Utah and Arizona Deserts Under the Milky Way

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Since the dawn of man, we have marveled at the night sky, contemplating our place in the universe, and constructing incredible stories in explanation. While advances in technology have allowed us to gain greater insight into the vastness of the universe, we still know very little.  Yet, this does not diminish the human capacity to appreciate the sublime nature of the night sky.  Attempting to capture just a fraction of the beauty presented to us each night is the focus of this photo tour into the dark.

During daylight hours, it's easy to forget that our own sun is a star holding the Earth captive in a year-long orbit.  Each day of this celestial journey, our rotation brings us through a period of darkness where the night reveals a galaxy of countless suns. These far-flung stars form a disk 100 million light years across—the Milky Way. On the darkest and clearest nights, far from the glow of city lights, the night sky comes to life. As the wide band of stars slung across the heavens appears, it beckons photographers outside.

Utah starsOne of the best locations for night sky photography is the Colorado Plateau of southern Utah and northern Arizona.  Here you find the higher elevations reduce atmospheric distortion, and its remoteness offers darkness found in few other locations in the US.  In fact, due to increasing light and air pollution in more populated areas, only about 1/3 of Americans can enjoy the vast beauty of the Milky Way on any given night.  Yet here we revel in starlight—using the dramatic desert landscape as our foreground.

What better way to make the most of these fantastic dark skies than to spend as much time outside as possible.  This unique photography itinerary starts in Page, Arizona.  The next morning, we leave this “city” and venture out into some of the darkest locations in the west.  In fact, four of the next five nights find us sleeping under the stars in a comfortable tented camp. After enjoying a gourmet dinner, you unwind around the warm glow of a campfire or choose to shoot well into the night knowing a cozy bed is close at hand. Camping this way provides a stress-free flexible itinerary, while the best photography opportunities are literally above our tents.  We make short forays away from camp using 4X4 vehicles or by walking up to two miles along desert trails.

The places we visit provide unlimited opportunities for dramatic foregrounds and skylines to complement our starry compositions.  After a good night of star photography with time to relax around camp, we set out to capture images of this time-weathered terrain by day. The sandstone landscape of this desert region contains a myriad of fantastic formations—spires, hoodoos, mesas, fins and buttes—that lend an otherworldly aspect to your images. The captivating vibrant colors of these sandstone formations are sure to provide exceptional hours of creative photography.

Join us as we delve into a truly dark world where the Milky Way is strewn across the expansive night sky.  Photograph the nighttime desert as few have, long after the sun has dipped below the western horizon. 

For trip questions or to enroll give us a call at (206) 463-5383

Tour Itinerary

Day 1 (May 21 or May 27)
Arrive at Page Arizona.  Page Municipal Airport (PGA) can be reached thru daily connecting flights from Phoenix AZ and Las Vegas, NV. 

Meet this evening for our welcome dinner and orientation followed by a workshop on how to set up your camera for photographing the Milky Way. Here, the dry air, higher elevations and the dark skies of this region provide the setting for curtains of stars to unfurl over the rugged landscape. (D)

Days 2–3
Sunset in UtahAfter a hearty breakfast, we travel to our first camp in the remote sandstone landscape of Arizona’s Vermillion Cliffs National Monument. Once in camp, these first two nights under the stars find us surrounded by the stunning landscape of the White Pocket. Thousands of acres of Navajo sandstone and desert sky stretch before us offering landscape photo opportunities right from our camp site. By day, this area hosts some of the most unique sandstone features found in North America.

Our campsites are chosen for their remote character and convenient proximity to unique terrain. Four-wheel drive vehicles are used for access into this rugged topography, opening exciting photographic horizons to explore. We may walk up to two miles in this area to shoot more remote locations.  In camp enjoy your own tent, (couples may share), furnished with a comfortable cot and sleeping bag. Camp life also includes tasty meals prepared by our camp team, Paria Outpost & Outfitters* while you relax and gaze at some of North America’s most stunning desert landscapes.  (BLD)

Day 4
Today we return to Page, Arizona and check into our hotel with time for hot showers and the opportunity to process and critique images.  After dinner in town, we head into the desert for another starry night shoot close to Page.  (BLD)

Day 5–6
After a relaxing morning in town, we drive to our second remote camp overlooking Lake Powell at Alstrom Point, Utah. This area of Glen Canyon National Recreation area is arguably one of the most remote and scenic locations in the region. From our camp the expansive view takes in miles of sandstone canyon country with the sacred Navajo Mountain looming in the distance. During the day, stunning vistas offer landscapes that beckon to be photographed just beyond our campsite. When nighttime arrives so does the blanket of stars, and the stage is set to continue our Milky Way photography.  (BLD)

Day 7 (May 27 or Jun 2)
After breakfast we pack our gear, say goodbye to the desert, and make the journey back to Page, Arizona for our flights home.  (B)
*Photography workshop operations at Vermilion Cliffs National Monument and White pocket are conducted by Paria Outpost & Outfitters, (BLM permitted guides SRP# AZA-020)
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Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris Enrollment Information

Utah and Arizona Deserts Under the Milky Way

May 21, 2022 - Jun 02, 2022


A deposit and completed and signed Registration Form are required to reserve a place for you on a Joseph Van Os Photo Safari.


All prices are quoted in US dollars and all payments must be paid in US dollars. For deposit only, we accept Visa, MasterCard or American Express. Final payment of the trip fee is due 120 days prior to departure and must be paid by check or bank transfer. Trip deposits are non-refundable and non-transferable.

We must receive written notice of your cancellation, at which time cancellation fees in the following amounts apply:

If Written Cancellation is Received:
90 days or prior:
89 to 61 days prior:
60 or fewer days:
Cancellation Fee:
100% of deposit
50% of trip fee
100% of trip fee

No partial refunds are made for unused portions or services of a trip for any reason whatsoever. Trips are sold as a package only. This policy also applies to tour extensions and independent travel arrangements. Cancellation fees are not transferable.

Protect your travel investment and purchase a trip insurance policy that includes emergency evacuation coverage. A trip insurance brochure will be sent with your enrollment confirmation. A CANCEL FOR ANY REASON policy is available.

Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris are within the capabilities of average people in good health. Some of these trips require the capability of walking for several miles over uneven trails, stepping from a small boat to a wave-washed rocky beach, flying in small planes and helicopters, and occasionally hiking at high elevations—all while carrying an assortment of camera equipment. If you have concerns about your own capabilities and/or fitness as it relates to a trip, please inquire with our office before reserving a space. By forwarding a signed Registration Form and trip deposit, you certify that you do not knowingly have any physical or other conditions of disability that would create a risk for you or other trip participants and you agree to inform our office in writing if changes in your health occur any time prior to the tour. We reserve the right to request a doctor's statement of good health. The company's or trip leader's judgment shall provide the ultimate determination of an individual's ability to embark upon or to continue a trip. Once a trip has been confirmed, medical circumstances will not be considered as exceptions to our cancellation policy. We assume no responsibility for medical care or for special dietary requirements. “Meatless” meals are normally available at most locations. Due to the remote nature of many photo locations, and the growing diversity of today’s dietary trends, participants requiring special food items are encouraged to bring their own.

Tour members are asked to refrain from smoking with or near the group.

Participants will receive three emails before the trip departs: 1. Initial Tour Information sheet confirms the deposit and provides pre-departure information. 2. Invoice/Practical Information provides clothing and photo gear recommendations, climate data, applicable health advisories and reading list. Visa information will also be included (if applicable). 3. Final Tour Information includes arrival instructions, itinerary revisions (if any), hotel addresses, trip telephone contact information and participant list. We provide the trip leader's telephone number(s) and/or e-mail address with final documents so you can inquire about special photographic questions you may have regarding your trip. We welcome your calls or e-mail messages to info@photosafaris.com.

Information supplied upon enrollment describes the specific costs that are included in your trip fee. Generally these costs include lodging in double room occupancy, all meals (specified in the itinerary as BLD denoting breakfast, lunch or dinner), ground transportation during the trip in vans or small busses, air transportation as specified, meal and baggage tipping, and guide services provided by the trip leaders. Not included are airfare or other transportation from your home to the trip staging location, airport departure taxes, insurance, alcoholic beverages and bar expenses (plus bottled water and soft drink expenses on international tours outside of North America), tips and gratuities to local guides abroad, phone calls, passport or visa expenses, laundry or items of a personal nature. Gratuities to Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris trip leaders are optional and always appreciated. Rates are based on group tariffs; if the trip does not have sufficient registration, a small party supplement may be charged.

Single accommodations are available for a supplemental cost in many locations; see the pre-departure trip information or call our office for details. You will be charged the single supplement fee if you desire single accommodations or if you wish to have a roommate, but one is not available. In some remote locations, clients with single rooms are infrequently compelled to share a room due to circumstances beyond our control. In such cases, appropriate per diem refunds will be made reflecting the direct cost of the single room at the facility where clients are required to share. There is no additional single supplement fee on ship-based cruises, if you request a roommate and one is not available.

Cost increases may occur unexpectedly due to rising costs of airfares, ground transport, fuel surcharges, accommodations and currency fluctuations, among others. Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. may be compelled to amend prices, and we reserve the right to do so without prior notice. An increase in trip prices shall not be sufficient grounds for any refund of funds paid for the trip other than as determined by the terms of our cancellation policy.

Whenever possible, our trip participants are lodged in comfortable, modern hotels. We select among the best available accommodations, but refrain from extravagance. Some interesting photographic destinations are far removed from modern amenities, however, and where necessary we will be accommodated in rustic country inns, cabins or tented camps.

Meals are always a special part of our trips for the camaraderie they engender and the opportunity they provide to try new foods from different areas. Depending on the trip and specific locale, participants order restaurant meals from the full menu or, less frequently, table d'hôte. Some trips include picnic lunches in the field. Fruit juice for breakfast and coffee or tea are included with the meals. Soft drinks are included with meals on tours within North America. Participants are responsible for their own bar tab (including bottled water, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages on tours outside of North America) at restaurant lunches and dinners.

Our itineraries are intended as examples only. Participants should allow for flexibility due to changes in weather, natural history or cultural events, or other logistical arrangements deemed necessary by Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. or our leaders.

The second tour leader (and any subsequent additional leaders) listed for each trip on the website will be added as the group size warrants. If only one space remains on a trip, and logistics permit, we accept two persons traveling together, even if it exceeds the trip maximum.

Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. and/or their Agents act only as agents for the passenger (trip participant) in regard to travel including, but not limited to, sightseeing, meals, lodging, transportation, and all other services whether by railroad, motorcar, motor coach, boat, ship or aircraft or other conveyance, and they assume no liability for injury, damage, loss, accident, delay or irregularity which may be occasioned either by reason of defect in any vehicle or for any reason whatsoever, or through the acts, bankruptcy or default of any company or person engaged in conveying the passenger or in carrying out the arrangements of the trip.

They can accept no responsibility for losses or additional expenses due to delay, cancellations or changes in flights or other tour services, and by force majeure including sickness, weather, strike, war, volcanic eruption, terrorist acts, political unrest, quarantine, epidemics and outbreaks, or other causes.  All such losses or expenses will have to be borne by the passenger, as trip fees provide for arrangements only for the times and locations stated. Baggage is at the owner's risk entirely.

The right is reserved to 1) substitute hotels of similar category for those indicated and to make any changes in the itinerary or transport where deemed necessary, or caused by changes in flight schedules or equipment substitution; 2) cancel any trip prior to departure due to low enrollment, in which case full refund of the paid trip funds will be given, but Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. is not responsible for any other trip preparation expenses such as penalized or non-refundable air tickets, visa fees and medical related expenses; 3) At the company’s sole discretion, suspend or postpone any trip due to force majeure in which case the trip may be rescheduled, or a refund issued less any non-refundable deposits paid to tour component providers on behalf of the passenger, or a travel credit given, but Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. is not responsible for any other trip preparation expenses such as penalized or non-refundable air tickets, visa fees and medical related expenses; 4) substitute trip leader(s) for the leader(s) originally specified, in which case the substitution is not a basis for participant cancellation or refund other than provided by our normal cancellation policy; or 5) accept or retain any person as a member of any trip.

Trip prices are based on tariffs and exchange rates in effect at the time of publication and are subject to adjustment in the event of any change therein.

A Registration Form including the Enrollment Conditions and Release and Assumption of Risk sections must be signed by each participant prior to the commencement of the trip. Participation by any trip member will be declined in the absence of the signed Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section, with no trip fee refund. No modification to the Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section will be accepted.

Should Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc., or anyone acting on their behalf be required to incur attorney's fees and costs to enforce this agreement, the enrolling trip participant(s) agree(s) to indemnify and hold them harmless for all such fees and costs. In the event a lawsuit is filed, the enrolling participant(s) agree(s) to do so solely in the County of Lewis in the State of Washington. Certain ship owners require the use of pre-printed ticket forms that limit the ship owner's and operator's liability. When such tickets are used, the passenger is bound by the terms of these tickets with respect to the passenger's legal relationship to the owners and operators of the ship, their agents (Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc.), and the ship's crew.

Utah and Arizona Deserts Under the Milky Way: Easy Activity Level

Van and 4X4 transportation.  Expect bumpy off-road travel in some areas.  Comfortable camping for four nights.  Possible nighttime walks of up to two miles round-trip using headlamps and flashlights. 
Trip Details
Multiple Departure Dates 2022
Fee: $5,795 from Page, Arizona
Deposit: $1,000
Limit: 9 participants
Activity Level: EasyEasy

Tour 1: May 21-27, 2022 
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Tour 2: May 27-Jun 2, 2022
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  • Photograph the brilliant Milky Way over otherworldly desert landscapes
  • Shoot the undulating sandstone formations of Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, Arizona
  • Create dramatic images of the starry night sky over scenic Lake Powell
  • Enjoy four nights camping in a comfortable tent camp set up exclusively for us with a mid-tour hotel break with a hot shower
Tour Leaders
Jeff Vanuga

Jeff Vanuga

And local guides