The red rock mountains in the American Southwest look like they belong on another planet. Photography further proves this fact, as shown by Derek Culver in his awe-inspiring image of the twisted rock formations of the Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness in Arizona. Lit by the light of the Milky Way, this otherworldly scene has a haunting appeal while at the same time, begging you to explore its alluring rocky terrain.
Culver picked this particular spot, known as White Pocket, because it’s a great place for shooting photos of the night sky. “White Pocket is hours down remote dirt and sand roads in an extremely dark area, perfect for astrophotography,” he tells My Modern Met. Culver came prepared. “I used a modded Nikon camera by Spencer's Camera & Photo that allows extra wavelengths of light in, making it more sensitive to the nebulous and red colors in the night sky that most normal cameras do not capture.”
This single photo is the result of many images snapped by Culver during that night. “I captured 48 x five-minute exposures of the same part of the sky,” he explains, “and stacked all those images together in a software called Pixinsight, [which is] used by NASA and other space agencies for processing pictures taken through space telescopes to extract data out of images using mathematical averages and photometry concepts. I then took this stacked image and overlaid it over the foreground of the rocks I took at twilight earlier in the night!”
Culver shares more of his photography on his Instagram and on his YouTube channel, where you can watch his process for editing his images.