Lori Carey Photography

Monday, August 19, 2013

Milky Way and Perseid Meteors at Red Rock Canyon State Park

I have been spending a lot of time in the desert heat this summer! With the Milky Way still at it's prime and the Perseid meteor showers peaking the weekend before last I couldn't resist making another trip in search of a dark sky. This time I decided to brave the heat to join some photographer friends at Red Rock Canyon State Park. I have spent time in the surrounding area but had never visited the state park before so this was new territory for me. I have many more photos from this trip but if I wait until they are all processed I will never get a blog post done.

I met up with Peter Tellone on 395 Saturday morning and he followed me to the Ricardo Campground, where Marc Briggs had secured a campsite for us. Marc left a message that he was out exploring Randsburg so Peter and I decided to do some location scouting. We spotted an interesting trail across the highway and set out exploring. The trail sign said this was Scenic Canyon, and it was scenic.

Exploring the Scenic Canyon jeep trail in Red Rock Canyon State Park, California
My jeep makes that 4 Runner look tiny!

It was in the low 90s, not too bad temperature-wise, but the bright midday desert sun isn't the best for scenic shooting so after we reached the end of that trail to see if Marc made it back to camp yet and see if Ed Bannister had arrived yet. After an early dinner and socializing we head for an evening of shooting. Peter had never been to Red Rock before so first we took him up to Burro Schmidt Tunnel. Marc knows this area like the back of his hand and was a great lead on the trail. We walked through the tunnel and reached the other side just as the sun was setting and Mark pointed out the local landmarks down below.

Mark Briggs points out landmarks on the far side of the Burro Schmidt Tunnel

From there we went to the Holly Mine to shoot the meteors and Milky Way. The meteor shower was supposed to peak after midnight so we focused on the Milky Way in the early evening and were excited that the meteors were off to a good start. Unfortunately they fizzled out later in the evening and I wish I had paid more attention to them earlier. There was still some ambient light here so again I tried to use it in my compositions. I wanted to do a silhouette shot and kept mumbling "A tree, I need a tree..." as I stumbled over boulders and mining equipment in the dark under a moonless night. Finally I found one and I think it is just the right size to convey scale and the immensity of the universe.

Milky Way in the Mojave Desert near Red Rock Canyon State Park

We played with light painting the mining equipment for some funky Alien Landing shots:

Milky Way and mining equipment, Mojave desert

Crash Landing - Milky Way and mining equipment at the Holly Mine in the Mojave desert

You can see a faint meteor on the left side in that last shot.

After midnight we moved to another location closer to camp to set up for star trails and meteor showers but there was hardly a meteor to be found. We did star trails shots until almost 3am before heading to camp to grab a few hours sleep, then up again at 5am for sunrise. None of us were up to venturing too far so we went to the cliffs at the beginning of Hagen Canyon. The fluted sandstone and mudstone cliffs here are very cool. The rock formation at the center of this shot is Turk's Turban.

The red stained fluted sandstone and mudstone cliffs of Red Rock Canyon State Park, California in the early morning blue hour just as the sun is starting to peek over the horizon lighting up the cliffs above. The center formation is Turk's Turban.

Sunrise was disappointing with not a cloud in the sky so once the sun was up we head back for breakfast and to pack up camp. Marc set out to do some hiking but it was already too warm for me, especially since I had no energy and wasn't really into midday shooting. Peter and I decided to start heading back south with a stop along the way to shoot an abandoned building we had both spotted on the way up but I'll save that for another post.

This is a beautiful area that I can't wait to visit again...in the fall after it cools down a bit!


  1. Tiny!
    4-runner sobs, tear runs down fender...


  2. hehe my jeep will gladly follow that 4-runner any day Peter!