One of my favorite experiences this summer was having the oportunity to spend a few hours in the desert after sunset. It’s safe to say that I have never seen a night sky like this. Let alone taken pictures of it!Stargazing was definiteely a highlight of my trip!
I feel a bit chatty today so I thought I just tell you a about the two nights I started to explore night time photography. I am hooked by the way!
Being from Europe we don’t really get a chance to see the night sky like this at all. Europe is smaller and more densely populated so light pollution is a thing here. So when we came to Moab we saw that there was a stargazing event in the Arches National Park Ranger’s programm. We both got really excited. Usually we are both not keen on participating in those kind of programs. We much rather explore things at our own pace. But we thought they might point out a few interesting things we were not aware of.
I also got really excited about trying to capture the night sky with my camera. Something I have never tried before and didn’t know anything about. So what do you do when you want to figure out how to do something? You either go on youtube or you go on pinterest. I chose the latter and read everything about night sky photography I could get my hands on.
This post really helped to figure out the proper camera settings. The rest was trial and error. I still cannot believe how many stars you can actually see when it’s properly dark. But I digress.
So we spent a late afternoon and evening at the park, watched a spectacular sunset (which I Instagrammed btw). Eventually we went to the visitor center to attend that programm. It was informative but so basic that we didn’t get any new information. I think it would have been pretty interesting for kids. But for us to be honest it was a waste of time. They set up a bunch of telescopes at the parking lot and later you got the chance to look at some stars and planets. But that was not what we had in mind so we sneaked out and drove back in the park and found us a spot ourselves.
And then I tried a few things with my camera. There’s a fine line between beautiful and super corny and stereotyped when it comes to nighttime photography. I certainly crossed the line a couple of times. But it was fun to experiment. And I was blown away by not only being able to see the milky way but to take pictures of it.
We were not in the perfect spot that first night. Yet the passing cars unintentionally helped me add a touch of light painting to some of my pictures.
But as the passing cars were pretty annoying we decided to go back the next night and find us a better spot. It didn’t get less cheesy though. We settled for the Balanced Rock which we thought might frame the pictures nicely. We brought snacks and a warmer jacket and found a place with a stone I could use as a tripod to stabilize my camera. I also utilized my tupper bowl. You have to work with what you have, right?
Having the Balanced Rock in my picture frame didn’t help to make the pictures less corny. But who cares. I was just happy that from what I could see on the tiny screen on my camera the pictures turned out alright. Even though a really considerate Asian couple couldn’t stop illuminating the rock with their flashlight. More unintentional light painting was the outcome.
We sat on the warm ground for a few hours, talking and enjoying the night sky. Being only a bit worried about the scorpions who supposedly live there and come out when it gets dark. We are both chickes when it comes to this kind of animals. Okay I am worse.
The moon was shining really bright so the whole landscape was touched by a cool light. Together with the reddish rocks it looked surreal. Nothing I have ever seen before.
I took tons of pictures. But slowly more and more clouds approached and around midnight we packed our stuff together and left for the motel. The only little downside was that I sat in a big bright blue piece of chewing gum that ruined my hiking shoes. But whatever.
I was a bit worried about how the pictures would turn out. You can only see so much on that tiny camera screen. But for the first try and literally 20 min preperation time I am so pleased. There is surely room for improvement but I am already looking forward to the next oportunity to practice.
So if you are ever in the area or anywhere with little to less light pollution I would totally recommend to spend a few hours stargazing at a clear night. I will for sure seek out oportunities whereever I can.
Have you ever been stargazing in the desert?
Have you seen the milky way before?