I love to photograph the Milky Way. For me it’s just one of those things I love to do. This time I was in Death Valley.
Yes, this is Death Valley. It may look like I took a trip to the Moon, and that’s exactly what I wanted this photograph to look like!
It’s not difficult to photograph the Milky Way. It takes a little preparation and planning, but once that’s out of the way, if you point your camera at the sky and make an extended exposure on a solid tripod, you’re going to capture the Milky Way easily. So there are really no technical hurdles to photographing the Milky Way.
The real trick is finding a way to fit the Milky Way into your overall composition to make something interesting and perhaps unique. There are lots of obvious things to do. For example, one of the most popular places for photographers in Death Valley is Zabriskie Point. The Milky Way positions itself nicely over Zabriskie Point, so it’s a good place to photograph at night. Here’s the photograph I made there.
But that was the last photograph I made that night, and I really only stopped there on my way out of the park to check it out. There were a couple other photographers there--a crowd at 1:00 AM--so clearly this was a relatively standard place to photograph from.
While I was considering locations during the day, I stopped at Zabriskie Point, but I later found something that gave me an idea. I found a mound or large hill covered with volcanic-looking rocks. To me it looked like the surface of the Moon, and that inspired my idea. Why not make a photograph from this location and make it look like it was taken from the Moon?
There was no vegetation or other signs of life, so it was perfect. The rocks look grey just like on the Moon. The only things that give it away are the slight haze from the atmosphere and some light pollution. Otherwise, I think this is a pretty good representation of the surface of the Moon.
I moved around and made a couple other compositions there. Aside from being a not too hot 80 degrees at night, a strong wind, my car sitting about 250 yards away, and a vehicle driving down the road every now and then, I felt like I could have been standing on the Moon. It was great fun!