Dave Morrow is a 28-year-old travel photographer based out of Seattle Washington. Dave spends summers exploring the endless beautiful landscapes of the Pacific Northwest. When the gloomy winter brings rain to Seattle, he prefers to photograph international locations such as China, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and beyond… One of the other things that really brings Dave happiness is teaching others the art of photography. Dave teaches courses in the field and online covering all aspects of landscape and astrophotography. It was a pleasure for us to take an interview with Dave Morrow who shared some interesting facts of his biography and valuable tips on star photography shooting. We wish you a pleasant reading of Dave Morrow success story and viewing of his breathtaking star photography.
It All Began with the Milky Way
AP: Hi Dave, it is nice to meet you and thank you for finding a time to tell our readers your inspiring story. Please tell our readers about your first steps in star photography. Why did you become fond of this art?
Dave: I started taking pictures of the stars around a year and a half ago, the night it happened is still pretty clear in my memory. I was up in the North Cascades of Washington State exploring and taking some pictures for sunset. A few hours after sunset it started to get really dark, since there was nothing else to take pictures of I pointed my camera up at the stars and tried to calculate in my head what a few good settings would be to take some star pictures. I fired off a few shots and started to notice the Milky Way appearing in my pictures. Up to this point, only starting photographer a few months before I had no clue this was possible. After that, I constantly watched the moon phases and went out taking star photos.
AP: What a romantic and beautiful start. Your first star photographs, what did they look like?
Dave: Since taking my first star photos, I’ve learned a lot about capturing these shots in camera and post processing them on the computer. Over time, I’ve been able to develop my own workflow for each and allow myself to gain a better understanding of what does and does not work. I still continue to learn and teach myself new things about photography all the time. It’s a never-ending process that I really enjoy.
Here are my first two star photos:
AP: Wow, your first two star photos look incredible! Do you have any formal education in star photography or were you self-taught? Who were your early creative influences and mentors?
Dave: I taught myself to take photos around 2 years ago. As a full time aerospace engineer, I needed something to entertain the opposite side of my brain during free time. Over the last year and a half or so, it became more of an addiction and I started to spend much more time traveling and taking pictures. Two of my early influences were Conor MacNeill & Elia Locardi.
Equipment and Techniques
AP: Great, that you found such a wonderful hobby. What kind of equipment and techniques do you use to make the photographs?
Dave: I don’t carry much at all in my “night” photography bag, but the few items I do own work really well for my line of work:
- Nikon D800
- Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G lens
- TVC-34L Tripod, BH-55 Ballhead and D800 L-Bracket all from Really Right Stuff.
- Headlamp/ light
- Case of beer, preferably Ninkasi.
The secret to taking nice Milky Way photos is allowing the most light to hit your camera’s sensor in the least amount of time possible without increasing the ISO so much that it will induce a massive amount of noise in the photo. If your exposure is too long, due to the earth’s movement relative to the stars, you will start to see the stars moving across your picture. If your exposure is to short, the stars will not be bright enough. I prefer to shoot with a wide-angle lens of 14mm (out of 35mm full frame camera), at an ISO between 2500-5000 with an aperture of f/2.8. Just like anything else the rest of these skills come from experimenting and working things out on your own to find a process that works best for you. There is no right or wrong way to take a picture, but there are good and bad results. I do provide a Free Star Photography Tutorial that walks you through my complete star photography shooting process from start to finish.
AP: Thank you so much for sharing such detailed tips with our readers. I am sure our readers will find the Free Star Photography Tutorial very useful. What is your success formula?
Dave: I personally don’t feel that there is a “success formula” in photography or even art for that matter. I may consider a single picture successful once in a while, but as soon as I’m done with that picture it’s in the past and I’m looking to improve even more on the next shot. The day I feel that I’ve found a success formula will be the day I stop traveling and taking pictures, because without a challenge, what else is there?
AP: This is right; challenges help us to improve ourselves. What has been your most difficult creative challenge in star photography so far? How did you deal with it?
Dave: My biggest creative challenge has been improving my photos so that I’m 100% happy with the final image each and every time. This is an ongoing struggle that I constantly deal with and I don’t yet have a solution. 🙂
Golden Tips in Photography
AP: Hope you will find it someday! What are the three golden tips that you can give to young star photographers?
Dave: My Three Golden Tips:
- Explore (mentally and physically) – Pick a place on the map that looks really hard to get to and find your way there. Anyone can take a picture that a million other people have taken, but my best memories always come from the places that no one else goes. That is the fun stuff!
- Quality not Quantity – Treat each photo like a valuable piece of art from start to finish. From the time you pull your tripod out of your bag and set your camera up to capture an image to the final post processing your heart and soul should be 100% tuned into making something you love, something you’re proud of and most of all, something you enjoyed creating. The more I learn, the less pictures I actually take, but the more time I pour in to the overall creative process.
- Find Interesting Artists – My favorite way to learn about photography is from looking at painters and other artists to see how they use color and light to portray what’s around them. It’s also just great for inspirational purposes. Two of my favorite artists are Albert Bierstadt and Alex Grey. There is no one else like them and that’s why they interest me so much.
Dave, thank you so much for sharing such inspiring life story and such valuable tips with our readers. We are sure they will use them in practice. We wish you continuous inspiration in astrophotography and great achievements in art. To learn more about Dave Morrow photography feel free to visit his personal website with lots of amazing star photographs.
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