Imaging Locations:

None of the images on this site are taken from my home in Vista, San Diego County, California. I don't image at home because of the light pollution which limits exposure times and interferes with the subtle details in CCD images of celestial objects. Therefore, my imaging setup is portable and I travel to dark sky locations to take my images.

I now image from the property owned by the San Diego Astronomy Association located in Tierra del Sol, San Diego County, California. The tabs below show some of the locations I used to visit to take images.

  • Blair Valley
  • Little Blair Valley
  • Organ Pipe Cactus N.M.
  • Desert Center
  • Mount Laguna
  • Hole-in-the-Wall Camp
  • Mitchell Caverns
  • Vallecito County Park
  • Grandview Campground

Blair Valley, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, San Diego County, California

Blair Valley

I use various areas in San Diego County's Anza-Borrego Desert State Park for imaging. The site shown above is just 50 miles from downtown San Diego as the crow flies. Although not a true "dark-sky" site, light domes from San Diego, Imperial Valley and the Coachella Valley ring the park, it is dark enough for excellent CCD imaging. Little Blair Valley, which is a dry lake bed, is just down the road and is a popular local imaging and observing area. The benefits of this site include excellent weather and low humidity. This site is less than a 2 hour drive from my home.

Little Blair Valley, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, San Diego County, California

Little Blair Valley

Because it is relatively near to the population centers of San Diego County, Little Blair Valley is a favorite new moon location for visual enthusiasts as well as for imagers. As with Blair Valley [which is just over the ridge to the west], Little Blair Valley is not a true "dark-sky" site, light domes from San Diego, Imperial Valley and the Coachella Valley ring the park.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona

Organ Pipe

The Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is located in southern Arizona at the Mexican border. This is a very good dark sky site. I rate the site as a 9 of 10 for CCD imaging and an 8 of 10 for film photography. There is a small Mexican border town 5 miles to the south that creates some light pollution to the south, thus the "8" and "9" ratings. This is a spectacular desert camp. The main campground has more than 200 sites, most of which come with a 40+ foot long concrete pad designed to accommodate large RVs. Telescopes can easily be set up on the concrete RV pad. There are flush toilets and running water. The park also has a primitive camp with 4-5 sites that do not allow RVs or trailers. The primitive camp, which is 10 miles to the north of the main camp, is not impacted by light pollution. I recommend both park locations for CCD imaging. The primitive camp is best for film.

Desert Center, Riverside County, California

Desert Center

Desert Center is located approximately one hours drive east of Palm Springs on I-10. This site pictured above is located approximately 10 miles north of I-40 on BLM land at the eastern tip of the Joshua Tree National Park. This site has very dark skies for a southern California location with only a small light dome from a small town to the east. However, at 900 feet, this is a winter time site only. There are no campgrounds or amenities here. The up side is that there aren't any campground fees either. I rate this as a "9+" site for both film and CCD.

Mt. Laguna, Cleveland National Forest, San Diego County, California

Mount Laguna

Although only about 60 minutes from San Diego, Mt. Laguna is an excellent site for imaging because of the steady seeing. The altitude is 5,500 feet and skies here are moderately dark but can get very good if a thick marine layer moves in over metropolitan San Diego.

Hole-in-the -Wall Campground, Mojave National Preserve, California

Hole in the wall camp

This excellent desert campground is located nearly mid-way between Barstow and Needles 20 miles north of I-40 in the Mojave National Preserve. This is a very dark site with only a minimal light dome from Las Vegas which is 80 miles to the north. This campground is way off the beaten path and does not appear to be very heavily used. It can get cold at night at this campground due to its 4,500 foot elevation. The down side of this spot are the winds. When the winds are down, it is very nice at Hole-in-the-Wall. When it is windy it is impossible to image or observe. The daytime temperatures here are comfortable even when it is scorching hot in the low desert. Another less used campground named Mid-Hills Campground is located another 10 miles to the north and is at approximately 5,500 feet in elevation. Access to the Mid-Hills Campground is by gravel roads and is not recommended for RVs or trailers.

Mitchell Caverns Campground, Providence Mountains State Recreation Area, California

Mitchell Caverns

Perched on the slopes of the Providence Mountains at 4,300 feet, the Mitchell Caverns are a great astronomy destination. The Providence Mountains State Recreation Area is located within the Mojave National Preserve, approximately 15 miles north of I-40. The I-40 exit is about 60 miles west of Needles. The small campground is perched 1,500 feet above the Mojave Desert floor and has low horizons to the east and south. There are six campsites available on a first come basis. The horizon to the west is blocked by the Providence Mountains. The skies are very dark here with the exception of the light dome from Las Vegas 80 miles to the north. A great daytime diversion at this location are the Mitchell Caverns which has guided tours one or two times a day depending on the time of year that you visit.

Vallecito County Park, Anza-Borrego Desert, San Diego County California

Vallecito Park

This San Diego County campground is only open from September to May. The rest of the year is blazing hot. The elevation here is about 1,400 feet.

Grandview Campground, Inyo National Forest, California

Granview Campground

Grandview Campground is located approximately 15 miles east of Big Pine in the White Mountains at 8,700 feet in elevation. This location is a desert with very little rainfall. The tree cover at the campground consists of Utah Juniper and Singleleaf Pinyon Pine. The skies at this site are the darkest I have ever seen. There are no large cities within 100 miles. Light pollution is essentially non-existent with the exception of a small light dome from the small town of Bishop to the west [and 4,000 feet below]. The down side of this site is that it is extremely dry and dusty. One does not need to worry about dew ruining an observing session here. There is no water available in the campground. There are no camping fees, a positive. However the facilities are very primitive. Don't be surprised if you see other astronomers as this site is known to the California astronomy community. I rate this site as a "10" for visual, film and CCD because of the dark skies.