13th Annual Smithsonian.com Photo Contest
This image is a 195-degree panoramic view of Monument Valley in the Navajo Nation, depicting the monument Big Chief and the West Mitten in the background. Big Chief, when viewing from its West side depicts a profile of an Indian Chief’s head wearing his headdress with feathers. The image was a result of several consecutive exposures stitched together. I wanted Big Chief to be the prominent focal point in the photo, so I needed to be close enough, no more than ½ mile from Big Chief. The closest anyone is allowed to get to Big Chief is 2 miles since there are no public access roads to it. A telephoto lens from 2 miles away would not work, as the proportions of Big Chief and the Milky Way would be off in a super wide angle photo like I wanted. So this created a problem.
After establishing Navajo relationships for over several years in the Navajo Nation, I was finally able to get special permission from the several Navajo families that live on and control the land near Big Chief, to be able to enter within ½ mile to Big Chief. This land is not the usual area around Monument Valley where tourists are able to gain access to. According to the Navajo families that live near Big Chief, no one other than the families are allowed on this land and I was fortunate to be the first photographer to be granted permission to photograph Big Chief from this location.
I wanted to photograph Big Chief with the Milky Way rising over it as a full arc from North to South.
Since the Milky Way rises in the East after midnight only certain times during the year when the crescent moon is getting ready to set in the West, much planning was needed. By having the moon set behind me, the moon would give me fill light on Big Chief and the distant view of Monument Valley. Only natural moonlight with no artificial lighting was used.
This image shows just one of the many meteors that flew thru the earth’s atmosphere that night during the Eta Aquarid meteor shower. There were times when I saw as many as 4 meteors shooting across the sky at one time. After taking this series of images for this photo, the clouds rolled in from the West and covered the moon and the Milky Way darkening the sky and cutting my night short.
This is what I needed for this shot to come together. Special permission for this location, clear skies without to many clouds so the Milky Way would be fully visible from North to South, little or no wind which can play havoc when shooting at night with long exposures. Wind is very common the time of the year when this photo had to be shot. I needed a moon setting behind me for fill light on the monuments, the correct time of the year and night to have the Milky Way rise in the East location, and having a meteor shower that night.
© Dave Drost.
All rights reserved.
||July 12, 2015, 2:28 p.m.
||Canon EOS 5D Mark II