Milky Way Galaxy and the outback of central Washington – June 2016

Over the past year I’ve been honing my ability to capture some decent shots of the Milky Way galaxy. Besides all the expensive camera gear one must acquire, there are many other steps that need to be considered if one is going to get a good looking astrophotography shot.

First, the time of year that the Milky Way is best visible from one’s latitude. Next, find the dates when the new moon  is occurring for the lowest moonlight pollution. And finally, finding a spot on the earth that is not polluted with light from nearby cities. Dark Sky Finder  is great resource for finding that super dark patch that you are looking for. Beyond that, one should consider the foreground/location of your nighttime composition. (If you are really interested in astrophotography I recommend the site The Lonely Speck. Fabulous site with tons more detailed info into the how’s and what’s of astrophotography).

So, having those factors more or less accounted for – I set out for Odessa, WA to get some shots.

If you live in the greater Seattle area and are heading east, I highly recommend taking Highway 2 over the pass and on through Wenatchee, WA.  Highway 2 is the most scenic blacktop in the whole of Washington state, in my opinion. The drive through the mountains is at times reminiscent of the Matterhorn in the Alps.  I poked around a few promising dirt trails near Stevens Pass along the way, most of which seemed to lead to or turn into private driveways. Still, a few seemed like they may be interesting to investigate later.

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But there’s more! Once over the Columbia river, Highway 2 will cut north to follow along the rivers eastern edge which border numerous orchards. Lots of fresh fruit can be had for cheap at the roadside stands. At a town named Orando, Highway 2 then heads east up a steep hill climb which opens up on a expansive, flat plain. It’s like you’ve just been transported to Kansas. Totally different area than just a few miles ago. Quite a few farmers dirt roads, all in impossibly perfect conditions, that lead for miles and miles.

You do cross through a few canyons along Highway 2; evidence of ancient flooding in the area.

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After quite some time driving from the Seattle area I finally made it to my planned location, which was in the middle of absolutely nowhere, (see map below). This part of Washington is like big sky country, or maybe the outback of Australia. Eerily flat and wide … with miles after miles of some kind of crop growing all around. Some other parts were not agricultural and were covered with patchy sagebrush. So different from every other environment in this state and yet, another example that literally every kind of environment can be found within Washington state. Adding “kansas-flat” to the list.

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“Kansas-flat” is great if you require as much visibility to the southern sky as you can get, which is the case for astrophotography. I’m new to this corner of photography and still have quite a bit to learn. Below are some of the best attempts.

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