How I captured this amazing Canyonlands Milky Way photo

The galactic center of the Milky Way points to the rugged floor of the Green River Valley in Canyonlands National Park. This area is one of the darkest places in the United States, allowing the Milky Way to really shine on moonless nights.

Amazing astrophoto combines beauty of Milky Way and Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park is one of the most-stunning places I’ve ever visited. It’s also one of the darkest places in the United States during moonless nights. So capturing the Milky Way was on my to-do list during my November 2018 photo trip.

I was not disappointed. I set up at the national park’s Green River Overlook well before sunset, and when the sunlight fade the Milky Way was revealed. It was simply amazing.

However, there was a problem with capturing astrophotography that showed both the galactic wonders of the Milky Way and the rugged canyons in the Green River valley. In short, the river plain was completely dark. Not a stitch of light penetrated the depths of the canyon.

Fortunately I captured some photos of the valley floor before sunset.

The solution to creating an intriguing Milky Way photo was compositing the daytime shot of the valley with an amazing Milky Way sky photo. But that created a lot of work.

Getting the star-filled sky ready was a breeze. Prepping the daytime photo was more challenging. I had to lower the exposure on the valley floor image and adjust the color temperature to match that of the night sky.

Fortunately, there was a soft glow on the horizon even during the darkest part of the night. So I could use that to meld the two images together.

Completing the composite image still required many Photoshop layers, with dodging and burning to darken or lighten specific areas and create a realistic blend.

The resulting photography is pretty solid, I think. And prints are available in my online fine-art photography gallery.

Click here to learn more about my Milky Way photography.

About Andy Crawford

Andy Crawford has been a photographer and writer for more than 20 years, with thousands of images and articles published in magazines and newspapers around the country. He now focuses on Louisiana photography, landscapes, HDR photography, urban prints and other fine art photography. He also is a portrait photographer.