Downtown Knoxville in Fall Colors
Downtown Knoxville in Fall Colors

The Lost Dutchman State Park, and the public lands surrounding it, is one of my favorite places to go while I’m out in Phoenix.  The Superstition Mountains are really interesting, and serve as a great backdrop for desert scenes.  I typically go there at least once while I’m in town, if not more.  This particular trip I was out there almost every evening after work.  Such a beautiful area!

The first time I visited, I happened to notice that the area outside of Lost Dutchman State Park affords views of the Superstitions with the Milky Way positioned behind it, however it’s never worked out that I could shoot it.  Well, on my trip this past May I was checking the weather and found that the night before I left, it was supposed to be perfectly clear, so rather than getting up super early and driving straight to the airport (I was coming from Joshua Tree in California), I just decided to sleep some in the afternoon, and then take off at dark, so I would arrive at the park just before the Milky Way would be rising.  I’d just stay up, and then go to the airport early – no stress, and I rarely sleep well the night before I fly anyway.  So that’s what I did!

For this particular shot I was anticipating it being a little complicated because of the light pollution.  This particular state park sits about 30 minutes outside of Phoenix, but is really still on the edge of the metro.  To make matters worse, as the Milky Way rises, it’s moving toward the city lights.  To help, I used a tri-band filter, which is designed to filter out all but the very precise wavelengths of light I was interested in from the night sky.  You may notice that the color of the sky in this image is maybe a bit more red looking than my others, and that’s why.  Using this filter allowed me to still get a pretty decent result, even though I was shooting in such a light polluted area.  In fact, the light on the rocks in the distance is all from the city.  It almost has the look of a setting sun in a photo, but that’s all light pollution.

To light the cacti and the trail, I used a small flashlight that I carry with me.  This took a little playing and a whole lot of attention… you definitely don’t want to accidently bump into one of the cholla cacti – or any cactus for that matter!

That’s all from my trip out west, however I have a few more night images I’d like to share.  More next week!

–Dan Thompson

Title Address Description
Lost Dutchman State Park
Lost Dutchman State Park, 6109 N Apache Trail, Apache Junction, AZ 85119, USA

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