Lee's Ferry, Arizona, Milky Way Photography Magazine Extra

Milky Way Photographers Paradise!

Lee’s Ferry, Arizona Milky Way Photography Location 


Lee’s Ferry Arizona is a part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and home to some of the Darkest Skies in the lower forty-eight. It is one of our Top Ten Milky Way Photography Locations. 

Lees Ferry is a site on the Colorado River in Coconino County, Arizona in the United States, about 7.5 miles (12.1 km) southwest of Page and 9 miles (14 km) south of the Utah–Arizona border.

Due to its unique geography – the only place in hundreds of miles from which one can easily access the Colorado River from both sides – it historically served as an important river crossing and starting in the mid-19th century was the site of a ferry operated by John Doyle Lee, for whom it is named. Boat service at Lees Ferry continued for over 60 years before being superseded by a bridge in the early 20th century, which allowed for much more efficient automobile travel. -Wikipedia

What you will need:

Light pollution maplight pollution map

Camera – You will need a camera that you can manually control your ISO, shutter speed, and aperture.

Lens – A fast wide-angle lens of 1.4 – 2.8 is ideal. If you use a 3.5 or higher (slower lens), you will have to increase the ISO. The higher the ISO, the more grain or digital noise or grain that will appear in your photos.

Tripod – A good sturdy tripod is essential for night photography. If it gets windy you will need a sturdy one. Keep that in mind, when you buy one, it should be sturdy enough to withstand the wind but small enough to fit in your suitcase.

Sky Map – Sky Guide is available through the iTunes Store for $1.99. It has a 5 out of 5-star rating on both the current (3.2) version (1200+ ratings) and all previous versions (8600+ ratings).

Flashlight –  Our choice is Coast brand for flashlights. The ideal flashlight will have high lumens and you will be able to zoom the in and out on the amount of light emitting from the flashlight. We like a small stream of light not a wide amount of light. Get the HP7, PX45, or the G50. Ideally, go with the  HP7.

Light Pollution and Moon Phaze Map – The best time to go is during a new moon, and you want to be in the darkest area possible.

Remote Shutter Release – When painting with light and you want to go over a 30-second exposure, you must have a shutter release to use your bulb mode. When exposing your pictures in general, you can use the remote release, so you are not using your hand to press the shutter button and make the camera move even a little bit.

Milky Way Photography at Lee’s Ferry, Arizona

Use a Tripod – First of all you must be on a tripod. A good sturdy tripod is necessary if it is windy. If the tripod moves, your picture will blur.

Focus – Use live view.  Use your camera’s live view to focus in the dark, hit the zoom button, and focus on a bright star. You can also use the infinity setting on your lens but do several test shots to see accuracy. It can be off a little on some lenses. You can also light it up with a flashlight, focus, then gently, without touching the focus ring, put the camera in manual focus so it will not search for focus. You would have to do this each time you move your camera to take your next angel.

ISO – Start with ISO 1600 – 3200.  This is just a standard starting point, and you will adjust from here.

Shutter Speed – Remember the earth is rotating. If you leave the shutter open for too long, you will see star trails that will not make for a crisp image. You can do star trails specifically but that’s not what we are going for here since we are starting out with milky way photography. We want crisp non-star trail images when doing this. Here is the formula to avoid star trails. The 500 rule – Divide 500 by the focal length of your lens. So, if you have a 24mm lens on a full-frame camera, you will set your shutter speed to 20 sec. (500/24 = 20.83). If you are using a crop sensor camera, first do the math of the crop sensor to find the focal length. Cannon is 1.6, Nikon is 1.5. Convert to full-frame focal length, then use the formula. Nikon 18mm x 1.5= 27mm – 500/27 = 18.51 seconds.

Aperture – Depth of field isn’t critical on these shots, but letting the light into the camera is, so you should shoot wide open. If the depth of field is essential to you, try not to go too high. (wide open =the lowest aperture your camera will allow). You will have to increase the ISO some, which will give you digital noise if you don’t shoot wide open.

Those are all of the essential starting points for doing your milky way shots.  You will want to find some exciting foregrounds to make your image dynamic. Doing dull old milky way shots without foreground will not win you any awards.

White Balance – In live view mode, you can change your white balance settings and see what it will look like. You can shoot in shade or cloud mode as a standard setting and adjust things later. You can shoot the sky in tungsten mode to make it bluer, but if you have trees and such in the picture, they will come out blue also.

Lee’s Ferry, Arizona Photography Hot Spot Location

Not just for night photography! This is also an insanely cool article.


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Photography Magazine Extra Pam Goodyer

Lee’s Ferry, Arizona, Hotel Information:

Lee’s Ferry Lodge

Visit Lee’s Ferry Lodge Website

Call them at (928) 355-2231
Seven days a week to make a reservation
(Please call between 7 AM and 8 PM MST)

Room Capacity:
Single Rooms: 1 – 5 guests
Suites: 1 – 7 guests

Lees Ferry Lodge is located 120 miles north of Flagstaff, Arizona, at the edge of the Vermilion Cliffs National Wilderness Area, on Hwy 89A, 3.5 miles west of the Navajo Bridge, which spans the Colorado River.

They’re just 10 miles from Lees Ferry, the entry point for Grand Canyon river trips. We are also one of the nearest hotels to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Lees Ferry offers incredible scenery, access to the Paria Wilderness Area, a launch ramp and walk-in fishing areas, as well as historic buildings and trails.

The Lodge’s location makes for easily accessible day-trip fishing entry point inside Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Grand Canyon National Park.

Photography Magazine Extra Pam Goodyer

Park and Area Information:

Entrance Fees:

1-7 Day Vehicle Entrance – $25.00

Admits one single, private, non-commercial vehicle and all its passengers

1-7 Day Motorcycle Entrance – $20.00

Admits one single, private, non-commercial motorcycle and its riders.

1-7 Day Individual Entrance – $12.00

Admits one individual when entering on foot, or bicycle. Not to exceed $25 vehicle fee. Individuals 15 years of age and younger are admitted free.

1-7 Day Boating Entrance – $30.00

Admits one single private vessel

1-7 Day Boating Entrance additional vessel – $30.00

Admits one single private vessel on the same trailer as a vessel paying full entry fees

Entrance Passes:

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area Annual Pass – $50.00

Allows unlimited entry to Glen Canyon for 12 months from date of purchase.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area Annual Vessel Sicker – $50.00

Allows unlimited entry to Glen Canyon for one vessel Jan 1 – Dec 31.

Operating Hours
Find out when visitor centers and facilities are open. Launch ramps are open all day, year-round, when the water level allows.

Fees & Passes
How much does it cost to get into the park and to camp here?

Take a gander at those launch ramps before you get here.

Frequently Asked Questions
What makes Glen Canyon National Recreation Area tick? Find out here!

Information about regulations and important safety concerns.

Quagga Mussel Update
The latest information regarding invasive mussels in Glen Canyon.

Road Conditions
Is that dirt road you want to explore passable today? Find out here.

Ranger Programs
Enjoy a ranger-led hike or talk. These programs are seasonal.

Permits & Reservations
Looking to do business in the park? Make sure you have all your papers in order.

Download a copy of our park newspaper before you get here.

Even with beautiful Lake Powell, this is still a desert. Extreme conditions ahead.

Where can I take my pet in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area?

Goods & Services
I need a post office! I need a grocery store! I need a gas station!

Rainbow Bridge National Monument
Even though Rainbow Bridge is its own unit of the National Park Service, we take care of it from here at Glen Canyon. Find out more about this amazing site.

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