The importance of dark skies and the impact of light pollution

March 22, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

Everyone knows I'm a real sucker for night photography. Star gazing has always been an interest of mine, but has expanded a great deal since I've gotten into photography. The most frustrating part of having a love affair with the stars is that I need to be in an area without significant light pollution from cities in order to enjoy that passion. Dark skies are a very valuable commodity, not only for night photography.

Devil's Thumb Ranch

I recently became involved with the International Dark-Sky Association and have been learning more about the importance of dark skies and limiting light pollution. Of course, this was a natural fit for me since I am obsessed with night photography; however, I learned a lot about dark skies and light pollution and wanted to share.

 

According to the International Dark-Sky Association, excessive and poorly directed lights are a tremendous waste of energy. 2.2 billion dollars are wasted annually from USA streetlights alone. Deep shadows, caused by overly bright lights, hide pedestrians from drivers and culprits from potential victims. Hatchling sea turtles are confused and drawn into cities rather than the ocean. Birds fly into buildings and are lost in the bright, city lights. In the future children may think of fireflies as nothing more than a myth, as the loss of night takes its toll. Humans are even affected when the day-to-night flow is disrupted, increasing the danger of developing sleep disorders, cancer and many other health problems from obesity to depression.

 

Naturally, my personal concern with light pollution is that it negatively impacts night photography and limits the locations that are available for that endeavor. Here are a few examples to demonstrate the impact of light pollution. Photo 1 was taken near a moderately sized city, Grand Junction, Colorado, about an hour away, yet still visible is a great deal of light pollution with, I think, detracts from the overall image.

This second photo was taken deep within the mountains of Southwestern Colorado, far away from any major cities. No light pollution impacts the photo and I think it benefits greatly from the dark sky of this coveted area.

Milky Way Arch Panorama

Not all hope is lost though - there are simple solutions to this problem; use lower wattage bulbs, motion sensors and timers, and cover bulbs so light only goes down where it is needed. These are all easy things that can be done not just during International Dark Sky Week (April 5-11), but, all year long.

 

For more information on International Dark Sky Week, light pollution, the artificial brightening of the night sky, the effects this has on safety, wildlife, energy waste, human health, and more, visit www.darksky.org.

 


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