Milky Way Galaxy over Arch Rock, Joshua Tree National Park, California

The Milky Way galaxy — our galaxy — arcs through the night sky over “Arch Rock” in Joshua Tree National Park. I have photographed this arch at night many times over the past several years in order to practice my light painting technique and experiment with various lenses and methods for producing high resolution stitched panoramas. These two images are a couple of my favorites. The first is the result of a single exposure, while the second is a Mercator projection of a panorama composed of 12 source images. Garry McCarthy, a shooting partner and friend of mine, originally conceived this composition — the Milky Way positioned in the night sky to echo with the shape of the arch itself — in 2010, and we have executed it many times since, always looking to improve on our results and try different lighting styles and approaches. Cheers and thanks for looking!

The Milky Way galaxy arcing over Arch Rock

The Milky Way galaxy arcing over Arch Rock

Panoramic photo of the Milky Way galaxy over Arch Rock

Panoramic photo of the Milky Way galaxy over Arch Rock

To my knowledge, this composition was original at the time we first shot it. In the intervening years I have fielded many emails from others wanting to know where it is and when to photograph it. We have always been alone while photographing the Milky Way over Arch Rock, but since it is now a draw not only for individual photographers but also for workshop groups, it is increasingly unlikely that one will experience solitude at this arch. It is not a large location and one or two photographers are about all that it can accommodate effectively.

Author Phil

I am a natural history photographer and writer. I focus on wild marine mammals, the California kelp forest, inhabitants of remote eastern Pacific islands, National Parks of the American West and, most recently, waves and surfing. I am fortunate to have visited many spectacular terrestrial and underwater settings as well as to have encountered a variety of threatened and endangered animal species in the ocean. My natural history photography has appeared in the pages of BBC Wildlife, National Wildlife, Ocean Realm, Ranger Rick, Reader’s Digest, Skin Diver, and National Geographic Magazine, has been used in various advertising and publicity campaigns, is in use in aquaria and museums, and is occasionally recognized in photographic competitions. My underwater videography has been broadcast in various productions in the United States and abroad.

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