Head to the wilderness for better star photography

There are 640 million acres of public lands in the U.S., utilize them during your next shoot.

Bryce Canyon night sky
Bryce Canyon
Scenic view of the night sky in Bryce Canyon, Utah.Daniel Viñé Garcia via Getty Images

In the United States there are 640 million acres of public lands, much of which makes up the country’s National Parks. Nature and wildlife photographers consider them hallowed ground. On September 29 we will be celebrating the 25th annual National Public Lands Day, a day set up to promote the conservation of these beautiful areas so that generations after ours can continue to appreciate their beauty. This is a particularly great time of year to try your hand at astrophotography. Cooler temperatures make for clearer skies because the air can’t hold as much moisture—making for fewer obstacles between your camera and the stars above. Shooting in a remote location, like many of the regions that have been designated as public lands, also eliminates light pollution. It’s the perfect time to get outside and shoot the stars above.

Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef National Park
Starry sky over butte in Capitol Reef National Park, Torrey, Utah.Scott Barlow via Getty Images

Gear:

If you plan to head out this weekend make sure to bring lots of layers. Epic starscapes take time, and you can expect to be sitting still for a long time and in desert climates it's not unusual for temperatures to drop quickly once the sun sets. A fast wide angle lens, plenty of extra batteries and a sturdy tripod—great for long exposure—will also be useful when shooting the stars at night.

Camera Settings:

Try starting at an ISO of 3200, a 15 or 30 second exposure (that’s where the tripod will come in handy) and your aperture set to at least F2.8. Shoot RAW to give yourself the most leeway in the edit room.

Big Bend National Park
Big Bend National Park
Night view of Dorgan House located in Big Bend National Park, Texas.Chase Schiefer via Getty Images

Let the photos in the gallery below serve as inspiration for your nighttime shoots.

Planning to shoot on public lands this weekend? We'd love to see the results! Post your images to Instagram, tag us (@popphotomag) and use the hashtag #popphotopubliclands in your caption. We'll share some of our favorite reader photos next week.

Canyonland National Park
Canyonland National Park
False Kiva at night with Milky Way in Canyonland National Park.NatChittamai via Getty Images
Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua tree and the Milky Way.Ultima_Gaina via Getty Images
Lost Lake, Oregon, USA
Lost Lake, Oregon, USA
Starry night sky with Mars rising over Mt. Hood.mdesigner125 via Getty Images
Crater Lake
Crater Lake
Aurora Milky Way sky over Crater Lake Island.Michima Photography via Getty Images
Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park
Beautiful night sky with the Milky Way over an empty road in Death Valley National Park.Schroptschop via Getty Images
Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park
A beautiful night view of the Milky Way along the banks of the Snake River.Hansrico Photography via Getty Images
Arches National Park
Arches National Park
Milky Way swirls over Arches Park.Mike Berenson / Colorado Captures via Getty Images
Mono Lake Tufa State Reserve
Mono Lake Tufa State Reserve
Milky Way rising over Tufa Formations at Mono Lake in California.ferrantraite via Getty Images
North Dakota
North Dakota Star-Trail
Star trails in North Dakota.Cameron Williams via Getty Images
Denali National Park
Denali National Park
Northern Lights and the Big Dipper over Denali.Daniel A. Leifheit via Getty Images
Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park
Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, and it's constellation Cains Major, sets over the divide in Rocky Mountain National Park, CO.Pat Gaines via Getty Images
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Scenic view of stars over Yellowstone National Park.Addy Ho / EyeEm via Getty Images
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park
Low angle view of trees against a star field at night in Yosemite National Park.Bonnie Nordling / EyeEm via Getty Images