When it comes to galaxy photography, while the equipment and settings that you use are certainly important for capturing high-quality images, the location is arguably more important since a lot of galaxies which we can view through a camera or telescope can only be seen from very particular viewpoints.
Whether it’s the bright external Andromeda galaxy, or the colorful and magnificent Milky Way, seeing these massive collections of stars and solar systems all being held together by gravity requires you to know exactly where you should be standing, otherwise, you may have trouble breaking through the light pollution.
The good news is there are plenty of quiet and serene areas which will give you the best chance of viewing these spectacular galaxies up close, so without further ado, let’s take a closer look at some of the very best locations to visit when you want to do some galaxy photography.
1. Banff National Park, Canada
While light pollution can be a nuisance when you’re trying to catch a few shots of stars and planets, it is much more of a problem when it comes to taking photos of galaxies, since you will need the sky to be completely pitch-black to even have a chance of seeing one.
Luckily, the Banff National Park located in Canada is completely free of light pollution due to the fact that it is entirely surrounded by mountains which prevent any light from the town of Banff from traveling over to the national park, which has become a very popular area among avid astrophotographers.
If you go around to the Icefields Parkway, you will be able to get a clear view of the Milky Way in all its glory, or you can set up your camera and telescope at the beautiful and incredibly serene Lake Louise which is just a few steps away from the parkway.
2. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
If you take a trip to the Yellowstone National Park and travel up north, you will eventually find the Madison Campground, an area surrounded by a lightly flowing river with no light pollution occupying the sky where you can take some amazing shots of the Milky Way along with a few other galaxies after they have risen.
Many people will know this national park most for its explosive geysers which erupt a few times each hour, and while they are certainly a spectacle to look at, they can even make for an amazing addition to a photograph, adding a colorful airglow that can make a shot look all the more wonderful and majestic.
The Yellowstone National Park is also known for being abnormally large with roads sprawling across the whole area, so feel free to explore and try to find a spot that seems the most comfortable and picture-esque to you.
3. Arches National Park, Utah
It’s hard to find anywhere in the US, or even the world, that gives you as many creative opportunities for your photos as the Arches National Park.
With a pollution-free night sky and natural rock formations scattered all around the park, it’s easy to get a clear view of the Milky Way just by looking up at the sky and seeing the streaks of bright lights and glistening stars all huddled together.
However, what makes this area so special is the different compositions you can capture.
Whether it’s a galaxy shining through the center of the Landscape Arch, or peeking over the top of the Double O Arch, this national park contains so many different natural formations to use as a foreground for your images which provide an elegant contrast to the bright and colorful galaxies.
4. Death Valley, Texas
Death Valley may be most well known for its scorching hot temperatures and endless acres of sand that stretch out as far as the eye can see, but it is also an area very far from any big and bustling cities, providing some amazing night-sky viewing opportunities, and that includes spotting galaxies.
Some of the best areas for galaxy photography in Death Valley where you can also include some natural structures in each shot include Harmony Borax Works, Ubehebe Crater, and Badwater Basin.
When planning a galaxy-spotting trip to Death Valley, try to visit between the months of June and August, and wait until midnight since this is when the Milky Way galaxy will be at its brightest and most prominent.
You should also keep in mind that the weather in Death Valley is incredibly unpredictable and can change in a matter of seconds, so make sure to bring both warm and light clothes, effective rain gear, good footwear, and a tent, along with plenty of water to keep you refreshed.
5. Grand Canyon, Arizona
If you’re looking to take some epic shots of the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy, you need to head down to the Grand Canyon in Arizona.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site has been admired for centuries for its outstanding natural beauty and red rock formations, and including this historical landmark in your photos is guaranteed to make the final image all the more special.
Stretching across 277 miles and up to 8,000 feet high, there are so many unique and creative compositions you can make by simply exploring the Canyon and seeing what formations you think could enhance a shot to help make it even more eye-catching.
If you’re ever feeling a little hungry or dehydrated after a lengthy photography session, the National Park situated just a few steps away from the Canyon itself offers all the amenities you could need to make your visit as comfortable and enjoyable as possible, and they even offer stargazing tours in case you wanted to relax and simply admire the beautiful sky after taking some incredible galaxy photos.
6. Mauna Kea, Hawaii
There are actually many areas around the gorgeous islands of Hawaii that are great for galaxy-gazing, but none quite match the clear skies and natural beauty provided by Mauna Kea, one of Hawaii’s most popular dormant volcano sites, and the highest point in the state standing at over 13,000 feet above sea level.
Because the volcano last erupted over 4,000 years ago, you can usually now find it being completely covered in snow, making for a delightful backdrop when you’re trying to catch a glimpse of the Milky Way or Andromeda Galaxy (see also “The Art Of Capturing Stunning Galaxies“).
In fact, because of its latitude and isolation in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Mauna Kea has been recognized as one of the best locations on Earth for ground-based astronomy, so after you’re done catching a few wonderful snaps of the galaxies, make sure to also capture the bright glistening stars and the planets too while on your visit.
7. Joshua Tree National Park, California
Located between the Colorado and Mojave deserts, the Joshua Tree National Park is as far away from any cities or civilization as it can get, providing some of the darkest and most beautiful night skies in all of America.
In fact, the skies are so clear that you can even see the Andromeda Galaxy with the naked eye on moonless nights, so you will barely even have to adjust the settings and focus on your camera or telescope to make sure the image is high-quality.
The park is surrounded by adventurous hiking trails and plenty of unique animals to discover, so while it’s a great place to visit when you want some crystal-clear photos of the galaxies, it can be worth camping in the park for a few days so that you can make the most out of your time visiting this jaw-dropping sandy corner of California.
8. Big Pine Key, Florida
If you’ve never heard of Big Pine Key, it’s a small and secluded Floridian island that is surrounded by vast stretches of water separating it from Miami which is about 3 hours north, making it very popular for water-borne activities including fishing, boating, and scuba diving.
However, while the area is definitely becoming more well known with each passing year by water-sports enthusiasts, it is still a very quiet and secluded island that is almost entirely free of light pollution, making it incredibly easy to spot a huge array of stars, planets, and galaxies, just by looking up at the sky after the sun goes down.
Additionally, there are many events organized by the Southern Cross Astronomical Society of Miami that take place each and every year which are designed to help guests know where to look to get the clearest and most dazzling view of the planets, and galaxies that occupy the sky above us, making it even easier to know where to set up your telescope when you arrive.
Whether you’re simply aiming to catch the clearest and most pristine galaxy photos possible, or you want a few natural landscapes and formations to include in the foreground of your images, you are guaranteed to find a location that suits your needs in the list above.
Make sure to visit more than one of these areas so that you can get a variety of unique shots for your family and friends to admire when you get back home.