When the skies are clear and you can’t get the sunrise and sunset images you want, there is the option of going out and doing some night photography. The Milky Way core is above the horizon from late March through October, so it isn’t a year round opportunity.
It has to be truly dark, which is from 2 hours after sunset to 2 hours before sunrise. For general safety reasons, you probably don’t want to be doing this alone. In this case, I was with another photographer, but it was still creepy at times.
Monument Valley in Utah is famous for its large rock formations known as The Mittens. We thought this would be a nice place to begin our night efforts. Night photography is totally different from the daytime. All the camera settings and concepts are changed. So, you get a nap from 10pm to 1am, get up and shoot until 4am and then back to bed. We joked that it was like we were going back to the kindergarten school of photography.
The first night was a learning experience, to say the least. We learned quickly though, and the second night’s efforts resulted in a nice shot of the Milky Way over Monument Valley.
About 20 miles south of Monument Valley, just into Arizona, is this incredible rock mountain known as Agathla Peak. The light from the nearby town of Kayenta lit up edges of the peak providing some great highlights. This location is really in the middle of nowhere, so the creepy factor at 2am was pretty high. Again, it was our second attempt there, but I am super pleased with the result.
While at Monument Valley, we took a morning to drive up to an old Indian ruin known as House On Fire. The unusual way the colors streak in the rocks over the ruins has the look of flames, which resulted in the name. I had been wanting to shoot this scene for years and I was finally able to check it off the list!
We left Monument Valley and headed to Zion National Park for our last couple of days of this expedition. The good news is that there were a few other people out there in the middle of the night, so it wasn’t quite as creepy. Plus, being in a National Park just felt better. The iconic mountain, known as The Watchman, is just slightly illuminated by the light of Springdale. With the long exposure needed for the sky, the mountain appears to light up quite well. There is more to do in this location, so a return trip there could be called for.
During our first morning in Zion, there were some storm clouds that we waited 2 hours for to clear enough to show the peaks. It truly lasted about 30 seconds and they were gone again. The contrast of the bright green spring colors of the Cottonwood trees against the red rock was marvelous.
I’ll be heading to the southern Oregon coast and the northern California redwoods next week. The hope is for the rhododendrons to be in bloom and for the fog to roll in among the redwoods. If all goes right, some really nice images are possible.
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