Astrophotography and Night Scapes, Natural History Photography Blog

Lunar Eclipse Blood Red Moon Sequence over Joshua Tree National Park

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, over Joshua Tree National Park, April 14/15 2014.
Lunar Eclipse and blood red moon sequence, over Joshua Tree National Park, April 14/15 2014.

I have not formally added this to my stock files but the image is available immediately as a print or for licensing. 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

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!

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

Milky Way over Sky Rock Petroglyph, Volcanic Tablelands, Bishop, California

Milky Way over Sky Rock Petroglyph, Volcanic Tablelands, Bishop, California.

I made this image several years ago but neglected to share any images from that evening’s photographic efforts on my blog. I have made many visits to the Volcanic Tablelands, at all times of day, to explore the rocks, admire the vistas over the Owens River, and photograph one of the finest petroglyph panels in the world. In this composition, I waited for a specific date when the Milky Way could be effectively photographed above the petroglyphs with Mount Tom and the Sierra Nevada range aligned in the distance. It was a very cold evening, I wore all the clothes I had on hand, but after several hours of trying different compositions I managed several images I am very happy with. Sky Rock is a magical place at night, with ancient light emanating from stars many hundreds and thousands of light years away cascading down upon these special, old and impressive engravings. It is just the type of place I enjoy photographing at night, with no other people around, no photo workshop groups, no RVs, no automobile sounds — nothing. Solitude. I have also photographed these petroglyphs under a full moon as well as under pastel dawn skies, as well as a massive panorama of this location that I will be sharing soon. Cheers and thanks for looking!

The Milky Way at Night over Sky Rock.  Sky Rock petroglyphs near Bishop, California. Hidden atop an enormous boulder in the Volcanic Tablelands lies Sky Rock, a set of petroglyphs that face the sky. These superb examples of native American petroglyph artwork are thought to be Paiute in origin, but little is known about them
The Milky Way at Night over Sky Rock. Sky Rock petroglyphs near Bishop, California. Hidden atop an enormous boulder in the Volcanic Tablelands lies Sky Rock, a set of petroglyphs that face the sky. These superb examples of native American petroglyph artwork are thought to be Paiute in origin, but little is known about them.
Image ID: 28798  
Location: Bishop, California, USA
 

Moonlight Waves

Filed under: Astrophotography and Night Scapes, Seascapes on 12/18/2013

I once shot photographs of waves by the light of phytoplankton during a major red tide event. That worked out pretty well, although it was pushing the cameras to the limits of what they could record. However, this time I’m not sure what I was thinking: I got up at o-dark-thirty to photograph waves by moonlight. The exposures were so long that just about every wave becomes smeared across the image in a blur of whitewash. I managed to make a couple images I am happy with, and I learned a lot about how to do it better next time. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Breaking waves crash upon a rocky reef under the light of a full moon, La Jolla, California
Breaking waves crash upon a rocky reef under the light of a full moon.
Image ID: 28870  
Location: La Jolla, California, USA
 
Breaking waves crash upon a rocky reef under the light of a full moon, La Jolla, California
Breaking waves crash upon a rocky reef under the light of a full moon.
Image ID: 28869  
Location: La Jolla, California, USA
 

Starlight and Moonlight on Little Corona, Newport Beach

When I was a kid growing up in Newport Beach, we would often visit Little Corona beach and see tons of black abalone. They would be clinging to the rocks, and empty ab shells would be hidden in the all the tidepools and pockets of water. The abalone are long gone (as is my youth!), but some of the nostalgia remains. I spent a few hours shooting Little Corona under a full moon and came away with one image with which I am happy. Little Corona is a fine spot, relatively secluded, quieter and much less crowded than Big Corona Beach. In this photograph, ankle-slapper waves are blurred during a long exposure made by the light of the moon. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Little Corona Beach, at night under a full moon, waves lit by moonlight, Newport Beach, California
Little Corona Beach, at night under a full moon, waves lit by moonlight.
Image ID: 28866  
Location: Newport Beach, California, USA
 

Prints of this image are available here, or you can check out more Wave Photographs.

Moonlight on Seal Rock, Laguna Beach, California

Seal Rock, a short distance offshore of Crescent Bay in Laguna Beach, is typically covered with many cormorants and at least a few California sea lions. I’ve made a number of dives at Seal Rock but had never made any effort to photograph it topside. Garry McCarthy and I did some full-moon photography in Laguna Beach and Newport Beach recently, and I was able to make this image of Seal Rock, cormorants and sea lions, under a full moon. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Cormorants and sea lions on Seal Rock, at night, waves lit by full moon, Laguna Beach, California
Cormorants and sea lions on Seal Rock, at night, waves lit by full moon.
Image ID: 28864  
Location: Laguna Beach, California, USA
 

Prints of this image are available here. If you like this, check out more Night and Time Exposure Photographs.

Big Corona Beach at Night, Corona Del Mar State Beach, Newport Beach

When I grew up in Newport Beach, I spent a lot of time at “Big Corona”, aka, Corona Del Mar State Beach. Because this is a great place to take the kids, bodyboard and kick back in the sun, this beach gets crowded. Yachts sail by in and out of the channel all day, and when a swell arrives there can be a good break along the jetty. This is a view of Big Corona at night, viewed from just around the corner from Little Corona.

Big Corona Beach, aka Corona del Mar State Beach, at night lit by full moon, Newport Beach
Big Corona Beach, aka Corona del Mar State Beach, at night lit by full moon, Newport Beach.
Image ID: 28865  
Location: Newport Beach, California, USA
 

La Jolla Cove at Dawn, La Jolla, California

One of my favorite times to photograph in La Jolla is when night is just transitioning to dawn. Sunrise is till 45 minutes or an hour away. In December it can be chilly at this hour, but it is also quiet and, usually, still. The only people I see are early morning runners, dog walkers and occasional delivery trucks stopping at the restaurants. Sea lions bark, wave brush over the sand, gulls call and pelicans fly by close overhead. Sunlight was not really even visible to my eye when I took this image, just a hint of blue on the horizon, but my camera was able to record vivid pre-dawn colors with a 30 second exposure. Cheers and thanks for looking!

La Jolla Cove and pre-dawn light
La Jolla Cove and pre-dawn light.
Image ID: 28847  
Location: La Jolla, California, USA
 

Prints of this image are available here. Be sure to see more Photos of La Jolla, California.

VLBA Radio Telescope at Night under the Milky Way Galaxy, Owens Valley, California

Filed under: Astrophotography and Night Scapes on 12/9/2013

The Owens Valley is home to a variety of radio telescopes. This particular radio telescope, photographed with the Milky Way galaxy rising above it in the night sky, is part of the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA), a system of ten widely spaced radio telescopes that make certain forms of high resolution interferometry possible. The VLBA radio telescopes, which are each about 10 stories high when pointed straight up, range from Hawaii in the west to New Hampshire in the east. The VLBA radio telescopes are controlled from a central location in New Mexico. Large amounts of observational data are recorded at each VLBA telescope site, then sent to a single data processing lab where they are pooled and analyzed on very powerful computers.

Radio telescope antenna, part of the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA). The Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) is a system of ten radio telescopes which are operated remotely from their Array Operations Center located in Socorro, New Mexico, as a part of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO). These ten radio antennas work together as an array that forms the longest system in the world that uses very long baseline interferometry, Big Pine, California
Radio telescope antenna, part of the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA). The Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) is a system of ten radio telescopes which are operated remotely from their Array Operations Center located in Socorro, New Mexico, as a part of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO). These ten radio antennas work together as an array that forms the longest system in the world that uses very long baseline interferometry.
Image ID: 28787  
Location: Big Pine, California, USA
 

Prints of this image are available here. If you like this image, you might check out my landscape astrophotography website or my gallery of landscape astrophotography photos on this website.

Sky Rock Petroglyph with the Milky Way Rising over the Sierra Nevada

The Milky Way Galaxy rises in the night sky over the Sierra Nevada, with the Sky Rock Petroglyph panel in the foreground. I’m sure the original creator of this remarkable set of petroglyphs — considered by some to be the finest petroglyph panel in the world — had even darker skies than we do today and a much better view of the Milky Way, hundreds or thousands of years ago when he chiseled these strange shapes into the desert varnish of the volcanic tablelands. Cheers and thanks for looking!

The Milky Way at Night over Sky Rock.  Sky Rock petroglyphs near Bishop, California. Hidden atop an enormous boulder in the Volcanic Tablelands lies Sky Rock, a set of petroglyphs that face the sky. These superb examples of native American petroglyph artwork are thought to be Paiute in origin, but little is known about them
The Milky Way at Night over Sky Rock. Sky Rock petroglyphs near Bishop, California. Hidden atop an enormous boulder in the Volcanic Tablelands lies Sky Rock, a set of petroglyphs that face the sky. These superb examples of native American petroglyph artwork are thought to be Paiute in origin, but little is known about them.
Image ID: 28798  
Location: Bishop, California, USA
 

Full Moon over Pauma Valley, Panoramic Photograph

Pauma Valley at night, viewed from atop Mount Palomar, with the full moon and stars high above. This high resolution panoramic image will print up to 100″ wide — Prints available! Cheers and thanks for looking!

Moon and Stars over Pauma Valley, viewed from Palomar Mountain State Park
Moon and Stars over Pauma Valley, viewed from Palomar Mountain State Park.
Image ID: 28751  
Location: Palomar Mountain State Park, California, USA
Pano dimensions: 6487 x 14971
 

Milky Way and Stars at Night Over Mount Rainier

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!

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

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!

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: 28726  
Location: Sunrise, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, USA
 

Blue Moon over San Diego City Skyline

Filed under: Astrophotography and Night Scapes, San Diego on 8/20/2013

San Diego City Skyline at Sunset with a Rare Blue Moon

Tonight I was fortunate to photograph a rare “blue moon” rising at sunset over San Diego’s beautiful city skyline. This view is from Harbor Island looking across San Diego Bay toward the downtown waterfront. Tonight’s full moon is indeed a “blue moon”. What is a “blue moon” you ask? Typically a season, such as summer, will have only three full moons. On those occasions when four full moons occur during a given season, the third full moon is called a “blue moon”. (Note the oft-quoted “second full moon in a single month” is actually incorrect!) Remarkably, a jet plane on approach to San Diego airport flew right in front of the full moon, and the light of the setting sun just balanced that of the rising blue moon allowing a photograph to be made showing the jet with its headlights on against the sharp detail of the moon, with San Diego’s beautiful skyline set below. No photoshop trickery here. The jet is a tiny black spot on the moon in the first image below, but since this photograph will print beautifully up to 24″ x 36″ you’ll be able to see the jet clearly set against the moon in the print hanging in your living room or office lobby! Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Blue Moon, Full Moon at Sunset over San Diego City Skyline, approaching jet with headlights appearing in front of the moon
Blue Moon, Full Moon at Sunset over San Diego City Skyline, approaching jet with headlights appearing in front of the moon.
Image ID: 28753  
Location: San Diego, California, USA
 
Blue Moon at Sunset over San Diego City Skyline.  The third full moon in a season, this rare "blue moon" rises over San Diego just after sundown
Blue Moon at Sunset over San Diego City Skyline. The third full moon in a season, this rare “blue moon” rises over San Diego just after sundown.
Image ID: 28754  
Location: San Diego, California, USA
 
Blue Moon at Sunset over San Diego City Skyline.  The third full moon in a season, this rare "blue moon" rises over San Diego just after sundown
Blue Moon at Sunset over San Diego City Skyline. The third full moon in a season, this rare “blue moon” rises over San Diego just after sundown.
Image ID: 28756  
Location: San Diego, California, USA
 

If you like this, please check out more of my San Diego City Skyline photos.

For you photographers that might wonder: this is a single raw image, with no local processing applied (only global adjustments for white balance, saturation, contrast and sharpness), and the moon is not composited. There are a few minutes each day when the exposure of for the moon is within a stop or two of the correct exposure for the landscape, and at those times a balanced moonrise or moonset photo can be taken with a natural, honest-looking moon that requires no photoshop compositing. Personally I have never composited the moon (or the sun for that matter) into a composition, it never looks natural to my eye. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

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

Filed under: Astrophotography and Night Scapes, Yosemite on 8/14/2013

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

Filed under: Astrophotography and Night Scapes, Yosemite on 8/13/2013

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.

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

The Wave Under Stars at Night, North Coyote Buttes, Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness

Filed under: Arizona, Astrophotography and Night Scapes, The Wave on 7/16/2013

Astrophotography and Night Photography at the Wave, North Coyote Buttes

The Wave, a fantastic area of ancient, stone-frozen sand dunes and tortured rock, is a real favorite of mine. Among photographers it is both something of a Mecca as well as a cliche. There are quite a few photographers who shun the Wave since it is so popular, while at the same time folks visit from around the world hoping to receive a permit to make the hike to this special place. I have made at least four trips there (see past blog articles about the Wave), although the last couple times it was mostly for enjoyment and few new images came out of the effort. I wanted to do something very different this time. After some brainstorming with night photography expert and road trip buddy Garry McCarthy, we came up with a rough plan, watched the weather closely and finally decided it was worth a try. The following few images came from our efforts. It really was spectacular being alone at night at the Wave, with a slight warm breeze and occasional critter noises being the only sounds other than our time exposure camera clicks. If you like these, please check out a larger selection of Landscape Astrophotography pictures on this website or on my new Landscape Astrophotography website. If you are curious how some of the lighting was done, here is a self-portrait of me lighting the Wave during a long time exposure.

The Wave at Night, under a clear night sky full of stars.  The Wave, an area of fantastic eroded sandstone featuring beautiful swirls, wild colors, countless striations, and bizarre shapes set amidst the dramatic surrounding North Coyote Buttes of Arizona and Utah. The sandstone formations of the North Coyote Buttes, including the Wave, date from the Jurassic period. Managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the Wave is located in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness and is accessible on foot by permit only
The Wave at Night, under a clear night sky full of stars. The Wave, an area of fantastic eroded sandstone featuring beautiful swirls, wild colors, countless striations, and bizarre shapes set amidst the dramatic surrounding North Coyote Buttes of Arizona and Utah. The sandstone formations of the North Coyote Buttes, including the Wave, date from the Jurassic period. Managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the Wave is located in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness and is accessible on foot by permit only.
Image ID: 28621  
Location: North Coyote Buttes, Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Arizona, USA
 

These images were shot on today’s today cameras, with top optics, and will print well up to 4′x6′. Please contact me if you are interested in canvas murals or aluminum prints for your home or office. Cheers and thanks for looking!

The Second Wave at Night.  The Second Wave, a spectacular sandstone formation in the North Coyote Buttes, lies under a sky full of stars, Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Arizona
Self-portrait, Luke Skywalker-style, the Second Wave at Night. The Second Wave, a spectacular sandstone formation in the North Coyote Buttes, lies under a sky full of stars.
Image ID: 28627  
Location: North Coyote Buttes, Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Arizona, USA
 
The Wave at Night, under a clear night sky full of stars.  The Wave, an area of fantastic eroded sandstone featuring beautiful swirls, wild colors, countless striations, and bizarre shapes set amidst the dramatic surrounding North Coyote Buttes of Arizona and Utah. The sandstone formations of the North Coyote Buttes, including the Wave, date from the Jurassic period. Managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the Wave is located in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness and is accessible on foot by permit only
The Wave at Night, under a clear night sky full of stars. The Wave, an area of fantastic eroded sandstone featuring beautiful swirls, wild colors, countless striations, and bizarre shapes set amidst the dramatic surrounding North Coyote Buttes of Arizona and Utah. The sandstone formations of the North Coyote Buttes, including the Wave, date from the Jurassic period. Managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the Wave is located in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness and is accessible on foot by permit only.
Image ID: 28623  
Location: North Coyote Buttes, Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Arizona, USA
 

Sky Rock and Full Moon, Chalfant Petroglyphs, Volcanic Tablelands

Sky Rock and Moonlight, Bishop, California. (See also my photograph of Sky Rock at Dawn, Bishop, California and a gallery of other Sky Rock Petroglyph photos.) The Sky Rock Petroglyphs sit atop of an enormous volcanic block. The petroglyphs — dozens of them in many shapes and forms — face the sky, thus lending Sky Rock its name. My understanding is that Sky Rock’s orientation toward the heavens is unusual, but also curious is that this set of petroglyphs sits alone, isolated some 5+ miles from the rich Chalfant, Chidalgo and Red Rock petroglyph collections. Chipped into the rock, through the darker “desert varnish” that typically covers the exterior of such rocks, the Sky Rock Petroglyphs expose the lighter-colored rock underneath. The history of Sky Rock is not clear to me, although I have seen a number of published suggestions that the Sky Rock Petroglyphs were perhaps created by ancestors of what are today known as the Owens Valley Paiute (or Shoshone-Paiute) people.

Sky Rock at night, light by moonlight with stars in the clear night sky above.  Sky Rock petroglyphs near Bishop, California. Hidden atop an enormous boulder in the Volcanic Tablelands lies Sky Rock, a set of petroglyphs that face the sky. These superb examples of native American petroglyph artwork are thought to be Paiute in origin, but little is known about them
Sky Rock at night, light by moonlight with stars in the clear night sky above. Sky Rock petroglyphs near Bishop, California. Hidden atop an enormous boulder in the Volcanic Tablelands lies Sky Rock, a set of petroglyphs that face the sky. These superb examples of native American petroglyph artwork are thought to be Paiute in origin, but little is known about them.
Image ID: 28505  
 

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Ancient Bristlecone Pines, Full Moon and Starry Night, Patriarch Grove

This is the best image I made during a May trip through the White Mountains and Tioga Pass. I set out to find new, photogenic ancient bristlecone pine trees, something other than the two iconic brutes along the Discovery Trail near Schulman Grove and the oft-photographed leaner near the Patriarch Grove parking lot. I found some really nice ones, and spent the last light of the day photographing them, returning again after dinner to photograph them under the moonlight and stars. This is the panoramic image I wanted to create on this trip, depicting a stately old bristlecone, somewhat alone on the dolomite-white slopes of the White Mountains but with its brethren in the background of the composition, with a view along the crest of the White Mountains and the Sierra Nevada in the distance. It is humbling to know that his tree owned such an expansive view for centuries, watching storms peel off the distant Sierra Nevada, pass over the Owens Valley far below and crash against its rooted home in the White Mountains, the bitter winds blowing the tree eastward and sculpting it into its now-gnarled form. This panorama is actually an enormous image which, at full resolution, will print up to 4′ high by 11′ long. Please contact me for licensing, printing and any use of this image. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Ancient bristlecone pine trees at night, under a clear night sky full of stars, lit by a full moon, near Patriarch Grove, Pinus longaeva, White Mountains, Inyo National Forest
Ancient bristlecone pine trees at night, under a clear night sky full of stars, lit by a full moon, near Patriarch Grove.
Image ID: 28533  
Species: Ancient Bristlecone Pine, Pinus longaeva
Location: White Mountains, Inyo National Forest, California, USA
Pano dimensions: 5144 x 11788
 

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Updated: April 24, 2014