Night Sky Photography at Crater Lake

Oregon Rim Village Cafe, Crater Lake

Added by Gemina Garland-Lewis

  • Listed as one of top 10 dark sky locations by the National Park's Dark Sky Team
  • Expansive views in all directions from the rim of the crater
  • Great opportunity to try star trails or light painting

Whether you're a photographer just starting to try your hand at night sky images or already an expert, Crater Lake is a great place to shoot for the stars.

Shooting during colder months is recommended — you can shoot at Crater Lake during any season due to the altitude, but the stars are brightest on cold, clear nights. It is also best to shoot when the moon is new to half-full, in order to pick up light from the stars. Hike, snowshoe, or ski several miles away from Rim Village to avoid light pollution.

Film works, but it is best to start out with a digital camera, which gives you access to star trail software as well. You'll need to know how to use your camera in manual setting, however.

First, set up your camera on a tripod and plug in a remote shutter release, to help get a clear, steady image. Once you've framed your shot, focus your camera to infinity with a 25 second exposure at f/2.8 and ISO 1600. This is a reliable starting point for many camera models, though you may need to adjust according to your equipment. Keep in mind that anything much past 25 seconds will start to pick up slow movement in the sky and results in less crisp images. If you know your camera is capable of a higher ISO without too much noise, go for it!

To make star trails, take a few test shots, then set your remote shutter to lock and sit back for as long as your patience allows—the more images you have to stack, the longer your star trails will be. If you have a good view of the northern sky, use a compass or night sky chart/app to find Polaris, the only unmoving star in the northern hemisphere—circles will start forming around it if you record enough images. Certain areas around the rim of Crater Lake have a blocked view of the northern sky, so this may take some exploring.

You can also use your headlamp for light painting to brighten up your foreground or have fun writing notes in the air, just remember to move right to left and write your letters in a mirror image! If you're camping, bring an extra light source to place inside your tent to illuminate with soft light and add context to your night sky image.

Finally, don't forget to stop and take it all in, every now and again. If you've been using a light, let your eyes adjust to the darkness and stare out across the crater—it's every bit as beautiful at night!

Driving Directions: Crater Lake National Park has a number of entrances with seasonal availabilities. See the National Park Service website for specific instructions but a good place to start and fuel up is the Rim Village Cafe (see map).

Pack List

  • DSLR camera
  • Wide-angle lens
  • Tripod
  • Remote shutter release
  • Light source (flashlight, headlamp, etc.)
  • Extra batteries for your camera and flashlight
  • Camping gear: tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, stove and fuel
  • Plenty of water and food
  • 10 essentials, if camping or wandering off the beaten path
  • Patience
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How to Get There

5 months ago

Stunning View

Crater Lake is an incredible foreground for night photography, especially if you have a little moonlight early in the night to light it up. It's extremely peaceful at night and you do a little hiking you'll find plenty of solitude. When completely plowed the Rim Road makes it easy to find a spot to line-up the Milky Way.

5 months ago

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