The story behind this image is a bit nostalgic for me. While I’ve never been a huge, die-hard sports fan, I did grow up a Cowboys fan being from Texas and all. When I was in elementary school, my parents got me a children’s book by Troy Aikman called “Things Change.” It was a picture book about his life and journey to becoming the quarter back for the Cowboys.While that seems totally random and unconnected to this image, it isn’t. You see, inside of that book there was an image from Monument Valley of the Mittens. For some reason I always came back to that page and really, it’s the only thing I even remember from the book. For whatever reason, it always stuck with me. And ever since reading that book, I’ve wanted to see the mittens in person.
These buttes are called the mittens for obvious reasons, they resemble left and right handed mittens. They stand right at around 6,200 ft and are made up of three different rock layers. The formation on the far right is called Merrick’s Butte.
Getting The Image
This one was a bit tricky. We knew going in that we weren’t going to have a moon in the sky to help light up the monuments. On top of that, we were shooting from the balcony at the visitors center and virtually every light in the building was on. This meant that once it got dark, the lights from the building would bleed into the foreground.
To fix this problem, I did a couple things. First, I waited until the last few minutes of blue hour to get a solid shot of the monuments and the foreground. I was able to shoot this at ISO 100 so the quality was excellent. As it got darker, I kept taking photos from the same position and began collecting shot after shot of the car trails. The car were moving very slowly because the road down there is the dirt road loop that goes through the park and is in very poor condition. Finally, when the Milky Way got into position, I grabbed a shot for it as well. The problem there was that the horizon line was full of light pollution and was quite dirty looking. To counteract that, I zoomed all the out on my 16-35 lens and got one big image of the night sky with very little foreground.
In post, I took the blue hour image, the 5-6 images of car trails and the big image of the Milky Way and went to work. So this is actually a meticulous composite of around 7 or 8 different exposures. Took around 2 hours to get right but it was worth it. A shot I’ve been waiting to get since I was in elementary school :-).