In Borrego Springs CA, just an hour and a half drive from San Diego, there are metal art sculptures overrunning the desert. In the Galleta Meadows Estate, owner Dennis Avery decided to add some standing art to his desert oasis. He enlisted the help of Ricardo Breceda, who let his imagination run wild with full-sized metal sculptures ranging from local Desert Big Horn sheep to Sea serpents.
I have wanted to photograph these beasts for some time and in May the galactic center of the Milky Way has finally returned as a perfect backdrop to the sculptures. I headed out late in the night in order to time the rising of the Milky Way with the setting of the last quarter moon. Which proved to be a mistake. The metal sculptures are easy to find in the day, but once night falls there are no surrounding lights or signs to indicate their locations at all. Borrego Springs is a dark sky community which means they regulate light pollution from the town. Good for night time photography, not good for looking for desert sculpture art. After digging into a few maps online and stopping at almost every turn-off on Borrego Springs Road I finally found what I was looking for, the Desert Big Horn Sheep. I had previously run across a sunset photo of these sculptures that blew my mind. They looked so real backlit in the sunset that I was fooled for a moment wondering how someone could capture such a unique moment at sunset. I wanted to photograph them with the Milky Way rising in the background.
Next, I set up my 8" Celestron telescope and try to photograph some galaxies. The night was so clear it could not have been easier to set up and find my targets. It was my first attempt at the Whirlpool and Pinwheel Galaxies. I took about 60 images of each and staked them using REGIM star stacker for each to produce these photos. A good start for my first attempt, but not quite the detail I was looking for.
Finally after the Milky Way started to rise, I played with different compositions and lenses until I was happy. I went with my Canon 50 mm at 10 sec, F2.8 and ISO 4000 and I was so stoked I did. The 50mm allowed for the detail of the Desert Big Horn Sheep to stay sharp with enough detail of the Milky Way to stand out. I spent the rest of the night looking for more metal sculptures and playing with different settings. Finally at sunrise I was able to test out my new DJI MAVIC Pro drone on the giant Sea Serpent metal sculpture. I can't wait to go back and experiment with a few more of those metal sculptures.