Dark Skies of North Dakota


I found a campsite about 45 minutes south of Bismark, North Dakota. I was in a good area for minimal light pollution and was excited by my surroundings. The area was a very rural low population area and my campsite was right on the Mississippi, so I was very hopeful for some dark skies. <! data-preserve-html-node="true"--more-->But with the moon coming up earlier and earlier my window was getting shorter and shorter too shoot the Milky Way.I had a few ideas in mind from driving to my campsite of what I wanted to photograph, so after driving around awhile at sunset and planning my spots to shoot later, I returned to my campsite for some coffee with a side of dark skies. :) I slowly started realizing I was so far north the sun stayed pretty close to the horizon until way late into the night, I saw my last sign of orange light around 11:00 a.m. and the blue hour didn't go away to at least 12:30 a.m. but out I went looking to get what I could before the moon woke up.My first shot was something I have been wanting to do since the beginning of the trip but with the long, hilly and winding roads spanning the area I knew I would be able to get a cool "Road to the Milky Way shot" but I also wanted to try something I was quickly getting into, another Panoramic of the Milky Way and I had the perfect spot along the road that I spotted earlier and with time short I knew that had to be my priority. So I quickly set up for the first shot trying to get what I needed and move on. As I was finishing my shot for the foreground a car appeared at the perfect time to give the photo even more.

This shot was two different exposure with 6 different frames to stitch together for the panorama. The first exposure I lit the foreground with a light and photographed the 6 frames for the foreground. Than I properly exposed for the Milky Way and shot 6 different frames for that and after combining them in LR I composited them together in PS. Altogether it took almost a a half hour to get all the shots I needed, and as a bonus I got some cool purple and green lights in the photo and since it is an area you can see the Aurora from I think I captured my first Aurora and Milky Way photo!

Excited about photographing my second panoramic and exhausted from waiting for the sun to finally go down, I made my way back to my campsite but North Dakota was so beautiful and so dark I had to stop a few more times ending up at my campsite way past 3 a.m.

Overall, North Dakota is a dark sky mecca, I was only 45 minutes from a major city and yet the light pollution was next to nothing. Most of the state sits in a class 2 Bortle Scale, 1 being the darkest sky and 10 being the brightest, so for most of North Dakota drive 30 minutes away from a city and you should be able to see some great skies.