Time of Hope
Hope Arch and Polaris, the North Star stand witness to the passing of time in the Arizona desert. This night sky composite blends exposures from dusk until deep night, mixing the colors of the susnet reflected in clouds with the trailing stars in the north...Hope Arch is located on the Navajo Nation outside of Chinle, Arizona. If you want to experience its beauty, non-Navajos must be accompanied by an approved guide on their visit.
The Soul of the Universe
4,000 years ago, Emperor Chung K’ang of China (allegedly) beheaded his court astronomers - Hsi and Ho - for failing to predict a solar eclipse on October 22, 2134 BC...It seems a bit harsh, but I understand. Count me among the people who think eclipses are literally the most awe-inducing, resonant experience in the world...For monarchs and emperors and dynastic leaders who led by convincing others of their divinity, eclipses were often seen as signs of the relative favor of the gods with how the ruler was doing. Kings feared the occlusion for the same reason it is so powerful for us today - there’s no need or desire to have a commercial or religious intermediary take credit for the event. Everyone under the path of totality has the same human experience of feeling and seeing a magnificent hole in the sky...The August 21, 2017 solar eclipse was the most amazing spiritual experience that I’ve ever had. When the moon clicked into alignment blocking the energy of the sun, it was as if a ripple in space-time opened, and the universe was open to and connected us. As my new friend Rick LaBelle more artfully said on his blog liviniddriggs.com, “it was like seeing the soul of the universe... I found myself howling and then crying, and could hear a few others doing the same from surrounding peaks in the hills. Totality was two-minutes, which felt like ten-seconds, and left an impression that will last a lifetime. I now understand why people chase Eclipses.” ..Science is still discovering the forces of nature. Perhaps some day, humans will know how and why we feel some type of resonating eclipse energy on a primordial level, below consciousness or thought...The math, astrophysics, stories, history and travel of eclipses are trivialities - compared to the sense of complete connection that we can access at no cost, without equipment, technical knowledge or intermediary. In my notes of the day I wrote down “complete fulfillment like when a baby comes out”, “wonder”, “awe”, “resonant” and “unification with the universe.” ..So please count me in for the next one. I hope to see you in Patagonia in December of 2020.
Stone Cathedral (American) at Night
The Milky Way just at moonrise, over the Grand Canyon from the South Rim. October 2012. (Composited image.)
Signs of Summer
The summer Milky Way hanging low over the Pacific, seen from the north end of Seadrift and Stinson Beach in Marin County, California. Saturday morning May 28, 2011. Somehow the sign saying "Please stay off the dunes" loses significance in the juxtaposition.
Rho Ophiuchi Cloud Complex
Digital imaging enhances our ability to look up at the night sky in wonder. Long exposures, telephoto lenses and modern sensors are tools to create images invisible to the naked eye but still engage the emotional portion of our souls. The stunning colors of the Rho Ophiochi emission nebula amaze and are a mind-expanding example of the diversity of our galaxy.
Portal of Entry
Edges contain the residue of magic. Where one system ends and another begins, lies a gray zone of mystery and discontinuity. We long for pathways from one place to another. Our mythology replete with magic caves, doorways, passages, transitions and guardians like Charon, the boatman on the river Styx who enforce the rules of the of the doorway to the afterlife...Portal myths are out of fashion, but their stories continue in movies. In blues classic The Crossroads, Ralph Maccio meets Legba who takes him through the portal. Legba is the the West African Vodun god who facilitates between the mortal and immortal realm. Trickster and keeper of the crossroads. Ghostbusters featured time-traveling, returned-from-death mystic Vigo the Carpathian. His 1610 prophecy: “Death is but a door, time is but a window. I’ll be back.” ..The Wizard of Oz. Alice in Wonderland. The Matrix. Stargate. Our spirits long to go through the special doorway that leads to greater mysteries being revealed and solved...It’s no wonder that Keyhole Arch at Pfeiffer State Beach draws me in. Located at the end of the continent, the start of the Pacific Ocean and underneath unbroken sky. I had the deep pleasure of being bathed in the starlight of the Milky Way, and the glow of the setting crescent moon all converging at Keyhole Arch - a doorway of with slightly supernatural effects...Friday November 4, 2016.Pfeiffer State Beach, Big Sur, California
Orion and Barnard's Loop Over West Mitten
This widefield astronomical image combines the light of the Milky Way, Orion, the Great Nebula in Orion, Barnard's Loop and the nebula in Monoceros with a silhouette of West Mitten in Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. This image is part of a series I've worked on providing timescale perspective to life on earth. The light from Orion is 1.430 years distant. What we see is light that was emitted It illuminates a formation in the Cutler Formation whose age is estimated at 160 million years. Together, these powerful symbols suggest the impermanence of human presence and influence on this land...[Image creation notes] This image is a single 2-minute exposure on a polar equatorial mount that counteracts the rotation of the earth and allows the faint signals from the stars to be accumulated over time. The image is processed as an astronomical image, stretching the light signal in processing to reveal the colors inherent in the night sky. Duplicate image layers are overlaid to add contrast and saturation. Original detail from the monument's surface was masked back in to add texture to the silhouette.
Orion and Barnard's Loop Over West Mitten Widefield
This widefield astronomical image combines the light of the Milky Way, Orion, the Great Nebula in Orion, Barnard's Loop and the nebula in Monoceros with a silhouette of West Mitten in Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. This image is part of a series I've worked on providing timescale perspective to life on earth. The light from Orion is 1.430 years distant. What we see is light that was emitted It illuminates a formation in the Cutler Formation whose age is estimated at 160 million years. Together, these powerful symbols suggest the impermanence of human presence and influence on this land...[Image creation notes] This image is a single 3-minute exposure on a polar equatorial mount that counteracts the rotation of the earth and allows the faint signals from the stars to be accumulated over time. The image is processed as an astronomical image, stretching the light signal in processing to reveal the colors inherent in the night sky. Duplicate image layers are overlaid to add contrast and saturation. Original detail from the monument's surface was masked back in to add texture to the silhouette.
Night Watchman Smoking a Pipe
Night sky silhouette of what appears to be a man smoking a pipe in the low branches of a tree in winter. Taos, New Mexico.
Monumental Night Sky
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park's "The Mittens" silhouetted under the August Milky Way. Composite image created from two frames. Milky Way image made the previous evening outside of Page, Arizona.
Milky Way Reflection in Lake Tahoe
The Great Sky River. Trail of the Spirits. Buffalo Dust. Culture after culture has embraced the largest object in the night sky - the Milky Way - and integrated it into their cultural and spiritual beliefs. For example, archeo-astronomers have compiled evidence that every Native culture in the Americas held that the Milky Way was a river or road to the afterlife. Before humans understood it was composed of stars, it was the night story-teller's meadow, dairy, and fish net - and hundreds of other appellations...Why do we look up and wonder at the stars of the night sky? Why do we weave enduring stories of the constellations and the gods that inhabit the sky. Is the answer related to the why perceive natural beauty in some of nature - but not all of it? ..Some theorists posit that perceptions of natural beauty are actually the brain's recognition of archetypal landscape features that promote survival. We may be hard-wired with patterns that are pleasurable to perceive. Waterfalls may feel harmonious because they are abundant, clean water. Cliffs and mountains are defensible, safe homes. From an evolutionary standpoint, innate attraction to helpful items may tend to aid in survival...I don't know if my own hand-clapping joy for the sight of the Milky Way is universal. But I hope so. Its magnificence is is calming. I crane my neck to be overwhelmed by its arc across the darkness. Within its glow I see proof of a much larger plane of existence than ours. Our cares, our nations, and our planet are inconsequential. The scope of human existence is not big enough to be even a farce on the galactic scale. ..Based on my personal survey of one, the inclination to look up at night and say "Wow!" is good for mental health. Stargazing helps relieve my stresses, and begins to put our otherwise unexplained existence into a larger context. It's healing for our souls. Clear dark skies, unpolluted by urban lights are a natural resource we need to preserve, as an increasing number of communities recognize. Take the next chance you get to go an hour out of your way and stare up in unobstructed darkness on a clear summer night. It just might touch something in your soul that needs stimulation.
Meteor Streak in Flame Nebula
A spectacular conjunction of the Flame and Horsehead Nebulae with a passing meteor on a January night. Seen from Lake Tahoe, Nevada. Imaged with an Astrotrac polar equatorial mount and a Canon 60Da. 400mm f/5.6 lens for two minutes.
Two hours of the earth rotating on its axis, looking towards Polaris, the north star. Experienced from the shores of Port McNeill on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. August 2014.
Heart of the Milky Way
Yosemite pine trees silhouetted against the bright lights of the Milky Way in the summer night sky. Clearly visible are several nebulae including the Lagoon Nebula - M8. Seen from the shore of alpine May Lake.
Delicate Arch framing the night light of the Milky Way on a warm summer evening. June 2013. © Steve Lefkovits
El Capitan Star Trek
The autumn Milky Way rendered as a star trail over Yosemite's El Capitan on a moonless evening, October 2011. ..This image is a compilation of 59 27 second images compiled to show the earth's rotation in the form of a star trail...At the same time, climbers on the face of El Capitan shine their own lights back at the universe.
Cerberus in the Arches
The night eyes of a hellhound stare out of the rocks of Arches National Park. The twin portals of Window Arch framed by Turret Arch in a 20 second exposure.
Ear of the Wind Arch at deep dusk in Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. On our January 2013 visit to Monument Valley we engaged Ray Begay as our guide for our night photo missions. His critical importance to our photographic success brought to mind the realization of 20th century mountaineers that their Nepalese sherpas were the experts who literally carried the weight and summited, while the other guy got the glory. It was humbling to have a guide, driver, and compositional analyst who was more of a perfectionist than I was...This image of Ear of the Wind Arch was a result of coordinated teamwork. Ray brought us to the site and suggested possible compositions. Allen Cook painted light on Ear of the Wind Arch. I framed the image and fired the strobe on the tree and Ray fired the camera remote...In a larger sense, the team behind this image includes astronomy authors like Terrence Dickinson and Jerry Lodriguss who've helped me visualize and love the night sky - and taught me to how to access it with a camera. And it includes my other friends who joined us for the adventure - night sky photography can be scary and lonely. A crowd makes it about 500% easier to find humor in the dark and cold of a night in nature. January 2013
Beyond beauty and awe, there's an emotion that's deeper. A harmonic, resonating identification of something larger that we belong to. Aurora are an emotional gateway - a visible, sometimes audible manifestation of mystical energy that could maybe, just maybe lead us to this home. Indeed, Norse mythology holds that the northern lights are the Valkyries leading fallen warriors home to Valhalla...In Iceland, I watched rural kids play and dance at midnight under a prominent auroral plume. Dancing and running to mimic the lights, pausing to take in new formations and then start the cycle again. They were home already. ..Like moonlight, magnetism and electricity, the northern lights are the subject of science and legend. If you have the chance, go bask in the atmospheric energy that reveals the secrets of the frozen far north. It will engage your sense of awe like few other phenomena.
Andromeda - Galactic Proof
Andromeda - Galactic Proof..In 1925, Edwin Hubble disproved the notion that the Milky Way galaxy was the entire universe with his observation of the movement of a cepheid star within the Andromeda Galaxy (Messier catalog object 31 or M31) depicted here. He showed conclusively that Andromeda is an entirely separate galaxy, distinct from the Milky Way. This in turn opened the way for the discovery that the universe is far larger than previously thought (for at least the last thousand years.) We now know there are hundreds of billions of galaxies in our universe. Andromeda is merely our closest neighbor...The written record starts with Persian astronomer Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi in 964, whose classification of the Andromeda Galaxy as a nebula codified 1,000 years of limited-scope thinking about the nature of the universe. In 1920, esteemed American scientists Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis took the stage at the Smithsonian to engage in The Great Debate of Astronomy, with Curtis correctly identifying that Andromeda was an "island universe" of its own while Shapley argued that it was merely a gas cloud within our galaxy...More recently the Hubble Space telescope revealed in the 1990's that the great Galaxy in Andromeda is made up of 1 trillion stars, some 2,000 - 4,000 times the number of stars in our vast Milky Way galaxy. M31 has its own satellite galaxies (M32 and M110) with their own mysteries to be explored. M32 and M110 can be seen in this photo as the small bright disks nearest the heart of M31...M31 glows as the second largest object in the night sky - larger than Earth's moon (but quite a bit dimmer.) I "discovered" it for myself four years ago during my first night sky viewing session outside the Kirkwood ski resort in California's Sierras. On a computer I zoomed it to see the smudge in the northwest sky in my wide-angle starscape. It resolved into a spiral galaxy and I was hooked...M31 has no doubt been seen by billions in the northern hemisphere since the dawn of time. Visible every night to half of the earth's population, but most of what we know about it has been learned in the last 20 years. This begs the question of how little we know about our universe, and what other humbling enhancements to our knowledge are yet to be made. The dramatic enlargement of the "known universe" that M31 induced has profound implications for theology and the study of the nature of life that will take some time to trickle down into new, broader conceptions...Steve Lefkovits.January 2013