Category

National Parks

Lunar Eclipse Blood Red Moon Sequence over Joshua Tree National Park

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, Desert, Joshua Tree

This is the first of my photographic efforts shooting the lunar eclipse the evening of April 14/15 2014. I spent the entire night out under the stars in Joshua Tree National Park, where I often shoot when looking for clear skies and stars at night. I photographed several compositions and locations within the park that evening, leaving my cameras out photographing unattended, but this is the one that caught my eye first. The rocks in the background are lit early in the evening by the rising moon when there is still some daylight blue left in the sky above, while the Joshua Tree itself is lit by my flashlight. There are some faint, short star trails in the blue sky but they are difficult to discern on this web version. The individual phases of the eclipse were photographed from 10:45pm through 2:45am, and are positioned in the proper locations and orientations in the sky but have been enlarged to illustrate how the illumination on the moon changes during the course of an eclipse and as it passes through the sky. I was fortunate that the sky remained clear enough throughout the entire eclipse that I could shoot quality images of all phases until the eclipse was done.

Lunar Eclipse and blood red moon sequence, stars, astronomical twilight, composite image, Joshua Tree National Park, April 14/15 2014

Lunar Eclipse and blood red moon sequence, stars, astronomical twilight, composite image, Joshua Tree National Park, April 14/15 2014.
Image ID: 29202
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

This image is available immediately as a print or for licensing, along with two other lunar eclipse sequence photographs from the April 14-15, 2014 full eclipse. Please contact me for more information. Cheers and thanks for looking!

A few photographic notes and how I planned to take this image:

I realized beforehand that this lunar eclipse would be characterized by a symmetry that made illustrating its path through the sky a natural. The “peak” of the eclipse, when the moon is furthest within the umbra (shadow) of the Earth, occurred almost due south of my location which meant it would also occur at the highest point along the path the moon took through the sky.

The beginning and ending of the eclipse took place 67 degrees apart horizontally. To include the entire sequence in one image but without being wasteful of space at the left and right of the composition, I choose to use a focal length close to 20mm giving me a lateral field of view of 82 degrees. The inclination of the moon at the point of peak eclipse was 45 degrees above the horizon, which also worked well for a 20mm lens since it offers a vertical field of view of 62 degrees, enough to include some foreground below the horizon and space above the path of the moon. (I used the Photographer’s Ephemeris to figure the angles out as well as the due-south direction of the peak eclipse point.)

In order to have the composition pre-set correctly hours before the eclipse began, I used a compass to make sure it was aimed directly south (thanks REI for showing me how to correct for magnetic declination in southern California, otherwise I would have been off by about 10 degrees!). Once I choose my spot in what I call “Queen’s Valley” in JTNP, an area dense with healthy, tall, picturesque Joshua Trees and interesting rocks, I then did a kind of human protractor thing with my arms to make convince myself the moon’s path would go above the tree but below the top of my field of view. I locked the camera down on the tripod, waited for dusk and had a beer. I second guessed myself until the moon finally reached the left edge of the frame in what looked like a perfect position. The geometry worked out about right! (I could have done this image entirely without worrying about the angles, assembling things pell-mell later in Photoshop, but I really wanted to get as much of it correct in the camera as possible.)

I used an intervalometer to cause the camera to take photos every few minutes. I did a little light painting as the night went on, but the base frame I liked the most occurred about 70 minutes after sunset, with the moon out of frame to the left. The moon illuminated the background rocks nicely and complimented the light painting I did on the tree.

Venus, Milky Way and Arch Rock at Astronomical Twilight, Joshua Tree National Park

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, Joshua Tree

Things are always better at astronomical twilight.

Venus was often referred to as the “Morning Star” by ancient civilizations (and as the “Evening Star” as well). On this day, it was indeed the morning star, rising just moments before astronomical twilight began. This allowed for a very brief window of time, a few moments really, to make a balanced exposure including the Milky Way galaxy and a sky full of stars, the planet Venus, the onset of dawn’s blue sky, and a softly lit Arch Rock. Just a few minutes later and the impending dawn became bright enough to make the Milky Way unseeable This image required no compositing or local adjustments, just global contrast, shadow recovery and white balance. I managed to make a huge 180-degree panorama of this same scene just two days later, but an alignment such as this allowing one to compose Venus under the arch, with the Milky Way just above, right at the transition of astronomical twilight (with its accompanying deep blue sky) will not reoccur for quite some time and I will probably never have another opportunity to see it. Shot alongside friend and photographer Garry McCarthy in Joshua Tree National Park. If you like this, check out some of my other Astrophotography Landscape Photos. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Milky Way and Stars at Night Over Mount Rainier

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, Mount Rainier, Washington

In this single image (not a composite), made with a special combination of low-light camera and extremely fast lens to best capture the details and colors of the gas areas of the Milky Way, our galaxy rises in the night sky over Mount Rainier. A few specks of light can be seen on the mountain itself — these are the lights of climbers who are ascending the mountain. A few months earlier or later and this composition, with the Milky Way aligned directly above the extinct volcano, would not have been possible. I was fortunate with weather, having tried to make this image several nights only to be shut out by heavy cloud cover even at the high altitude setting of Sunrise. On my last evening of the trip, I was lucky to have clear skies and spent most of the night, alone in a meadow with the sounds of small animals flitting about, photographing the stars as they wheeled in the sky over the Mount Rainier.

Milky Way and stars at night above Mount Rainier, Sunrise, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Milky Way and stars at night above Mount Rainier.
Image ID: 28732
Location: Sunrise, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, USA

If you like this, check out some of my other Milky Way photos, or photos of Mount Rainier. Thanks for looking, and cheers!

Panoramic Photographs of Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Crater Lake, Landscape, Oregon, Panoramas

Crater Lake National Park is the most panorama-ready national park I have ever visited. The vistas are sweeping from the rim of the extinct volcano’s caldera, encompassing a six-mile wide lake. I have made two short visits to Crater Lake National Park, and spent most of my time composing panoramic photographs of the lake, the caldera rim and Wizard Island jutting up from the middle of Crater Lake. All of these panoramas will reproduce well to enormous sizes in case you see something you would like to have hanging in your office lobby and in the living room of your home. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Panoramic photo of Crater Lake National Park

Panoramic photo of Crater Lake National Park
Image ID: 28675
Location: Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, USA

Milky Way and stars over Crater Lake at night. Panorama of Crater Lake and Wizard Island at night, Crater Lake National Park

Milky Way and stars over Crater Lake at night. Panorama of Crater Lake and Wizard Island at night, Crater Lake National Park.
Image ID: 28641
Location: Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, USA

Self portrait at sunrise, panorama of Crater Lake.  Crater Lake is the six-mile wide lake inside the collapsed caldera of volcanic Mount Mazama. Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States and the seventh-deepest in the world. Its maximum recorded depth is 1996 feet (608m). It lies at an altitude of 6178 feet (1880m), Crater Lake National Park

Self portrait at sunrise, panorama of Crater Lake. Crater Lake is the six-mile wide lake inside the collapsed caldera of volcanic Mount Mazama. Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States and the seventh-deepest in the world. Its maximum recorded depth is 1996 feet (608m). It lies at an altitude of 6178 feet (1880m).
Image ID: 19130
Location: Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, USA

Panorama of Crater Lake from Watchman Lookout Station, panoramic picture. The Watchman Lookout Station No. 168 is one of two fire lookout towers in Crater Lake National Park in southern Oregon. For many years, National Park Service personnel used the lookout to watch for wildfires during the summer months. It is also a popular hiking destination because it offers an excellent view of Crater Lake and the surrounding area

Panorama of Crater Lake from Watchman Lookout Station, panoramic picture. The Watchman Lookout Station No. 168 is one of two fire lookout towers in Crater Lake National Park in southern Oregon. For many years, National Park Service personnel used the lookout to watch for wildfires during the summer months. It is also a popular hiking destination because it offers an excellent view of Crater Lake and the surrounding area.
Image ID: 28633
Location: Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, USA

Crater Lake panoramic photograph.  Panorama picture of Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake panoramic photograph. Panorama picture of Crater Lake National Park.
Image ID: 28663
Location: Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, USA

Mount Rainier, the Milky Way galaxy, Star Trails and Climbers’ Lights at Night

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, Mount Rainier

On my recent trip to Mount Rainier National Park, I had one particular image in mind, and I managed to achieve something very close to what I envisioned with this photograph. Seen here is the northeast side of Mount Rainier, with star trails in the sky and climbers’ lights tracing their paths over Rainier’s snow-covered slopes. The colorful area of the sky to the left of Rainier is the Milky Way moving through the sky from left to right as the Earth rotates, intentionally blurred in a time exposure but still recognizable. I’ve used this technique a number of times this summer to good effect, to make Milky Way images somewhat different than the norm. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Moutain climbers light see upon Mount Rainier, Milky Way and stars at night above Mount Rainier, Sunrise, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Moutain climbers light see upon Mount Rainier, Milky Way and stars at night above Mount Rainier.
Image ID: 28726
Location: Sunrise, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, USA

Perseid Meteor Shower, Milky Way, Half Dome and Yosemite National Park

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, Yosemite

Perseid Meteor Shower, Milky Way, Half Dome and Yosemite National Park

I spent two evenings at Glacier Point during the peak of the 2013 Perseid Meteor Shower, hoping to capture my first photographs of meteors. I have a few landscape astrophotography images that have chance meteors recorded in them, but this was to be my first attempt at photographing meteors as the principal subject. Conditions were nearly ideal. There were virtually no clouds on either night, little wind, and the air was dry and clear, perfect for astrophotography. This image is the result of those efforts, showing the Milky Way galaxy, about 16 meteors, Half Dome and Tenaya Valley and some of the Yosemite High Country in the distance, and the amphitheater at Glacier Point with a few people (and lights) enjoying the evening’s show.

Perseid Meteor Shower and Milky Way, Andromeda Galaxy and the Pleides Cluster, over Half Dome and Yosemite National Park, Glacier Point

Perseid Meteor Shower and Milky Way, Andromeda Galaxy and the Pleides Cluster, over Half Dome and Yosemite National Park
Image ID: 28746
Location: Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park, California, USA

As you might imagine, this image is a composite. The Milky Way was aligned above Half Dome in just this way during the mid-evening. Note that the Andromeda Galaxy can be seen as a oval blurry object just above and to the left of Half Dome and to the right of the Milky Way, and the Pleides star cluster is seen at the lower right of the sky, just above the horizon. The individual meteorites, however, came from separate images taken over the course of 12 hours of continuous photography. I selected the best exposed and brightest of the meteorites that I photographed, rotated them about Polaris (the North Star) as necessary to account for the fact that the night sky “rotates” above us all night long, and composited them with the baseline image of Half Dome and the Milky Way. A little green “air glow” is seen near the horizon, and some distant smog or haze is also seen as a brown horizontal layer just above the horizon in the distance.

The Perseid Meteor shower, which is considered to have the brightest meteors of all annual meteor showers, is named for the constellation Perseus from which they appear to emanate. Note that most of the meteors in this image appear to radiate from the lower portion of the Milky Way in this photograph — that’s where the constellation Perseus lies.

Zodiacal Light, Milky Way and Jupiter over Yosemite National Park

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, Yosemite

Photographing Zodiacal Light over Yosemite National Park

August 11-12 was near peak viewing for the 2013 Perseid meteor shower, and many people including myself were viewing the show from Yosemite’s Glacier Point all evening long. However, because the moon was nearly new and it was late summer, I knew there was an opportunity to see the faint, remarkable Zodiacal Light the following morning. My plan was to let my cameras run all night capturing Perseid meteors until about 90 minutes before sunrise, when I would reset them to photograph the (hoped for) Zodiacal Light. I managed to get a couple nice images of Zodiacal Light, better than my one previous attempt!

Zodiacal Light and planet Jupiter in the northeastern horizon, above Half Dome and the Yosemite high country, Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park, California

Zodiacal Light and planet Jupiter in the northeastern horizon, above Half Dome and the Yosemite high country.
Image ID: 28745
Location: Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park, California, USA

Zodiacal Light arises from sunlight that reflects off a disk of space dust that orbits our inner solar system. Zodiacal Light is purely a solar system phenomenon (relatively local to our planet) and is not associated with stars that are observed alongside (behind) it. The aforementioned “space dust” is thought to arise primarily from asteroid and meteor collisions (Nesvorny and Jenniskens, 2010), and resides on the plane of the ecliptic. (The plane of the ecliptic is the plane in which planets orbit around our Sun.) While aligned with the plane of the ecliptic, this dust cloud is not thin. Because it extends outward from the sun to the vicinity of Jupiter (with its strong gravitational field), the dust cloud is disturbed in such a way to give it a thickness, explaining the width of the Zodiacal Light that we observe. The Poynting-Robertson effect causes this space dust to slowly spiral inward toward the sun (where it is consumed), so a constant supply of new dust from colliding comets and asteroids is required to maintain the dust cloud. Sunlight reflecting off this dust can be seen in our night sky when there is little or no competing moonlight and/or light pollution from nearby cities. Zodiacal Light appears as a faint pyramid or triangle glowing on the horizon, with the apex of the pyramid tilted in line with the path of the Sun and the plane of the ecliptic. In these photos, planet Jupiter (which lies in the same plane of the ecliptic as our Eath and follows the Sun’s path through the sky) is clearly seen as the brightest object within the triangle of Zodiacal Light. This view is roughly northeast, looking past Half Dome from Glacier Point with the Yosemite High Country in the distance and Little Yosemite Valley at bottom middle.

The faint northern arm of the Milky Way is also discerned in these photos, crossing from upper left to lower right.

Mount Rainier and Reflection Lake Panorama, Sunrise

Mount Rainier, Panoramas

Mount Rainier is reflected in the perfectly still, calm waters of Reflection Lake, in the southern part of Mount Rainier National Park, Washington. This enormous panoramic photo will print up to 6′ tall by 15′ wide at full resolution. If you think this image would look good on the wall of your office lobby or in your home, please contact me. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Mount Rainier is reflected in the calm waters of Reflection Lake, early morning, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Mount Rainier is reflected in the calm waters of Reflection Lake, early morning
Image ID: 28705
Location: Reflection Lake, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, USA

Owachomo Bridge and Milky Way at Night, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, Natural Bridges, Utah

Night Photo of Owachomo Bridge and the Milky Way

After making the long drive to Natural Bridges National Monument, we arrived in time to enjoy a colorful sunset and eat some dinner while waiting for the sky to become dark enough for us to begin our photography. The weather was quite warm and still, and small bats were flitting about capturing insects. The goal of our visit was to depict enormous Owachomo Bridge beneath a sky full of stars, including the broad swath of the Milky Way galaxy. Unlike many of the natural arches I have photographed at night, Owachomo Bridge is a natural bridge, having been formed by different geologic forces than what creates natural arches. Owachomo Bridge is 106′ high with a span 180′ wide. This photograph is actually a self-portrait, as I can be seen at lower left illuminating the arch while my camera is positioned about 100′ away taking the photograph. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Owachomo Bridge and Milky Way.  Owachomo Bridge, a natural stone bridge standing 106' high and spanning 130' wide,stretches across a canyon with the Milky Way crossing the night sky, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah

Owachomo Bridge and Milky Way. Owachomo Bridge, a natural stone bridge standing 106′ high and spanning 130′ wide,stretches across a canyon with the Milky Way crossing the night sky.
Image ID: 28541
Location: Owachomo Bridge, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah, USA

If you like these, please check out a larger selection of Landscape Astrophotography pictures on this website or on my new Landscape Astrophotography website.

Milky Way and Star Trails Over the Watchman, Zion National Park

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, Utah, Zion

The Watchman is one of the iconic landmarks in Zion National Park, such that throngs of photographers line the bridge each fall at sunset to photograph the Watchman with the Virgin River and autumn trees in front of it. We elected for a much different image, one with the Milky Way soaring over the Watchman at night. We imaged the peak from a variety of locations, moving as the Milky Way crossed through the sky in order to keep the composition balanced. In this case I elected for a time exposure too long to freeze the stars but shorter than a typical star trail, and was pleased with the result. The Milky Way is still recognizable while the streaking stars add some movement to the image. I used the same technique on another composition several hundred miles away, which I will post in the coming days. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Milky Way over the Watchman, Zion National Park.  The Milky Way galaxy rises in the night sky above the the Watchman

Milky Way over the Watchman, Zion National Park. The Milky Way galaxy rises in the night sky above the the Watchman.
Image ID: 28587
Location: Zion National Park, Utah, USA

If you like this image, be sure to visit my Landscape Astrophotography website.