Timelapse: Milky Way and Star Trails in Navajo Country

Filmmaker Gavin Heffernan, whose beautiful atmospheric time-lapses we've shared on Boing Boing many times, sends a dazzling timelapse from Navajo Country: Grand Canyon National Park and Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park.

(Try to watch in HD with headphones on and volume cranked if you can, for maximum immersion!)

YIKÁÍSDÁHÁ(Navajo for Milky Way or "That Which Awaits the Dawn")

In April I had the privilege of being invited to Northern Arizona University as an "artist in residence" to speak with their Photography students about my timelapse experiences. While there, we also took shooting field trips to some of the magnificent locations a few hours away, most notably Grand Canyon National Park and Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park (spotted in many epic John Ford Westerns and countless other classics like EASY RIDER and BACK TO THE FUTURE III bit.ly/1lngv3x!) The weather was very intense at times, with high winds, frigid temperatures, and stormfronts passing over us, but the locations were absolutely stunning and the clouds parted for long enough to reveal some incredible starscapes, meteors, and the clearest Milky Way I've ever seen!

This was also my first opportunity to collaborate with old friend and former American Film Institute classmate Harun Mehmedinović (bloodhoney.com), an incredibly accomplished photographer and now one of the professors at NAU. His passion and artists' eye really elevated the quality of the material in a big way. Thanks again to Harun and the whole class for their awesome enthusiasm.

For Stills and Behind the Scenes shots of YIKÁÍSDÁHÁ visit FLICKR page here:

Most night shots were captured at 25 second exposures on our Canon EOS 6D's and Canon 5D mk3's with a variety of wide, fast lenses. Because the nights we picked had almost zero moon, the stars and Milky Way were exceptionally clear (once the storm clouds parted), which also made a perfect galactic palette for some star trails experiments, including a new mirroring/distortion effect at 2:56 that revealed a cool native pattern. For those not familiar with past vids, the star trails effect is created by tracing the rotation of the Earth's axis, using a long exposure timelapse pictures and an awesome rendering program called STARSTAX.

Keep an eye out at 2:10 (top center) as a meteor seems to BURST through the atmosphere and leave a smoke trail in its wake. Maybe you scientists or astronomers out there can help explain in better language :) Also, for those who were asking, the crazy burnt out forest seen in the Milky Way shots is all in Grand Canyon National Park, a much more diverse location than I imagined!

Shot and Produced by: Gavin Heffernan and Harun Mehmedinović
Music: A Seated Night (Ambient) by Moby. Courtesy MobyGratis.com / Unknown Native Chant
Thanks: Northern Arizona University, Grand Canyon National Park, Monument Valley Tribal Park.

See other Sunchaser Timelapses on Vimeo here: vimeo.com/album/189653
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