Category Archives: New Product

Catching the Moon Simplified

Freedom Gazes at the Moon [5_055475-7deB]

Freedom – the statue at the summit of the Nation’s Capitol – Gazes at the rising Moon

One of our popular webinars is Night Photography 111: “Catching the Moon (and the sun)”. The next webinar is April 2, 2014, by the way. Long before the many tools that now exist to help solve for moon+landmark alignments I began working on a tool I call the MoonChase Tool. As snazzy tools came into being like Stephen Trainor’s Photographer’s Ephemeris, SunMoonCalc, MoonSeeker, and many more, I neglected the MoonChase Tool and focused more attention on the Advanced Stacker PLUS. In fact, after Google discontinued the V2 map interface upon which MoonChase was built the tool languished for about a year and a half. I also stopped teaching how to use it in the NP111 Webinars. But, I kept finding that all existing tools just didn’t do what I needed, so I resurrected the MoonChase tool. I ported it to the newest Google Maps API (V3), and I then added some of the features I had on my wish list.  I’m really proud of what the tool can do now. And I have some fiendishly clever plans for the future of the tool, time permitting, of course. Operationally the MoonChase Tool is simple. The hardest part is coming up with the location where you want to stand and the landmark you want to face. If you know that there is a sightline to a landmark in the distance you can fire up MoonChaseTool and in 3 steps know when to go to get the moon or sun behind your landmark!  That’s right. You paste, paste, click and click. Or drag, drag and click. We cover how to cook up good locations in the Webinar. How do you get your hands on this tool? We’ll tell you! If you’ve attended a NP111 webinar with us, or purchased the video and notes you already HAVE access through the “private page” (you did save the password, right?).  You’ll find the link to the MoonChase Tool on the private page.  Or sign up for our webinar which includes the notes and video AND access to the MoonChase Tool – and you don’t have to wait for the webinar, we send you all the links when you sign up (see below). The tool isn’t especially pretty, we admit that.  But it is pretty EASY to use and it works even from your iPad or tablet as long as you have internet access.

3 Steps to Moon (or sun) catching

3 Steps to Moon (or sun) catching. And there is more: you can check the view with Google Street View, and even check the weather with the weather button.

After clicking “Moon” you get the report thanks to Jeff Conrad’s SunMoonCalc tool. Be careful to be sure it selects the time correctly. Below it’s off by an hour due to Daylight savings time.


Moonrise over Lick Observatory from near SJC Airport… all opportunities from this location for the next 4 years!


What Problems Does the MoonChase Tool Solve?

The tool was designed to do the trigonometry for you. Did you know there is trigonometry involved?  Don’t worry, you don’t have to know trigonometry or math.  Nor do you have to know about spherical coordinates, azimuths, altitudes or the three different kinds of twilight.  All you have to know is where you want to stand, and what you want to be in your picture. Drag the markers around on the map and click one of the Solve buttons. OR use the tool in concert with The Photographer’s Ephemeris.

What Do I Need to Know to Do?

It’s very helpful to be able to do the following things: grab GPS coordinates from Google Maps and/or Photographers Ephemeris.  We teach how to grab GPS coordinates in the course. You’ll also want to know how to find heights of your favorite landmarks. Google comes in really handy for finding heights of buildings!  One more thing you’ll want to verify is whether you can See the landmark from the place you want to stand. Again, we describe 4 different ways you can do that in the webinar. The rest is dragging and clicking!

How Long Will it Take?

If you already have the coordinates, it will take perhaps thirty seconds – or not even that long.

I WANT THAT! How Do I Get It?

Easy: Sign up for the webinar and you’ll get immediate access to the private page plus the videos and notes. If you’ve already taken the webinar, go to the private page and you’ll find the link in the Resources section.  Or as a prior purchaser, just sit tight as we’ll be sending the new materials out to all prior purchasers over the next 3 weeks.

Webinar: NP111 Catching the Moon and the Sun
Not Scheduled but usually 7:00 PM PDT (7 MDT / 8 CDT / 9 EDT) for 2 hours
Captured [C_044450-2tc] In this 110 minute Webinar, you will be introduced to several free (and almost free) tools that you can use to plan a moon (or sun) shot - including a tool written by Steven and made available only to attendees. Have you wanted to capture the moon "right where you want it" but weren't sure how? If you know you could resort to photo editing and fake it but you'd rather get the real deal then this class is for you. Steven will demonstrate how to determine when and where to go to capture an image like the Moon over Lick Observatory or the moon at the Transamerica Building or the sun shining through a portal in the Pacific Ocean (below). This is a Webinar so you can conveniently attend from your computer at work or home anywhere in the world. This course includes notes, access to a private page with details - including landmark events Steven has already solved for you, an online viewable recorded webinar with unlimited online viewing that you can watch NOW before the webinar is held. One indispensable tool covered in detail is the Photographer's Ephemeris by Stephen Trainor.

What You'll Learn

Steven will show
  1. How to Plan a moon or solar "contact" shot.
  2. How smartphone based tools may help - or sabotage - your attempts to get an alignment
  3. How to use the moon to illuminate your foreground,
  4. How the presence of the moon affects photos of the night sky,
  5. How to find information about interesting celestial events,
  6. How to find compelling locations for "alignment" images, and
  7. What camera settings you need to get it all exposed just right.
Photon Worshippers **Winner Astronomy Photographer of the Year, 2010 - People and Space **
Remember that this event INCLUDEs online videos, notes, and access to a special tool that Steven uses to solve lunar and solar contact shots.
New Dome [5_009671]

The moon rises behind Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton, San Jose, California

Added Spiff! Advanced Stacker Version 14 Available!!


A sequence created using the Comet stacking mode. Click the image to see the timelapse.

We didn’t want to put too many exclamation points here, but hundreds of hours of work writing , testing, documenting and creating instructional videos for the new Advanced Stacker PLUS have reached fruition so we have to use at least a few exclamation marks!!!

The changes and additions here are largely based on the way I use the Advanced Stacker PLUS plus the patient, persistent requests of several of my most engaged clients (yes, including you, Marsha!).

Here is an example of what the Advanced Stacker PLUS Version 14 can do. Watch it in HD.

12 Minute Star Trail using Advanced Stacker PLUS version14 from Steven Christenson on Vimeo.

I demonstrated this live during a Creating Star Trails Webinar. Here I am going through all of the steps including some advanced masking techniques which will be covered in detail in the next Night Photography 150 Webinar.

Here is an example of the six of the different stacking modes. Notice how the “flash” of the tree light painting and the passage of the airplane show differently in each mode. Watch in FULL SCREEN and HD for best viewing.

The beast is now released and available in our store.  Here is PARTIAL list of what we’ve spiffed up.

New Features

  • New stacking modes: Elastic Stars and “Fat Heads” (aka Blobulous)
  • New Stacking mode: Average – continuously averages the last 8 frames and can be used by itself, or in conjunction with other stacking to reduce noise
  • Foreground Masking mode: Got one frame with the perfect foreground and want all of your results to feature it? You can do that. See this timelapse where the foreground mask was a lightened version of the sum of several frames.
  • Dark Frame Subtraction – and even better, you can run your dark frames through the lighten mode (or averager) and use the result to remove hot pixels from all of your frames.
  • Really cool Watermarking options. Helps you create and apply your own Watermarks to images with a single click.
  • More resizing options including sizes targeted for Facebook, Google and 500px.  You can also add your own custom cropping and sizing too, and apply as a batch.
  • Use the Foreground Mask group to add additional curves and corrections to bring pop to your timelapse.
  • Allow the automatic averaging to flow through any of your stacking modes to reduce noise.
  • The stacking actions now keep track of the NAMES of the first and last files loaded. And there is a new option to create a file based on those first and last names so you can keep your stacks organized.
  • Installation Check action: make sure everything is installed properly.
  • Installer batch script for Windows (Mac installer is under development).
  • Even more usage videos (


  • Watermarks can be done once up front for the whole stack. You can then restyle or move them if the nine automatic placement options aren’t enough!
  • Even more video help (see here), and more documentation.

Bug Fixes

We found a few issues that affected operation.

  • Under some circumstances, Advanced Stacker PLUS would not properly handle stacking of complicated files like other .PSD documents.  We may have been the only people doing that!
  • Introduced a bug that caused some operations to fail on PS CS2 and CS3.

New Video Release – Panorama Extravaganza

It was recorded several months ago… before we ran off on our workshops in the Southern, Central and High Sierra Workshops.  Eric Harness dishes on how to get those swanky panorama shots going.

This is a series of short outtakes to get an idea what is being covered.

For the unlimited online viewing + the notes, you can buy access here:

NP175: Panorama Extravaganza Online Video and Notes
NP175: Panorama Extravaganza Online Video and Notes
The price includes notes and unlimited views of an online 95 minute video featuring Eric Harness, Mr Panorama of StarCircleAcademy presenting Comprehensive Instructions on techniques, equipment and software for creating Panoramas and Vertoramas.

Bixby Panorama

Panorama Extravaganza covers

  1. Types of Panoramas
  2. Equipment (with recommendations)
  3. Compositional Tips
  4. Set-up and shooting tips
  5. Recommended Software
  6. Stitching and Blending
  7. Extensive information about PT GUI, Microsoft ICE and Photoshop Photomerge
  8. Printing, Web Display and more...
Price: $25.00


Add the code “Extravaganza” when you check out for a discount! Discount expires on September 29, 2013.