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04-03-2012, 07:38 PM - 2 Likes   #1
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Darkest Skies?

Basically, I love the night sky. The attached pic is a shot I got of the milky way last summer in Rocky Mountain National Park. Of course I messed around with the shot in Lightroom, hence the colors.

But...I want to do better than that. Since that shot I have upgraded from the kx to the k5 and have purchased a faster lens. The last piece of the puzzle is finding the darkest skies. As you can see, there was some glow in the picture from a nearby city. I have been doing research and trying to find places in the United States with the darkest skies. I have not found any definitive answers on places but have found a few tips. Currently I am looking at:

1. Samuel Mckelvie Park in Nebraska
2. Natural Bridge Monument in Utah
3. Somewhere in arizona. I don't know of any specific place but I have seen some cool shots from arizona.
4. Around Fort Davis in Texas.

I live in Kansas City so i tried finding places within 20 hours of me because I don't want more than a few day camping trip.

Does anyone have any recommendations or has anyone been to either of these places? Any help on this would be appreciated! I have been planning on improving that kind of shot for a while and really want the best location possible!

Also, if you have any pics of the stars/milky way, please share!

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04-03-2012, 08:21 PM   #2
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I suggest you check into Great Basin National Park, Nevada. I was there last Octob4er and they claim to have the darkest skies in the country. I was able to see the Milky Way basically horizon to horizon there. Check it out.

It's on the eastern edge of Nevada, just south of US Highway 50.
04-03-2012, 08:57 PM   #3
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That is a killer shot. I wish I had skies like that around me. I basically have to drive about 50 hours to get some serious dark skies.

You may find this sight of interested. Its satellite data of light production overlaid on google maps.

Dark Sky Finder
04-03-2012, 09:52 PM   #4
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That is an absolutely wonderful shot and job with lightroom. It appears a 2 hour drive to just west of Manhattan KS would get you some seriously dark skies. Topher beat me to the dark sky finder site - it works very well. However, I doubt that you would have any great landscapes to put in the scene - maybe an old barn or something - maybe an old windmill...



04-04-2012, 07:53 AM   #5
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Thanks for the replies guys!! Great Basin National Park is going to be added to my list for sure!

As far as dark sky finder, I am a little hesitant. It does not show local lights. For example, I used it to take a 2 hour drive one night and it turned out there were many farms around the area and the all had bright lights surrounding them. After driving around the area for a while I couldn't find anywhere that suited what I wanted. So, it does show the overall glow, but it isnt accurate enough to show small local lights, if that makes sense?
04-04-2012, 09:32 AM   #6
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Kodachrome Basin State Park had very dark skies when I was there. I think the closest major city is Las Vegas, but it's a couple of hundred miles.
04-04-2012, 09:36 PM   #7
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Around Portal Arizona, just east of Chiricahua Nat.Mon. here in Cochise County, many homes include backyard observatories. Around Mt Davis in west Texas are other home-observatory communities. Great Basin Nat.Park, just east of Ely Nevada, is quite dark, as are many high valleys in central Nevada. If you *really* want to get away from well-lit civilization, see this map: The McFurthest Place. And then there's the Zona del Silencio where the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Durango, and Coahuila come together: no outside light not radio/TV nor anything else. Spooky...
04-05-2012, 10:16 AM   #8
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Way back (more than 20 years) I spent a few nights in Tuolumne meadows- part of Yosemite, but well away from the main valley... no electricity, except a few big RVs with generators. I think it is still the same now.... I can remember laying in the grass and see stars all the way to the horizon- which you could only detect by the lack of stars, as the sky was as black as the mountains. I don't know if is still that dark today though.

04-06-2012, 11:25 PM   #9
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This site may help:

Night Earth - See the Earth at Night from Space!

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04-07-2012, 05:31 AM   #10
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Simply incredible photograph. Although... I would not mind seeing the before and after photographs; before any editing - to show exactly how extensive the editing might have been.

As for location ideas in addition to what has already been posted... I personally try to find as rural an area as possible. Something that also helps out considerably; higher altitudes.
04-10-2012, 10:35 AM   #11
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Here is the unedited shot. This is what I am trying to improve on with this road trip. I think I am going to go to Great Basin National Park, with a couple other potential stops along the way. Thanks for the info everyone!

EDIT: this shot was actually the next shot after the pic above. The pic in my first post was at iso 6400 and this one was my next attempt at 12800. I chose the 6400 to edit due to less noise I had to deal with.
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04-10-2012, 12:03 PM   #12
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Best of luck on your trip!
04-10-2012, 12:39 PM   #13
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Back in the late 80s I went Bambi-hunting a couple of times in the Samuel Mckelvie National Forest in north-central Nebraska - and I can vouch for the fact that the skies were indeed dark. :-) There were one or two official campgrounds, but we just drove off into the "forest" and found a place to stop the camper... The stars were magnificent. Be a good choice, I think, though some of the other spots might have more in the way of *daytime* scenery!

This place does have the distinction of being the nation's only National Forest planted entirely by mankind. It was grassland until the 1930s when it was planted by either the CCC or WPA. Kinda odd to be walking thru a forest where the trees are in straight rows.

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04-10-2012, 02:44 PM   #14
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Another strong mention: Chaco Canyon -- Chaco Culture National Historical Park -- in the northwest corner of New Mexico. Are regular telescopic sky-gazing programs there.
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