Gorgeous images of night skies around the world have been captured by photographer Morteza Safataj – and some of the sensational snaps took a year to plan.
Safataj has shot photos across Iran and scouted the perfect Milky Way locations to make the night sky pop across national parks in Texas, Oregon, Arizona, New Mexico and California.
Originally from Iran but now a US citizen, Safataj creates and balances shadows in the foregrounds of his photos, which make the backdrop of the starry skies seem all the more theatrical.
Moment of reflection: Gorgeous views of night skies around the world have been captured by photographer Morteza Safataj. The skilled photographer can be seen in the foreground of this shot, taken in Arizona
LEFT: The Milky Way over a field of Texas wildflowers. RIGHT: A stunning capture of Joshua Trees in California taken while Safataj was on a road trip
A long-exposure shot of the night sky above a valley close to the city of The Dalles in Oregon. Safataj’s friend drove his truck on the highway four times in order to get the perfect shot of the car-light trace
The perfect shot can be captured in 30 minutes, but pre-production can take weeks.
Safataj said: ‘Finding the spot, aligning the Milky Way with the perfect foreground is a matter of days and weeks.
‘I first searched on the internet to find unique spots in nature and then calculated to see when the Milky Way aligned with the scenery a year in advance.
‘Then I plan the trip for the next year and go to the spot during the day and scout the area to find the perfect composition using a night sky application that shows where, and at what time, the Milky Way will be visible.
Strike a pose: One of Safataj’s friends does a spot of late-night yoga amid a unique rock formation in the Bisti Badlands in New Mexico with the Milky Way shimmering above
A stunning composition of the night sky, in which the Milky Way and the moon can be seen, taken at Big Bend National Park in Texas
Golden shot: The Milky Way puts on an incredible show over a salt lake between the provinces of East and West Azerbaijan in Iran
This shot was taken at Badab-e Surt, Iran’s terraced hot springs. Safataj says of his night sky photography: ‘With today’s technology we are able to capture night sceneries that we would never see with the naked eye’
‘After a day of scouting I will get back to the spot during the night and start taking the perfect photo.
‘Imagine with all these plans and scouting the weather turns out to be cloudy, and then I have to come back to the location another night or even another year.’
Safataj revealed that despite the potential frustrations, he finds night sky photography exciting.
He said: ‘One thing that inspired me was the challenge of capturing the landscape in low light under the night sky.
‘With today’s technology we are able to capture night sceneries that we would never see with the naked eye.
‘Combining the technology with my artistic vision enabled me to show some part of the beauty of our planet earth under the Milky Way galaxy that most people won’t get a chance to see.’
A local photographer drove this dirt road in the Valley of the Gods, Utah, to allow Safataj to shoot the vehicle’s bright lights and add another magical element to the scene
Safataj ventured out to snap a starry night sky in Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, after a fresh blanket of snow
LEFT: Safataj often shoots at Big Bend National Park in Texas, which he has called one of the ‘largest, darkest, most remote parks’. Here the Milky Way really comes alive. RIGHT: The Milky Way over Mount Sabalan, an inactive stratovolcano in Iran
A windmill silhouetted against a glittering night sky at Big Bend National Park in Texas. Safataj says of his work: ‘Combining technology with my artistic vision enabled me to show the beauty of our planet earth under the Milky Way galaxy that most people won’t get a chance to see’
Along with night skies, weddings are another one of Safataj’s specialities – he runs a wedding photography business. Pictured, a long-exposure photo taken at Big Bend National Park in Texas
Houston-based Safataj puts his stunning photos on his Instagram account – @safatajphoto – where he has 36.5k followers.
His favourite photo is one he took of the Milky Way over Rowena Crest Viewpoint in Oregon.
Safataj, who is the co-founder of a wedding photography studio and is the Director of Photography at a marketing agency, said: ‘I spent a few days exploring Oregon’s night sky. I’m glad that for the majority of the nights, the sky was clear.
‘I had a great experience that night. Scouting different locations the whole day helped me shoot the best possible compositions.
‘That night, my friend drove his truck on this highway four times in order to get the best car-light trace.’
To see more of Safataj’s work visit his Instagram and Facebook pages.
It’s not always stars and galaxies. Safataj snapped this electrifying thunderstorm over Lake Urmia in Iran
The ultimate selfie: Safataj shot this mesmerising self-portrait while exploring Vedauwoo, an area of unique rock formations located in southeastern Wyoming
The night sky glitters above the Rio Grande River at Big Bend National Park in Texas, while Safataj can be seen setting up his photography gear
These cross-shaped silhouettes make for a haunting photo at Terlingua Cemetery in West Texas
Houston-based Safataj puts his stunning photos on his Instagram account – @safatajphoto – where he has 36.5k followers. Above, Safataj shot the Perseids, which Nasa describes as ‘the best meteor shower of the year’, while in Meshgin Shahr in northwest Iran
The 34-year-old photographer says the challenge of shooting in the dark is what drives him