Capturing the Milky Way: Kodachrome Basin by Night

This Utah state park deserves the Kodak film-inspired title, even after dark.
“The night skies over here are some of the best I’ve seen.”

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.

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.

Night sky crew | Photo: Prajit Ravindran
Night sky crew | Photo: Prajit Ravindran

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.

Rosie G. Serago

Rosie engages in creative bricolage at the Utah Office of Tourism. A Utah native, she split the last decade smelling creosote in the Sonoran Desert, comparing lobster rolls across New England and savoring thunderstorms outside of southern Appalachia. Now back in Salt Lake City, she is ready to explore the expanse (in between Real Salt Lake and Utah Jazz games).

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Kodachrome Basin State Park

More Dark Skies

Quick Fact

Of the 50 accredited or in-process International Dark Sky Parks and Communities that are part of a catalogue of the finest dark skies in the developed world (called The Great Western Starry Way), fully half of them are in Utah.