In June 2019 I went on a Utah astrophotography road trip with a stranger. Watch the video to find out if I got murdered or not.
Life's all about risks, isn't it?
Calculated risks, that is. I'd never recommend going on a trip with an actual complete stranger, that's crazy hah.
We flew into Salt Lake City, rented a car and drove about 1600 miles / 2600 kilometres in total. We followed a clockwise loop of the national parks, with a small detour to Page, Arizona to see Horseshoe bend.
The trip took ten days, which was plenty. Probably could have gone two days shorter. We planned it around the new moon so we would have very dark skies and optimal conditions to shoot the galactic core.
Find out how to plan for milky way photography on my blog post about milky way season here.
In total I shot 20267 video and photo files, which translates to about 800 gigabytes of data.
I used two cameras, two tripods, one drone and one DJI Osmo Pocket for the video. Keep scrolling for the gear.
I'd like to do a quick promo for myself because this trip was expensive: If you'd like to learn how to shoot (astro) timelapses then check out my e-books. These books contain the exact techniques I use for my timelapse photography. You'll learn how to shoot in the most efficient way possible in no time. Get the discounted bundle below or buy them separately here.
Utah photography locations
Delicate Arch in Arches National Park
This place was C R O W D E D. Even though the Delicate Arch hikes is one of the harder ones in the park (ranger's claim, not ours) there were still hundreds of people up there for sunset. Don't expect to get a clean timelapse without any light pollution as plenty of people will be light painting the arch.
Mesa arch in Canyonlands National Park
Mesa arch was way less crowded but because it is a very simple and short hike from the car park plenty of people were still there. When night fell we were joined by about 4 people in total, not too bad!
Horseshoe bend in Page, Arizona
Horseshoe bend was by far the busiest place on the entire trip. I'd say there were a few thousand people there, easily. There is a new viewing platform and railing, as well as a brand new car park and facilities. The local council now charges you $10 to park your car, they must be raking in the cash! Tour buses can't stop here but they drop off their tourists so it can really get extremely busy, beware!
Zion National Park
The most beautiful park we saw. Sadly I had hurt my back a few days before arriving here so we couldn't do any hikes. I recommend visiting this place mid week and not on the weekends as it is also notorious for its crowds, especially on holiday weekends! Park your car in town and take the free shuttle in and around the park.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon is one of the most surreal landscapes I have ever seen. It is kilometres long with lots of car parks along the way leading to view points. Very few people were around at night except for an astronomy party happening at the main lookout point. If you're hiking down at night (or during the day) make sure to really watch your step as the gravel can be slippery and it's a steep and potentially fatal drop down.
Utah astro photography gear
I tried to keep it lightweight as always, and as always I failed. That being said, I could fit all of this gear in an urban camera bag. In hindsight I wish I brought my bigger hiking camera bag for better support, maybe I wouldn't have pulled my back then!
Canon 1DXMkII – This is the camera that killed my neck and back on my last three trips. That being said, it is still a very powerful machine. It shoots slow motion video with no crop in Full HD and I love how fast it is to operate and how ergonomic it is (besides the stupid weight).
Canon 6DMkII – I usually shoot with two of these but I only brought one of these on the trip, does the job just right! More megapixels than the 1DXMkII and a very handy flip screen for those awkward angles.
Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art – I rented this lens from PictureLine in Salt Lake City (a gorgeous camera store with amazing customer service). It is amazingly sharp and has much better astro performance than the Canon. Nearly no coma or abberation was visible. Definitely one of the better bang for buck lenses you can get and also very good for portrait photography if that's your thing.
Canon 24mm f1.4 MkII – I don't like using this lens for astro (it's got really bad coma and abberation on the sides, making bright stars look like little birds) but I own it and it's fast so I brought it along anyway.
Canon 50mm f1.8 STM – The infamous nifty fifty! Very, very cheap and light weight. It works well enough for the price and it weighs next to nothing so it's always in my bag.
Canon 70-200 f2.8 L MkII – One of Canon's sharpest zoom lenses on the market. I still rock the MkII as opposed to the MkIII because I don't have a reason to upgrade. This lens is great for photo, video and timelapse. At 70mm at f2.8 you can get some really cool shots of the milky way core, just need to make sure you use a short exposure.
Canon TC80-N3 – The timelapse trigger. This is quite an expensive remote (also known as an intervalometer) but does the trick rain, hail or shine. I own 4 of these and they've never failed me.
That's about it for the gear. Enjoy some more behind the scenes photos below!
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