Chimborazo's Cosmos

No post-processing version:

One of my glacier change research sites is in Ecuador, at Volcan Chimborazo. During our fieldwork this past June, we enjoyed an exceedingly rare mostly clear night (maybe 5-10 of these per year, if even; I once measured an average monthly relative humidity here - based on hourly measurements - at 99.5%!). As soon as I realized that our base camp (at 14,200 ft / 4200 m) was situated such that the Milky Way was draped right over the summit of this 20,000 ft / 6200 m behemoth, I knew I had an image with potential.

The glow on the summit glaciers is from the city of Ambato, about 30 miles away behind the camera.

This is the first of three images from this night that I wish to post for your critique. This one is after moonset, and with just a skiff of cloud. The others represent variations in these conditions.

The name of this image is a nod to the fact that polymath Alexander Von Humboldt, whose best known work was Cosmos, did some of his most important research at Chimborazo, which at the time was thought to be highest mountain in the world. While not near the highest, its equatorial location means that Chimborazo’s summit is farther from the center of the Earth - and thus closer to those stars - than any other point on the planet.

Specific Feedback Requested

I really enjoy night sky photography and I think I am getting better with my in-camera technique, but I am not-at-all confident in my post-processing. I’d appreciate feedback on anything, but especially that aspect of this work. I’ve also posted an unaltered version for comparison.

Technical Details

Sony A7RII with Tamron 17-28 mm f/2.8 at 28 mm. 13 seconds at f/2.8, ISO 3200.

Post processed in LrC (+1.0 exposure, tonal balancing, + dehaze and + clarity, WB to 4050) and PS (curves adjustment in midtones, + saturation in sky, + color balance adjustments to remove some of the yellow from the light pollution glow on the ice), with noise removal using Topaz DeNoise AI (severe noise reduction model).


Hey Jeff, nice to see you here. It’s a very clean image. I think you did a great job of editing it and keeping it natural. I’m not sure I would change a ton here, honestly. The foreground and the night sky feel nicely balanced and not too “in your face” - keep up the great work!

I like the backstory. As far as the processing, I think it is well done. You managed to pull out some nice detail of the Milky Way and the luminosity of the mountain goes well with the scene.


Fabulous Milky Way and night-sky image. Good thing that 20k peak is covered in snow (duh,) but I like the contrast provided of the snow-capped peak and the night sky. Well done.


Jeff, This is a wonderful Milky Way shot. I love just sitting here and looking at the larger version. I can’t offer any tips or techniques, but I can say it’s an awesome image.

@Matt_Payne , @DeanRoyer, @David_Bostock, @Lon_Overacker:

Thank you for your feedback. I’m pretty encouraged to hear that no one saw any necessary major revisions!

NGL, @Matt_Payne, I took a good look at a couple of your images, particularly Milky Way Over the Cimarrons , before I started processing this one. I really enjoy your podcast; it turns out that you and I have a fair amount in common - I also grew up in COS, and lived in Durango (Mancos) for about 10 years before leaving to go to graduate school. I spent many, many wonderful days in the San Juans, and miss them terribly.

Oh wow man, that’s awesome! Thanks for your kind words about the podcast and my image. That was a beast of a file to edit, lol.

I just found this while trying to catch up here, and have to add that I think it’s wonderful! The processing looks very natural, and it’s all maker’s choice, but I think you could go even a bit farther if you wanted. The clear air at 14,000 ft allows such a clear view of the night sky. The dramatic composition with the mountain is wonderful!! I’m going looking for the other images now!