Star Trails and Milky Way in Utah

I recently traveled to Utah for a vacation with my husband and had the opportunity to get out after dark and practice some of the techniques recently learned at Kevin Adam’s workshop on night photography.

Utah sunset
Utah sunset

Before reaching our destination in Utah, Brian Head, we spent a few hours in Zion National Park. Temperatures there reached over 100 degrees and we were happy to leave, but vowed to come back when it is cooler.  Brian Head, with elevation of over 10,000 ft, was cooler but we had to get used to high elevation.

Cedar Breaks National Monument
Cedar Breaks National Monument


We patted ourselves on the back for picking Brian Head sight unseen because it was not only cool but we were right next to Cedar Breaks National Monument. Some of the vistas at that park could rival Zion and Bryce Canyon. And, because there were fewer people, I was able photograph star trails and milky way with almost no other photographers around.

Here is my star trails photo. It’s not a perfect photo, I did not pick the North Star (Polaris) for my center star. But it is so very exciting for me to produce photos of the night sky. The star trails show that the stars are rotating through the night, not staying in one place.

Star Trails #1
Star Trails #1

Then, I made a photograph of the Milky Way and made sure that I had something in the foreground. The beauty of the night sky in Utah is stunning. That first night we stood with our heads back looking at the stars of the Milky Way and it reminded me of my childhood.  I  remember when our family camped out under the stars somewhere in Indiana that the Milky Way was just as clear in the sky.  The memory has stayed with me. I relived those memories as we stared deep into the Utah sky.

Milky Way 2
Milky Way 2

 

These photos were taken with Nikon D300s, lens: 12-24mm.  Star Trails settings were f/4.0, at 4 minute shutter speed and ISO 400 with a tripod. Milky Way settings were: f/4.0, 30 seconds, ISO 1600.

 

Next week: Zion National Park

4 Replies to “Star Trails and Milky Way in Utah”

  1. Amazing photos Phyllis. Particularly thanks for the Astro photos. In the Star trail photo there is a break near the bottom end of each trail. Was that done on purpose? If so it is a good idea because it would calibrate which direction the stars were moving. The milky way picture is very well done – your skies must have been stunning with no light pollution!

    1. Bob,
      You are so sharp to catch the break in each trail. I saw that and marveled that my software did not blend the gap. It was supposed to. I think my batteries were starting to fade and my intervalometer (??) might not have stopped recording briefly. The following night I set up in a different location and the intervalometer quit altogether. I did not have the proper size battery for it with me. Bummer!! and AAARG! I came so far to get those photos. At least I got a few.

      I can’t imagine how the break would calibrate which direction they were moving. What if the break had occurred at the top of the rotation???

      Milky Way was spectacular. I can’t recommend Cedar Breaks enough for astrophotography except that cars at night will ruin star trails. It is not impossible to get away from the car light.

  2. Phyllis, I loved seeing these gorgeous photos. I remember being in that area a few years ago with my daughters. I particularly loved Cedar Breaks for the lack of crowds and the very cool temps–plus the aspens on the way up were so beautiful! Thanks for sharing this wonderful experience.

    1. Anne,
      Thanks so much for your kind comment on my blog! Since you have been there you know how gorgeous it is there. My husband and I could not believe how beautiful the area is before you get to Cedar Breaks. So untouched. We can only hope it remains that way. It was a privilege to photograph in such a pristine place. I can only wonder what it must be like in the fall when the Aspen leaves begin to change.

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