Up in the night (Ramblings of an astrophotographer)

Duke Johnson

Welcome to the first of a series of blogs about getting out under the starry sky. It is something that everyone can do—you just have to drive outside the city. My aim is to instill in you some of the same feelings that I have when I’m out enjoying the night sky.

One of my passions is to get outside at night in some of the most beautiful places around. Since the Milky Way can’t be seen from cities, this means that I now have to travel. It wasn’t always like this, however. I grew up in North Dakota and farmed for the first half of my life. The long days that stretched into the night meant that by the time work was done, the Milky Way would often be visible, even though it might just be a little after sunset. At the time, there were few lights around to ruin the view. I miss those times. So – in order to have new experiences under the stars, I now make pilgrimages to our National Parks and Monuments to photograph the night sky over some of the most beautiful places on earth. Luckily, many of them are within about a 5 hour drive of Salt Lake City.

My approach has been to wait for clear weather, a favorable moon phase, the weekend and then just bolt from work to do a 2 or 3 day mission (yes, mission) to capture the best astrophotos I can. I won’t sugar coat it for you…you do get tired (very tired)…but it’s worth it. Hopefully you’ll agree with me. If all my ramblings do is get you to stay up a little past dark the next time you’re out, I’ll consider it a success. Don’t be part of the herd and just eat supper before dark and then turn in. Your challenge is to break from the ordinary (just a little) and start to enjoy the beauty around you a bit more. This image is what got me started…more on that later…

Jupiter and the Milky Way over Delicate Arch, Arches National Park

Jupiter and the Milky Way over Delicate Arch, Arches National Park

Through the next installments, I hope to convey some of the inspiration that I find as I pursue the Milky Way and prominent constellations in some of the most amazing places. I’ll draw on my experiences over the last three years to share some of these places and events with you—you may find that things are not necessarily in order (most likely reverse order). The first ‘real’ entry in this series will be one that occurred most recently and recounts some of the fun we had at the Astronomical League Conference (ALCON) two weeks ago.

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2 thoughts on “Up in the night (Ramblings of an astrophotographer)

  1. Very cool shot…unfortunate you didn’t have a little larger version to look at.

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