Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

The Challenge of Dark Skies

©Bert Gildart: The Challenge: Because light pollution is so pervasive, areas of the country endowed with a Dark Sky Status should be celebrated.  Obtaining appealing images, however, requires long nights in the field and some technical knowledge.

First find a suitable subject, one that benefits from its Night Sky Status and from the story it might tell, in this case the gallant effort of Chief Joseph’s to maintain freedom for his Nez Pierce tribe.  (Note: You’ll need written permission before you starting any nocturnal peregrinations at the Big Hole Battlefield!)

DeathValley JoshuaTree Bighole

Ideally you should pack in several cameras and several tripods.  Windless nights are a must.  Then, you need to understand the night sky.  Because the axis of the earth points to the North Star if you aim your camera at that star for long periods of time, you will be rewarded with a background of concentric lines.  (Note to any with lingering doubts: this proves the Earth is round.)


I wanted to suggest that the spirit of Chief Joseph still wanders his ancient tribal land, and felt the combination of teepee poles at the Big Hole back-dropped by star patterns would create that effect.  Exposures on my several cameras (from about 1 a.m. to about 3 a.m.) were many but shutter speed averaged about 45 minutes. My aperture was 5.6 and ISO generally set for 400.  Additionally, I “painted” the teepee poles with flash and set my strobe so it fired at about f8, or one stop under my overall setting.  The image will appear in my book Montana Icons, scheduled to be released in several weeks by Globe Pequot. 

AND, the image will also appear in the upcoming issue of Airstream Life,  used to illustrate my story on Dark Skies.

Similar techniques were also used for the images of one of Joshua Tree National Park and the one of Death Valley.  Two strobes, however, were used to light the wagon and it required an ISO of about 2000 to capture the stars as pin points.  Post processing with Lightroom helped reduce “noise.”

Final Thought: Help reduce light pollution and preserve areas  blessed with a Dark Sky Status by using your night images to celebrate and call attention to these vanishing “islands”.





*Kootenai Falls



(You can order our new books (shown below ) from Amazon — or you can order them directly from the Gildarts.  Bert will knock a dollar off the list price of $16.95, but he must add the cost of book-rate mailing and the mailer, which are $2.25.  The grand total then is $18.20. Please send checks to Bert Gildart at 1676 Riverside Road, Bigfork, MT  59911.)


2 Responses to “The Challenge of Dark Skies”

  1. History Safari Express » Blog Archive » Bert Gildart’s art Says:

    [...] it’s first issue in 2004, right up to his current article in the Fall 2012 issue, “Dark Skies – Deep in the Heart of America with Your [...]

  2. History Safari Express » Blog Archive » Once dark, now too bright! Says:

    [...] this year, writer/photographer Bert Gildart wrote in his article, “The Challenge of Dark Skies“, “Because light pollution is so pervasive, areas of the country endowed with a Dark [...]