Experimental Night Gallery: Utah

Date: December, 2022

There are not many 2D images for today’s post so I would recommend the VR gallery for the full experience! After spending a few days at both Strawberry Reservoir and Rock Canyon taking photos during the day, and at sunset, I enjoyed the darker shots and silhouettes of winter branches more and more. I think it comes down to personal preference to some extent that I am always drawn to darker images I have taken. After taking several day shots at Strawberry Reservoir where the sun was far too bright and in the wrong position, I decided on a whim to get fast food and wait for the sun to set before venturing back out in the dark. I initially parked at The Ladders which was a different parking spot from before and contains a waterway and a different view of the surrounding hills. The snow was about a foot thick on the drive out and gave me my first real test of snow and ice driving since moving to the US. I had already come prepared with proper snow boots and warm clothes as I knew when heading out in the day that it would be snowy.

Having not been to this area before, it was good to have explored it beforehand in the daylight, and for when it got dark I remembered I stashed my head torch in the car in a fit of organisation a few weeks before. As I was originally hoping to recreate my shots from last Christmas, I had also taken my tripod – and this was definitely going to also be necessary for the long exposure night shots.

Strawberry Reservoir

As it turned out the parking lot had been plowed by the time I returned in the dark, making for a much less worrying drive. It was an evening of victories and failures, however, as my head torch batteries had run out, and I still had not quite prepared for the -14 Centigrade (around 7F) temperature. The photo above shows what tempted me to come back in the dark, however, an almost clear sky and a semi-frozen lake with cold mist on the surface. I tried a number of different exposure lengths as it is sometimes hard to tell with the dual fisheye lens exactly how the image will look in the VR headset. My biggest struggle was that I needed to try and focus in the dark, which I solved by turning my car headlights on and focusing on the area they lit up. The final challenge came from a pair of chemical handwarmers that I found surprisingly hard to open with numb fingers when I eventually got back to the car…

After viewing these images in the headset, I was amazed at how clear the stars were, and how the strength of the moon and long exposure made some of these shots as clear as day. As I took the shots car headlights coming down the highway lit up the freezing mist in an eerie way, that I think the VR photos manage to capture, at least to some extent. The next day I went back to Rock Canyon for a walk before sunset, but remembering the success of the previous night, I cut the walk short in order to go home and eat and come back after dark to try my hand with city lights and the moon over the canyon. Being a slightly more predetermined plan, I dressed up even warmer this time with thermals and warmer socks, and I even opened the hand warmers and added them to my gloves before leaving the car which was an absolute game changer.

I have named this an experimental gallery as I have included some similar images with different exposures. I am not convinced whether I prefer an image as bright as day with clearly defined stars, or one a bit darker that more reflects the scene at the time, but has less star definition. I also snuck in a couple of selfies as I found the style of image and backdrop made for quite an intense self-portrait!

As might be obvious I could probably talk about these two adventures for some time as the extremes of temperature and venturing into the wilderness at night made quite an impression. But I will let you experience it for yourself in the VR gallery. If you don’t have a VR headset, the gallery can also be viewed on non-VR devices such as a mobile phone or laptop which will allow you to pan around the images. For a helpful guide on navigating the images in the VR gallery, please see the tips pinned to the left-hand side, or follow the link to the How To page. This gallery contains 8 images and will loop when you get to the end. Please click the image below to enjoy the VR experience:

VR Gallery – Night Experimental

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