The Alvord Desert: A Unique Landscape in Oregon, USA

I arrived at the western edge of the Alvord Desert in Oregon the previous afternoon, just as the clouds to the southeast were starting to disperse. It had been a series of stormy days, with snow and rain in the area. However, the skies were now clearing, and I had two shots in mind: capturing the Milky Way as astronomical twilight comes to an end, and photographing a crescent Moon right before sunrise.

The Alvord Desert, situated in a secluded area of Southeast Oregon, offers a pristine location for star viewing. The nearest major city, Boise, lies approximately 130 miles (210 km) to the northeast, while Salt Lake City and Ogden are about 350 miles (560 km) away to the southeast. This remote setting ensures an uninterrupted view of the stars on the southeast horizon.

I woke up at 2:30 a.m. in order to capture stunning images of the Milky Way as it ascended in the eastern sky. Luckily, the weather cooperated and the sky was filled with countless stars. The only noticeable source of light pollution was a faint glow in the northeast, originating from the city of Boise. With my camera positioned towards the southeast, I had carefully selected this particular day for the shoot, as the Moon was two days away from the New Moon phase. This meant that the Moon would not rise until Nautical Twilight had commenced, allowing me to photograph the Milky Way against a backdrop of dark, pristine skies.

The Alvord Desert, located at an elevation of 4,000 feet (1220 m), offered a stunning view after a winter storm with clear skies in early March. The temperatures were cool, hovering around 20 degrees F (-7 C) this morning. With my camera capturing images every 20 seconds, I eagerly awaited the magical display. As the sky transitioned from astronomical twilight to nautical twilight, the eastern horizon started gaining light. To capture the changing light conditions, I adjusted my camera settings every few minutes. Finally, during nautical twilight, I captured a mesmerizing shot. However, just 15 minutes later, the stars vanished completely, leaving only the faint glow of Mars on the eastern horizon. Unfortunately, high clouds on the horizon obstructed the view of the crescent Moon, depriving me of capturing its beauty.

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