Workshop Reviews

Aurora PhotoTours

Photo report: Gallery by Barcelona documentary photographer Rosangela Salinas who was on the March 2018 program.

Linda Cook, Massachusetts: The workshops are always well planned. Babak and his partner(s) are professional and highly skilled at photography. The “secret” spots are beyond beautiful and each day you are well aware of what is planned and what the photography goals are. I love the aurora tours. I’ve been twice and both times I witnessed the aurora lights. I traveled alone, but soon found that I had lots in common with fellow photographers on the trip. The location shoots are inspiring! Each day is taken one at a time, depending on weather and what to expect. The day trips are a fantastic opportunity to witness and experience Iceland’s exotic natural wonders. And the night shoots are always successful, no matter the weather. I have stood outside in the freezing cold, been rained on, had incredibly windy days, but no matter what nature brings, you will achieve great photographs and learn new skills! The hotels are really clean and comfortable, the food is healthy and delicious and the transportation is safe and steady. All in all, I’d go every time this workshop is offered if I could! Highly recommend!

Iair Arcavi, California: Unforgettable, enjoyed every moment. Can’t wait to go again. Thanks to not having to worry at all about logistics or any other issues, I was even able to submit an astrophysics paper to Nature while on the trip (Babak & Gisli are acknowledged in the paper!). Photos ©Iair Arcavi

Michael Fung, Hong Kong: It was a very good experience. Babak is very knowledgeable to explain stuffs, and Kristen and Gisli were very helpful. It is good that the tour combines both photograph course and sightseeing stuffs. I like the places they brought us to, which are not only general tourist points, but some of them are places which only locals / people will some extent of understanding of Iceland will know. I particularly like the underground pond. It will make the tour even better if there are more formal knowledge / experience sharing session, about astronomical / aurora / photography, which are rare for amateur to know.

Shahab Yassemi, California: Attended the September main tour. It was great overall. Loved the planning and the people.

Natasha K, California: I booked this trip on a whim, and it turned out to be one of the coolest adventures i’ve been on to date. So happy I got to learn aurora photography from one of the best and super stoked we lucked out with an amazing KP7 display on one of the nights. I would definitely recommend Babak’s aurora tours to anyone!

Klahr Thorsen, New York: Great information. Unforgettable! FULL ON! A perfect introduction to astrophotography and a peak life experience.

Vicky Bell, Ottawa: I was lucky enough to be part of the March 2019 photo tour to Iceland, and it was an amazing experience start to finish. Babak was an incredibly patient and enthusiastic teacher who was always willing to help me out (given I was pretty new to photography, and probably had no business being there! :-)). I also really appreciated the flexibility he and Gisli showed when things didn’t go according to plan: we had a lot of bad weather and didn’t get to see the northern lights until our VERY last night, but Babak and Gisli rolled with the punches and arranged alternative activities where needed, such as photo editing sessions when we couldn’t go out shooting at night. The group he assembled was also excellent, with a wide range of ages and experience levels, but who somehow all gelled — I made lifelong friends on that trip. I’m signing up for another tour as soon as I can. I learned SO MUCH, saw places I would never have travelled to otherwise, and have come away with memories for a lifetime. Photos © Vicky Bell

Jennifer Jackson, Texas: A well curated experience led my very knowledgeable guides and an amazing photographer / teacher.

Frederick Melikian, California: Very informative and organized. It was an awesome trip with great group of people and adventures. Made amazing images from Iceland and Aurora. Babak is quite helpful. Learned a lot from his astronomy knowledge. He knows the nightsky quite well, which adds to the whole experience of photographing under the stars.

Jayesh Hargovan, South Africa: The Aurora PhotoTour in Iceland with Babak and company, has been one of the best experiences of my life. My night sky photography skills improved tremendously over the tour period of 10 days. The days and nights were excellently planned, with a variety of interesting activities during the daytime, and Aurora hunting at night, with some Milky Way practice thrown in. Having a common interest with other tour members, meant that friendships were easily formed, making the tour even better. Babak’s passion and curiosity shines through effortlessly, and is likely to inspire you on your own photography journey. I definitely plan to do it again! Photos © Jayesh Hargovan

Sarah Saksouk, New York: Attended several programs. Babak is always great at teaching/helping.

Reema Razzaq, Kuwait: Most enjoyable workshops. Well-organized and fun atmosphere. I attended Babak programs several times and my first astrophotography workshop with him was in Oman on Jabal Shams.

Steve Bishkin, Texas: Wonderful! A can’t miss vacation of adventure.

Adriana Leon de la Barra, Mexico: Excellent!!!! It was a great learning and fun experience. Very well organized, the best locations with the best guidance team (Babak and local guides). Babak is extremely professional and friendly and has a great ability to teach. Photos ©Adriana Leon

Todd Gunther, California: An experience of a life time! Where to begin? Yes we went on this trip to learn Aurora photography from a master Nat Geo photographer, but we came away with so much more! Babak is a wonderful teacher and as you’d expect is extremely knowledgeable in all things astral photography (and photography in general). He was able to share is knowledge and love of astro photography, and even as our group grew on the second week I never felt neglected and was able to learn new skills right up to the final night. His “1st Mate” Gisli (a great photographer himself) was our guide around Iceland and because of his local knowledge we were able to find the northern lights most every evening! It took some driving at times, but it was well worth it! He was also a wealth of local knowledge as we drove around Iceland, which made our days that much richer. And then there’s the landscape! Iceland does NOT disappoint! And, as I learned is one of the best places on earth to catch the Aurora (and just the night sky! The stars were mind blowing). Throw in an endless number of waterfalls (Foss’s), the highlands, geothermal hot springs, Icelandic horses, whales, and views that go on forever, and you have a bucket list trip like no other! Oh yeah! And great food and lodging too! If you have the opportunity to go on this trip…DO IT! You won’t be sorry! And if you have the ability to do the full trip, starting with the smaller group do that too! Photos ©Todd Gunther

Shamsi Mahjour, Canada: It was a great experience taking in the natural beauty of Iceland and the beautiful Northern light with knowledgeable and friendly Tour Guides. Amazing views, impeccable accommodations and local cuisine were outstanding. A pleasure to meet Babak on this Tour. I learned a great deal about photography and observing the sky at night . I attended the September 2019 Tour and I will be going back on March 2020 Tour.

Penny Ashford, New York: Outstanding! Before I get on my plane and I just wanted to send you a huge thank you for such an AMAZING trip capped off by the Kp 7 aurora storm! Your patience is amazing! The group was so fun. All the adventures added unexpected surprises along the way AND I actually leaned how to manually focus! It was a treat to be with you! Photos © Penny Ashford

Chirag Upreti, New York: Babak has been an inspiration to me not just for his brilliant photographs but as a leading advocate for preserving the beauty of the night skies. I have had the opportunity to shoot with him in 4 different countries and I have personally witnessed his non stop dedication to his craft and communicating the urgency for all of us to preserve the night sky. He is a wonderful human being, very down to Earth, with contagious energy and enthusiasm. Part of the reason I have taken multiple workshops with Babak is not only to learn the technical and artistic details of night sky photography, but also and equally importantly, to better understand his underlying philosophy of the critical importance of night-sky in our human heritage and the growing concerns of light pollution with it’s detrimental effect on life on Earth.  These workshops can serve as lessons for life an aspect which is much more enriching in experience than the pretty pictures you are sure to come back home with. The Aurora tour is by far my favorite international trip with Babak. There was many, many highlights in this trip, but none of them would have been possible without his passion for aurora chasing and sharing his knowledge. His and Gisli’s energy, patience to teach, constantly seek new horizons and work to nurture everyones skills in our group was truly inspiring. I would highly recommend this tour to my friends for sure. From Auroras to whale watching and hiking in national parks with on the go sandwiches, this trip was packed with good memories. Iceland is gorgeous and demands multiple visits with Babak and Gisli for sure! Photo ©Chirag Upreti

Fitri Arijati, Indonesia: That’s a wonderful experience. Me and my colleges really enjoy the journey of aurora hunting, visiting many beautiful places, good restaurants. Babak & his team are very helpful to guide how to take an aurora. The last day class is located in the hotel’s restaurant, which is too small and we can hear & see Babak’s presentation clearly. Better next time use a proper place with better tools. A small additional fee will be ok if someone interested in to join the workshop

Alessandro Lavatelli, Italy: Babak programs are always well organized, all activities planned at the right time. Even if the weather conditions in Iceland can be tough, we made always the best choice to take advantage of every condition.

Thomas Mumey, Texas: Overall, I very much enjoyed the trip. The price was reasonable, the hotels were good, the stops were worthwhile, and the nighttime locations where we shot from yielded some great shots. Babak was a great travel companion and master sandwich maker! This was my first tour with Babak and only my second travel tour so I don’t have much experience to compare but I will do another tour with Babak when finances allow.

AVA, California: The tour was beyond my expectations. Babak is such a great photographer. It was an honor to be able to join him as a novice in photography. I have nothing but good things to say about Babak; he was so very kind and patient throughout the tour. I very much enjoyed the various places he took us for the photo shoots and sights seeing. We had Icelandic Tour guides and Bus driver who were all so helpful to us and also very knowledgeable about the history of their homeland. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime- experience, I will always treasure this trip.

Bara Ayche, UK: A truly great experience. I went to improve my photography and can honestly say it has helped me. Not just in Aurora, the learning experience was invaluable. Babak always has time for any questions whatever level you may be at. Photos © Bara Ayche

Diane McInerney, Massachusetts: It was truly an amazing experience. I have wanted to learn night photography since 1996 and never got the opportunity. When I saw this tour advertised I knew I was stepping far outside my comfort zone but really wanted to learn. The Northern Lights were such a bonus. I had dreamed of seeing these amazing displays of light for as long as I could remember. Once I had the opportunity to see some activity in Framingham, MA. Despite the fact there was no color but white…I was still mesmerized. To actually see the Aurora in Iceland was better than I ever could have imagined. To learn to take photos of this hypnotizing event was a dream come true. This tour changed my life and made me excited about photography in a whole new way. The tour company, the fascinating people, and the camaraderie among the group was very special and unique. To get to work with and learn from Babak was awe-inspiring. I would recommend this tour and any of the others to everyone I meet. I am most definitely going to attend this tour again as well as others.

Bernard Lenssens, Belgium: Attended several programs. Iceland was more a “touristic photo tour week” for me. I enjoyed myself, saw for the first time some norther lights. But didn’t learn a lot (of astrophotography), as it was not the primary focus of the workshop. Photo © Bernad Lenssens

California Nightscapes & Death Valley

Laura Perez, Mexico: Great organization , a great team to work with. We had the best spots , always working as a team , Babak is always very helpful

Dana Joachim-Motoc, Minnesota: I had a great experience and loved both the hands-on photography sessions and the lectures. Babak and Mike are excellent and inspiring teachers. I appreciated all the valuable advice on night photography techniques, celestial events and how to plan for various projects. The photography locations were beautiful and different each night. I hope to join other programs in future. Photos ©Dana Joachim-Motoc

Sarah Brittain, Colorado: The one I’ve been to was well organized, informative and enjoyable.

Patrick Taylor, California: I’m blessed to work as a ranger in Death Valley and had spent a few months trying to learn astrophotography through books and videos. I learned more with Babak and Mike in a few hours than I had in months by myself. The workshop was well organized, respectful of different skill levels, and took participants to all the best night time spots!

Chirag Upreti, New York: The workshop in June 2017 was the first program I attended with Babak. I was new to night sky photography but was blown away by the personal time and teachings he shared with the group. For a three-night exercise, this is an intensive workshop!! Overall, I had a memorable experience mainly because Babak, Mike and TWAN photographer Oshin as a guest were all very approachable and generous with their time and expertise. If you think of it, that is a lot of experience to tap into.. and we all did.  Also, the choice of locations was fantastic! (even with the traffic at the ancient Bristlecone trees), just to experience the night sky under the bare silhouettes of these ageless giants will always be a memorable experience. My favorite place was Mono Lake. The night sky was stellar but the cherry on top was the fiery sunrise. Awesome planning and locations. Highly recommend this workshop to anyone who wants to do a bootcamp to learn night sky photography. I was also privileged to get my first magazine print, a double-page spread in Astronomy magazine of a picture I took in the Bristlecone Pine forest on this trip. A special trip with wonderful instructors for sure, you can take it to the bank. 

Linda Cook, Massachusetts: I am going back again. This is a wonderful workshop because Death Valley has amazing dark, night skies. I recommend the boot camp to prepare you for the workshop. The night shoots and pre-sunrise photography trips are some of the most unusual locations I have been to. Each night is different and you will learn new skills each day and night. This is the place to learn timelapse and all techniques. Babak & Mike Shaw are great teachers and together they make a great team! Highly recommend! Photos © Linda Cook.

Astromaster LaPalma

Puya Hosseini, California: Wonderful experience. Great lessons. Even better one on one feedback while shooting. Learned so much and it improved my nightscape photography so much, I’m so grateful. Photos ©Puya Hosseini

Chirag Upreti, New York: This is an intensive and advanced workshop by Babak and his colleague Ana García Suárez. Our group had people with all different skill levels, beginner to advanced and we all learned a lot by the end of the trip. Babak always does a great job of making everyone comfortable with their own skill level. What attracted me most to this workshop was the oppurtunity to spend a night at the Roque de Los Muchachos Observatory (ORM), on the rim of the Taburiente National Park, at 2396 meters above sea level. This is such a terrific location because you float above the clouds and the night sky is the best I have seen in transparency. We got to tour the largest optical telescope in the world, Gran Telescopio CANARIAS (GTC) with a staggering 10.4 meter primary mirror. To see the sheer size of the machinery up close is awe-inspiring. From Tajinaste fields, lighthouses, salt pans to these marvels of optical engineering this is an absolutely fantastic workshop to be a part of. There are also special lectures during the day from invited guests that add to the learning element of Astromaster. For our group, Martin Heck came in to teach us details in timelapse photography. If time would permit, I would go to Astromaster every year, it is a GREAT workshop. I was privileged to get two images published in Astronomy magazine that I took on this trip. That itself is the biggest proof of the high quality offered at Astromaster. Photos © Chirag Upreti

Klahr Thorsen, New York: A great way to keep increasing my skills – Astromaster brought me up to the next level.

Bernard Lenssens, Belgium: La Palma was for me a real ‘MasterClass’ truly focussed on learning. More ‘advanced’ techniques and basic Astronomy. I like to exchange with other passionated fellows, sharing techniques and passion, learning advanced techniques and going ‘beyond the average photographer’. Maybe a good idea to distinguish 2 sub-groups, according to their level of experience and know-how. Newbies can focus and understand more easily the basics of the settings of the camera & lightroom, while more experienced students can focus on more advanced techniques such as timelapse, aligning and using a tracker, deep space objects, stacking of long exposures with dark frames, postproduction techniques, etc. Photos ©Bernard Lenssens

Alessandro Lavatelli, Italy: Physically demanding but definitely worth it. Great to have one of the best skies in the world at night and nice sunny days at the same time. Here is a timelapse video of our night activity there.

Emanuele Balboni, Italy: Great. I loved the lectures and the shooting sessions. A full time workshop: very challenging but definitely worth it.

Linda Cook, Massachusetts: One of the most rewarding trips I have been on. You can virtually see the Milky Way with your naked eye because the skies are so dark! It is a very intense workshop, don’t expect to sleep very much! You will run on the pure joy of seeing what your eyes cannot see in any other place. The day sessions learning editing, etc.from Babak are worth the price alone. You but you will come back with unbelievable photographs and skills that will propel your photography to a new level. Photo ©Linda Cook

Other Programs

Char Joslin, New York: Excellent! I attended the Antigua nightscapes in Jan 2020.

Charlotte Said, New York: Attended Antigua nightscapes in Jan 2020. Amazing informational sessions and great hands on help in the field. I didn’t know a TON about my camera in the beginning and they helped get me comfortable with using it especially at night.

Bettina Stelle, New York: Attended the Antigua nightscapes in Jan 2020. Interesting but challenging new experience for s beginner. I would suggest to maybe separate total beginners first day and give them individual technical session ( settings & focusing ).

Michael Banbury, Delaware: The Antigua nightscapes workshop (Jan 2020) was great fun and I learned a lot of valuable information. As a relative newcomer to night sky photography, I felt welcomed and included in the class.