Night photography by Max Seigal

Night photography 8 Night photography 10
In this post Max Seigal ( will talk about his night photography:

It was the most difficult shot I’d ever created. I sat, huddled in the cave, wondering if the stars would ever creep out on that cloudy night. It was the Milky Way, after all, that I was hoping to photograph that night, while light painting the kiva in the foreground. Midnight…still no stars… 1am, 2am… then I hear something in the distance. Thunder. I look out, hoping my ears had deceived me, and there it was. A bright flash of lightning, miles away, crashing over distant canyons. The first thought that came into my mind – panic. Here I was in a very remote location in Canyonlands National Park, alone in the darkness of night, and a massive thunderstorm was rolling in my direction. Did I have enough time to pack up my gear and run to my car? I waited for the next bolt of lightning, which flashed only moments after the first but seemed much, much closer than the first. The storm was moving fast, there was no way I could outrun it. I had to stand my ground and wait it out.

The raindrops started trickling around the edge of the cave, then with almost no warning, rain and hail smashing everywhere, and lightning crackling almost directly overhead. It all happened so suddenly, this storm was moving incredibly fast. The wind picked up and started howling, blowing sand, dust, rain, and hail all over the place. My camera was already on its tripod, so I figured I would open the shutter just to see what happens as I curl into a ball to stay dry. I knew the intensity of the lightning would require a much lower ISO than usual for my night shots, so I dropped the camera all the way down to ISO-400 (usually I stay around 6,400 for night shots), and stopped the lens to F5 (usually I’m at 2.8). I had no idea if these settings were appropriate, as I’d never tried taking photos from the middle of a lightning storm before.

Suddenly there was a massive crack of lightning a few miles out, so bright that it lit up the canyon light it was daylight. I jumped up from where I was huddling up, and I knew that if I had any shot to make this photo work, it was now. I grabbed my flashlight, and began light painting the cave. Usually just a few seconds of light is enough, but with my camera all the way down to ISO-400, I quickly calculated that I would need several times the average amount of light needed to paint at night. I was running left and right, painting everything I could, trying to remember how much light I had applied to different areas in the cave so that the exposure would come out evenly. I had no idea if this was going to work… I had never tried anything like this before! Finally I turned off my flashlight, crossed my fingers, and clicked the shutter closed. I held my breath and clicked the review button on the camera. Unbelievable!!!! The shot was more amazing than I ever could have imagined… what a reward for such effort to capture the shot.

Night photography 1
This photograph would later on win second place in the 2013 National Geographic Traveler photo contest, which received over 15,000 entries this year.

AN HOUR AFTER SUNSET, most photographers are packing up their gear and heading to a nice hot meal and a warm bed, but not me. I’ve waited all day for the sun to dip over the horizon, and now it’s time to grab my camera bag and start hiking.

Typically, I will scout a location during the day, looking for unique angles, perspectives, and subjects to shoot, with a vision in mind of how it will look at night. I examine the subject: will I be able to illuminate it with a light (like a tree, for example) or is it too far away or too difficult to light, in which case it’ll remain completely black in the photo (for example, a distant canyon or desert tower)? Next, I think about how I’ll compose the photo during the dark of night. A composition that looks great in the sunlight isn’t necessarily one that works at night. Then, I think about how the lighting will affect the subject, where the Milky Way will be in relationship to the subject, at what angle the moon will appear (if at all that evening), where light pollution from nearby cities might show up in the photo, and countless other elements that don’t need to be accounted for in your standard daytime travel photography.

Finally, there’s the matter of actually finding the subject you scouted during the day. Imagine you’re walking around a vast desert and spot the perfect tree in the distance. It’s guaranteed to make a memorable night shot — but it’s still a lone tree in a wide-open desert. The second the sun goes down and you’re walking around in pitch black with a headlamp that only gives you a 10′ visual in any direction, the simple act of finding that tree might well be the most challenging task of the night.

There are so many factors, so many challenges that come into play with night photography, that when you finally do capture the perfect night shot, it’s that much more rewarding.

Night photography 2
This photo was taken from Annapurna Base Camp in Nepal. I spent the night standing outside in sub-zero temps, waiting for the moon to be at just the right angle to illuminate the massive 8,167-meter peak. Here, the only reliable form of illumination for the landscape was the moonlight. On a moonless night, the mountains would have been lost: black silhouettes against the starry night in the background.

As I was shivering for hours in the cold dark night, I had to do jumping jacks between shots to keep warm. I accepted it as part of the dedication required to get the great night shot above.

Night photography 3
This shot was taken at Double Arch in Arches National Park, Utah. The particular formation was difficult to illuminate evenly because the top of the arch reaches 148 feet high. Its height means it requires significantly more light painting at the top than the lower portions of the arch to achieve an even spread of light.

Night photography 4
I spent several days hiking around Fitz Roy in Chile in search of great night photography locations. I stumbled on this tree halfway up the eight-mile trek to the mountain’s base. I knew it was going to be a challenge finding the tree in the night, so I made sure to memorize nearby landmarks to help find my way.

At midnight, I started hiking and quickly realized it was a terrifying experience to try to keep track of the tiny footpath that wandered through the woods for miles, alone in the dark. After about two hours, I finally began to recognize the landmarks I’d memorized earlier in the day and managed to capture one of my favorite night sky images to date.

Night photography 5

There are several techniques for night photography — some more pure and natural than others. While many of my shots only incorporate natural features of the landscape, I wanted to add a human element to this night shot. The idea in my mind represented the symphony of man and nature, the integral relationship between us and the natural world we live in and the interconnectedness of mankind with our environment.

I searched long and hard for a subject that could portray this message. The tree I found, shaped by years of relentless winds on the rim of the Black Canyon in Gunnison, was perfect for the shot.

Night photography 6
Sometimes everything comes together and no amount of planning could have created a more perfect photograph. I spent the night photographing Delicate Arch in Utah, getting images of the arch in contrast with the Milky Way behind it. As I was just about to leave, I thought it would be fun to get a self-portrait in the setting I love most — outdoors, lost in the vastness of nature and night. I set up my camera and light, set off the trigger, and quickly ran under the arch to stand for this image.

I had no idea how it would turn out, but when I returned home and downloaded the image to my computer, I saw that everything had come together by chance to create this compelling night shot.

More fun shots at night:

Meteor Shower at Dream Lake - Rocky Mountain National Park Photo by Max Seigal ------------------Shooting Data----------------- Date: August 13, 2013 Time: 01:06:36 AM Model: NIKON D600 Aperature: f/2.8 Shutter: 30 ISO: 6400 Lens: AF Zoom 14-24mm f/2.8G Focal Length: 14MM 26631

Perseid meteor shower. For this image, I took several shots during the night, and those frames that captured a meteor, I merged together to get a composite of the night.

Night photography 8
Night at the Wave

Night photography 9
Bonsai Rock – Lake Tahoe

Night photography 10
Full moon rising behind Mt. Bearhat in Glacier National Park

Most of these images were made with the D600, a camera who's low light capabilities really surprised me. A range of lenses were used, including Sigma 15mm fisheye, Rokinon 14mm 2.8, and the Nikon 16-35mm f4.

More work can be seen at Max Seigal’s website:

If you have an interesting idea for a guest postyou can contact me here.

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  • desmo

    Really great work,
    thanks for sharing

  • Personally I find this work to be a bit phoney and artificial.

    • peckbag

      Apparently Max Seigal isn’t keeping up with the Jones’.

      • Doesn’t have anything to do with the Jones’. I simply don’t see anything unique about this work. Please tell me me what I’ve missed…

        • grant torres

          How about winning 2nd Place in the 2013 NatGeo Traveller Photo Contest! Oh sorry, my bad, you must have been the 1st Placer!

          • As much as I love (and appreciate) National Geographic I’m still not hearing why this work is so unique. Can someone please explain?

            • Jeff Hunter

              It was in The National Geographic Traveler magazine, not National Geographic. Beauty is subjective, that’s ultimately the only explanation possible.

            • To each it’s own. I just don’t see it. It’s a highly manipulated image that looks like so many others.

            • Jeff Hunter

              All the arch shots were taken in Arches National Park outside of Moab, Utah. I’ve been there twice. His contest winner was taken in Canyonlands National Park nearby, also in Utah.

              Painted-light night-photography is kind of a genre onto itself. Some like it. Some don’t. Pretend it’s light from a camp fire or a bonfire. That would probably be the closest natural analog for this effect.

            • Clubber lang

              Just curious, can you provide an example of a photograph or a photographer that you think has the qualities that you feel are lacking in these. I believe art is very personal and everyone has different opinions but I find a bit of inspiration from these. The photographer is very calculating in his process and seems to thoroughly plan out his shots. Lots of things to consider as he states in the essay. Also, he is providing a glimpse into places on this planet in ways that most don’t get to see very often. I think the shots are pretty damn impressive.

            • Jeff Hunter

              Seigal’s work reminds me of some of New York advertising photographer Pete Turner’s work he did for Kolher bathroom fixtures in the early 80s. Turner would install one of their whirlpool baths in an outdoor location out west. He would artificially light the tub in the foreground to augment the ambient light naturally occurring in the landscape’s middle ground and background view. Turner also favored vivid colors. If Turner specialized in landscapes I could see him doing this kind of stuff. Pete’s retired and lives on Long Island. He has a web page. I don’t know how active he is regarding personal photography nowadays.

            • D Gordon

              Not speaking for C Jones but I offer Darren Almond. He is of course a proper artist so an unfair comparison. I like his work shown at but I guess most people here won’t…

            • D Gordon
            • Jeff Hunter

              I much prefer Seigal’s work to Almond’s. The Almond technique results in pictures with a very flat, washed out and undramatic light. They’re rather emotionless to me. They might be better rendered in B&W.

            • D Gordon

              Interesting that I find Almond’s pictures are full of feeling for all the reasons you don’t. But that’s OK. I’ve been to places he’s photographed and think he does capture a sense of emotion. For me that’s why they are more than just night photos.

            • Jeff Hunter

              I much prefer Seigal’s work to Almond’s. The Almond technique results in pictures with a very flat, washed out and undramatic light. They’re rather emotionless to me. They might be better rendered in B&W.

            • Banan Tarr

              “proper artist” ? lol okay, so I guess you define who is an artist and who isn’t now?

            • D Gordon

              Yea, maybe I should have used quotes so the irony wouldn’t be lost. But Almond is an artist represented by international art galleries and collected by museums. Seigal is/appears to be an amateur photographer. Which is what I meant by an unfair comparison.

            • Banan Tarr

              I’m sure he started out as an amateur too just like everyone else.

            • Fishguy

              I can accept the high degree of manipulation in small doses as an art form. HOWEVER, as far as pure photography; I’m always dismayed when I see images from those “one in a million” locations that I don’t have access to. Sort of an “unfair advantage” compared to any locations I can get to.

            • Clubber lang

              Yes, it would be nice to be able to visit places we can only dream about but not being able to is no excuse for not being able to produce great art. Had countless great artists, photographers and musicians thought the same way there would be many empty museums and less music on the planet.

            • gr8fan

              Please stop it!

            • Desmoinian

              What makes it special is that while you and the rest of the world were drunk watching the teevee in your ratty underwear and your wife sat in the kitchen wondering how the options in her life had dwindled down to this, he was out alone in the dark hundreds of miles from civilization making art.

            • Oh that’s really intelligent. Thanks for the explanation, still wondering about the work though.

            • gr8fan

              Go back to kindergarten… Even dumber than I thought!

            • Jeff Hunter

              Stay classy!

            • Zesty

              One of the funnier posts I have read in a while. Thanks.

            • Jeff Hunter

              In the category of snarky posts it was pretty funny. The wife reference made it special. Sorry C Jones nothing personal.

            • Wade Bryant

              I like your explanation 🙂
              I agree!

            • Fishguy

              Ummm, no. Over the past 40 years, I’ve written 6 books and 200+ magazine articles, and illustrated most of them myself. However, I have to work much harder here in rural Michigan than I would if I was able to get to locations like this! Just sayin….

            • Bamboojled

              Dickie much?

            • Jeff Hunter

              Hey! Calm down.

            • Bamboojled

              I am calm…
              It seems that C Jones has his panties in a wad.
              It’s OK to not care for someones work and say so; that’s fine, but to continue to harp on it is petty, so my original statement stands.

              Especially when one takes the time to write an article and share their images on how they were made on a free site…If he doesn’t like the shots say so and move on…

            • Bill Pahnelas

              for starters, if you don’t submit a piece to NR, it will NEVER be featured. while the work might not appeal to you, it probably will appeal to others — even if you think that everyone but you has poor taste.

            • gr8fan

              You are confirming my impression about you: you THINK you are smart…

          • Mansgame

            Traveler photo contest is a joke. Anything goes really.

        • Steve

          Haters’ be hatin’! May we see your work? I want to see your credibility.

          • Dee

            The entire argument is based on art being subjective and not fact. So this is not a solution.

        • Dyun27

          Why is it being highlighted? Because his photos look amazing and he went through more trouble to take them than most of us will ever put into our own photography. Some of us are pretty impressed and would love to know how to get results like this. It may not be for everyone, but I do appreciate this article. Taste in art is personal and no photograph or painting will ever please everyone equally.

        • Spy Black

          “I’m just curious why it’s being highlighted.”
          Um, because it’s good? Just because you don’t think it’s that great, and you’re certainly entitled to your opinion, doesn’t mean others don’t like it, think it’s good, and appreciate the effort that went into it.

        • gr8fan

          Your response shows you don’t know much about night photography…

    • I somewhat agree, and I prefer the photos that don’t have light-painting in them (or perhaps they’re just subtler). He’s certainly got technique, whether or not you like the compositions.

    • Guest

      Yep. Its EYE CANDY. OOOOOOH……..AAAHHHH……nice colors!

    • Marty Scorsese

      In the motion picture industry we would call it CGI enhanced. Some people enjoy commercial Hollywood blockbusters and others prefer Indie style cinema vérité. Just like hand churned natural vanilla bean ice cream versus Oreo cookie walnut fudge M&M ice cream; there is a wide variety of tastes in the world. And people’s photographic tastes do change over time, especially if they study in depth about the history of the discipline. But there’s a centuries old adage that still holds: “de gustibus non est disputandum”

      • Jeff Hunter

        From Latin
        Translation: in matters of taste, there can be no disputes.

      • ShaoLynx

        De gustibus, coloribus et mulieribus non est disputandum.
        Yet, in photography we disqus (typo intended) about all three of them, including the latter. Especially when we don’t like the pose she strikes in front of the lens.
        So in photography the proverb should end like: ” disputandum est” and the ‘non’ should be dropped.
        And this tread proves that! LOL.

        • Marty Scorsese

          Of course it’s not a literal modern day translation. It simply means that when it comes to taste, it’s all subjective and therefore not worth disputing. And since you can’t quantitatively dispute someone’s subjective tastes it is moot to even attempt it. Certainly you can discuss it all you want and until your tongue falls off, but it’s pretty much just a waste of time. Therefore in the matters of taste there really can’t be any disputes.

          But as you point out, that certainly never stops people from trying. But why should differing tastes even matter in the first place? It can often give people a sense of security when others think like they do (people who think on their own and strictly independent of others are actually pretty rare; nobody wants to really stand out from the crowd.) So it can be a ‘safety in numbers’ protective sort of thing or it can also be a ‘power trip’ sort of thing (when trying to convince others to think the same way that they do)…… rarely is the difference of taste discussed in a constructive way, and that’s unfortunate.

          • Agreed. Not trying to convince anyone of anything. I was merely asking a question in hopes of understanding why these were selected. As you’ve pointed out though, it is subjective.

          • Jeff Hunter

            Well said.

    • Guy With-camera

      Yep. Its EYE CANDY. OOOOOOH……..AAAHHH……nice colors!

    • patto01

      Some of them were a bit overdone but I have nowhere near the creativity, technical ability, or patience to come close to the least of them. I’d probably quit photography if I took the storm photo with the knowledge it would be all downhill from there.

    • gr8fan

      Aren’t you a bit cocky or, worse, very arrogant, Mr. Jones?
      Show us what you’ve got…

      • haha

        Love the people who respond to criticism with, “Show me what you’ve done”, as if that somehow negates the criticism. Keep on keeping on sir.

  • Jeff Hunter

    These photographs are sublime!

  • Awesome work, WOW is all I can say

  • Buck

    There’s something to be said for maintaining subtlety and grace in your photos and keeping one foot in reality. These might be sensational to your aunt Wanda on Facebook, but they’re just way too over the top for photographers who understand how light and shadows work. Some of these are just awful.

    • grant torres

      I’m amazed at his dedication and foresight for these shots. Awed even. But I would really like to see some of your works Buck, as with Mr. Jones above. Must be ‘humbling’ just viewing their greatness!

      • Buck

        I didn’t say I’m a great photographer, just that I appreciate subtlety and a semblance of reality. Here you go, Grant:

        • Jeff Hunter

          Flowers in front of a white background? Where do I go to find that in nature? Seriously though, I do like your photos. It’s usually best to keep the judgmentalness to yourself. It puts you in a bad light. Came off as rather arrogant. While his photos might not be to your taste, they’re definitely not awful.

        • John


        • the falex

          Buck, though I respectfully disagree with your original point and find every single one of the poster’s photos amazing, I must say, your pictures are quite spectacular too. Well done.

        • grant torres

          You have great shots on your site, but nothing which puts it over Seigal’s shots, sorry if I’m too lazy to look for your night shots though. What I’m just trying to put through you is this: R-E-S-P-E-C-T!

          • Jeff Hunter

            Ironically, one of his “night shots” featured himself using a strobe and waving his arms to create a photo of himself as the Hindu God Shiva, you know, having multiple pairs of arms. Glass houses Buck, glass houses!

        • mikeswitz

          Buck, from your own website….”Some of my favorite photographs break most rules of composition, lighting, tonality, and exposure. The only true measure of a photograph’s quality should be whether it elicits an emotional response in the viewer. I hope that some of my work does that for you…” I think your pictures are teriffic but not all of them ellicit an emotional response from me. That doesn’t mean they suck. Maybe when another photographer wants to break “most rules of …lighting, tonality, and exposure” you give them the same repect you would like others to give you. Kudo’s for making your gallery available to NR readers, though.

          • Groosome

            Wow, this looks like a great tactic to drive website traffic since we’re all checking out his photos 🙂

            • mikeswitz

              that’s okay….he’s a good photographer. Just a bit arrogant.

    • Rob

      Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

    • Desmoinian

      You are an Iowan sir. How dare you break the Iowa code of civility and good manners with your harsh criticism and withering scorn. Allow me to remind you that our state motto is “If you don’t have anything nice to say, keep your pie hole shut.”

      • Born Iowan

        But “Iowan” is a subset of “Midwesterner”, a group famous for straight-ahead no-nonsense opinions. Wouldn’t that regionalism trump state level protocols? In my experience it usually does. 🙂

        • Ansel

          I tend to agree. I’m from Kansas. Our motto: “If you don’t have anything nice to say about someone…have a seat here next to me.”

    • Buck

      Wow, like I said, I was never claiming to be a superior photographer, and I was under the impression that these forums provided an open floor for discussion, dissent, etc. Don’t worry, everyone…next time, I’ll heap praise indiscriminately and keep my judgmentalness (sic) to myself, because everyone knows that’s how photographers grow and thrive–to hear how great their work is under all circumstances. I really should have applauded the mysterious light source illuminating the moon-backlit face of Mt. Bearhat.

      And a sincere thanks to those of you with nice words about my photos. I very much appreciate it.

      • Bill Pahnelas

        i don’t think — or at least i hope — no one is asking you to indiscriminately heap praise where you don’t feel it; simply that you might try a more measured approach. your comments could have been construed as kind of arrogant, and hence the challenge to put up some of your own work. strive for balance in your criticisms, and people will take you more seriously.

        by the way, fine photos in your gallery, the rules you may have violated notwithstanding.

    • Beso

      To quote Mr. Christensen: “Some of my favorite photographs break most rules of composition, lighting, tonality, and exposure. The only true measure of a photograph’s quality should be whether it elicits an emotional response in the viewer.”

      By your own definition it appears Mr. Seigal is a rousing success.

    • Buck

      I should have phrased it in a more respectful, measured way. Honestly, I would be more than happy to have the raw files from these shots in my portfolio, but the intense and unnatural lighting of the foreground in some of them and/or excessive dodging in post greatly detracts from an otherwise beautiful shot in a few of them, at least for me. It’s dumping A-1 sauce on a steak.

      • Marco

        “Sorry I was so harsh as to compare these to common Facebook pictures and saying they’re over the top to any knowledgeable photographer and that they’re awful. I should have been more respectful. It’s just that they’re like dumping A-1 sauce on a steak.” -Buck, the insincere apologist.

        Seriously, though, your photos are great. And, your criticism is welcome if it’s *constructive*. But, hyperbolic comparisons to garbage and dissing someone’s subject taste on art is why people jumped on you. If you can’t apologize without doing it again, perhaps we should all just accept that you’re kind of a jerk.

    • pelleg

      Hey Buck – “The only true measure of a photograph’s quality should be whether it elicits an emotional response in the viewer. I hope that some of my work does that for you.” By your own definition this photographer has succeeded. Here you measure based on “maintaining subtlety and grace” and are critical of the work, but it seems you forgot your own definition. So being “over the top” can’t elicit an emotional response?

  • Neopulse

    So….. he won second place? Did the first place guy have a photo of God to beat that?

    • Jeff Hunter

      First place was a B&W action photo taken in Brazil of a group of swimmers running into the water for a competition. It was backlit with a lot of water splash. I probably would have picked the second place finisher over it. Ranking photos in contests is so subjective. It’s a bit meaningless. They were all outstanding.

      • mikeswitz

        And the first place guy was told by a certain poster here *cough* Mansgate, he wasn’t a real travel photographer because his equipment was too good and not available to other “real” travel photographers.

      • Neopulse

        If this is the photo, not impressed. This was definitely under some form of pressure that Brazil is one of the new economic superpowers and that the World Cup is going to be held there this year.

        • Jeff Hunter

          …and the next summer Olympics.

        • Jeff Hunter

          Yes, this is the first place photo.

    • guest

      The images demonstrate tremendous technical skill, and must certainly have been done under difficult environmental conditions. Looking at them I can see why they took honors in a Nat Geo contest. I can also see why they weren’t actually *in* Nat Geo. Most posters here don’t know there’s a big difference between the two, and most of those who do still feel a need to be indignant. (If you go down to your local Salvation Army store and pour over random decades of Nat Geo you’ll begin to understand. ) And congrats to Mr. Seigal; great work!

      • Jeff Hunter

        His photo with the thunderstorm and lightning in the background appeared in the December – January National Geographic Traveler magazine on page 100.

  • Kynikos

    I guess I am in the minority but I really really like these images as something different and fresh. Less so the obvious light painting which has been done to death, but some of these are absolute magic–fantastic, as in fantasy.

  • zoetmb

    I think his work is incredibly outstanding. Except for the photo with the artificial light globe, I think his pictures are incredibly realistic within the confines about what photography is about – showing untouched nature in all its glory. And it sounds to me like he went through hell to get each capture.

    By the use of composition, lenses, exposure, lighting and even resolution, no photograph is “real” in any case. Obviously, no time exposure of the stars is going to be “real”. That’s not the point. Complaining that his photos aren’t realistic is like complaining that the Mona Lisa (or even Picasso’s paintings) aren’t realistic or that NASA’s photos of the planets aren’t realistic.

    I think the only people who have a right to criticize are those who are great nature photographers themselves. I suspect that at least some of the critics are lousy photographers who make such criticisms so they can feel superior. Go back to shooting your cat photos. Come back to us when your photo appears in a national (or international) publication.

    • Jeff Hunter

      I agree. Most people don’t realize that the deep space photos that the Hubble telescope take are colored to what they are imagined to look like.

    • Marty Scorsese

      “I think the only people who have a right to criticize are those who are great nature photographers themselves.”

      There’s a huge difference between criticizing and critiquing. So far no one has critiqued the work. And one does not have to be a photographer to be able to critique a body of work. It will help of course to be a “great nature photographer” to critique the work from a technical standpoint, but technique is simply one aspect of a body of work. Critiquing is not a negative process, it’s a detailed and analytical analysis. However, the act of criticizing is usually to find fault in something and is not normally a positive or constructive endeavor at all…….

  • John Chandler

    simply incredible. it inspires me to go out and try this. the extent of my efforts is to rent a car drive out there, take pictures for a few hours and be back in hotel by midnite. i need to learn to stay out there all night.

  • steve3911

    I’m surprised at the harsh comments. I really like these these shots – way to go Max! The Canyonlands & wave shots are my favs, but all are well thought out and have a great look to ’em.

    • Jeff Hunter

      I guess the harsh commenters are just in a bad mood, or perhaps naturally impolite.

      • orpickaname


  • Wallace Porter

    Fantastic fotos, everybody is free to like it or not.

  • dr Frank

    Amazing work – thanks for sharing!

  • Mansgame

    Nice work but it’s kind of pretentious to say something like “AN HOUR AFTER SUNSET, most photographers are packing up their gear and heading to a nice hot meal and a warm bed, but not me. I’ve waited all day for the sun to dip over the horizon, and now it’s time to grab my camera bag and start hiking.” I’m sure most other photographers would also be setting up for the same shots if they were out in the middle of nowhere to do a shoot. Why else would someone go there? You can take great pictures without talking down to other photographers.

    • Jeff Hunter

      Sounds like an accurate statement for most landscape or nature photography. Cityscapes at night are a lot more common than landscapes at night.

    • desmo

      you could get off your ass and hike out there

    • mikeswitz

      This from the man who is constantly whining about every one else’s unfair advantages?!

  • wisep01

    The shots are nice, there’s a tangible sense of technical merit present, but there’s little substance to the write-up. Perhaps if he were directing this piece at a general-interest audience, it would be appropriate, but the readership here is hardly that.

    There is no exposure information. No focal length. No post-processing tips. No information on whether astro-tracking was used. No information on whether different exposures for the sky and land were blended together.

    This is like those picture books in the kids section of the library–to be oohed and aahed at. Nothing more.

    There is no actionable information present; the discerning reader has precious little to take away from it.

    • Clubber lang

      True but there is something to be said about just viewing the photos and escaping into the world the photographer forces the viewer to enter. That to me is the point of the images. The last thing I thought about when I saw that lightning shot was ” is this a d800″

    • IndyReader

      Actually unlike other posts here, most of his photos contain EXIF meta data, so you can get an idea of what he did. I’m not sure why it all needs to be spelled out because this type of work has to be calculated with trial and error to get the experience to shoot reliably.

  • I thoroughly enjoyed both the images and story!

  • chris

    What is going on? A guest post what many (myself included) would consider to be an amazing set of photographs, and then the majority of the responses are about tearing apart their validity? Photography is a hobby and a past time for the majority, and something to be enjoyed. For those of us not living in America, many of these scenes have not been seen at any stage. I for one admire this photographers technical ability, and recognise the time and effort he has spent reaching these locations, and the artistic energy spent in ‘pre-visualising’ these scenes before recording them for at least some of us to enjoy. Whether you would buy one to hang on your wall is irrelevant. Why does the internet bring out the worst in people, or would the same critics be so arrogant in real life?

    • Jeff Hunter

      I know what you mean. I’m just as puzzled as you are. I thoroughly enjoyed the photos.

    • I agree, those guest posts are intended to share ideas and maybe give some inspiration.

      • orpickaname

        There have been some great inspirations like this series from Max here. I sometimes wish you could display larger images (though it’s understandable for photographers to not ‘give away’ larger files online).

        • This is why I aways link to the photographer’s website/flickr/etc. websites. Large images also will slow down the load time of NikonRumors. Copyright of course is another reason. I will start doing guest posts on weekends only in order to separate them from the “regular” posts. I have at least two dozens guests posts waiting to be published.

          • orpickaname

            that’s cool 🙂

          • mikeswitz

            These guest posts are amoung my favorite features of NR. Thanks, Peter.

            • Thanks, I am sure somebody here will not be happy with all those guest posts 🙂

          • Jeff Hunter

            That’s a great idea for the weekend. I’ll be looking forward to them. They’ve all been good!

        • also: you can click on the images or larger view

    • Where some see exquisite beauty, others see trite cornball. Where some see ordinary, others see extraordinary.

  • George1000

    This guy needs some photography courses on picture quality. Usually he is shooting around ISO 6400 and f/2.8 !!

    • Jeff Hunter

      You obviously have not shot any photos of the Milky Way. I don’t think Mr. Seigal needs ANY advice from you.

    • Mark

      The problem probably lies in that shutter speed also plays a role and if you were to stop down to f/11 at ISO 100 you’d need to shoot for very long exposure and would get star trails.

      • haha

        He did get star trails. Harder to see with the small images but you can definitely see they’re smeared.

  • North Sea

    Guys, why don’t some of you just stand up and get yourself a nice cup of coffee, to calm down a bit?
    Some people love to make photos, some are eager to show them, and some just talk about photos. Wich side are you on? Then just leave the others at peace!

  • Eric Duminil

    I really like most of those pictures. Just a question though : what is lighting Mt Bearhat if the moon is rising behind it? Is it just dodging?

    • maxwilderness

      There were some clouds behind me, and the light from the rising moon reflecting off the sky was enough to light the foreground. Some dodging on Mt Bearhat, but most of the illumination is bounce light from the clouds.

  • maxwilderness

    Most of these images were made with the D600, a camera who’s low light capabilities really surprised me. A range of lenses were used, including Sigma 15mm fisheye, Rokinon 14mm 2.8, and the Nikon 16-35mm f4. Sorry for forgetting to include camera/setting information in the captions, I was on assignment in Cambodia when writing this up and forgot to include those details for you all… I’d be happy to mention them here, for those of you who are curious.

    • Hi Max, I will update the post with the gear used. I has few emails already from readers asking about it.

    • AM

      Hi Max,
      The gear is irrelevant. Your work is amazing.
      Thanks for sharing and keep up the good work.

      • mikeswitz

        gear is irrelevant, but not technique.

    • IndyReader

      But you left in the EXIF metadata so we can scope that out if we need it. Kudos doing for that.

  • Great photos!

    Can I ask a stupid question? How to identify location of the Milky Way in the sky in the given time and at a given place? If someone could give a link to a suitable web site, this would be greatly appreciated.

  • ADec

    I can understand not liking these sorts of images with lots of light painting etc. I don’t either, they look too alien to me and don’t evoke a response in me the way a more natural landscape would. However, that is just a personal preference, there is no doubt that, within this genre of photography, this work is really good. The technique displayed is excellent and so is the photographer’s ability to pick out the right scene at the right time. We shouldn’t confuse our personal preferences with the photographers ability.

    • grant torres

      I find Dave Black’s landscapes with light painting to my liking, though its just personal preference as you say. Just like some people like HDRs, while others swear off it. Some people even hate the filter-induced very blue skies, while others find it more dramatic.I agree “we shouldn’t confuse our personal preferences with the photographer’s ability.”

  • Read the FAQ

    It makes me think of Jerry Uelsmann.

    • Jeff Hunter

      Made me think of Pete Turner, Jerry’s classmate at RIT in the 50s.

  • Mike B

    It takes lots of patience and thought to get these pictures right, even though some of them were taken in a real hurry. But, whatever sometimes it better to be lucky than good. If you can’t be overwhelmed by the beauty of the almost infinite heavens then just keep hushed and move onto something you think is cool. I strive to take one of those kinds of milky way shots!

  • Geolin


    I’ve been to most of the locations of the photos you’ve displayed and I shoot a lot of landscapes. But you sir, is a true BAMF. The people criticizing your work understand probably do not understand the extent it takes to get a shot like what you have displayed here. Dedication, good health and warm cloths are a must but 90% of the work is done before pressing the shutter button, and you have obviously done all the research for everyone of these shots. To be able to spot a shot and go back in pitch black with no one around for miles, that’s impressive. I think more readers, should give it a try. Its more complicated when you add extreme weather, gear weight, and the uncertainty of failure.

    Granted that you’re busy working and have no time for nonsense comments, please ignore all the bullshit some people put on here sometimes. For example ignore “the guy” who can’t seem to realize to take sharp photos of stairs without star trail, you would need a couple thousand dollar Goto telescope mount which is insanely heavy to carry around for a hike. Since no one does that we resort to high shutterspeed of 90/ (mm of lens) to get sharp stars. But the biggest question is can you get enough light into the camera and whether or not the foreground is too overexposed……. Anyhow., Awesome images and looking forward to seeing future work.

    • John

      Very nice response. The photos are absolutely beautiful!

  • Wade Bryant

    Great story. I’ve taken trips to Utah to TRY to get amazing photos and I mostly strike out at night. I’m used to night shots in city environments where you can see your subject. I appreciate the insight on how to preview the shot during the daytime. Next trip maybe….

  • Bob Morgan

    I’ve been reading this thread, and I just want to say this: The type of photography in this article is not my particular genre or favorite, but it is to Mr. Seigal and he has done a wonderful job of it and of describing what inspired him to do it. I can appreciate it as HIS art even if it isn’t necessarily what I would do if I were as excellent in what interests ME as he is in what interests HIM. I don’t understand the criticism of either the work or what others consider to be the relevance. Every time a serious person looks through the viewfinder, it’s relevant. I’m just happy to be able to view the sharing of one person’s passion. If I could ask for anything more it might have been that he described more in depth the camera and lens groups he used. I’ll get off my soapbox now so I can be flamed for “not understanding”.

  • Z

    Awesome photos!! Thanks for sharing and enjoyed the writeup …

  • alpcns .

    Absolutely stunning work. My hat off.

  • Groosome

    FYI the hyperlink target to link to Max’s site is wrong – easy enough to copy and paste the address though. Amazing shots.

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