An Artist In Residence (Astronomer) At The Grand Canyon National Park With Msm Tracker
My current personal project “Under The Night Sky” was conceived in 2018 while shooting the Milky Way at Joshua Tree National Park. I wanted to find a way to combine my background in biology, my interest in protecting nature and my passion for photography and thus began my project to raise awareness about the importance of preserving the night sky against light pollution. This project has been awarded four Artist In Residence programs taking place at Capitol Reef in 2019, Acadia in 2020 (postponed to 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic), Glacier in 2021 and The Grand Canyon (Astronomer in Residence) in May 2022.
My main approach to raise awareness is by presenting selected National Parks with a variety of ecosystems that would be representative of the natural diversity within the USA at night. Each park is a chapter of a book, combining astrophotography, nature education and illustrating the efforts these parks have undertaken as part of their mission to preserve the environment. In addition to this book, I have been able to publish the photographs captured in each park as a separate book belonging to the “Photographic Journeys Through National Parks” series on Amazon.
The artist in residence programs have helped me to not only understand how national parks operate to fulfill their mission but also have helped contribute to my growth as an artist as I continuously challenge myself to create better artistic images. Becoming an ambassador of highly reputable companies in the astrophotography space, such as Move Shoot Move (MSM), has also allowed me to experiment with new techniques and explore new compositions. In 2022, I was selected for my fourth residency, run by the Grand Canyon Conservancy, which gave me a month of “unlimited” access to the park, including areas not open to the public. Before then, I had avoided bringing a tracker with me simply because I had plenty of items to pack for long residencies and had weight limits to deal with when flying. However, I had a chance to try the MSM tracker before through a friend and immediately loved how light, compact, portable and easy to use it was. Therefore, I was determined to use my MSM tracker at the Grand Canyon.
My favorite focal length to capture the milky way is 35mm as I like to emphasize the details of the galactic core. However, my shutter speed at that focal length would be less than 10 seconds and therefore, I would need to use a very high ISO. With the MSM tracker, I was able to extend the shutter speed while getting less noise in my captures. The light weight of the tracker and its impressive battery life was a decisive factor for me to carry it inside my backpack when hiking the 17 miles down and up the canyon trails to the Phantom Ranch area. The user-friendly and fast set up helped save me time especially during those days in which I had a small window to capture the Milky Way, either because of the rising moon or when I wanted to move from one location to another. Aligning the tracker with Polaris using the bright green laser can be accomplished in seconds, so I was ready to capture the galaxy when I had my composition as I had envisioned it. In addition, I was also able to use a 70mm focal length to capture a closeup of the Dark House Nebula and the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex, my favorite part of the night sky. In summary, the MSM tracker excelled at performing its advertised functions.
I am sharing here some of the images I took during my residency at the Grand Canyon. I hope you will enjoy them and will motivate you to learn more about astrophotography and how to preserve the night sky. If you would like to see more of my work, or learn about my workshops. feel free to follow my photography journey on my social media.
About the author
Name: Imma Barrera (she/her)
Born in Barcelona, Imma Barrera is a photographer based in New Jersey. She is a biologist but also a graduate of NY Institute of Photography and has exhibited her photography in a number of galleries worldwide and won several awards. She has also published several books available on Amazon.
Imma has been selected for several Artist-in-Residence programs (Capitol Reef NP, Acadia NP, Glacier NP) for her night sky photography. In addition, she was shortlisted in the Landscape Category of the 2019 Sony World Photography Awards with her series “Under the Night Sky”.
Imma runs educational programs about photography and seminars to raise awareness about the need to protect our natural treasures.