Welcome to DarkSkyWest.
This site and associated content represent the culmination of a five-year project to visit and photograph all of the "dark" places in the American West.
The American West contains the last truly "dark" skies left in America. As one travels eastward from the continental divide, the ability to observe our galaxy diminishes to the point that it is completely absent from the night sky of the eastern seaboard, replaced by the incandescent glow of humanity. These western dark skies are in danger also as cities expand and suburban sprawl fills the spaces between metropolises.
The first goal of this project was to create a body of photographic art capturing the current state of western dark skies. Such a work should be set in the most pristine and treasured lands and be composed in such a way as to "capture" the spirit or essence of the location to the best ability of current technology. This directive led me to such places as the North Cascades, the Sierras, across the basins and ranges of Nevada, into the Sonoran Desert, along Colorado River valleys to the Rockies and onward to the headwaters of the Missouri River in Montana. The images contained in this project are the fruit of thousands of hours working towards an awareness of the dark sky's place in the American West. The second goal of this project is to communicate this awareness and work towards fostering thought and conversation about this overlooked form of human influence on our environment.
Displayed in a concentrated form, the combined work shows that these skies are endangered. It would be difficult to find a single image here that does not show some form of man-made light pollution. Even in the darkest skies of southeastern Oregon and central Nevada, light pollution can be observed; sometimes from mega-cities hundreds of miles away, or sometimes from a nearby farmhouse.
It is true that the vast majority of Americans live in areas too light-polluted to ever observe our galaxy, the Milky Way. Indeed, many Americans have never observed the Milky Way with their own eyes and have now lost that connection with the cosmos that animal life on Earth once shared, generation after generation, for nearly half a billion years.
I welcome you to this site in the hope that you find something inspirational, unexpected, or something that sparks the imagination. We all share the night sky and are active participants in its observability.
Gregg M. Erickson