• Document and explore the beauty of the night sky in Rappahannock county.  Inspire a discussion about maintaining this night sky, what each person can do, and why it is important.
  • Photograph the night sky with the Milky Way or with stars in locations around Rappahannock county, VA.
  • Make available images that show the beauty of the night sky for teaching purposes, websites, tourism (locations and landowners may remain anonymous if desired)
  • Help people learn to observe and/or photograph the night sky

Rappahannock county, VA has some of the few dark skies where the Milky Way and a multitude of stars are visible from your back porch. Most of the east coast, and really much of the country has too much light radiating upwards and outwards from many sources of lighting, meaning that most people now have never seen the milky way or even seen many stars. When I moved to Rappahannock in the 1992, I could walk down my path to feed the horses at night and could not see my feet when the new moon was present (moon is totally hidden by the earth). Now, I can easily see my feet, with lights coming from Front Royal, Warrenton, and Culpeper, as well as local lights from the county that reflect off any cloud cover.

Rappahannock League for Environmental Protection (RLEP) is establishing their Dark Sky initiative, to help preserve what we have and to raise awareness of the value of truly dark skies. I wish to contribute to that effort. I love the night sky, the stars and beauty of the Milky Way. (http://www.rlep.org/news-alerts/240-dark-skies-bright-spirits)

So, I have created a personal project to support RLEP. I am photographing places around Rappahannock when and where the stars are visible, to help document what we have here. Many local people have seen the stars, but may not really appreciate how many stars are there and how beautiful they are. Modern digital photography allows us to capture the stars along with a house, barn, trees, or any other structure.

cliff-miller-dark-skiesFor my project, I am photographing all around Rappahannock county, private and public properties. As part of this, I volunteer to photograph private properties under the stars, with lighting so the house, or other structure is visible and becomes a personal connection to the night sky. Then, I give a medium size print (to hang on the wall or whatever) and a small print to carry around to show friends.

Words can explain the importance of the dark skies, but pictures are worth more than a thousand words here. Sharing the stars with people has been incredibly rewarding. It’s wonderful to see people stop long enough to really look and appreciate the sky. I hear discussion about the stars in local shops.

In 2016, I received a grant from the Rappahannock Association for Arts and the Community–RAAC’s Claudia Mitchell Arts Fund – http://raac.org/raacwp/mitchell-fund/. This has helped support the volunteer aspect of this project and get this website going. My hope is that other communities can use this idea as a stepping off point to take their own photographic initiative into their local area.