A direct-injection natural gas (DING) engine was modified for optical access to allow the use of laser diagnostic techniques to measure species concentrations and temperatures within the cylinder. The injection and mixing processes were examined using planar laser-induced fluorescence (PLIF) of acetone-seeded natural gas to obtain qualitative maps of the fuel/air ratio. Initial acetone PLIF images were acquired in a quiescent combustion chamber with the piston locked in a position corresponding to 90° BTDC. A series of single shot images acquired in 0.1 ms intervals was used to measure the progression of one of the fuel jets across the cylinder. Cylinder pressures as high as 2 MPa were used to match the in-cylinder density during injection in a firing engine. Subsequent images were acquired in a motoring engine at 600 rpm with injections starting at 30, 20, and 15° BTDC in 0.5 crank angle degree increments. A pair of scaling parameters based on the pseudo-diameter of an underexpanded jet effectively collapsed the fuel jet penetration measurements under both motoring and stationary piston conditions and a vortex ball model of jet penetration agreed well with the jet penetration data.