Capturing the stars on the John Muir Trail

Scott Lange and Nick Foster take a 338km hike along America’s famous John Muir Trail to photograph the night sky through the Sierra Nevada mountain range of California.

Lange and Foster's image of Duck Lake on the John Muir Trail. Shots like these will be captured along the way as the pair take on one of the world's most famous hikes. (Copyright Dark Sky Photography)

The John Muir Trail is a fantastic region for astronomy and astrophotography. Located in California, US, it spans three national parks (Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia) and the Ansel Adams and John Muir Wilderness Areas.

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Scott Lange and Nick Foster of Dark Sky Photography first met in an introductory physics class at City College of San Francisco in 2008.

Since then, they have launched two successful projects; the first to fund a road trip across southwestern United States for their book Dark Sky Tour, and the second entitled ‘Operation Milky Way’, which saw the two friends travel between various locations to capture the wonder of the Galaxy on film.

Now, Lange and Foster will take on the John Muir Trail.

Nevada Fall, Yosemite Valley. (Copyright Dark Sky Photography)
Nevada Fall, Yosemite Valley. (Copyright Dark Sky Photography)

John Muir was a Scottish-born American naturalist who devoted his life to promoting the conservation of wilderness and nature in his adopted homeland.

The trail was named in his honour and stretches from Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley to the summit of Mount Whitney.

The results of this hike through the southwestern American wilderness will make up a new book that Lange and Foster plan to publish once the journey is complete.

They intend to take mostly night shots, meaning plenty of late nights and early mornings, compounded with hikes of 14 – 22km per day.

Star trails form circles in the northern sky behind Rosalie Lake along the John Muir Trail
Star trails form circles in the northern sky behind Rosalie Lake along the John Muir Trail (Copyright Dark Sky Photography)

“What makes this project challenging is the amount of effort it takes to haul somewhat heavy, space-consuming camera gear while backpacking for long distances at high altitudes,” they say.

“We’ve now done several small sections of the trail so we know what it will take to do just this, and we expect the results to be better than anything we’ve ever captured before on this amazing trail that spans several diverse, breath-taking landscapes!”

Cathedral Peak, Yosemite National Park (Copyright Dark Sky Photography)
Cathedral Peak, Yosemite National Park (Copyright Dark Sky Photography)

The project promises some amazing shots of the night sky taken in America’s diverse and majestic natural surroundings, free from light pollution and other photographic obstacles caused by cityscapes.


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The hike is currently being funded by via Kickstarter. Find out more about their project The Range of Light: Night & Day on the John Muir Trail.