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Web Gallery of cut paper artist and night photographer Matt Hill. 


Blog - thoughts, travels, insights and meanderings

Blog of night, travel and fine art photographer + cut paper artist Matt Hill | Queens, NY. Join the fun!

Night Photography at Goblin Valley State Park in Utah

Matt Hill

I took the advice of friend and colleague Joe Brady to visit Goblin Valley State Park in Utah. Why? He said it's one of the darkest night sky areas around the Moab region. Indeed, it was.

(And thanks, Joe, for the fantastic suggestion!)

I arrived in late afternoon after driving from Salt Lake City to Moab for lunch, then to Canyonlands National Park for a first scouting of the area for future night photography workshops. What a breathtakingly beautiful park.

Here's a few stitched daytime panoramic photos of Canyonlands:

After madly driving from spot to spot in Canyonlands, I turned my car north and then west and then south again to get to the remote Goblin Valley State Park. I repeat - it's remote. 4 hours' drive from SLC if you do it in one shot.

I rented a yurt since Goblin Valley closes at 10pm and there are no towns nearby. I had a fantastic time; what a cool experience. Highly recommended. Fully functional with beds, couch that becomes a bed, gas-heated stove, heat pump, electricity, propane grill, picnic table and a place to build a fire. Great deal at $80/night.

Inside view of Yurt #2

The moon was not going to rise until after midnight, so I had plenty of time to get some Milky Way star point shots. I started out near the Goblins area (away form the campsites).

I am posting both color and black-and-white here for feedback. Please tell me which you like better in the comments! Much appreciated.

Personally, I am torn. I usually only do the B/W but somehow the delicacy of some of these color shots really tugs at me.

Honestly, I was a bit uncomfortable about how quiet and alone I was, especially in near-total darkness. I read the park materials and knew the largest predator was a coyote and I had nothing to really fear, but still I was wishing Gabe or Mabel or someone else was my buddy. It is very, very remote and dark.

I drove back to the yurt and discovered that my neighbors in Yurt #1 were building a campfire, and it made this amazing glow on the mountain walls adjacent to their yurt. Lucky me :-) And then I applied the same to my yurt, too, turning on and off my lights a little bit for a 37.5-minute image stack of 2 1/2 minute exposures. 

Since the nap I tried to have during magic hour was ruined by houseflies that would land on my face as soon as I drifted off, I was more tired than I hoped to be at that point in the night. So I took another micro-nap while this last set was burning and hoped to wake up for moonrise. I did.

Wow. It was a half-moon, but rose deep orange directly across the desert from my yurt. Amazing. I banged out some short and long exposures of it coming up into the light clouds that were forming:

So at this point the moon was high enough to start casting interesting shadows – the moment I was waiting for this entire trip.

My only regret is that I chickened out and did not go for bust going back to the Goblin fields to romp around in the moonlight with my Pixelstick and flashlights. Sigh... I was wiped out. Tired. And a little frightened that I didn't have a buddy with me (safety first!). Which is why I plan on holding a night photo workshop in Goblin Valley. Leave a note in the comments if you are interested! Or sign up for my mailing list.

Here are some shots of the Goblin fields during early morning hours to whet your appetite. Tons of room for photos to spread out and light paint without stepping on each others' toes.

Thanks for reading! Check me out on Twitter @MattHill and Facebook