There is something magical about the night sky in the wide open spaces of Southern Utah.
When you look up and the Milky Way stretches through the darkness — millions of pinpricks of light glowing with a brilliance that dazzles and reminds one of just how small we are and how vast the universe around us is — it’s easy to see why our ancestors created myths surrounding the shapes they saw.
The beauty is breathtaking especially when the moon has set and even the light it casts isn’t mucking up the view of the stars.
Glen Canyon is a fantastic place to take in that view, especially the further away you get from Page and the light pollution the town emits.
One of my favorite things to do on Lake Powell on those crystal clear and moonless nights is to set up my tri-pod, and leave the shutter on my camera open for an extended period of time to try and capture some of the beauty on display.
And while I often make images I really like on those late night photo session, photographs alone don’t really do it justice.
Being there, turning your head and being able to see the sheer magnitude of the stars, all around you, meteors streaking across the sky, the faint light of the stars playing on the water and the cliffs of Glen Canyon, it’s an experience that far too few people get to enjoy anymore.
Not too long ago, we all experienced it, nearly every night.
Our ancestors sat around the fire at night and marveled at the stars, so much so that they began to tell tales of Orion the Hunter and Ursa the Bear.
It’s only been in the last few hundred years that light pollution has blotted out the stars and hidden them from the view of the vast majority of us.
Street lights, neon signs, light spilling from our homes, all of it adds up quickly and hides from view the true majesty of the night sky.
I feel fortunate to, at the very least, live close enough to some of the more vast stretches of dark night skies left in the United States. It’s not too difficult for us here in Southern Utah to get out a little way from the cities and towns and rediscover the brilliance of the night sky that has entranced humanity for thousands, if not millions of years.
I spent six years living in New York City in my youth, a town in which light pollution prevents one from seeing much of anything in the night sky that’s any dimmer than Mars or Venus. Most of the sky that you can see between the canyon walls of skyscrapers just glows with a yellowish-orange tinge that seems so unnatural.
Perhaps living without those stars gave me a greater appreciation for them when I moved back to a place where they shine as brightly as they do here.
I love the quiet of the darkest part of the night, spending 15 minutes or so doing nothing but sitting and waiting for enough time to pass to capture the faint light and spinning of the stars as they rotate through the sky and reflect upon the image sensor in my camera.
And while it’s sometimes a little challenging to wake up the next day after having been up until the wee hours of the morning taking a only the handful of pictures that can be had when each image takes as long as a half an hour to capture, I keep finding myself tucking my family in for the night and then breaking out my camera when we’re on the lake.
After all, I can always catch up on my sleep when I’m back in St. George and looking up the orange glow of streetlights.
Email Jud Burkett, Chief Photographer for The Spectrum & Daily News, at firstname.lastname@example.org.