Stargazing and Night Photography

Blog Category
Discover Nature Notes
Published Display Date
Jan 18, 2024

Combine a lifelong interest in the stars with a keen eye and camera chops and you have what Dan Zarlenga, MDC Media Specialist for the St. Louis region, calls Astroscape or Starscape Photography.

Discover Missouri landscapes by night for landscape photography and stargazing with MDC's Dan Zarlenga


Dan has been visiting interesting locations in Missouri where he blends night landscape photography with celestial backgrounds. His images tell a story with foreground terrestrial objects set against various starscapes.  His outdoor foreground subjects may include mushrooms, flowers, fireflies, trees, and flowing waters against the Milky Way, a triple conjunction, lunar eclipse, start trails and dark sky nights. For Dan, both foreground and background elements are of equal importance as he captures his images.

Stargazing Tips

Fun Fact: According to NASA, the stars rise four minutes earlier each day. Over time different stars are visible at night during various seasons.

Choose a location away from city lights and around new moons rather than full moons when the sky will be darker. Check a dark sky calendar for a good time to go. 

  • Start by looking with your eyes first and get to know the stars before buying any gear. 

  • Then try a binocular for a closer look before deciding if a telescope is right for you.

  • Dress for the weather and location, and even warmer as you will be motionless looking at the stars on chilly nights.

Stargazing Events through the Seasons

  • From Late Fall through winter, look for several constellations including Orion, Taurus, Gemini, The Pleiades or Seven Sisters.
    Spring is known as Galaxy Season where those with telescopes can see beyond our galaxy as the Milky Way is less visible.

  • Die-hards can go for a Messier Marathon in March where those with telescopes try to find all 110 objects in the Messier calendar from sunset to sunrise. 

  • June through August is prime time for seeing the Milky Way by eyesight. The Perseid Meteors are also in August.

  • November has the Leonid meteors showers and December the Geminids which can be seen by eye.

Photo Tips

Technology has really changed the options for night photography with cameras and lenses that are more sensitive. Post processing techniques have also improved.

  • Cameras with manual settings will provide a more quality photograph.

  • You will also want to find a dark sky location away from light noise for photography. 

  • A tripod will steady your shot.


Dan’s Favorite Spots

  • Danville Glades offers interesting flowers, fireflies around Memorial Day, and camping for an overnight shoot.

  • Hughes Mountain offers scenic vistas, sunsets, and unique rock formations.

  • Pickle Springs offers hiking trails, views, rock formations and glades.

  • Dillard Mill is a state historic site with a very dark sky and red mill.

  • Castor River Shut-Ins has scenic waterways and rock formations.


Always be prepared for your journey when enjoying Missouri’s outdoors by day or night and experience the fun learning curve as Dan says while stargazing or capturing night landscapes.
Clear Nights and Keep Looking Up!

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