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Peering Into Time

Milky Way rise over Indian Rock Arch in Yosemite National Park. I had been eyeing this shot for months waiting for a free weekend when I can head to Yosemite during new moon. I just so happened to be busy both times the past two months thus August was my only shot at getting this photo this year.


A few months ago I had learned of Indian Rock Arch, the only natural rock arch formation, in Yosemite National Park. It is located via a detour from North Dome trail off Tioga Road. With some information digging I figured out that the optimal viewing spot would be viewing the arch at a south-southwest direction. Originally I had wanted to frame a glowing Half Dome through the arch but figured it was pretty much impossible with nowhere to stand for such a shot. Instead I realized this could be a wonderful opportunity for shooting the Milky Way rise over the arch. I have frequently seen Milky Way shots over arches from Arches National Park or northern California but never in Yosemite.


To get this shot I headed out with my photo buddy Will. With a ton of gear we hiked out to North Dome for sunset. Though we never quite made it to North Dome in time for sunset we were treated to a pretty spectacular view of Half Dome. The downside: the sky had clouded up almost entirely during our hike through the forest. It seemed like our opportunity to shoot the Milky Way was completely hosed. We shot Half Dome and the nearby peaks for sunset and were treated to an incredible display of color in the clouds. Shortly after sunset we made our way back up to the main trail and climbed for another 0.3 miles up to Indian Rock Arch. Hoping for some good luck in the clouds we setup our gear and waited patiently. An hour passed and we could only see a few tiny openings in the clouds from time to time. Mother nature seemed to not want to cooperate. Then around 10:30pm we spotted a slight opening just above the arch. Slowly but surely the opening in the clouds expanded. At that moment we continued to fire shot after shot as the opening grew larger and larger. Then for a few minutes the Milky Way was almost completely exposed for this stunning shot. Some clouds still remained near the horizon and the light pollution gave these clouds a nice contrasting yellow color to the Milky Way. Just minutes after taking this shot the clouds rolled in once again and the show was over. What luck we had!


To light up the arch we manually fired off a 430EX II flash to illuminate some details in the rocks. We wanted a flash not too bright to maintain a night feel to the picture. After packing up our gear we had a nice 4-mile hike through the pitch black back to the car. It was all worth the effort.


Canon 5D Mark II

EF 24mm f/1.4L II

430EX II


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Taken on August 26, 2011