Banff Jasper Collection
3 min

How do you capture something as immense as the sky at night? From the top of Sulphur Mountain, with the stars stretching above the snow-capped peaks of the Canadian Rockies and the lights of the town below, it's simply incredible.

When a night sky photo is good, it can be really good - an image that requires you to pause for thought, that says something meaningful, that puts things in perspective.

Photography from the summit of Sulphur Mountain
Photo Credit Above and Header Image: Alahn Gacitua, Banff Gondola Photography Team

On Friday evenings this winter through March, join astronomers from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada for an evening of Stargazing at the Banff Gondola. You'll gaze, ponder and learn about the greater universe. This is all included with your Banff Gondola admission. 

And the Banff Gondola's team of professional photographers will also be on hand to help you get that big, big shot.

The experience appeals to both beginner photographers and some of the best in the business. Banff Gondola Photographer Alahn Gacitua says part of the fun of the Stargazing evenings is mingling with other people passionate about nighttime photography. Beginners, he says, can start the evening with very little experience and learn a ton on the spot, resulting in some outstanding images. And professional photographers, who arrive fully-equipped, are also learning each time they come, and keen to mingle and share. The atmosphere, Gacitua says, is fun and friendly.

Couple standing on the observation deck at the Banff Gondola

Here are a few of the Gondola's Photo Team's tips on Night Sky Photography for Beginners:

  1. Bring a good camera. It's almost impossible to shoot the night sky on a smart phone because you simply can't hold it steady long enough. A basic DSLR is the entry-level starting point for night sky photography and will let you use manual settings to get a handle on the basic concepts. 
  2. Use manual settings and shoot in RAW. This will allow you to set your focus on infinity, and then later edit your photos on your computer.
  3. Think long. That's for the shutter speed. Aim for at least 10 seconds, using an ISO of 1000-3200. This is the only way to capture both lightness and darkness at once!
  4. Be steady. Bring a tripod to hold your camera still. It's essential when you're using a shutter speed this long. The Photo Team often has a few spares available if you don't have your own tripod.
  5. Timing is Key. If you've got the set-up, use your remote shutter release. This will keep your camera steady and avoid any shake from your finger doing the pushing.  If you don't have one, use the timer setting.
  6. Compose thoughtfully. A good night sky photograph has more to it than just stars. Including some of the lights of the Town of Banff below and the snow-capped peaks of the Rocky Mountains on the horizon allows for more complex and pleasing composition.
  7. Be patient! Not only does it take time for the camera to shoot the image, there can be lots of waiting around as well. That's often due to the weather, which of course is hard to predict. Luckily, if the skies aren't clear, there are still opportunities to learn about the night sky indoors during Stargazing Evenings at the Gondola. 

To learn more, and to try for yourself, reserve your spot at the Banff Gondola and join us for Stargazing at the Banff Gondola every Friday until March, 9. Dates are subject to change and full details and dates available on our events page

Alan Gacitua

About the Photographer (Header and Top Image): Alahn Gacitua studied filmmaking in university and then began working in professional photography studios. He came to Banff from his native Chile to pursue a passion for landscape photography. He now calls the top of Sulphur Mountain his 'office'. Alahn works on the Photo Team at the Banff Gondola and enjoys meeting others who share his passion for photography. 

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