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   xoxoxoBruce  Monday Sep 29 11:16 PM

September 30, 2008: False Kiva

Most of us are lucky to see a few stars. Sometimes on vacation, we might get far enough for civilization to get a good show. But not many people get to see what Wally Pacholka does. That's because Mr Pacholka is a pro, it's what he does, and he works damn hard at it.

This picture of his has been on APOD and his site.

Mr Pacholka's description;

"The America Southwest is home to thousands of caves that were once home for millenniums of various Indian cliff dwellers. Few are as hauntingly beautiful as False Kiva, given its name for the round stone circle structure. The hidden cave sits half way down a mesa cliff and has a stunning "room with a view" of rock formations in Canyonlands. One can only imagine the thousands of times individuals through the ages saw the same view of Jupiter and the Milky Way parade across the heavens from their very own back yard... False Kiva is by far the most magical place I have ever been to and everyone that has been there says it is a hauntingly beautiful place lost in a time. During the exposure for this image the crescent Moon lit up the canyons and I artificially lit the inside of the cave. If the photo looks unreal, believe me that place looks like the most unreal scene time wrapped place I have ever been to. I have gotten unbelievably spooked at times being in there alone at night while I was just waiting for a mountain lion to return to its den!"

I told Mr Pacholka that I would link both the APotD and his site, because there is always some clown claiming every cool picture is a photoshop.

He replied;
Over 30 national parks in America sell my night sky photographs over America's landmarks. Each is a real photograph that has gone through each park's Interpretive Department to determine that it is genuine before it can be sold in their park gift shops.
All emails should be directed to me (
I have been photographing the night sky now for over 40 years, made TIME-LIFE Pic of Year 3x for my astrophotography, and published by NASA over 29 times so with those credentials behind me and this photograph, I will not answer any emails that mention the photo being fake or Photoshoped as the folks at TIME-LIFE and NASA already did their homework in this regard mulitiple times.

The photo is a real camera on tripod photographed time exposure of the night sky as seen in this real Indian Cave with the exposure being long enought to capture the stars but short enough not to cause blur in the stars or the landscape.
I seem to have struck a nerve, but seeing his photographs, I'll bet he hears it over and over... it's so spectacular, is it real?

He continued;
May you and your team enjoy the photograph and know that each and every night there are things to see in the night sky and may this photo inspire folks to just get out and look and not sit in an arm chair and just say that it can't possibly be true and never venture outside. I travelled 800 miles 5 times to get this one shot (out of thousands taken) on the edge of a canyon cliff.
Wally Pacholka
OK, team... get off your fat duffs and see the world at night... and I'm not talking about a neon sign from under a pool table.

Kasszia  Tuesday Sep 30 12:11 AM

I live not 30 miles from here! Never seen False Kiva, although, I think a trip this winter might not be out of the question! Thanks for posting Bruce. This picture is amazing. And I can tell you from experience, you would not believe how many stars you can see out here in the desert... Ah, going outside now!

xoxoxoBruce  Tuesday Sep 30 12:15 AM

I know, I spent 10 days at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, one August. There were more stars than wall street could lose in a year, and shooting stars every thirty seconds, all night long.

Elspode  Tuesday Sep 30 12:17 AM

OK, its wonderful...but there's no way to get such a deep exposure of the Milky Way without a tracking camera, and that tracking camera would have smeared the foreground.

So, its a faked representation of a real thing...not unlike an Impressionist painting.

monster  Tuesday Sep 30 12:26 AM

looks like a painting to me. A good one. Maybe this is the effect of the exposure described by the photographer, but it doesn't appear real enough to make me feel like I'm there, which is what I expect of a good photo

xoxoxoBruce  Tuesday Sep 30 12:26 AM

None of the stars are points, they're all little streaks.

SPUCK  Tuesday Sep 30 05:25 AM

I'm with spode. I think there has been some uh tweaking here.. That Milky Way is way over the top.. One can say, "yes that was just The Picture", but then overlay 20 of the same picture and say "yeah but it wasn't Photoshopped".

If it was just film then it was hypered film.

glatt  Tuesday Sep 30 08:56 AM

It looks like a composite image to me. I don't doubt that if you were there, looking at the scene with your naked eye, it would look a lot like this picture. But cameras aren't as flexible as our eyes when it comes to adjusting for exposure. With a camera, when you expose one part of a picture properly, other parts of it will either be over or under exposed. I think this is either tweaked in photoshop to make the night sky brighter, or it is two pictures taken one right after the other but exposed differently and then stitched together. Much like HDR photography.

Awesome image though.

xoxoxoBruce  Tuesday Sep 30 09:41 AM

The wonders of the night sky are out there every night and you can't see them... neener neener neener.
signed, The Third World.

classicman  Tuesday Sep 30 09:46 AM

Simply spectacular. Whatever it is.

Flint  Tuesday Sep 30 09:48 AM

We're a team? Cool. Nice work, Wally.

Pie  Tuesday Sep 30 11:46 AM

If you play with shadows/midtones/highlights in ps, you get effects that look a lot like that. Still love the pic, but it definitely has some tweaking going on.

PS: What makes it false kiva?

xoxoxoBruce  Tuesday Sep 30 12:39 PM

A Kiva is a man made structure. This is a natural cave that was apparently being used for the same purpose, hence false Kiva.
Anyway, that's the name of this cave, given by the National Park Service,

Treasenuak  Tuesday Sep 30 09:06 PM

This is now my desktop background. Freakin' GORGEOUS! -hums under breath- stone soup, stone soup... since no one's posted a recepie yet

Elspode  Wednesday Oct 1 01:43 AM

I've spent many hours under the darkest skies imaginable. Trust me, there are no circumstances under which you would see the Milky Way in this manner. You cannot see the dust lanes that are so prominent in this pic. You cannot see the tremendous differential between the light areas and the darker ones, no matter how long you stay out, no matter how dark adapted your eyes become.

The astro part of this pic is the result of very long exposure photography, and a buttload of post processing. Period.

xoxoxoBruce  Wednesday Oct 1 03:08 AM

It looks like that from my mushroom patch.

rupip  Wednesday Oct 1 10:47 AM

God is obviously a woman

ZenGum  Wednesday Oct 1 07:41 PM

How you figure that?

The crab nebula looks like a doily? The milky way is colour-coordinated with the walls of the cave?

xoxoxoBruce  Tuesday Nov 25 12:28 PM

I just found this day picture.

Shawnee123  Tuesday Nov 25 12:29 PM


CliffWalker  Sunday Jan 4 10:23 PM

I've spent twenty-five years camping in the desert and photographing the night sky. Any photograph that will show the Milky Way in this detail would require the shutter to be open for a long time, creating star trails. This has to be a composite.

xoxoxoBruce  Sunday Jan 4 10:32 PM

Welcome to the Cellar, CliffWalker.

I think you're right, but the photographer only claims that everything in the picture is real, which I believe it is.

One Monkey  Thursday Jan 29 11:21 AM

First I want to say that this is a beautiful image, Mr. Palcholka is very talented. However, it does bother me that he does not admit that this image is a composite of more than one image. I don't understand why he feels compelled to state it is only one image with only one exposure. I read on another site where he admits that it is a panoramic composite of four images that were spliced together by a photography house.

I've worked in the graphic arts industry for over 30 years and have done digital retouching on images, and also am an amateur astronomer. The image has definitely been manipulated, its color levels, contrast, etc. And as for a composite of separate images, the obvious sign is the horizon—it is different from the daylight image posted on this site—you can't move mountains. This leads me to suspect the image of the Milky Way was a separate image too.

Mr. Palcholka, "There is nothing wrong with composite images, what is wrong is stating that it is not and trying to deceive others to that fact."

wolf  Thursday Jan 29 11:24 AM

Thanks, One Monkey, for the info!

Welcome to the Cellar.

One Monkey  Thursday Jan 29 11:28 AM

One Monkey  Thursday Jan 29 11:31 AM

I tried to post an image showing the daylight horizon and the night horizon side by side but I don't see it here.

Here is my blog site for you to see:

glatt  Thursday Jan 29 11:32 AM

Your post appears blank to me, One Monkey, but when I quote it, I can see you are trying to link to this image. I've uploaded it as an attachment.

edit: and in the time it took me to do that, I saw your second post.

xoxoxoBruce  Thursday Jan 29 11:49 AM

Originally Posted by One Monkey View Post
However, it does bother me that he does not admit that this image is a composite of more than one image. I don't understand why he feels compelled to state it is only one image with only one exposure. I read on another site where he admits that it is a panoramic composite of four images that were spliced together by a photography house.
Where does he claim, "it is only one image with only one exposure", I've not seen that?
What he told me was, all his pictures have been verified by the National Park Service to be real stuff.

Oh, and welcome to the Cellar, One Monkey.

One Monkey  Thursday Jan 29 12:45 PM

A link to Mr. Palcholka's site, under Product Description he lists the image as Media: Unedited Photograph

This site is someone who ordered his photos, a second person claim that the photos are not retouched.

This site he admits it was a mosaic of four images.

At this site, scroll down to MAC's second reply and he quotes Mr. Pacholka's reply on how he took the photo.

xoxoxoBruce  Friday Jan 30 01:53 AM

In the forth link he tells how he did it.
You say he didn't.
I believe him.

chrisinhouston  Friday Jan 30 12:16 PM

Well if you go to his website he has almost all of his images "on sale" so the economy must be hurting for him as well!

floatingk  Tuesday Feb 3 07:13 PM

I feel this was one of the best reactionary IOTD in a while. But, I have to tell you that Im not a believer. Oh well.:p

Your reply here?

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