Capturing the Milky Way: Kodachrome Basin by Night
Need tips on how to take pictures of stars? Utah's Kodachrome Basin State Park is the perfect location to put the tips from an award-winning photographer into action.
The name Kodachrome speaks to a photographer’s mecca. And even if Kodachrome film has all-but-disappeared in the digital age, the landscape of Utah’s Kodachrome Basin State Park — and its beckoning night sky — is timeless. The park was certified as an official dark sky park in January 2021.
Tips on how to take pictures of stars:
- Preparation is key: For professional and amateur photographers like Prajit Ravindran, preparation for a night time photography session begins with an understanding of the earth’s revolution, the moon cycles and a constellation map in hand.
- Scout your location: The hours leading up to sunset consist of scoping out unique formations, imagining the moon’s rising path and preparing a basecamp. As the sun descends, the discovery continues. New locations and angles reveal themselves as the evening sky begins its transformative traverse across the landscape.
- Be ready for the darkness: Another component, perhaps the most important, is darkness. Not just any type of night sky darkness, but the blackest-of-black kind you only find far away from the world’s oft-consuming light pollution in one of Utah's certified dark sky parks.
- Know the rules: In some parks, using artificial light sources to light up landscapes, rock formations, or other park features is prohibited. Be sure to check the rules and regulations of any dark sky park you plan to photograph.
"The night skies over here are some of the best I’ve seen."
With a growing number of certified International Dark Sky Parks across the state — currently the most of anywhere in the world — Ravindran identified Utah as the ideal place to test the creative passion for astrophotography he discovered seven years ago.
“The night skies over here are some of the best I’ve seen,” he says.
On a recent trip to Kodachrome Basin State Park, he described the park as an ideal location, crowdless and full of “unique shots nobody has seen before.”
Now a resident of Utah, Ravindran often travels around Utah — from Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon national parks to the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park and the Spiral Jetty — to share an intimate creative experience with close friends, or to enjoy an evening of solitude with only the transportive experience of photographing a star-filled sky to keep him company.
For Ravindran, part of the excitement is putting his own spin on night photography. A camera set to a long, slow exposure is essential for capturing the Milky Way in all its detail, but a burst of inspiration might cause him to pull out a bright flash, the immediacy of which reminds him that, for a quick moment, he is capturing a spectacle that is as old as time itself.
Contemplating the celestial sphere gives Ravindran a cherished escape from the world’s pressures and “the daily stress of life.” Under the night skies, time passes as slowly as the shutter click on a drawn out exposure. Night photography challenges you to slow down, to unwind (unless you’re winding up an old case of Kodachrome film) and, most importantly, to look up.