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The image that started the McWay Falls nightscape craze
McWay Falls has been a tourist destination for longer than many of us even heard of the place, but it was only until 2012 when Steven Christenson really "discovered" the potential of the site at night. Nestled in the rugged and gorgeous part of the California coast better known as Big Sur, McWay Falls enjoys extremely dark skies.

Of course, in 2012 nightscapes weren't near as popular as they are today, meaning those of us who were already doing it had a lot to discover. During the spring of 2012 Steven brought a few people there, and although Steven didn't try to keep the place to himself, McWay Falls remained off everyone's radar as a nightscape destination.

Fast-forward exactly one year, 2013... I was on my way out of Death Valley after having spent a few nights shooting there, heading to the coast, when Steven texted me out of the blue asking my whereabouts. After I told him I was planning on spending the night at the coast, that's when he texted me the words "McWay", suggesting I stop there to check it out.

Not knowing what McWay Falls was, I entered it on my GPS and there I went. Again, I had never seen a picture of it, been there, heard of it, nothing... Yet, I trusted Steven's suggestion and I surely was glad I did!!
 

Startrails overlapping the Milky Way at McWay Falls

When I arrived it was already dark, but visiting a place for the first time at night is something I'm used to, despite it's much smarter to scout new places in daylight. I also had to find out the trail (if you've been there, you know there's nothing letting you know you're there or where to go), not to mention I was deadly tired after driving here all the way from Death Valley, but somehow I managed to find the way, and as I stepped on the little bridge and looked towards the cove, my jaw dropped.

Astonished as I was at the gorgeous view I had in front of me, my photographer's habits kicked in fast. The moon was about to set, still giving a bit of light to the landscape. Rather than going for the open view from the little bridge, I favored the view at the end of the trail, with the trees hugging the scene (this later became a classic in most of my shots of the waterfall). I took some shots with my Canon 5d Mk2 and Sigma 20mm f/1.8 lens, I then stayed there for a while - who wouldn't! - after which I went back to the car, then headed home.

Magical lights in McWay Falls happen all around

The image I produced was noisy and without a lot of detail, but the dreamy and almost out of a fairy tale landscape was as enchanting as it was surreal. I named it "Untouchable Beauty" because accessing the cove would be trespassing - no one is allowed down at the beach.

Back then I wasn't too big on using social media, but next thing you knew, on May 7, 2013 the image featured on NASA's APOD, which by itself brought the view to over 1 million pairs of eyes, and the McWay Falls nightscape craze started.

Within a year, a shot of McWay Falls with the Milky Way became an item in the bucket list for many photographers. Perhaps the site was not quite yet a world-famous nightscape destination, but it was getting there. Then I did something I've seen myself doing time and time again: not satisfied with my image nor what I had seen from others, I decided to capture McWay Falls not necessarily better, artistically speaking, but in a much cleaner way, and "Still Untouchable" was born, an image captured with a telephoto lens, plus stacking. The image, coincidentally, ended up also featured as NASA's APOD on June 29, 2014.

After this second "distribution", pictures of McWay Falls and the Milky Way started to pop everywhere. I started hearing about people who learned about the place because they saw someone else's image, who had seen a picture from someone else, who had seen mine on the APOD, and so on.

I have visited McWay Falls dozens of times since. This, of course, has made my collection of McWay Falls images to be pretty dense but again, despite its now world-famous status, McWay Falls had become a place I would go just to muse, to hang out doing what I love, not particularly to capture yet one more photo - although of course, I've never stopped photographing it on every visit!

Today, however, for most people, another shot of McWay Falls and the Milky Way tells almost nothing to no one except maybe the author. Yes. McWay Falls has been shot to death.

Still Untouchable, my most detailed image of the cove at night

It's worth mentioning however that despite all this, the place has not ever been vandalized, to my knowledge. The worst I know is about people climbing down - which is illegal and very dangerous - yet inflicting no appreciable damage to the area... I'm not saying McWay Falls is immune to vandals or crowds. Nothing is. Still, the popularity of the place has not affected the site in any way for these six years, with the area pretty much accessible overnight all the time. In fact, mother nature has taken care of that in a much more destructive way, and the trail is closed at the moment and nearly gone in some areas, due to storms from this past 2018-19 winter.

If this had been a less known landmark, Steven or I could have claimed "secrecy" alleging we're preserving the place from vandalism or crazy crowds, and while I don't particularly enjoy visiting a place at night and finding 10 or more folks where a few years ago I'd be all by myself, and I also don't get thrills from seeing the same shot a thousand times... those reasons are about me!! Everyone who's visited McWay Falls at night has experienced it, enjoyed it and hopefully loved it. They took their own interpretation of it, or whatever is they could get. The only sad part is about those who would visit a place solely for the picture, completely missing out on the experience, and yes, there's a lot of that today.

As for the vandals, it's a hard fact of life that some people take joy in cowardly destroying what nature gives us. Crowds is the scary part, and they can ruin everything about a place if it gets crazy enough. In the time being, after the harsh winter that destroyed part of the trail and the bridge, McWay Falls is being protected by the same forces that built it in the first place for us to enjoy: mother nature.

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It was my great pleasure to join Rogelio on an astrophotography workshop in 2018. From the moment I met Rogelio, I knew this was going to be a different experience. To set the scene, I've undertaken other astrophotography workshops, all of which were great experiences where I learned much, so I would count myself as reasonably experienced with the craft of wide-field astrophotography. But it was different with Rogelio... it was clear from the outset that he holds a vast knowledge of photographing the night sky, and this provided a much deeper and more satisfying total experience for me. In addition to his creative guidance on composition and his knowledge of image capture in low light, his image processing skills and techniques for image post-processing were a total revolution for me (and as I subsequently learned, are a direct result of his extensive experience in deep sky astrophotography). My experience with Rogelio was truly exceptional, and I recommend his workshops to anyone looking to push their wide-field astrophotography craft to the next level

Daniel J W Brown, PhD

INTRO

This is a 2 nights nightscape astrophotography camp + processing workshop with Rogelio Bernal, that's me. If you've never heard of me, check my list of awards or my work here in DeepSkyColors.com.

SITE: Yosemite National Park and whereabouts
DATE: June 28 to 30, 2019 (Fri, Sat, Sun)
CLASS SIZE: 2 to 7

PRICE FULL WORKSHOP: $699 ($279 reservation)
PRICE ONE NIGHT: $375
PRICE 1 NIGHT + PROCESSING: $475

Price does not include food, lodging or transportation, but free coffee will be available at all times during the sessions :-)



REGISTER

Make your selection
Full Payment $699.00 USD Reservation $279.00 USD Complete Reservation $420.00 USD One night $375.00 USD One night + Processing session $475.00 USD


CONTENT

Just to name some of the things we'll be doing, we'll cover scene illumination and light painting (not the same thing), including some very interesting and novel approaches. And of course, we will all produce Milky Way panoramas and maybe reflections. Each target and technique will be accompanied by explanations, details, alternatives...

Expect also an in-depth explanation about the myriad of topics one cannot get away without: planning sessions and shots, focusing, framing, mosaics, depth, light, sky, rules (and when to break them), the ISO/aperture/length equation, location, inspiration, technique and artistry... Whether you want to just take some nice night (photo) souvenirs, or your goal is to find your very own style and produce unique imagery, this in-field camp/workshop will teach you everything you need to know and more.

About post-processing, I believe that in addition to the concepts and processes everyone needs to know, which will be covered, each of us have our own book, and you'd be learning a lot about mine.

WHY DOING YOSEMITE WITH US?

I have covered nightscapes in Yosemite from more easily accessible vantage points than anyone else I know for more than 6 years (here you can see some of my work in Yosemite at night). Every year I lead the group to classic locations as well as new ones yet to be explored as nightscape compositions, and I expect to maintain that sense of adventure and discovery in our 2019 sessions. Other groups will take you to the same iconic locations (which we will too) but part of our unique script is to also get out there and find stuff we haven't seen done before.

WHAT'S DIFFERENT FROM OTHER WORKSHOPS?

Unlike other fine workshops given by other seasoned nightscape photographers, here you'll be next to a "world renowned" deep-sky photographer - in addition to night landscape photographer. Not many people are aware of this, but knowing some deep-sky imaging fundamentals is going to help you enormously on your nightscape efforts, trust me. I have surprised nightscape photographers before when it comes to this particular aspect, and I'm hoping you too will be learning amazingly useful techniques no other workshop offers today that I'm aware of. 



WHAT YOU NEED TO BRING


You need a vehicle, as there will be driving (no 4WD or special requirements needed).

For equipment, please bring:

  • Your DSLR camera
  • A wide angle lens of at least 24mm or wider, the fastest the better, f/2.8 or less recommended.
  • A tripod.
  • An intervalometer is highly recommended.
  • A 32GB card for your camera and a supply of batteries to last both nights shooting (bringing a charger is also a good idea, but we will not provide a charging station).
  • A headlamp (it should have a "red light" mode) and a flashlight.

  • Bringing your laptop is highly encouraged, but not a must.

  • Food and snacks! Also a decent amount of water and any non-alcoholic beverage you like.
As for everything else, remember that the weather in Yosemite this time of the year can be hot and cold as well. Be prepared for hot temperatures during the day, and very cold temperatures at night, so please bring warm clothes, gloves, hat... Also bring hiking boots if possible, or at the very least, sneakers.

SCHEDULE

We'll meet Friday June 28, 2019 at the specified rendezvous at 6pm, catch sunset and stay up shooting at different locations until 2am. After 2am I continue with an optional 2 hours, more loose session until 4am. While we will not meet at sunrise, I will provide instructions, good locations and clues for anyone wanting to catch the first light of the day.

On Saturday we will meet around 4pm at a TBA location for a 3 hours processing session, after which we'll catch sunset again and spend the rest of the night following the same schedule, including the 2~4am optional session. We will not meet on Sunday after sunrise.

WHERE TO STAY

Remember that we don't provide lodging, transportation or food - just insane amounts of coffee - so make sure you can drive a vehicle around the park at night (attendees can arrange groups in less cars, at your discretion) and make your proper arrangements so you can stay fresh, fed and rested during the workshop.

For lodging, there are lodging facilities in and out of the park where you should be able to find a room, but the sooner you book it, the better. If you wait until the last minute, you may have trouble finding a place. Check the towns of Wawona, Mariposa or Oakhurst. As a last resort, the city of Merced is 1~1:30h drive from the park.

There will be a decent amount of driving at night during at least one of the nights, but nothing that exceeds 1 hour, all paved roads. Light hiking is also expected.


ABOUT THE INSTRUCTOR

Frequently described by peers as one of the most recognized and influential deep-sky and night photographers in the world today, I've been all around the globe doing astrophotography in many of its forms, predominantly deep-sky and nightscape photography. I'm told to also have inspired many other astrophotographers with my personal "deep and wide" style and techniques. I have given talks and workshops about astrophotography  and image processing in USA and Latin America, Australia, Europe and Asia. For a list of awards and accolades please click here.

Just as my work has often been defined as a unique, easily recognizable personal style, expect the same from my presentations, field trips and workshops. I will not just share with you the know-how to make standard, average nightscapes. Learning the tools and basic methods is only the beginning.
  
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PONENTE: Rogelio Bernal Andreo
LUGAR: Madrid centro, España (el sitio exacto será comunicado más adelante)
FECHA: Sábado 15 de Junio, 2019
HORA: 9:30am a 1:30pm
PRECIO: 99 USD (unos 88 Euros)
IDIOMA: castellano

RESERVA TU PLAZA:

Utilizamos PayPal para procesar las reservas. Si no tienes PayPal pero te gustaría atender, ponte en contacto con nosotros.

Opciones de pago
    Reserva de plaza $99.00 USD   


TEMARIO

En este taller procesaré una o dos imágenes, de principio a fin, mientras explico lo que voy haciendo, por qué lo hago y cómo lo hago. Esto no solo te permitirá ver cómo transformo mis datos desde las tomas en bruto hasta el final, sino que durante el camino iré mencionando y aplicando innumerables técnicas, "trucos" y maneras de continuar llevando la imagen a donde queremos.

El procesado lo realizaré sobre alguna de mis imágenes más conocidas, bien La Nebulosa del Angel, Nubes de Andrómeda, Simeis 147 o alguna otra que presente retos interesantes.

En el camino con seguridad nos encontraremos con retos como el revelado de nebulosidades extremadamente tenues que apenas se distinguen del ruido, diversas técnicas utilizando máscaras y capas, maneras efectivas de reducir el ruido sin sacrificar detalles, así como ensalzar detalles sin añadir artefactos, y mucho más, pero mi meta es sobre todo el compartir ideas, "trucos" y conceptos que, cuando te vuelvas a encontrar con tus datos, tengas más opciones a la hora de llevar tu image donde tú quieres (dentro de límites razonables, claro) .

Durante la clase utilizaré principalmente PixInsight y Photoshop, con la mayoría del procesado siendo realizada en PixInsight, donde verás cómo utilizo dicha aplicación, y utilizando Photoshop sobre todo como herramienta de soporte.
Este taller está dirigido a todos los niveles, pero es particularmente recomendable para personas con un nivel intermedio o avanzado. Para aquellos que están empezando, el material ofrecido es más de lo que necesitan, pero muchas de las ideas y conceptos les serán de gran ayuda, tanto a nivel de técnica como de secuencia de trabajo y métodos que ya irán refinando, pero que al menos ya conocen.

Al margen de las preguntas que puedan surgir durante la clase, habrá también un periodo de preguntas y respuestas.


QUE NECESITAS TRAER

No es necesario traer un ordenador portátil para esta clase, ya que NO es una clase donde los estudiantes van procesando conforme lo hace el profesor. Definitivamente necesitarás traer algo donde tomar notas, ya sea una libreta, tablet, móvil o un portátil


SOBRE EL INSTRUCTOR
Me he paseado por todo el mundo más de 10 años haciendo astrofotografía y dando charlas y talleres sobre el procesado de imágenes astronómicas y paisajes nocturnos: EEUU y America Latina, Australia, Europa, Asia... Para una lista de algunos de los premios y reconocimientos recibidos haz clic aquí (en inglés).

Del mismo modo que muchos compañeros han dicho que mi trabajo tiene un estilo personal y fácil de reconocer, espera lo mismo de mis clases, talleres y presentaciones.
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INTRO

This is a 2 nights nightscape astrophotography camp + processing workshop with Rogelio Bernal, that's me. If you've never heard of me, check my list of awards or my work here in DeepSkyColors.com. I guarantee you will not be disappointed!

SITE: Death Valley National Park
DATE: April 5 to 7, 2018 (Fri, Sat, Sun)
CLASS SIZE: 2 to 7

PRICE FULL WORKSHOP: $699 ($279 reservation)
PRICE ONE NIGHT: $375
PRICE 1 NIGHT + PROCESSING: $475

Price does not include food, lodging or transportation, but free coffee will be available at all times during the sessions :-)



REGISTER

Make your selection
Full Payment $699.00 USD Reservation $279.00 USD Complete Reservation $420.00 USD One night $375.00 USD One night + Processing session $475.00 USD


CONTENT

Just to name some of the things we'll be doing, we'll cover scene illumination and light painting (not the same thing), including some very interesting and novel approaches. And of course, we will all produce Milky Way panoramas and maybe reflections. Each target and technique will be accompanied by explanations, details, alternatives...

Expect also an in-depth explanation about the myriad of topics one cannot get away without: planning sessions and shots, focusing, framing, mosaics, depth, light, sky, rules (and when to break them), the ISO/aperture/length equation, location, inspiration, technique and artistry... Whether you want to just take some nice night (photo) souvenirs, or your goal is to find your very own style and produce unique imagery, this in-field camp/workshop will teach you everything you need to know and more.

About post-processing, I believe that in addition to the concepts and processes everyone needs to know, which will be covered, each of us have our own book, and you'd be learning a lot about mine.

WHY DOING DEATH VALLEY WITH US?

I have covered nightscapes in Death Valley probably from more easily accessible vantage points than anyone else I know for more than 6 years, and every year  I lead the group to new locations yet to be explored as nightscape compositions. During the 2018 workshop, for example, our group (me included) were likely the first ones capturing Milky Way reflections on Salt Creek river, as well as gorgeous starry shots of the often overlooked Queen's Head (mushroom rock), and I expect to maintain that sense of adventure and discovery in our 2019 sessions. Other groups will take you to the same iconic locations (which we will too) but part of our unique script is to also get out there and find stuff we haven't seen done before.

WHAT'S DIFFERENT FROM OTHER WORKSHOPS?

Unlike other fine workshops given by other seasoned nightscape photographers, here you'll be next to a "world renowned" deep-sky photographer - in addition to night landscape photographer. Not many people are aware of this, but knowing some deep-sky imaging fundamentals is going to help you enormously on your nightscape efforts, trust me. I have surprised nightscape photographers before when it comes to this particular aspect, and I'm hoping you too will be learning amazingly useful techniques no other workshop offers today that I'm aware of. 



WHAT YOU NEED TO BRING


A high-clearance vehicle is highly recommended. 4WD not required, but also recommended. If you don't have either, please contact me.

For equipment, please bring:

  • Your DSLR camera
  • A wide angle lens of at least 24mm or wider, the fastest the better, f/2.8 or less recommended.
  • A tripod.
  • An intervalometer is highly recommended.
  • A 32GB card for your camera and a supply of batteries to last both nights shooting (bringing a charger is also a good idea, but we will not provide a charging station).
  • A headlamp (it should have a "red light" mode) and a flashlight.

  • Bringing your laptop is highly encouraged, but not a must.

  • Food and snacks! Also a decent amount of water and any non-alcoholic beverage you like.
As for everything else, remember that the weather in Death Valley can be extremely hot and extremely cold. Be prepared for very hot temperatures during the day, and cold temperatures at night, so please bring warm clothes, gloves, hat... Also bring hiking boots if possible, or at the very least, sneakers.

SCHEDULE

We'll meet Friday April 5, 2019 at the specified rendezvous at 6pm, catch sunset and stay up shooting at different locations until 2am. After 2am I continue with an optional 2 hours, more loose session until 4am. While we will not meet at sunrise, I will provide instructions, good locations and clues for anyone wanting to catch the first light of the day.

On Saturday we will meet around 4pm at a TBA location for a 3 hours processing session, after which we'll catch sunset again and spend the rest of the night following the same schedule, including the 2~4am optional session. We will not meet on Sunday after sunrise.

WHERE TO STAY

Remember that we don't provide lodging, transportation or food - just insane amounts of coffee - so make sure you can drive a vehicle around the park at night (attendees can arrange groups in less cars, at your discretion) and make your proper arrangements so you can stay fresh, fed and rested during the workshop.

For lodging, there are lodging facilities in and out of the park where you should be able to find a room, but the sooner you book it, the better. If you wait until the last minute, you may have trouble finding a place. I recommend the Stovepipe Wells Hotel, as that's the place I and other attendee have stayed in the past, but you're welcome to stay somewhere else. Other sutable lodging choices are The Ranch and The Inn

There will be a decent amount of driving at night during at least one of the nights, but nothing that exceeds 1 hour. I will try to keep most sites easy to drive to, but we might also do some light to moderate unpaved road driving. We will NOT drive 4WD-only roads unless everyone has a 4WD vehicle and is comfortable. Light to moderate hiking is also expected.


ABOUT THE INSTRUCTOR

Frequently described by peers as one of the most recognized and influential deep-sky and night photographers in the world today, I've been all around the globe doing astrophotography in many of its forms, predominantly deep-sky and nightscape photography. I'm told to also have inspired many other astrophotographers with my personal "deep and wide" style and techniques. I have given talks and workshops about astrophotography  and image processing in USA and Latin America, Australia, Europe and Asia. For a list of awards and accolades please click here.

Just as my work has often been defined as a unique, easily recognizable personal style, expect the same from my presentations, field trips and workshops. I will not just share with you the know-how to make standard, average nightscapes. Learning the tools and basic methods is only the beginning.
  
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Interested in attending one of my workshops? I offer both, in-classroom and in-site (astrocamps) workshops.

The classroom workshops focus mostly on image processing techniques, while the astrocamps blend the techniques for capturing amazing nightscapes with the "dark room" skills necessary to bring those images to life.

CLASSROOM WORKSHOPS

Click on each title for detailed information about that particular workshop: content, price, registration, etc.

Astroimage Processing: The Angel Nebula (OPEN!)
All levels
Saturday, January 19, 2019

MORE WORKSHOPS COMING UP SOON!!


ASTROCAMPS

Stay tuned for the 2019 Classroom and Astrocamp Workshops by February 1, 2019!!
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SPEAKER: Rogelio Bernal Andreo
VENUE: Sunnyvale, California (exact location will be emailed to you upon registration)
DATE: Saturday, January 19, 2019
TIME: 10am to 1:30pm
REGISTRATION: $99 (drinks and snacks will be provided)

Want to sign up for more than one workshop? Select the Reservation option ($75) for your second workshop and you'll be all set!!

REGISTER:

We use PayPal to collect workshop fees. If you do not have PayPal but wish to attend, please contact us.

Payment options
    Full Payment $99.00 USD    Reservation $75.00 USD    Complete Reservation $25.00 USD
 


WHAT WILL BE COVERED:

Up until now, my deepsky image processing workshops have aimed at sharing specific techniques to solve particular problems we often find while processing astroimages.

With this workshop series I am offering a different approach. Rather than showing how to solve isolated and specific problems, I will be processing one image from the beginning until the end, while I explain what I do, why and how. This not only should let you see how I take my data from raw to jpeg (the jpeg being what you've always seen and nothing else), but along the way it will provide you with countless hints, tips and ways to move forward with an image.

To make it even more interesting and challenging, for this workshop I will be processing from beginning to end one very interesting image: The Angel Nebula! Fully processing this image involves many challenging tasks, most particularly revealing extremely faint dust from the noise floor, advanced masking and layering techniques.

This workshop is aimed at all levels, but particularly recommended to intermediate and advanced astroimage processors. Beginners might feel overwhelmed at the many processes, concepts and techniques used, but they will still be able to grasp a solid idea of the workflow and some bits that should help immensely in their future processing endeavors as they know the many ways they can go about taking their images where they want.

There'll be a time for Q&A, so be prepared to come with your questions!!


WHAT YOU NEED TO BRING:

This is NOT a hands-on workshop. You can bring your own laptop but data files will not be provided. You definitely want to bring something to take notes, whether a tree-based notebook or a digital device!


ABOUT THE SPEAKER

Rogelio has been all around the world doing astroimaging and giving talks and workshops about astronomical imaging and image processing: America (USA and Latin America), Australia, Europe, Asia... Click here for a list of awards and accolades.

Just as Rogelio's work has often been defined as a unique, easily recognizable personal style, expect the same from his presentations, field trips and workshops.
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SPEAKER: Rogelio Bernal Andreo
VENUE: Sunnyvale, California (exact location will be emailed to you upon registration)
DATE: Sunday, November 18, 2018
TIME: 10am to 1:30pm
REGISTRATION: $99 (drinks and snacks will be provided)

Want to sign up for more than one workshop? Select the Reservation option ($75) for your second workshop and you'll be all set!!

REGISTER:

We use PayPal to collect workshop fees. If you do not have PayPal but wish to attend, please contact us.

Payment options
    Full Payment $99.00 USD    Reservation $75.00 USD    Complete Reservation $25.00 USD
 


WHAT WILL BE COVERED:

Up until now, my deepsky image processing workshops have aimed at sharing specific techniques to solve particular problems we often find while processing astroimages.

With this workshop series I am offering a different approach. Rather than showing how to solve isolated and specific problems, I will be processing one image from the beginning until the end, while I explain what I do, why and how. This not only should let you see how I take my data from raw to jpeg (the jpeg being what you've always seen and nothing else), but along the way it will provide you with countless hints, tips and ways to move forward with an image.

To make it even more interesting and challenging, for this workshop I will be processing from beginning to end one very interesting image: Simeis 147! Fully processing this image involves many challenging tasks. Integration of Ha with LRGB data is critical, including good color processing (no pink, orange or salmon color nebula) also revealing faint dust without interference from the nebula and stars, advanced masking and layering techniques.

This workshop is aimed at all levels, but particularly recommended to intermediate and advanced astroimage processors. Beginners might feel overwhelmed at the many processes, concepts and techniques used, but they will still be able to grasp a solid idea of the workflow and some bits that should help immensely in their future processing endeavors as they know the many ways they can go about taking their images where they want.

There'll be a time for Q&A, so be prepared to come with your questions!!


WHAT YOU NEED TO BRING:

This is NOT a hands-on workshop. You can bring your own laptop but data files will not be provided. You definitely want to bring something to take notes, whether a tree-based notebook or a digital device!


ABOUT THE SPEAKER

Rogelio has been all around the world doing astroimaging and giving talks and workshops about astronomical imaging and image processing: America (USA and Latin America), Australia, Europe, Asia... Click here for a list of awards and accolades.

Just as Rogelio's work has often been defined as a unique, easily recognizable personal style, expect the same from his presentations, field trips and workshops.
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SPEAKER: Rogelio Bernal Andreo
VENUE: Sunnyvale, California (exact location will be emailed to you upon registration)
DATE: Saturday November 17, 2018
TIME: 10am to 1:30pm
REGISTRATION: $99 (drinks and snacks will be provided)

Want to sign up for more than one workshop? Select the Reservation option ($75) for your second workshop and you'll be all set!!

REGISTER:

We use PayPal to collect workshop fees. If you do not have PayPal but wish to attend, please contact us.

Payment options
    Full Payment $99.00 USD    Reservation $75.00 USD    Complete Reservation $25.00 USD
 


WHAT WILL BE COVERED:

Up until now, my deepsky image processing workshops have aimed at sharing specific techniques to solve particular problems we often find while processing astroimages.

With this workshop series I am offering a different approach. Rather than showing how to solve isolated and specific problems, I will be processing one image from the beginning until the end, while I explain what I do, why and how. This not only should let you see how I take my data from raw to jpeg (the jpeg being what you've always seen and nothing else), but along the way it will provide you with countless hints, tips and ways to move forward with an image.

To make it even more interesting and challenging, for this workshop I will be processing from beginning to end one very interesting image: Clouds of Andromeda! Fully processing this image involves many challenging tasks. From integration of Ha with LRGB data and pulling extremely faint dust from a noisy background - which involves accurate gradient removal and careful noise reduction - to advanced masking and layering techniques.

This workshop is aimed at all levels, but particularly recommended to intermediate and advanced astroimage processors. Beginners might feel overwhelmed at the many processes, concepts and techniques used, but they will still be able to grasp a solid idea of the workflow and some bits that should help immensely in their future processing endeavors as they know the many ways they can go about taking their images where they want.

There'll be a time for Q&A, so be prepared to come with your questions!!


WHAT YOU NEED TO BRING:

This is NOT a hands-on workshop. You can bring your own laptop but data files will not be provided. You definitely want to bring something to take notes, whether a tree-based notebook or a digital device!


ABOUT THE SPEAKER

Rogelio has been all around the world doing astroimaging and giving talks and workshops about astronomical imaging and image processing: America (USA and Latin America), Australia, Europe, Asia... Click here for a list of awards and accolades.

Just as Rogelio's work has often been defined as a unique, easily recognizable personal style, expect the same from his presentations, field trips and workshops.
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Back in June, BenQ sent me a BenQ ScreenBar Lamp, asking for my opinion and how it helped (or didn't help) on my work, whether processing astronomical images or anything else.

How is this important?

Lighting is one thing we don't often pay much attention to, but like everything related to our workspace, when used efficiently, it can help our performance and even creativity!

A poorly lit workstation will cause more stress in our eyes as we're blinded from everything but the light coming from the monitor. This will make us tired sooner, becoming less productive, perhaps without even noticing.

On the other hand, if we illuminate our work area really well, any light sources not properly shielded will likely produce reflections on our monitors. We can use hoods to reduce reflections, but they don't always completely solve the problem and, in some cases - such as when the light source is behind you, not above you - don't help much.

That's where the BenQ ScreenBar lamps comes to the rescue.

What is the BenQ ScreenBar Lamp?

The BenQ ScreenBar lamp is a bar-shaped lamp for your desktop. It aims at solving three different problems: insufficient lighting, screen glare & reflection and limited desktop space. And it does precisely that, remarkably well!

It installs right on top of your monitor, saving desktop space. It uses an asymmetrical optical design that illuminates your work area while leaving the monitor completely undisturbed from glare or reflections. Last, while you can control brightness and light temperature (color), it also offers an "auto" mode that adjust itself automatically as the light ambiance in the room changes, providing the "perfect" amount of light at all times.

Out of the box

The ScreenBar comes nicely packaged, not taking much parcel space. Installation doesn't require any instructions: snap the bar onto the hanger, connect it with the provided USB cable to your monitor (or another nearby USB plug) and you're good to go!

Features

You cannot expect a lamp from the innovators at BenQ that only lets you switch it on and off with no other features.

Indeed, as I mentioned earlier, the lamp comes with a USB port from where it gets electricity, and two different adjustments - one for light temperature (color) and the other one for brightness. Also, as mentioned, it also has an "auto" mode that adjust itself automatically as the light ambiance in the room changes.

Working with the ScreenBar

I've been using the ScreenBar for two months already, and I am completely sold on the benefits, while I am also firm on what I think could be improved.

Pros

The most obvious benefit is having a work area well illuminated, in concordance with the illumination of the room plus my monitors, while not disturbing my view of what's on the screens in any way. I normally use the "auto" mode and let the ScreenBar decide what's the best setting. Only if I find the light temperature too warm or too cold, I might switch to a setting more to my liking and leave it like that for the rest of the session, although I rarely do this.

The fact you can go from truly warm to extremely cold light temperatures, along with brightness control really allows you to be as picky as you want about the best light for the moment.

I have found that for me, the best way to work is by having the room mildly illuminated, using a flood light source that's behind and above the monitors (so it doesn't bother the displays), then using the ScreenBar to further illuminate my workspace. Just the ScreenBar and the monitor(s) in an otherwise dark room will create a very localized illuminated area, similar to just having the monitor on, but with your work area also illuminated. Much better if the room also has some illumination.

Cons

While using the ScreenBar is a no-brainer for most of the things we usually do in our desktop computers, I still have mixed feelings about using it when doing delicate image processing work. I've used the ScreenBar enough to know I don't perceive any difference in the display regardless of whether the ScreenBar is on or off, but because the light does change the ambiance of the space between you and the monitor, you might want to do critical work with theScreenBar only after you had the bar turned on for a while - so your eyes are adapted to this ambiance and aren't bothered.

If you would like to use the ScreenBar for graphic work (video, photo, etc) and have a hood on top of your monitor(s), you'd have to remove the hood. Unfortunately, you cannot install the ScreenBar on a monitor that has a hood on it. Whether this is BenQ's way to tell us not to use the ScreenBar on workstations that require a hood, or it really is a design limitation, it would be good if using one didn't have to exclude the other.

Since I have a dual monitor setup and only one of the displays has a hood (my "main" monitor), I ended up setting up the ScrenBar in the un-hooded monitor, while leaving the main display with its hood on. My workspace area is well illuminated, my main monitor is 100% undisturbed from any lights or reflections, and I didn't have to give up anything.

Conclusions

BenQ's ScreenBar lamp is a product that doesn't cost much and will make our time at our desktop more comfortable and productive, but we may feel just fine with our current setting, and fail to see the advantages if we did the switch. However, if you go ahead and get one, you will use it, not because you've got it but because it's definitely better than what you had before! Overtime, the benefits will start showing, whether you notice or not. Eventually, like many other things, once you're used to it, you too will miss it if it's gone.

Also, since the ScreenBar uses low consumption LEDs and plugs to any USB port for power, you're also saving energy - a LOT if you were still using incandescent light bulbs (or worse!) instead.

In conclusion, BenQ's ScreenBar lamp is not a must-have gadget, BUT if you want to improve the quality of lighting around your workspace (and all the advantages that come with that), all without disturbing your display(s) in any way, I definitely recommend it.

Some links:
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Earlier this February, BenQ sent me a BenQ SW271 PhotoVue 4k photographer monitor, asking for my opinion and how it helped (or didn't help) on my work processing astronomical images.

Many photographers spend thousands of dollars on photographic equipment while they do their editing on limited gamut and poorly calibrated monitors, yet, the monitor is an incredibly important part of any photographer nowadays, and whenever I get my hands on a new one, I really want to know what it's capable of. For that reason, in addition to an honest review about how I feel with this monitor, I briefly discuss some of the tests I did, particularly during the calibration process and even some personal tips.

Out of the box

First things first. When you open the box, you immediately see an individual color report for the monitor in the box. It's not very comprehensive but it shows you the measured gamma, gamut and RGB primaries among other things.

Truth is, I must say the factory calibration was really impressive. For those who haven't got a colorimeter or another calibration device, they should be really really happy with the colors out of the box. Other companies can be hit or miss, but I haven't heard any complains about BenQ monitors when it comes to this - perhaps that's why the color report is the very first thing you see.

Installation was a breeze. It really was. I've put together quite a number of monitors and while it's usually a fairly intuitive process, I could tell BenQ put some thought into making assembly a completely no-brainer. In fact, you may spend as much time installing the optional monitor shade afterward as installing the monitor - and installing the shade is just as easy!

The monitor also comes with more cables than you'll need (USB, HDMI, DP...). It also has a cute hotkey puck that allows you to switch between color spaces with the click of a button. The monitor's native resolution is 4K 3840 by 2160 @ 60Hz. If your card only supports 30Hz, video won't be as smooth - get a better card.

First Light

Once you start using the SW271, you can tell very quickly it's a very good monitor on a number of things, even prior to running your own calibration. Text is really crisp and the factory calibration was showing colors that appeared deeper and richer than on my other monitor (a Dell U2711).

The documented features are undoubtedly sexy: 10-bit RGB, HDR10 or 14-bit 3D LUTs, 99% AdobeRGB, GamutDuo, etc. I would check some of these, although not all of them. Below is a poorly made shot at my screen while testing GamutDuo, which basically allows you to see two different color spaces simultaneously. I personally don't need this feature, since I use a dual monitor system, but otherwise this is a really great feature to have.

Astrophoto editing with the SW271

Since most people will probably be interested in my experience using the monitor rather than reading all the bits about performance tests and calibration details, I'll start with the former.

A good quality monitor is a must for anyone doing image editing, and pulling out the faint dust from a nebula in an image compressing so much dynamic range surely sounds like a task for which a really good monitor would definitely come handy.

Visuals

The BenQ SW271 will not disappoint. As mentioned, contrast is really crisp but not overcooked, and you can easily "see" the very rich wide gamut that it provides by quickly switching color spaces. I've been using a Dell U2711 for the last few years that I've learned to adore and I have to admit that switching from one screen to the other (I now use both in a dual setup) does put the Dell monitor to shame in all counts, period. Remember, I've loved my U2711 for the last few years, so this isn't something I say lightly.

Some other things I like is that there's virtually no glare or reflections without sacrificing black depth. Also, while the design isn't fancy like those expensive Apple monitors, I find the SW271 design extremely sexy with a very thin bezel and other small nice touches like the handle on top of the stand's tower. Something I enormously appreciate is that I've noticed extended hours in front of this monitor does not cause nearly as much fatigue as I've experienced with other displays.

The screen real estate that a 4K monitor gives you is definitely a plus if you're coming from a less-than-4k experience. Those who have a single monitor setup will definitely love that extra desktop space so they can, for instance, visualize an entire photograph while also displaying processing tools and what not.

Handling smaller pixel size

The one touchy subject, as it usually happens with all 27" 4K monitors, is pixel size. First, I'll emphasize that this is not a BenQ issue but something inherent to all 27" 4K monitors (and to an extent, displays up to 32"), but since that's something you would encounter with the SW271, it's worth briefly discussing how I dealt with it.

Pixel size shouldn't be a problem at the OS level - all modern operating systems offer scaling options on several features (font size, etc), and if this was your first 4K monitor, it would be worth spending a bit of time until you find the settings that work best for you, both at the OS and application levels.

Now, when editing an image, a smaller pixel size makes small details even smaller, something many photographers would find disadvantageous, but perhaps an even more concerning issue for astrophotography is that noise in the image may not be as noticeable. Remember, an image that fills up an entire 2k screen will appear about half the size on a 4k display. Astrophotography being nothing but a battle between signal and noise, our ability to "see" noise in our images is definitely important. My solution may not be too inspiring at first, but it works for me and it could work for you too.

In short, you need to train your brain to handle two new scenarios:

  1. Adjusting your perception when it comes to visualize a 100% zoomed image at this pixel size. Do NOT stick your head right next to the display in order to see details better, but getting a bit close to the display (never closer than 1 foot), noticing some details and slowly moving back to your normal position while keeping your eyes on those details is a good exercise for your brain to learn how to interpret the smaller images.

  2. In a similar fashion, use the built-in zoom capabilities of your photo editing software and train your brain to interpret it. A zoom of 200% is usually adequate. It's very important to keep in mind that when zooming in, most photo editing apps  take shortcuts to display the zoomed-in image quickly. In other words, the 200% zoomed-in rendition you see on screen will likely not be rendered as accurately as if you actually rescaled the image by 200% although perceptively, the differences shouldn't matter much. For that reason, I do the "zoom" thing sparingly and only for very specific situations.

Again, the idea here is to get acquainted with a new way to analyze your images so that you have the monitor work for you, not the other way around. This "new" way also has its advantages, and as you become more skillful at it, you'll realize that having to adjust your perception to the new situation was just a first step but in the end what you've done is to embrace a new situation, take control over it and use it to your advantage.

Calibration

For the calibration I used an XRite i1 DisplayPro device and two different software applications: DisplayCAL3 (for measurements only) and BenQ's own Palette Master Element for measurements and the actual calibration.

Calibrating BenQ's SW271 - YouTube

Unlike most calibration software, which calibrate the display by modifying the graphic card's output, Palette Master Element makes the adjustments inside the monitor (hardware calibration) via LUTs stored in the monitor. This isn't only a much more precise and efficient way to do it than software calibration, it also requires less effort and it allows for high-bit depth LUTs regardless of what graphic card you have. Many cards don't have high-bit depth LUTs, which results in undesired color "jumps" in the calibration curves. The SW271 features 14-bit 3D LUTs. What this means in layman terms is that the adjustments made during calibration will be much more precise.

Curves, gamut and DeltaE values

The calibration curves were nearly straight lines. This tells us the calibration was really good, nailing the perfect match across all color values.

In the image below you can also see some of the most general values acquired during calibration. While most people default to 120cd/m2, you'll see I set my target to 160cd/m2. What can I say? I'm a bright guy ;-)

By the way, if you are put off by that 735:1 contrast ratio in the image below, that's probably because you've been saturated by TV companies advertising ridiculous contrast ratio values (I have seen displays advertising 20,000,000:1 ratios and higher). In short, these numbers measure different things. The one usually advertised is dynamic contrast ratio (which isn't a technical way to measure a display's contrast but a marketing tool and nothing more, BTW), while the value generated by the calibration process is static contrast ratio. BenQ advertises a 1000:1 static ratio, but I wasn't concerned about the 735 score. As far as true contrast ratios go, 735:1 is really good, plus I'm not sure if the higher Luminance value may have affected the results.

BenQ claims the SW271 covers 99% of the Adobe RGB color space, and my tests didn't disagree with that at all. In the graphic below you can see how the measured monitor's gamut (colored lines) and Adobe RGB color space (gray, dotted lines) are nearly identical.

Color accuracy was also incredible. I won't copy the entire report, but all DeltaE values were below 2.0, many even below 1.0. If you're not familiar with what these values mean, let's just say that the perfect value is zero, and 2.0 is the smallest difference indistinguishable to the human eye, so anything below 2.0 is good.

Uniformity

Uniformity was... well... formidable! Perfect uniformity is extremely expensive. In fact, many popular brands are horrible at this, and the SW271 price tag would make us think the display's uniformity would be just "good enough". In fact, the BenQs SW series is not a uniformity corrected series like, say, their PV series. And yet, my uniformity test yielded incredibly accurate numbers for bright, midtones and dark measurements.

It's probably fair to say that any monitor that has a delta of 20% less is a good choice for photo editing work. Of course, the lower the better and, as you can see, this SW271 scored remarkably low. If you're getting 6~9% uniformity variations from a non-uniformity corrected monitor, you should be thrilled you didn't spend the extra bucks on a uniformity-corrected monitor.

Those were the numbers but visually, the display showed both dark backlit and bright setting also as even as it gets. Absolutely no noticeable difference from center to corner. To the naked eye, I'm talking perfection.

Conculsion

My conclusion on the BenQ SW271 is that I couldn't be happier with it. As important a monitor is for (astro) photography, I am not the kind of person who spends 3 to 5,000 dollars on a monitor, but I understand that a commitment somewhere between $1,000 and $1,500 is deserved given the work I do. The SW271 will probably score a bit lower in some aspects when compared to monitors that cost three or four times as much, and yet, it's a professional grade monitor that delivers what they promise, and they promise a lot! Compared to other monitors in this price range - and even more expensive - I'm glad I ran into what I think is definitely an amazing bang for the buck!

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