Maine Stargazing & Photography Retreat Reviews

Night Sky Photography Workshops, Tours, Talks

Other reviews: Iceland Aurora Tours, California Nightscapes, Astromaster La Palma

Pierre Fleurant, Massachusetts (2023) From beginner to professional nightscape or astro photographer, this retreat is for you. At this workshop, one can enjoy a quiet, peaceful, and dark sky area to hone one’s nightscape photography skills. It has a great family camp atmosphere with a dark sky site. My SQM measured 21.05.   Prior to joining I had a lot of telescope and night photography experience but I wanted to learn more about astronomy and practice and learn better skills and technique from Babak. During the workshop I learned about ACR/Lightroom CC post processing and editing.  There was much value in watching Babak edit nightscape images.  He is a master.  

The cabin was very comfortable, and the water was hot! The only suggestion I have is to replace those “touch” table lights with a switch, because at night one can accidentally touch it and it turns on. I love the new dining hall and the barn. It’s the sound system that needs to be fixed. I don’t know how it can be done; maybe more speakers strategically placed around the room? The food was great. Coffee could be a little stronger, though!   I swam in the lake a few times!

As far as the workshop topics and guest speakers: I would like to see more topics on cell phone camera advancements and use of best App and/or settings for taking cellphone pictures. I wanted to mention that having Rich Nugent there with his 14 inch made it a lot of fun. He really knows the night sky and it is a joy to look through his telescope.  

This workshop is a good value for money: the venue and the ability to tap into a National Geographic photographer’s expertise makes it all worthwhile.

Niloofar Toorchi, California, (2022)  Prior to joining I had never used a telescope before, I joined to observe planets, star clusters, nebulae, galaxies via telescope and I wanted to learn astrophotography and deep sky photography using a star tracker. I learned close-up nebulae photography with a star tracker, as well as the post processing techniques. The lecture topics were comprehensive, the food was awesome and lodging was nice and clean. Got a little bit cold at nights. Wish cabins had a heater. It’s both learning and fun. I learned a lot on astronomy and astrophotography while it was also a great vacation. Besides Babak and Bruce, there are lots of experienced folks that can help you with your questions.

Mike D., Massachusetts, (2022) From the time you arrive at the retreat to the time you leave, you are provided 1:1 attention and a warm sense of being connected to likeminded people. I learned a ton of tips and strategies for night astro photography. Details like focus, preventing dew on lens, using an Astro tracker, and much more.

The lecture topics were great, but I would like to do a bit of hands on post processing. Maybe that’s more for an advanced class. I loved the camp, but small beds are challenging for a larger person. I made multiple trips down to the lake and it was a fun drive to see the tool store a few miles away. I had great interactions and time with knowledgeable people. Keep doing what you’re doing.. Fingers crossed for more dark skies.

Howard Ritter, Ohio, (2022)  I am an amateur astronomer and avid telescope user. I had not done much nightscape photography, mostly astrophotography through telescopes, but I learned some valuable fundamentals from Babak. But learning about nightscape photography from an expert was just one of the many reasons for attending, which I plan to do again. The opportunity to observe and socialize with other experienced amateur astronomers and Astro imagers was wonderful and memorable.

The lectures were well done. I had high expectations as a result of having seen Babak’s images for the past many years in one or the other of our two great astronomy magazines, and I was not disappointed.

The lodging and food were both rustic and comfortable. The lack of TV in the cabins was “a feature, not a bug”, as it encouraged reflection and attention to the natural world.

My son and/or I visited both the lake and nearby Acadia National Park. And the MSPR locale is ideally situated for a few days spent on the coast of Maine before or after. Spending hour after hour for five consecutive nights under pristine Maine night skies was an experience unlike anything I’d ever had. Taking it all in provided a visceral reminder of the deep and enduring fascination that the stars have for man. Just sitting back in silence and gazing up at the Milky Way, the Summer Triangle, and Cygnus beating its course down the star fields towards the center of the Galaxy; turning to see Cassiopeia’s W and the Double Cluster below it rising in the northeast; appreciating the Andromeda Galaxy with eyes alone; watching the blue Pleiades emerge over the trees across the field chased by the red beacons of Mars and then Aldebaran; noting Saturn and Jupiter as they cruised across the southern sky; and seeing the Big Dipper dip to skim the northern horizon and then rise again as the night progresses, only reinforced my lifelong love affair with the night sky and deepened my sense of connectedness with the turning Earth and the wheels of the Universe. Doing this night after night and going about my business on the observing field with this awesome (not a word I use figuratively) spectacle wheeling hour by hour overhead, gave me some feeling for how our ancestors up until very recently saw the heavens as the nights and seasons progressed. I can only hope that others in the future will be similarly refreshed, some newly inspired, and others brought to marveling for the first time at a wonder that had been not only unexperienced, but wholly unsuspected – to go beneath a truly dark and starry sky.

One thing I would make clear to participants is that they should pack for the possibility of rather cool nights not only on the field, but in the cabins because they’re unheated – the two thin blankets provided weren’t enough for me, and I needed to go to Walmart to get winter jammies and an electric throw! (I don’t recall what the website for the MSPR might have said on this topic, but if it said anything, I missed it.) Photos Photo © Howard Ritter

Paul Gimler, Massachusetts (2022) Fantastic experience. I highly recommend joining the adventure.  I attended in 2021 and I was a complete novice and a little nervous. Everyone was so supportive and willing to teach and share their extensive knowledge.  The experience gave me the push to travel and take more photos. I am attending again to continue the journey and adventure with these great people.

Anuja Doshi, Maine (2021) Babak, Bruce and the entire team of MSPR were fantastic! I still don’t have the right words to describe how seeing the Milky Way for the first time made me feel, but the entire experience was everything I had hoped for and so much more. Babak’s passion for the night sky and photography was truly inspiring and it was such an honor to learn from him.  I will certainly be signing up for one of his future workshops! Also, kudos to the kitchen staff and chef for preparing such wonderful meals all 4 days.