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Jordan Ragsdale: Astrophotography in Idaho

Last updated December 01, 2020 by Totally Boise

The night sky is one of the most captivating scenes we can see. Due to light pollution, the ability to experience such beauty with the naked eye is limited. However, with the advancement of technology, astrophotography can capture breathtaking photos of the starry sky.

Astrophotography has grown in popularity as a hobby for those interested in capturing the celestial beauty surrounding us at night. When we discovered Boise has a network of amazing astrophotographers, we knew we had to share their craft with our followers.

Meet One of Boise’s Local Astrophotographers

Boise Local, Jordan Ragsdale, is one of the astrophotographers mentioned above who is skilled in capturing the beautiful night sky for the world to enjoy.

Starting as a family and wildlife photographer, Ragsdale gained an interest in astrophotography over five years ago when he purchased a telescope while living in McCall, ID.

“After we got a telescope and started viewing through it, I thought to myself — maybe I can hook the camera up to the telescope, and after taking a couple of pictures of the moon, I wanted to try the Orion Nebula,” said Ragsdale.

To Ragsdale’s surprise, he captured a detailed photograph of the Orion Nebula that left him speechless.

“I was hooked from that moment,” said Ragsdale.

Photo Credit: Jordan Ragsdale

Once Ragsdale discovered his passion for photographing the cosmic sky, he began accumulating high-end equipment to take photographs from his laptop.

Ragsdale has been able to catch remarkable photographs of the Milky Way, Orion’s Belt, Saturn, and more. Some of which have even been featured on CBS News, recognizing Idaho’s beautiful view of the starry sky.

Ragsdale can see past the Treasure Valley’s light population with his high-end equipment but enjoys traveling to dark sites.

Best Idaho Sites for Astrophotography

While talking to Ragsdale, Totally Boise was informed that we have our very own Astronomical Society. The Boise Astronomical Society is a non-profit formed in 1982 that serves as an educational and scientific organization. Throughout the year, they invite the general public to attend meetups at dark viewing sites in Idaho.

Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve

The over 1,400 square-mile dark sky reserve is located throughout the Sawtooth National Forest and surrounding towns — Stanley, Sun Valley, Ketchum, and Smiley Creek.

Read more about Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve here:

Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve Article

Bruneau Sand Dunes

A short hour and a half drive from Boise, The Bruneau Sand Dunes host an observatory and camping grounds for families to enjoy. Due to COVID-19, the observatory is currently closed to the public.

Granite Creek

A little over an hour from Boise and just passed Idaho City, Granite Creek is one of Boise’s Astronomical Society’s designated viewing sites.

Photo Credit: Jordan Ragsdale

Tips for Astrophotography Photos

Ragsdale mentions that astrophotography equipment can be quite expensive; however, it is possible to take cosmic photos with limited equipment. Many people are beginning to pick up this hobby and practice their skills as photographers of the night skies. Here are some of Ragsdale’s tips for taking photos of the dark sky.

1. Equipment

A DSLR or mirrorless camera and a sturdy tripod is a solid start to taking stellar photos of the night sky. If you want to take it to the next level, Ragsdale suggests a tracking head for your tripod. Ragsdale explained when you calibrate that tracking head; it’ll track the stars for you — allowing you not to be limited to a specific exposure. With this equipment alone, you can capture particular nebulae or galaxies. Once you’ve mastered the basics, starting with a basic telescope can enhance your photos.

2. Travel to a Dark Site

Depending on the type of technology you decide to use, the best chance to capture a quality photo is to go somewhere where there is little to no light pollution. Being that Idaho has ample unpopulated terrain, there are many dark sites suitable for astrophotography.

3. Play Around with Camera Settings

Take in the celestial nighttime and get to know your camera. Ragsdale suggests trying a long exposure when out at a dark site and possibly a wide lens. The biggest take away when taking photos of the dark sky is to have fun and try new settings — you never know what remarkable images you may be able to capture when playing with your camera settings.

The night sky is filled with magnificent unknowns; astrophotography allows us to see a glimpse of those unknowns. Whether you want to simply admire our solar system and galaxies or capture it, going to a dark area is the start to capture Idaho’s beautiful outdoors.

Check out Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve to see when celestial events are happening throughout the year.

Idaho Dark Sky Events




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