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Taken in Quebrada Santa Cruz beneath Taulliraju in the Cordillera Blanca, Peru, on August 24th, 2014

There are two simple rules you need to follow if you want to see legendary night skies: 1) Get away from light. Ditch the cities, the moons, even your flashlight. If you want stars find somewhere dark. And 2) Get up high. The less atmosphere between you and the stars the more luminous brilliance you will see. At approximately 13,000′ elevation and perhaps 20 miles from the nearest tiny village, the Santa Cruz Valley in the Cordillera Blanca in Peru checks both boxes beautifully.

On the crystal clear second night of my four-night Santa Cruz trek I ventured out into the dark to photography the impressive glacier-clad southwest face of Taulliraju. By complete coincidence (though if I were better at marketing I’d say it was due to my precise planning) the Milky Way was rising nearly straight up from the top of Taulliraju, forming a luminous extension of the mountain.

Near my camp was a small creek leading toward the mountain which reflected some of the starlight and formed a perfect lead in for the scene. In order to create this final image I took two exposures, one at f/8, ISO800, 280 seconds, and another one 25 minutes later using the exact same composition but at f/2.8, ISO6400, and 30 seconds. The two photos were then combined in Photoshop to recreate the scene as I experienced it.

View more beautiful Peru photos.

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