Thursday, September 19, 2019

Milky Way Over Shadow Arch

This is my third (and final) post on photographing the Milky Way sky. I posted about my first attempt last week, which was with JL out at Samuelson's Rocks. My second attempt was also with JL, and we went out to the Car Wash. That night was a bust for me. My camera sensor overheated, which resulted in a ton of "noise" in my photos. My third and most recent attempt was out in the far east section of Joshua Tree National Park with MR, a virtual friend from Facebook. MR and I have been trying to align calendars for a while, and so I was really glad we could finally make it happen. This part of Joshua Tree is one of my favorite areas of the Park because it's so remote, there's very little light pollution, and the night sky is dark and beautiful.

MR and I kicked around a few ideas and finally decided on "Shadow Arch" because of it's location and position in relation to the Milky Way. MR is someone at the top of his game photographically. Of all the Milky Way photos I've seen in the Joshua Tree area, I consider Mark's to be among the very best. He uses a star tracker which allows him to take longer exposure shots at lower ISO settings. This gives him richer, more detailed photos with less noise. Without a tracker, you are limited to 20-25 second exposures (longer exposures turn star dots into star trails), so you have to push your ISO settings.
Shadow Arch (my name, not an official name) is an arch I'm proud to say I found. I won't say discovered, because others have likely seen it before me, but I have never seen photos of Shadow Arch posted anywhere. I think it's fair to say it is a mostly unknown arch. The way I found it is perhaps unique. I spend a lot of time (too much time!) looking at Google Earth... looking for interesting rock formations, planing hiking routes, Jeep trips, etc. One day I spotted a perfectly round shadow (see screenshot above) and figured it had to be an arch. Sure enough, when I hiked out to it, bingo- A very nice arch!! A nice bonus: one of the best views of the arch is looking south, which is what is needed for Milky Way photography.

Here's MR attaching a light stick to a pole at the beginning of our hike. Hopefully it will help guide us back to our car when the desert sky is totally dark. See the two bags behind the Road Closed sign? The bag on the left is the star tracker, and the bag on the right has lights, tripods, and related gear. MR carries that in addition to his heavy backpack full of cameras and lenses and water. This is serious photography, and that's a ton of gear to be carrying across the open desert at night! I think I mentioned in my last post... you have to be a little crazy to be a Milky Way photographer!!

When we started our hike, the car thermometer read 106 degrees. We got a late start (the sun was setting already as we were just getting started), but with that kind of heat, it's probably for the best. The crescent moon was setting as we hiked out to the arch, and I found myself wishing I hadn't left my heavy telephoto lens in the car!

Here's Shadow Arch, and aside from photos by MR, this and the following photos may be some of the only shots of this arch under the Milky Way. There is a very small amount of light on the rock face. The Milky Way shows up beautifully and looks nice rising up through the sky vertically next to the arch.


A beautiful arch, wouldn't you agree? A little more light on the arch in the above two photos as compared to photo #1. Also, the two shots above are "two image" photos. One shot with focus and exposure on the arch, and a second shot with focus and exposure set for the Milky Way. Then you combine them.

One thing I learned is it takes very little light for situations like this. A common mistake is to apply too much light and over-expose the foreground. MR placed the lights waaaaaaay back from the arch, and would sometimes even cover the lights with a cloth. To my naked eye, it always seemed like not nearly enough light. But after viewing the 20 - 25 second exposure, it was just the right amount!

It was a great night... very fun and productive, and super-interesting to watch MR work his magic. My last three outings have all been night photography, so I'm very much looking forward to some daytime photo hikes (as soon as the temperatures cool off a little!).

Oh, and just realizing I never posted any daytime shots of Shadow Arch. How did I forget that!!? My last hike out was 6-7 months ago, and I got some great shots. Makes me wonder how many other hikes have slipped through the cracks? Oh well, you will be seeing more photos of Shadow Arch in the future, so stay tuned!

Linking with Skywatch Friday.
Thanks for stopping by!!

53 comments:

  1. Wow! Must be amazing to see in person!

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  2. Awesome shots, I really do need to try and get some photos of the Milky way

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  3. Hello, cool captures of the milky way and the arch! Beautiful series! Have a happy day, wishing you a great weekend ahead.

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  4. Amazing pictures of the Milky Way!

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  5. Your dedication is commendable, perhaps a tad manic even! The results are nothing short of stunning. As a non photographer I am unqualified to appreciate the subtle differences you detect but my admiration of the results knows no bounds. Both you and MR deserve a great deal of credit. As always, be sure to say hi to Lilly.

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  6. Impressive photos and thanks for the a the great information about photography

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  7. ...I've never seen the Milky Way in person, this is a BIG WOW! Thanks for sharing.

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  8. Ah, but the results are worth it.

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  9. Wow, incredible and amazing photos. You guys got some great results and I thank you for sharing.

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  10. Spectacular shots. Thank you for sharing. I will follow your blog!

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  11. Wow. Those turned out great. And it seems like you learned a lot from MR.

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  12. I am glad that you are learning night photography while it is beyond HOT during the daylight. Have a nice weekend.

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  13. Beautiful photos! It's amazing to see the stars so bright. Thank you for sharing!

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  14. OMG that gear, I´m getting tired just looking at it. Stunning pics!

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  15. Also this time, i am impressive about this wonderful photos !
    Thanks for visiting my blog

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  16. A tad manic, for sure! But I'm glad you are. Amazing images.

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  17. I admire the dedication and effort put into achieving these results and know how difficult it is to balance the artificial and natural light. I say this as someone who got so fed up with lugging around heavy gear that I stripped back to the bare minimum - a camera! If pushed to choose just one image then I think I like the second-last best particularly the orangish light close to the horizon.

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  18. Wonderful shots, sir. Kudos. Glad you have a great photo mentor.

    106?

    Arghhhhh

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  19. Oh my gosh spectacular captures of the Milky Way and the mysterious arch SPP, definitely worth carrying all that extra equipment. Lovely to head out with a fellow enthusiast ✨

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  20. Those photos looking out along our galaxy are magnificent. Third time was a charm! Love your header shot-- it is so three-dimensional!

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  21. OH wow!!! Breathtakingly beautiful. smiles

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  22. These are wonderful photos. I would love to see that in person. Great work!

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  23. Those are amazing photos but I can only imagine the majesty of the heavens in person. How clever to attach a light stick to the gate for your return in the dark.

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  24. I like looking at the first photo of the arch with very little light. It helps my eyes to focus on the Milky Way. Fabulous photos...all of them!!!

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  25. that is some seriously serious photography.chapeau!

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  26. Really splendid images and worthy of all your effort that went into making it happen.

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  27. Marvelous captures and the effort put in to capture them is laudable.

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  28. Oh wow! Your photos are amazing. I've been wanting to try to take photos of the milky way but I don't how. So I Googled it and hopefully next time, i'll do it better.


    Saw your blog and thought if you would like to follow each other? Follow me and I'll follow back asap. Let me know what you think. I'd love to hear something from you! :)
    www.cielofernando.com
    FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM

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  29. WOW! The photos are astounding! I can imagine how awesome it would be to see in person.

    Have a great weekend!

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  30. Very beautiful! It seems a starry cloud...
    Your banner image is also nice and panoramic.
    Enjoy your weekend!

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  31. Wow! Awesome photos! I am very impressed. I agree with you perfectly. Both photos with the Shadow Arch and Milkyway are breathtakingly beautiful.

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  32. Your photography is always fantastic and you work so hard to get to the point you do with photos ~ These are beyond words ~ Great job to you both ~ ^_^

    Happy Day to You,
    A ShutterBug Explores,
    aka (A Creative Harbor)

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  33. Wow! Excellent ideas and excellent shots----did I say excellent?
    MB

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  34. Beautiful sky photos!
    Thanks for your visit and comment on my blog. As for the Jimmy Buffet book, it is a biography written by Ryan White. I have just started reading it, and I am not sure I will like it. It rambles around a lot, making it hard to follow. Maybe it will get better as I get farther into it. My advice: do not buy it, check it out from the library.
    Hope you are having a great weekend!

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  35. Wow! Really amazing and it is worth all the trouble for these photos!

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  36. I really admire these photos, I would never be able to do this. I like how you explained the whole thing also. I like all the photos. It is very personal how you always include the reader by adding in how you did the trip and photos. I admire your writing skills as well. cheers, Nora

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  37. Wow ! Those Milky Way pictures are incredible !

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  38. wow...such dedication to your photography, i admire that!! i'm glad you stopped by, so i was able to see these amazing pictures!!

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  39. Peter,

    You capture the most amazing sky photos! I love these night shots! You're so brave to venture out into the middle of the dessert to capture these breathtaking opportunities and I'm so gratiful that you share your images with us in Blogosphere. Nice job!

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  40. You make such amazing pictures in such an amazing place. Shadow Arch is the perfect name ...and however it is done, it should be made official. It’s really neat that you’ve connected with other talented (and brave) photographers through blogging.

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  41. So beautiful! My Dad used to talk about being able to see the Milky Way -- way back before there were so many lights around town. It was pitch black out and you could see so many stars.

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  42. We're never too old to learn, and what a blessing to have an expert for some guidance. Given all the discussion about climate change right now (#Greta), I find these pictures especially pertinent! Lovely.

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