Night Scene Photography: How to Photograph the Milky Way
*****PLEASE NOTE, I LIVE IN THE NORTHERN HEMISPHERE. RESULTS WILL VARY SHOOTING IN SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE LOCATIONS*****
As an astro photographer, one question I'm always asked is, “What is the best time to photograph the Milky Way?
I have broken this blog down into simple tips for night photography.
1. Time of Year
3. Location, Location, Location
4. Getting the Shot
1.) Time of Year
My favorite time to photograph the milky way is March - May. The great thing about photographing the these months is you can capture the full arch across the sky. By mid summer, the Milky Way will appear to high in the sky to capture the full arch but you are still able to get amazing Vertical shots with the galactic core.
March, April, May
June, July, August
September, October, November
Photographing the night sky is not difficult, but having the right equipment makes all the difference. Getting sharp photos of the Milky Way is a lot more demanding than well-lit subjects during the day. Below is the gear I use when I'm out on location shooting the Milky Way.
Map of the stars
How are you going to shoot the milky way if you don't know where it's at? You can download some free apps but I recommend PhotoPills. It's only $9.99 for the full download and doesn't require any membership subscription.
Best Camera for night photography
There are many great-quality cameras on the market to suit everyone’s taste. But, when it comes to cameras for night photography, I'm a loyal Canon shooter. Whenever I'm shooting the night sky, my go to cameras are Canon 5ds r and Canon 6D.
Best lenses for night photography
24-70mm f/2.8 - Available for Canon and Nikon DSLR, Sony Mirrorless
14-24mm f/2.8 - Available for Canon and Nikon DSLR, Sony Mirrorless
16-35mm f/2.8 - Available for Canon and Nikon DSLR, Sony Mirrorless
24mm f/1.4 - Available for Canon and Nikon DSLR, Sony Mirrorless
Sturdy Tripod and Ball head
I use the TVC-34L Mk2 tripod and BH-55 ball head by a company called Really Right Stuff. I have gone through MANY tripods throughout the years and this company has the best on the market. Yes they are very expensive, but when your taking 2 minute exposures, any movement ruins your entire shot.
I use the iOptron SkyGuider Pro EQ Camera Mount for all my milky way shot. I understand the majority of my readers will not be using this, but it's how I'm able to take 2 minuet exposures. This produces extreme detail of the sky which allows me to enlarge my print up to 10 feet wide. I will write another blog in full detail about this process on a future date.
You will be shooting in complete darkness. I use an inexpensive headlamp from amazon. In populated areas like the Salt Flats in Death Valley. please use your red lamp to be courteous of other photographers shooting.
3.) Location, Location, Location
There are many things to factor when choosing the right location. Light pollution, season, moon phase, and weather. I live in Las Vegas so my favorite place to shoot is Death Valley.
4.) Night Photography Settings