October 5, 2016

My American Southwest Adventures (Part III) - Astrophotography

The dark skies across much of the Southwest, especially northern Arizona, make for some incredible astrophotography opportunities. Even when you are near cities such as Flagstaff or Sedona, the skies are plenty dark enough to see countless stars, and when in season, an EPIC Milky Way. The shot below is my favorite Milky Way shot I have taken to date. I'll have all the details on how I made this shot in a later blog post.

  • Milky Way Reflections

    Milky Way Reflections

    The Milky Way rises over Cathedral Rock in Sedona, Arizona and is reflected in a pool of water.

One of the most important parts of astrophotography is scouting. Finding a location ahead of time and knowing exactly where the Milky Way will rise (or moon, or constellation, or whatever you are after) is crucial. I use the app PhotoPills to help me out with that. It works great.

Once you have a location picked out with an interesting foreground, the next step is to plan a night to shoot when the moon will not be out (if you want the best conditions for stars, etc.). Either pick a night the moon sets early or during a new moon. I prefer a night where the moon sets around 11 PM so that you can get some awesome foreground shots in first that you can then blend with the night sky shots. Sometimes that won't be possible, so you can light paint, which is what was done on the foreground in the photo above.

  • 2016 Perseid Meteor Shower

    2016 Perseid Meteor Shower

    A composite image of the 2016 Perseid Meteor Shower over Mt. Elden in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Meteor showers are some of my favorite events to photograph. But they sure do require quite a bit of luck! Not only do you have to hope for a good show, you also need clear skies. I went almost a year and a half of missing all the meteor showers due to cloudy conditions. I was finally blessed with perfect conditions for the Perseid Meteor Shower (above photo) earlier this year!

This photo (below) was taken in December of 2014 during the Geminid Meteor Shower. In over four hours of standing outside in the freezing cold, I saw a total of four meteors. I happened to capture three of them on camera and was able to create this final composite image.

  • 2014 Geminid Meteor Shower

    2014 Geminid Meteor Shower

    Meteors streaking over the San Francisco Peaks in northern Arizona on December 14, 2014.

Another fun astrophotography project is capturing star trails! I have just recently gotten into this, and it's a lot of fun! It is a lot of post-processing work, but programs like StarStaX make it much easier and quicker. I may do a blog post in the future all about how to capture star trails. The two shots below were taken in southern Nevada with Justin Pullin and Reid Wolcott.

The below image is one of my favorite panorama images I have taken of the Milky Way. That is Bell Rock in the foreground. I used six vertical shots to create this image. They were merged and edited in Photoshop and Lightroom.

Untitled photo

Check out more of my astrophotography photos below!

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