Contender: Dave Drost

Copyright © Dave Drost

{loadposition inpage} Photographer:
Dave Drost

Where are you based?
Prescott, Arizona

Behind the shot:
This image is a 195-degree panoramic view of Monument Valley in the Navajo Nation, depicting the monument Big Chief and the West Mitten in the background. Big Chief, when viewing from its West side depicts a profile of an Indian Chief’s head wearing his headdress with feathers.

The image was a result of 18 exposures, consisting of three rows of 6 RAW images in each row stitched together. I wanted Big Chief to be the prominent focal point in the photo, so I needed to be close enough, no more than one-half mile from Big Chief. The closest anyone is allowed to get to Big Chief is two miles since there are no public access roads to it. A telephoto lens from two miles away would not work, as the proportions of Big Chief and the Milky Way would be off in a super wide angle photo like I wanted. So this created a problem.

After establishing Navajo relationships over several years in the Navajo Nation, I was finally able to get special permission from the several Navajo families that live on and control the land near Big Chief, to be able to enter within one-half mile to Big Chief. This land is not the usual area around Monument Valley where tourists are able to gain access. According to the Navajo families that live near Big Chief, no one other than the families are allowed on this land and I was fortunate to be the first photographer to be granted permission to photograph Big Chief from this location.

I wanted to photograph Big Chief with the Milky Way rising over it as a full arc from north to south. Since the Milky Way rises in the east after midnight only certain times during the year when the crescent moon is getting ready to set in the west, much planning was needed. By having the moon set behind me, the moon would give me fill light on Big Chief and the distant view of Monument Valley. No artificial lighting was used.

Using computer software, I knew the perfect spot and the time that the Milky Way would line up with Big Chief. This image shows just one of the many meteors that flew thru the earth’s atmosphere that night during the Eta Aquarid meteor shower. There were times when I saw as many as four meteors shooting across the sky at one time.

Equipment: Canon 5D Mark II, Rokinon 24mm lens, panorama bracket.