Chasing Stars With Colorado Photographer Justin Baltz

Colorado Photographer, Justin Baltz has traversed the Southwest for mind boggling images of the Cosmos.

ArtApril 13, 2022

It’s said that there are more stars in the sky than grains of sand on all the beaches combined. The stretching black abyss of space is equal parts fascinating and intimidating. Unfortunately, due to the heavy light pollution in the world, catching a glimpse of the sheer beauty and complexity of a clear night’s sky is often beyond reach.

Thankfully, Colorado Photographer, Justin Baltz has traversed the Southwest for mind boggling images of the Cosmos. His technique, which he teaches through his workshops, is simple, refined and doesn’t require crazy professional cameras. The result is breathtaking photography contrasting our tiny world against the backdrop of infinite wonder. It's a fresh perspective; something we could all use right now.

We talked with Justin to get a peek behind the curtain of this out of the world photography. 

 
Hometown: Ann Arbor
Hobby outside of photography: Skateboarding, Skiing, Backpacking, Beer Connoisseur, Chef Ramsay Wanna Be, Video Games, and Professional Napper
 





 
Do you think aliens exist? I do think aliens exist and in The Great Sand Dunes, I met two folks that had some of the strangest long exposures I have ever seen. I was staring up at the stars most of the night hoping I could see something but nothing was to be seen except for the millions of tiny lights twinkling back at me.
Favorite space movie: Mars Attacks, Spaceballs, Star Wars, Interstellar
 
How did you get into photography? I got into photography because one of my friends in High School got a camera and wrote their name with a light during a long exposure, I thought it was so cool. Several years later I was able to borrow my mom's dslr and go out to Oregon and hangout with that homie for the summer doing photography. I was hooked after this trip but not for another 4 years would I get to buy my own dslr and it is the one I currently have, the Nikon D750.
 







 
What is it about space that fascinates you? There is so much that fascinates me about space, I would say pretty much everything about space fascinates me. The countless nebulas and galaxies really get to me though and the fact that we are finding new ones almost every week is mind boggling. Some of my favorite "deep space" objects are the dolphin nebula, dumbbell nebula, heart nebula, orion, and the lagoon nebula.

We know you teach classes for this but what can you tell us about the process without giving away the goods? You do not need a crazy professional camera, cheap cameras and a nice prime lens will do just fine. Start slow, astrophotography can not just be learned overnight because of how complex it can be. Start with a single shot image and get used to editing it to what your eye likes. Single shots are anywhere from 10 seconds to 30 seconds, high ISO about 3200, wide aperture (the widest your lens can go, for me it is f/1.4) and then you have a single shot :). Then move into trying to stack images because this will make your images much more Krisp. Stacking reduces noise and is what most telescope images are. Some telescope images can be months and thousands of photos all stacked into one.
 
What's your favorite place to travel to? My favorite place to travel to is anywhere with bortle 1 skies. The bortle scale is what is used to determine light pollution and what kind of night sky the eye or camera can see. These locations with bortle 1 are usually in the most remote and unknown locations in the country. Utah has a couple of my favorite spots and Nevada.






 
Favorite season to shoot? Anytime during the summer because the Milky Way is usually out right after sundown. I have only shot in a T-Shirt and shorts a handful of times during the summer. During the early season (Spring and Winter), the Milky Way rises at 2am and it usually requires me being up most of the night and very cold.
 
What location do you suggest for anyone trying to see the most beautiful and clear night? Anywhere that is away from the city, also you can use darksitefinder.com to find the best locations away from light pollution. Although RMNP has some light pollution it is one of my favorites for stargazing right on Trail Ridge Road.

Shameless plugs: My workshops can be found at justinbaltzphotography.com/pages/workshops I love teaching and all my students have had a wonderful time. I have a testimonials page as well from previous students. If I could quit my dayjob and host workshops every weekend I would.