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How to, where to photograph a starry night sky

If the heavens fascinate you (and maybe Santa brought you a new camera), you may wonder how to take a photo that captures starlight like the ones used in the time-lapse video above.

That "how-to" question was on my mind in the fall as I headed to Jasper, Canada, home of the annual October Dark Sky Festival. (Jasper National Park is an official dark sky preserve.)

There I encountered Dark Sky photographer Jack Fusco, long a fan of Alberta and creator of the video above, "Chasing Starlight - An Adventure in the Canadian Rockies."

“Jasper was always a place I wanted to visit since I saw my first photo [of it],” Fusco said in an interview about last year's YouTube video for Travel Alberta. “The first time I saw Moraine Lake, it was amazing -- blue lakes, gorgeous mountains in the background.” Photographing it seemed “kind of like cheating because it’s just so beautiful.” 

Fusco shared tips with me to help me in my quest to capture starlight: 

--Get away from city lights. "Many places...

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Free spa treatments in January at Sonoma's luxe Farmhouse Inn

If you want some free luxury with a luxury stay, head to the recently opened Spa at Farmhouse Inn in California's Russian River Valley.

The 25-room inn in California's wine county invites those who visit in January to experience the spa for free.

The deal: The spa has the feel of a "glammed up horse stable" at the inn, which features barn, cottage and farmhouse rooms.

It joins the refurbished inn, which sits on six laid-back acres between Healdsburg and Santa Rosa. Vogue magazine chose the spa as one of its "6 Winter Beauty Escapes to Sweep You Off Your Feet" for 2015.

The New Year, New You offer requires at least one night's stay in a king deluxe or king luxury room. Rates start at $845 a night.

Guests who stay one night receive one 60-minute spa treatment; two nights gets you a 90-minute treatment. The three-night offer pulls out all the stops: two 90-minute spa treatments, dinner at the Michelin-starred Restaurant at Farmhouse Inn and something called a "candlelight tub" turndown....

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15 ways to ring in the new year in Las Vegas

The presents are still under the tree, but it’s time to start thinking about New Year’s in Las Vegas. Here are 15 lively ways to welcome 2015 Vegas-style:

The hottest ticket for New Year's Eve is the concert featuring the combo of old-time crooner Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, who was still just a twinkle in her father's eye when Bennett was performing in Las Vegas showrooms. Tickets for the Dec. 31 show at the Cosmopolitan sold so quickly that a second performance on Tuesday was added. Tickets were still available on Ticketmaster and StubHub when I last checked.

The biggest show in town is the free fireworks display that erupts at midnight from atop seven resorts along Las Vegas Boulevard. ( the Stratosphere, the Venetian, Treasure Island, Caesars Palace, Planet Hollywood, Aria and the MGM Grand.)  About 80,000 pyrotechnic devices will be fired during the 7-minute, 11-second performance, which can be seen from throughout the Las Vegas Valley.

The newest spot from which to view the...

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California: All SoCal ski resorts open

SoCal has seen a lot of sun lately, but not enough to roast a promising early start for local ski resorts. Cool temperatures have allowed for substantial snow-making and resorts in local mountains are nearly at full steam.

Of course, the deepest stuff is always at Mammoth, a five-hour drive from Los Angeles, where early storm have dumped 6 feet of snow. The world-class hill currently boasts a 30-inch base at Main Lodge and 48 inches on the summit. Main, Canyon and Eagle lodges are all open, with access to 115 trails.

Closer to L.A., the San Bernardino resorts are boasting fresh, machine-groomed surfaces. Snow Summit and Bear Mountain in Big Bear Lake, have 12 to 26-inch bases. At Summit, chairs 1, 2 and 8 start at 8:30 am. Chair 3 goes at 9 am. Chairs 4, 7, 9 and moving carpets 1 and 3 start at 9:30 am. At Bear, Chairs 6, 7, 9 have been opening at 9 a.m. Chairs 2, 4 and the moving carpets 2, 3 open at 9:30 a.m.

Mountain High in Wrightwood, 90 minutes from downtown L.A., is reporting...

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California State Park offers four annual passes for 2015

The good news: You have a choice of four different 2015 annual passes for California State Parks.

The not-so-good news: Even the most expensive pass at $195 won't give you free access to all of the 280 sites managed by the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

The day-use passes (camping and other fees are separate) include the California Explorer and the return of the Golden Poppy (see details below) plus a new $75 Tahoe pass for folks who regularly visit Lake Tahoe and a Historial Passport for state historic parks.

Not all state parks and beaches charge entrance or parking fees, but some that do give frequent visitors a break on the cost with the opportunity to buy an annual pass.

Do the math to figure out which pass will work best for you. Hikers might find the Golden Poppy pass more valuable because it includes access to many parks and trail heads; surfers might prefer the California Explorer for the number of beaches it covers.

Here are highlights of the passes:


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High on holiday wish lists: More real-time flight alerts from airports

Airports, listen up: Travelers want real-time information on flights and security wait times -- and they expect push alerts on mobile devices.

These are some of the findings of a recent FlightView survey of more than 2,000 travelers.

Most said they want updates on flight status (84%) and airport security wait times (79%); others asked for alerts on airport traffic delays (48%) and weather at their destination (38%). 

"Day-of-travel information has largely fallen on airlines and third-party providers," FlightView, which disperses info on flights and airport delays, said in a statement.

But that's shifting now as travelers see airports as providers of this key information, the survey said.

Travelers cited the expedited airport security process TSA PreCheck as the biggest improvement to the airport experience. Other top technologies that travelers want more of include:

--Automatic flight check-in

--Automated border-control technology

--Passport scanners for international travel...

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