacific Crest Trail. Two of my friends accompanied me, we hitchhiked from Eastern Pennsylvania to Cascade Locks in Oregon and hiked south, through most of Oregon on the trail. I borrowed a friend’s Nikkormat for the trip and tried hard to capture the look and feel of what I saw. Since that first trip on the PCT I have traveled broadly (50 states, 50 countries), yet no matter where I was living, in the US or overseas I always felt a tug back to the Pacific Northwest. Finally, I settled in NW Washington, I am at home and have an abundance of outdoor photographic subjects. My favorite places are the North Cascades and the Olympic Coast.

Andy’s work has been featured in many magazines and publications including the book, “The North Cascades – Finding Beauty and Renewal in the Wild Nearby.” You can see his work at www.AndyPorterImages.com

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