- How to Photograph the Moon and Planets with Your Digital Camera
- Night and Low-Light Photography Photo Workshop
- Night Photography: Finding your way in the dark
- The 100 Best Astrophotography Targets
Our galaxy is an amazing visual landscape, yet capturing its majesty can prove challenging . Our eyes are accustomed to bright, city lights and this makes it hard for us to see the Milky Way with the naked eye. The first thing to do if you want to photograph the stars, is to pick a good location. Look for a place that is as far away as possible from city lights. Going to the countryside is a good option, just make sure not to point the lens in the direction of a city.
You have to do your homework before you go out and shoot. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, you’ll have to wait until summer because that’s when the galaxy is most visible. Winter is however the best season in the Southern Hemisphere. There is in online planetarium, called Stellarium (free) that enables you to see the sky at any time and from any location .This way you can predict when to best time to go shooting is.
The most visible area of the Milky Way is in the direction of the Scorpius and Sagitarius constellations. Also, successfully photographing the Milky Way means avoiding star trails.
Photo credit: Larry Landolfi
The actual shooting
It’s a bit different than other types of night photography, like moon photography for instance. You will need a wide angle lens, preferably something in the range of 12-14mm. Focus can be manually adjusted to infinity, unless you have an object, such as a building, in the foreground. In this case I would suggest simply showing up at the location some time before sunset, adjusting the focus and switching everything to manual. If you turn on a flashlight or headlights to focus in the dark ,it will take your eyes a while to get used to the dark again. One item I personally use is Night Vision Goggles which gives me the freedom to move around at night with out any additional lights.
Set the aperture to maximum opening , f2.8 is preferable.
Set your ISO to high values like 1600 or 3200. Noise is inevitable, but as long as you shoot raw you stand a good chance of removing it.
Set your shutter speed to 20- 30 seconds. Once you’ve made the exposure, check for star trails in the frame .Do so by looking around the borders of the frame and not by zooming in on the centre of the image.
What makes the process interesting is that because of the Earth’s movement you have a constant change in scenery. Shoot in intervals and you will get different compositions every time.