Milky Way Photo Shoots take you to interesting Dark Sky locations!

Milky Way at Dead Horse Point State Park
Milky Way at Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah

In case you were in any doubt, the Astro La Vista Observatory Website is a hobby site, not a business site. I left the business world some years ago and am lucky to be able to spend my time not only photographing the night sky from the Astro La Vista Observatory, but also on Milky Way photo shoots in Dark Sky locations.

In general, I will respond to any requests on this website within 24-48 hours, but if a New Moon or other Celestial event is occurring, I am most likely to be found in some wilderness area outside of cell phone or Internet range. In those times I might not get back to you for a week or more. Rest assured I will bag another rare Milky Way shot for your viewing pleasure.

Above is a photo of the Milky Way’s Galactic Center over the Colorado River that your host took on a Photo Shoot at Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah. I spent a Saturday night (New Moon) perched on a pitch black ledge, shielding my tripod from 15-20 mile winds in hundred degree heat with smoke from forest fires all around. With all the wind, I had to stick with short exposures.

I tried a few surface shots, but with all of the wind, there wasn’t much point in using them since they were pretty much as blurry as stacking these tracked shots by themselves. In the interest of living a long life, I exited the ledge after I took five sixty second tracked shots at f2.8 and ISO 3200. The Colorado River can be seen in the distance.

In the images below there is a daylight image of Dead Horse Point’s Colorado “Gooseneck” itself, as well as a Moonrise shot to show the smoke polluted skies. I found it interesting that you could see no light domes of towns or cities from this location. I used PhotoPills to scope out the time, day and location for this image, all I had to do was show up.

Dead Horse Point
Dead Horse Point “Gooseneck”

Smoky Moon Rise at Dead Horse Point State Park


Sometimes I am able to capture the Milky Way closer to home in Prescott, Az. I have been working on becoming more familiar with Milky Way Photography by practicing in the back yard Below is an image of my observatory in the back yard and was one of my first attempts. I took one foreground image of 4 minutes, and 5 four minute sky images at F 2.8 and ISO 800. I used the MSM tracking mount and stacked the images using Sequator. These were taken between 3AM and 4 AM. The sky glow is from Phoenix, which is roughly 90 miles Southeast from my location.

Milky Way Over Astro La Vista Observatory, Prescott, Az.
Milky Way over Astro La Vista Observatory, Prescott, Az.


The Cygnus region of the Milky Way is featured in this image. The North American Nebula is a rather small feature that is located to the left of center just below the star Deneb in the photo. This is first light for a Sigma 28mm f1.4 lens that I acquired for Milky Way photography. Due to wind and ambient light, I was limited to one minute exposures on my SkyWatcher Star Adventurer mount. At the bottom right is the Phoenix. AZ light dome (90 miles S). Ten images were stacked in Lightroom. ISO 800, shot at f1.8.

Borrego Springs, California also offers a bit of dark sky compared to the urban areas that are nearby. The nearby Anza Borrego Desert State Park has been recognized as an International Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Association. With the new moon, I thought I would give the Milky Way a try. This is an 8 panel mosaic of what is right in our back yard. The 8 unguided 15 second image panels were taken with a Nikon D780 and a Sigma Art 28mm f1.4 lens shot at f1.8.

Milky Way over Rams Hill Golf Couse, Borrego Springs, Ca
Milky Way over Rams Hill Golf Course, Borrego Springs, Ca.

A wealthy man owned a bunch of Borrego Springs real estate that he never developed. Instead he placed metal art on it throughout the town. The Serpent is one of the most famous pieces. It was not easy to find the Serpent after midnight in the dark sky of a new moon, but I soon located it with my trusty flash light. I took a bunch of images, but narrowed it down to one 4 minute image for the sky and one 4 minute image for the foreground. This was processed in Photoshop.

Milky Way over Serpent in Borrego Springs, Ca
The Serpent at Borrego Springs

All I can say is Life Is Good!

Pre-Order the Unique 2022 Astro La Vista Observatory Calendar (8 1/2” X 11”) on Premium Glossy Card Stock.

Pre-Order the Unique 2022 Astro La Vista Observatory Calendar (8 1/2” X !1”)

The calendar is $29.99 + $3.99 US flat rate shipping. Delivery by October 31st.

$33.98

It is the time of year to assemble my best images to produce next year’s unique 2022 Astro La Vista Observatory calendar.  I give these calendars to immediate neighbors and family, but I can accommodate other folks that might want a copy.

This past year I have taken a number of Milky Way images from my home in Prescott, Az. as well as Borrego Springs, Ca. (including one of a metal art Serpent). In addition I have a few images that were processed from data that was acquired from the nice people at Insight Observatory that have access to a telescope in Chile.  I also had some Sunrises and Sunsets with beautiful terrain in the foreground.  If you are located in the US you can order it now. If you are located outside the US, I will see what I can do to accommodate you.

The cover photo on the unique 2022 Astro La Vista Observatory calendar is an image of the Milky Way galactic center over the Astro La Vista Observatory that was taken from my back yard in early May, 2021. I used my Nikon D780 together with a Sigma Art 14mm f1.8 wide angle lens. One 4 minute untracked foreground shot was blended with five tracked 4 minute sky images at F2.8 and ISO 800. For tracking the sky movement I used the Move Shoot Move tracking mount. These were taken around the time of a New Moon between 3AM and 4AM. The sky glow is from Phoenix, which is roughly 90 miles South East from my location.

The January image is a 2 panel mosaic of Sunset at Fonts Point in Borrego Springs. This is a very popular spot for visitors to the Anza Borrego Desert State Park. In late February, 2020 the Full Moon was rising in the East at the same time as the Sun was setting in the West (See December’s image). For this Sunset image I used the Nikon D780 together with the Sigma Art 14mm f2.8 to produce two images that were merged to produce the two panel mosaic.

The Pencil Nebula was processed from data acquired by Gturgeon (Astrobin) on a 17” CDK telescope located in Chile. His raw images are available on a subscription basis. The Pencil Nebula is usually below the horizon in my location, so this was a way to work on image data that I was unable to obtain through my own telescopes.

The “blood moon” image was the best one out of two hundred two second exposures that I took with my Nikon D780 matched with the Nikon AF VR Nikkor 80-400 f4.5-5.6 telephoto at 400mm and f5.6. Since we were battling clouds, this was a lucky shot. A blood moon is seen during a total lunar eclipse.

The April Colorado River Milky Way photograph was taken at Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah. I spent a Saturday night (New Moon) perched on a pitch black ledge, shielding my tripod from 15-20 mile winds in hundred degree heat with smoke from forest fires all around. With all the wind, I had to stick with short exposures. I tried a few surface shots, but with all of the wind, there wasn’t much point in using them since they were pretty much as blurry as stacking these tracked shots by themselves.

In the interest of living a long life, I exited the ledge after I took five sixty second tracked shots at f2.8 and ISO 3200. The Colorado River can be seen in the distance. I found it interesting that you could see no light domes of towns or cities from this location. I used PhotoPills to scope out the time, day and location for this image, all I had to do was show up. Here is what it looks like during the day.


The May image is a photograph of Borrego Springs famous “Serpent.” A wealthy man owned a bunch of Borrego Springs real estate that he never developed. Instead he placed metal art on it throughout the town. The Serpent is one of the most famous pieces. It was not easy to find the Serpent after midnight in the dark sky of a new moon, but I soon located it with my trusty flash light. I took a bunch of images, but narrowed it down to one 4 minute image for the sky and one 4 minute image for the foreground. This was processed in Photoshop.

The June image for the unique 2020 Astro La Vista Observatory Calendar was taken at the Rams Hill Course in Borrego Springs. Borrego Springs offers a bit of dark sky compared to the urban areas that are nearby. With the new moon, I thought I would give the Milky Way a try. This is an 8 panel mosaic of what is right in our back yard there. The 8 unguided 15 second image panels were taken with a Nikon D780 and a Sigma Art 28mm f1.4 lens shot at f1.8.

July offers a smoky Sunset near downtown Prescott, Az. One of the prime geological features of the Prescott Arizona landscape is Thumb Butte. I was visiting a friend and managed to capture this smoky sunset image of Thumb Butte within a few days of the Summer Solstice from their back patio with my Iphone. I did a photo merge of 10 images to come up with this final version.

The Cygnus region of the Milky Way is featured in the August image. The North American Nebula is a rather small feature that is located to the left of center just below the star Deneb in the photo. This is first light for a Sigma 28mm f1.4 lens that I acquired for Milky Way photography. Due to wind and ambient light, I was limited to one minute exposures on my SkyWatcher Star Adventurer mount. At the bottom right is the Phoenix. AZ light dome (90 miles S). Ten images were stacked in Lightroom. ISO 800, shot at f1.8.

The September image was processed from data I acquired from Insight Observatory which has a telescope in Chile. Insight Observatory proved to have some exciting material for the unique 2022 Astro La Vista Observatory Calendar. The Vela remnant is visible in the Southern Hemisphere. Here are some words about it from Insight Observatory…

“The Moon is the biggest single object in the night sky that’s visible to the eye alone. But many objects that are too faint to see are much bigger. The “Vela” nebula spans about 16 times the width of the Moon, almost the size of your fist held at arm’s length and it’s getting bigger all the time.“

This image represents a tiny piece of that very large Supernova remnant. Image acquisition by: Insight Observatory (Franck Jobard at Deep Sky Chile). Image processing by Jim Matzger (me).

The Tarantula Nebula was also processed from Insight data. Here is a little bit about the telescope:

”Insight Observatory’s affiliate remote telescope designated the Astronomical Telescope for Educational Outreach (ATEO-3) is a 12.5″ f/9 (2860mm focal length) Quasar Optics Ritchey Chretien owned and operated by Franck Jobard. This remote telescope is located at an elevation over 5990 ft at Deep Sky Chile remote telescope hosting in the dark skies of the Rio Hurtado Valley in Chile. The telescope is accessible remotely via the internet for conducting astronomical research projects for science education, the general public or accessing image sets from Starbase for image processing”

You can find out more about Insight Observatory at the link below:

https://www.insightobservatory.com/p/home-page.html

The “Running Chicken Nebula” was another fun project from Chile. I think it turned out pretty well, if I don’t say so myself. The final image brings us back to where we started, a full moon as seen from Fonts Point.

Needless to say, the year involved photo shoots all over the place. Order your unique Astro La Vista Observatory calendar below. Astro La Vista wishes you a Happy New Year in 2022. Astro La Vista, Baby!

Unique 2022 Astro La Vista Observatory Calendar

Pre-Order the Unique 2022 Astro La Vista Observatory Calendar (8 1/2” X !1”)

The calendar is $29.99 + $3.99 US flat rate shipping. Delivery by October 31st.

$33.98