Over the last few years of doing photography, I’ve come up with a bucket list of things I’d like to do with my camera before I’m done and gone. The list basically consists of things I could hang around my house and be proud of in the future. Pictures of my kids are a must… so I’m not counting that. I’m also positive we can all agree that hanging clients wedding pictures in my personal home would be a little weird.
So recently, I got the bug to start on this list.
A good portion of this small list (for now) has to do with nature. Taking pictures of the Milky Way was one of the top 3 slots on the list until last weekend. After doing a bit of a research, I decided to go out to Big Bend National Park in west Texas where the skies are some of the darkest in the county. After spending 3 days out there I got to see a lot more than just stars and the milky way.
After a 10 hour drive from Houston, I arrived at Big Bend around 4PM. Taking the scenic route, I scouted a few places to take some pictures the first night of my trip before unpacking at my hotel and coming back.
The place for the first night I settled on was Sotol Vista Overlook. The picture in the middle below is of the loan tree that sits on top of the overlook. It is absolutely beautiful and you’re looking down at a good portion of the park facing south from this location.
Once I set up my camera and got my settings right, it was just a matter of waiting for the sun to disappear. The picture below was one of the very first shots I took with the crescent moon still in the sky roughly an hour or so after sunset. Living in a big city like Houston, I’m not used to seeing this many stars in the night sky, so it was amazing for me from the get go to see this with my own eyes.
After doing a few star shots and even attempting a star trail picture (which I failed at by the way), the wait was on to see the milky way. I was told that it would be visible to the naked eye, but having never seen it before, it was hard for me to imagine. The following picture was taken at 5:00AM as soon as the milky way came up over the mountains. Once my eyes adjusted fully to the pitch black color of the skies, this is almost exactly what the sky looks like to the naked eye. The milky way… completely visible and beautiful like a painting across the sky.
The following day, the nearby town of Terlingua was on my hit list. After reading so many fascinating stories about this town, I had to see it with my own eyes. From the ghost town, to the cemetery, to the infamous Starlight Theatre Restaurant & Saloon.
Then it was onto the Boquillas Canyon on the far east part of the park. As you drive closer to the Rio Grande, you see signs posted like the one below. I didn’t know what it really meant until I arrived at the overlook on the river.
On top of the hill, there are rocks with souvenirs on display. There’s a jar at the base of the rock with a hand written note listing what each item costs. If you look across the river into Mexico, you can see vendors sitting under a tree waiting. As you’d imagine, these vendors wait for the merchandise to sell, then they come by boat or horse across the border to collect their money and go back. Its absolutely fascinating and I saw this at least two or three more times along the Rio Grande on my hike into the Boquillas Canyon.
And finally after 3 days, at 6:00AM, I got the picture I drove 10 hours to get. The Milky Way going across the night sky! It was just as beautiful in person as you see in the picture below. Its awe inspiring and something I will be going back to photograph many more times. But for now, this picture will be off to print and I have a wall in my house waiting for it to be hung on.