By Mike Barron,

After spending the summer obsessing about overnight photography and seeing the Milky Way, I finally got the shot I was looking for on the night of Oct. 21, 2019, at the Family Travel Association Summit in Custer State Park, South Dakota.

I came to SD and the Summit to make new friends, enjoy the beautiful state and learn about the industry that we just endeavored to conquer (or survive?). The summit has been everything we had hoped. The family travel community very much reflects the family market that it is serving. I will come back to NYC with new industry and destination insights that I can’t wait to share via our new platform, FivePax.

As far as the photo, in preparation for a family Yellowstone backpacking adventure in September, our family of five spent the summer camping and/or hiking in VT, PA, upstate NY, and CO. I had high hopes of practicing night photography everywhere I went, but either the moon or the clouds never worked out in my favor. When we finally got to Yellowstone, I learned a rookie lesson that you can check on the moon’s schedule pretty far in advance.  I should have known that there would be a full moon while we were backpacking. For those who know as much about photography as I did 9 months ago, the light of the moon is too bright to capture great photos of the stars, so no moon is best. So, I kind of gave up hope.

The Money Shot

On that Monday, the FTA announced a free photography lesson from the stunning nature photographer Andy Austin specifically focused on night photography. I was originally looking forward to an uninterrupted night of sleep since I have a 1-year-old at home, but I couldn’t miss out on the opportunity to learn.  I walked to the training session with Andy, and as we strolled I looked up and asked, “Is that the Milky Way?” – “Sure is,” my future best friend said to me.  Things were coming together.

After some explicit can’t miss instruction I went to the road, dodged an occasional car, fended off a few mountain lions, and took this photo that may not win me an award, but is definitely the coolest night photo I’ve ever taken. It’s what the pros sometimes call “the money shot.”

Thanks to Andy I added a few nuggets to my toolkit that I hope to develop further in the future.