…And just like that, it’s November! This year has absolutely flown by.  It’s crazy really, but here we are again, back in the realm of the sun that sets at 5:30 in the afternoon.  Coinciding with that, the core of the Milky Way has now set for us here in the Northern Hemisphere as well, and we’ll look forward to its return in March or so.  In the mean time, I wanted to share one final Milky Way image for the year, which I captured last month in the Sonoran Desert.

Things for us here in the US have finally started to really open back up since the start of the pandemic.  Holly and I went to Utah for vacation in September, our first trip involving a flight.  I then went to Phoenix at the very end of September, beginning of October, for work, which was my first work trip since March of 2020.  To say that traveling has changed a bit is an understatement, but it was good to get out and about, even with the extra hassles.  It was especially good to get out and shoot the night sky, and just see the sights of the desert.

I have to admit, on this trip to the Sonoran Desert, I sort of felt like I struck out a bit.  The last time I was there I got a shot of the Milky Way coming up behind a giant Saguaro cactus that I really liked, and so this time I was bound and determined to find something else.  BUT, I was under a bit of a time crunch because the first night I was to be there was the one night that it looked like it would actually be clear, and I had to finish up work and drive from Phoenix before starting my explorations.  I looked and looked… and another shot with a cactus was the best I could come up with. LOL  The last time I was there was much earlier in the year, and so the Milky Way actually rose over a more prominent mountain range along with the cactus.  This go around, however, being really late in the season, the direction I was facing was essentially a great expanse of nothing, with only some mountains off way in the distance.  The direction I needed to shoot also had me looking straight at Yuma (the light pollution you’re seeing in this image), which was different than last time as well.  You can tell I really did my homework before showing up! Ha! 

You know what though?  I decided that was totally okay.  I had some free time in the desert all by myself.  I had clear skies and my gear, and so I just enjoyed myself.  I sat and watched the Milky Way till it set, listened to creepy crawlies running around on the ground, and was again reminded of how bad my ears ring in the silence.  It was glorious.

As I mentioned two weeks ago, I did shoot this image in portrait orientation, which is something I rarely do.  I also shot this image at 16mm, which is also something I rarely do, as I’ve been trending toward tighter and tighter focal lengths.  As I looked at how tall and skinny the saguaro cactus was, and knowing how tall and skinny the Milky Way can appear, I decided the two would look cool together at that focal length, so here it is!  The best idea I could come up with at the time, and a wonderful night out under the stars!  🙂

Well I hope you’ve enjoyed this series on the night sky.  Next week we’ll jump into fall colors!  It’s been a beautiful fall here in East Tennessee (still is actually!), and I’ve got some images I’m really excited to share with you.  See you next week!


–Dan Thompson

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