On July 19th, 2020, I was in a place to witness an incredible phenomenon in our starry sky, the comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) traveling through our solar system. Visible to the naked eye throughout the night, this spectacle of a comet appeared over the Hérault Gorge. With its ice and dust core burning into a double tail under the rays of our sun, the small celestial body revealed itself just after dusk.

Before blue hour, I drove out to the gorge and hiked down to my usual overlook spot along the Hérault Gorge where you can see an old ancient ruin along the river canyon. As blue hour faded to astronomical twilight, the comet was very faint and difficult to pinpoint. I actually first saw it on the back of my camera before seeing it with my naked eye when I took a test shot in the direction I knew it was rising above the horizon. It was a pretty spectacular experience to see something that only happens every 4,400 to 6,700 years.

The Hérault Gorge remains an unspoiled and particularly wild site. In the exceptional landscape of Mediterranean hills, it is located near one of the most beautiful medieval villages in France and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Saint-Guilhem-le-Desert. The gorge is one of my favorite places close to home. I especially love the wild thyme, oak, and pine clinging to breathtaking cliffs. Along the gorge are several old remnants of human history. Its houses bear the traces of their past in their architectural details, having been weathered by the sun, storms, and the passage of time.

This VAST vertical panorama was created using focus-stacked long exposures for the foreground and star-stacking to bring out the stars and comet.