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Two astrophotographers set out to capture both night and day on the John Muir Trail in the Sierra Nevada Mountains; The Range of Light.
Two astrophotographers set out to capture both night and day on the John Muir Trail in the Sierra Nevada Mountains; The Range of Light.
130 backers pledged $9,151 to help bring this project to life.

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The Range of Light: Night & Day on the John Muir Trail

$9,151

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***All backers receiving the book will have access to download digital prints as well!

The Project:

We've enjoyed traversing the American West doing astrophotography and nighttime landscape photography for several years now, including two successful Kickstarter projects: Dark Sky Tour in 2012, and Operation Milky Way in 2013.  Our most recent passion is backpacking in the Sierra Nevada Mountains -- most notably along the John Muir Trail.  Nicknamed "The Range of Light" by John Muir himself, the John Muir Trail is a 211 mile journey that begins in Yosemite National Park and extends through the High Sierras where it terminates atop Mt. Whitney -- the highest point in the contiguous United States at 14,505 ft.  The "JMT," as it's called, is considered to be one of the most majestic hiking trails on the planet, and as we've seen from our previous hikes in those areas (see pictures below), it does indeed hold up to its reputation!  The trail covers three National Parks - Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia - as well as the Ansel Adams and John Muir Wilderness areas.

We intend to hike the entire 211 mile trail and capture all its glory in the form of nighttime and daytime photographs, and put them into an awesome, high quality 8.5 by 11 inch hard covered coffee table book with prints to go along side.  Since nighttime photography is our forte, we expect the content of the book to be about 65% - 70% nighttime shots (including sunsets and sunrises), and the rest daytime, with the book being about 100 pages total.

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.  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!  Some of the images below that we've already captured along this famous trail will also be in the book.

The Journey:

The John Muir Trail spans 3 National Parks - Map courtesy of hikeJMT.com
The John Muir Trail spans 3 National Parks - Map courtesy of hikeJMT.com

Our 211 mile journey will begin in Yosemite National Park in early September.  There we will encounter the surreal granite landscapes of Yosemite Valley featuring Half Dome, Cloud's Rest, Vernal and Nevada Falls, Cathedral Lake, Lyell Canyon, and all else that makes Yosemite one of the most scenic destinations on the planet.

On the way out of Yosemite, we'll pass through the famed Ansel Adams Wilderness area with sweepings views of the Ritter Range, which includes dark volcanic-glaciated mountains such as Mount Ritter, Banner Peak, and The Minarets.  Devil's Postpile National Monument will also be along the way and should make for a dramatic shot.  Soon after, the trail passes by Upper Crater Meadow and Purple Lake in the famed John Muir Wilderness, as well as Marie Lake, which is said by many to be the most majestic of all lakes on this trail.

Like Yosemite, in Kings Canyon Nation Park we'll encounter endless amazing vistas including Evolution Valley, Le Conte Canyon, The Golden Staircase, and Rae Lakes before briefly crossing into Sequoia National Park for a stay at Guitar Lake.

We'll finish the trail by entering back into the John Muir Wilderness and climbing to the summit of Mt. Whitney at 14,505 ft.  We expect to finish the trail around the 1st of October for a total of about 3 weeks in the wild.

Setting Up for the Shot:

In general, we've found that a great nighttime shot is the product of planning and careful execution. On most days, we hope to complete 8-14 miles of hiking and set up camp by mid-afternoon. Prospective night shots will then be scouted before darkness falls. Due to the length of this trip, we have many creative elements to play with including sunrises/sunsets, landscape illumination, the changing moon phases and the different amount of ambient light each phase provides, the position of the Milky Way, celestial bodies, and completely dark skies around the new moon of September 13th. Weather permitting, we expect most nights will have us awake after midnight until we are happy with what we've got. A balance of rest and productivity will be challenging, and will certainly be the product of afternoon naps and good trail food!

For shots that are taken during the day, we expect to combine the setup time with the essential resting time taken on top of a pass, next to a waterfall, or as we wander from camp and explore. We will have two lenses capable of framing nearly any shot, and a variety of filters for creative effect.

The Milky Way over Duck Lake
The Milky Way over Duck Lake
Cathedral Peak Silhouette
Cathedral Peak Silhouette
Yosemite Valley from Cloud's Rest
Yosemite Valley from Cloud's Rest
Lower Cathedral Lake inlet
Lower Cathedral Lake inlet
Liberty Cap in Yosemite Valley
Liberty Cap in Yosemite Valley
Upper Crater Meadow
Upper Crater Meadow
Sunrise Lakes
Sunrise Lakes
A marmot surveys the area
A marmot surveys the area
Cathedral Peak reflection
Cathedral Peak reflection
Tenaya Lake & Half Dome at sunset
Tenaya Lake & Half Dome at sunset
Nevada Fall in Yosemite Valley
Nevada Fall in Yosemite Valley
Setting up for a shot at Purple Lake
Setting up for a shot at Purple Lake

Your Contribution:

Our goal of $8500 is to predominantly cover the cost of printing and shipping the book. Funds will also be used to rent a couple of *really* nice lenses and filters, as well as helping with other odds and ends such as extra batteries and trail resupplies. We are planning to go on this hike regardless of the fate of this project, so we are not asking you to fund the bulk of our travel expenses or time off of work. We already have all the backpacking gear that we will need. As with our other two projects, we are aiming to spread the magic of nighttime - and now also daytime - images of some of the world's finest skies and foregrounds to go with them.

Rewards:

We plan to have the book completed and mailed out by January.  We feel this is the realistic time it will take to get everything edited, laid out, ordered, proofed, approved and/or re-edited, printed, received, and mailed to you.  The 100 page, 8.5 x 11 inch hard-covered book will use high quality paper and feature two-page panoramas, montages, and will be absolutely loaded with amazing nighttime and daytime shots of the Sierras.  All books will be signed unless requested otherwise.  We are really excited about the potential of this book!

For those who get to choose their print, a website will be set up with those selections when they are ready (January or before).  If you choose to have your print matted, the color choices below will be available and your selection will be taken after the project is completed.

There are several color choices for matted prints
There are several color choices for matted prints

Some of Our Past Work:

Racetrack Playa - Death Valley, CA
Racetrack Playa - Death Valley, CA
Crater Lake, OR
Crater Lake, OR
Crater Lake, OR
Crater Lake, OR

Check out more of our past work at DarkSkyPhotography.com.

Risks and challenges

We've been doing astrophotography long enough to know that bad weather and/or seeing conditions can happen anytime. This is the reason why we plan so many days towards the project. We are experienced in dealing with adverse weather so we have that to our advantage, and we have enough time set aside to stick it out to get the shots we need to complete the project.

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Support

  1. Select this reward

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    A postcard featuring an image from the trip. Shipping Included!

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    An 8x12 inch print of your choice out of at least 16 images - U.S. Shipping Included!

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    A 12x18 inch print of your choice out of at least 16 images - U.S. Shipping Included!

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    EARLY BIRD SPECIAL!
    A signed 8x11.5 inch Hardcover Book -- Approx. 100 pages, all with awesome images of the JMT!

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    A signed 8x11.5 inch Hardcover Book + an 8x12 inch print of your choice out of 16 images

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    A signed 8x11.5 inch Hardcover Book + a 12x18 inch print of your choice out of 16 images

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    A signed 8.5x11 inch Hardcover Book + a 16x24 inch print of your choice out of 16 images

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    A signed 8.5x11 inch Hardcover Book + a 24x36 inch print of your choice out of 16 images

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    A signed 8.5x11 inch Hardcover Book + a 24x36 inch Canvas print of your choice out of 16 images

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    A signed 8.5x11 inch Hardcover Book + a 40x60 inch Canvas print of your choice out of 16 images

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    A signed 8.5x11 inch Hardcover Book + a 40x60 inch Canvas print of your choice out of 16 images

    PLUS Astrophotography consulting & web license for images

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    Heavy Metal!

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Funding period

- (35 days)