Thursday, November 12, 2015

Utah West Desert Photo Walk

Part of last night's group "riding" our abandon, graffiti-painted school bus (Robin, Sandy, Audie, Brannon, Heike, Paul and Brian) ~ © Royce Bair
Free NightScape Photo Event: Last night was another one of the free NightScape Photowalk events that I'm trying to do across the country. Although last night's event was limited to just 10 people, other NightScapeWalks venues have had room for up to 100 participants.

Location: This old, abandon bus is located about 50 miles west of Salt Lake City, just off exit 70 of I-80, near the ghost town of Delle, Utah. In this map, you'll see the bus located about 900 feet southeast of the gas station.

Sunset shots: We arrived about an hour before sunset, in order to get our bearings, and took several daytime photos...

Blue Hour: Our main purpose was to do night photography. To maximize our time, we did "Blue Hour" photography during the end of the Civil Twilight period. In order to extend this narrow, 20-minute window (it's really not an "hour"), into 30 minutes of shooting time, we first shot from the west side of the bus, looking east; and, then switched to the east side of the bus, looking west. Lights inside and outside the bus had to be adjusted in their intensity as the twilight dimmed.

Milky Way: By 6:45 PM the Astronomical Dusk had arrived, and the stars were really starting to pop. Although the brightest portion of the Milky Way, the central bulge, has rotated below the horizon at this season of the year, there is still a lot of Milky Way to see, especially the Great Rift or the Dark River, as the ancients used to call it. Once again, the inside lights had to be dimmed even further, to match the intensity of the starlight. We did not use any outside lighting, as we already had plenty of light pollution coming from the gas station, about 900 feet (274 m.).

"Photo Walkers" choose their angle for aligning the old bus with the Milky Way. The lights in the bus have been dimmed to match the starlight, and the colorful gels have been removed. The only outside light is coming from two sodium vapor street lamps, located about 900 feet to the right, at the Delle gas station (which is also giving the orange-red glow in the right side of the sky) ~ © Royce Bair
Post processing contrast added to the sky, and a darker exposure of the bus was blended (via a Photoshop layer) into the image. This photo was actually taken a week earlier during a scouting trip ~ © Royce Bair
You can see more photos from the participants of this photo walk by going to this Meetup page.

An invitation: I invite photographers everywhere to suggest future photo walk venues (these are free events) by tagging your favorite astro-landscapes with the hashtag: #NightScapeWalk — on InstagramFacebook or Google+. Please include the location of your NightScape and any other interesting background information in your photo description. To qualify, locations should be within 50 miles (80 km) or 90 minutes drive time (which ever is less) from a major city or metropolitan area (over 100,000 population). You can also suggest a location on my NightScape Meetup page.

Future NightScapeWalk venues I'm considering for January and February 2016 are some unique desert locations near Tucson, AZ and San Diego, CA. I welcome your suggestions for March. By April, my private workshop season begins, and I'll have less time for these free events.


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  2. Wow it sounds like a brilliant trip! Thanks for the pictures. We have also been making list of such amazing NY venues where we can visit during our family trip. I wonder if you could help us in making this list!

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