Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Rocky Nightscapes of Big Bend

The Big Bend night sky is amazing.  It is a dark location that is a long way to a city.  It is a great place to see and photograph the night sky.  It is also a place of dramatic mountains, interesting rock formations, and deep canyons that all can make interesting photographs.

When you combine those interesting ground locations with those dark skies you can get some fantastic nightscape images.

Over the last few years I have found that many of my favorite landscape locations make great night photography locations too.  I especially like the way interesting rock formations look with the Milky Way glowing in the night sky.

Luckily, Big Bend has a lot of rock formations.

In the area of the Grapevine Hills is the famous balanced rock.  It is a very popular sunrise location in the park.  Well popular in the Big Bend sense in that several photographers go there every week or so.  But nothing like say  Yosemite or the Grand Canyon where 500 people might be at the same spot for sunset every night.

The balanced rock is a great sunrise image.  It also makes a great night image!


It is about a mile or so walk from the trailhead to the rock.  We camped nearby at a backroad site and were able to get there with plenty of darkness to photograph the Milky Way before the sun rose.

The rock, takes on a whole new view in the dark of the night under the stars.  I blogged about it last year too  Balanced Rock Under The Stars 

This year, I again went to the rock and set up a couple of images.  See the top image here.

I also explored some of the other areas where the rocks made interesting formations.  Light painting rock formations with the night sky above them gives them a whole different look and makes a pretty unique image too.

Each morning saw me visiting different spots and seeing what adding the night sky to a scene would do.

These rocky pinnacles being my favorite shot.  I had gotten a shot here last year that I really liked and had been looking forward to returning and trying other possibilities.  I again found clear sky with a rising Milky Way.  I set up two tripods with two cameras and would photograph different possibilities.  I worked different ways of light painting, sometimes shining a flashlight and other times bouncing it off my jacket.  I also used the red led light on my headlamp.  Each gave different results and different looks.  In the field it was experiment and do one after another.  Other than checking for blown highlights or missing a section I just was making images.  I knew I could choose the best at home on the computer.

Those mornings chasing rock formations were very much fun and have added a whole new dimension to the trip.  Spending a week in the park was fun, long, and tiring (from lack of sleep out shooting the Milky Way), yet I already am thinking of my next trip and what possibilities might be.


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