Photograph Star Trails over Hellgate Spring

Rate this Adventure Hellgate Spring, Alta, Utah, United States

  • Activities:

    Photography, Snowshoeing, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Beginner

  • Season:

    Year Round

Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Food Nearby
Groups
Romantic
Scenic

Explore Hellgate Spring and capture a unique photograph of our dynamic universe with Utah’s Wasatch Mountains as the perfect foreground.

From the base of Little Cottonwood Canyon, follow the road approximately 7 miles until you reach the area between the Snowbird and Alta ski resorts. Looking north, several mountain peaks are visible, including both Mount Superior and Hellgate Spring.

The mountain face of Hellgate Spring (GPS coordinates in decimal degrees 40.5886200 latitude, -111.6494200 longitude) comprises a dramatic 500 million year old outcrop of layered rock types, dominated by limestone, sandstone, and shale, giving the mountain a unique stripy appearance. Not only is the mountain face dramatic, its position facing northward with the star Polaris (commonly known as the Pole Star or North Star) located above it’s peak, provides a perfect place for photographing star trails.

From the base of Hellgate Spring, set up your shot and camera settings: for star trails 30 frames (or more) of 10-20 seconds each, will give defined movement as the stars move from east to west. A DSLR camera and a lens with a wide aperture between f/1.4-f/2.8 with fully manual settings works best for astrophotography; allowing the user to fully control the light sensitivity (ISO) of the camera, in addition to the shutter speed and aperture of the lens (exposure value).

For the photos featured in this article a Canon 5D mark iii with a Rokinon 24 mm lens was used to take 60 individual photographs using the following settings and stacked using Photoshop:

  • ISO 640
  • Shutter speed: 10 seconds
  • Aperture: f/1.4
  • Other settings of note: Evaluative metering, automatic white balance

Pack List

  • Camera (and remote)
  • Tripod
  • Head lamp with red light setting
  • Extra layers
  • Water
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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Bryony Richards

British (with a touch of American, South African, and European) wilderness and landscape astrophotographer, geologist, and research scientist based in Salt Lake City, Utah ↟

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