Camping under the stars in Canyonlands National Park

Photo by Joe Newman

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that you camp out in the desert in August. It’s almost unbearably hot during the day and even at night, it’s still a little warm. We just got real lucky when we camped out in Canyonlands National Park in southern Utah that the weather was slightly cooler than average on the one night we pitched our tents.

We stayed in the Squaw Flat campground in the Needles District of Canyonlands. Needles is the southeastern section of the park and its remoteness (it’s about an hour and a half outside of Moab) means you won’t find the crowds that you’ll have to deal with in the Island in the Sky District, which is much closer to Moab [Be sure to check out my video after the jump].

We drove by the Willow Flat campground in Island in the Sky and it didn’t look appealing at all. Of course, a lot of the scenic overlooks are much more accessible in the Island in the Sky district compared to Needles. So if you prefer driving up to a spot, getting out of the car and seeing gorgeous scenery, you could try camping at Willow Flat or staying in Moab, which is what we did for the other two nights of our trip. However, if you like to hike and you want to camp, definitely go with Squaw Flat in Needles.

The picture above is my first attempt at astro-photography. It’s a shame I wasn’t better at what I was doing because the stars were simply incredible. And that’s really the best argument for camping out — the chance to be miles away from the light pollution of the city and see the most stars you’re likely to ever see in your life. You can see the Milky Way with the bare eye, which is pretty freaking cool.

Photo of nighttime at the Squaw Flat campground in Canyonlands by Joe Newman.

[symple_box color=”gray” text_align=”left” width=”100%” float=”nonet”]

Photo Details

Camera: Olympus E-M5

Lens: Lumix G Vario 7-14 mm (14-28 mm equivalent)

Focal Length: 7 mm

Aperture: f/4

Shutter speed: 25 seconds

ISO: 6400

Processing:  I used Lightroom 4 to create a “cool” and a “warm” version. Then  layered the images in Photoshop where I used the sky from the cooler version and the tent and ground from the warmer one to create the final image.


Joe Newman

I'm Joe Newman, multi-media story teller, non-profit do-gooder, international street photographer, serious poker player, intrepid traveler. Bourbon drinker.

  • Melissa

    September 13, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    Your first attempt at astro-photography? Pretty darn good. I’ve NEVER been camping, which is just wrong. It’s on my bucket list.

    • Joe Newman

      September 13, 2013 at 11:21 pm

      Thank you, Melissa. Camping isn’t for everyojne — sleeping on the ground isn’t always fun. But everyone should do it at least once!

  • Satu VW

    September 15, 2013 at 11:02 am

    Yeah, first attempt? I would’t be able to produce anything like that right now even if I tried my hardest, amazing!!!! And what a spot to camp, wish the winter wasn’t approaching so soon!!

    • Joe Newman

      September 16, 2013 at 5:00 pm

      Thank you, Satu. But I’ve seen your photos and they’re spectacular!

  • Helen

    November 21, 2013 at 8:30 pm

    I LOVE this, Joe!

  • […] threw a bunch of photos from my trip earlier this year to Canyonlands National Park into my first post. I didn’t spend a lot of time on the text, […]