How to do Stunning Milky Way Photography
Greetings astrophotographer, in this article, you will learn how to do Milky Way photography. It’s not as hard as it looks.
Get tips on how to choose a location, when to plan to head out, minimum equipment requirements, and how to compose astrophotography scenes that will wow your friends and family.
Also, just for fun, we’ll talk a bit about astrophysics.
Doesn’t that sound cool? Let’s get started.
Space, the final frontier…
Throughout this article, I will use the following terms, Milky Way and Galactic Center.
What is the difference? The Milky Way is the name of the galaxy we call home. It is visible year-round as long as the night is dark enough.
The Galactic Center refers to the rotational center of the Milky Way. It is the densest and brightest part of the galaxy and the feature most often associated with Milky Way Photography. The Galactic Center is not visible year-round due to the Earth’s orbit around the sun.
With some of the terminology out of the way, it’s time to move into the next step, planning your Milky Way photographs.
PLANNING MILKY WAY PHOTOGRAPHY
If your aim is to capture a photograph of the Galactic Center of the Milky you need to start by understanding some basic planning requirements first.
The components that help make a successful Milky Way photograph include a dark sky, timing, and the right mix of equipment. In other words, you need to answer the questions of where, when, and how.
These questions can be answered in any order, but you need to do so in order to give yourself the highest chance of success with Milky Way photography.
WHERE TO SHOOT
The answer to the question of where should you go to shoot requires a bit of work. However, the answer boils down to anyplace that is dark enough.
Unfortunately, photographing or even seeing the Milky Way in or near a city is quite difficult. This is because when the sun sets, the city lights come on. The glow emanating from them creates a phenomenon known as light pollution.
If you look at the sky in the following photo from Dubai you’ll notice the lack of visible stars in the sky. This is the result of the light pollution generated by the glow of the city lights.
This photo of the Milky Way over Morro Rock (below) lacks the vibrancy of those taken away from the lights of a nearby town.
FINDING DARK SKY
So, if you can’t really see the Galactic Center in a city, where can you go?
Fortunately for you aspiring astrophotographers and those who just like stargazing, there are plenty of good resources to help you find a dark sky.
WHEN CAN YOU SEE THE GALACTIC CENTER
Time of year – Milky Way season
If you are planning your first trip to photograph the Milky Way it’s good to understand some basic parameters.
First, the Galactic Center is visible from roughly March through October, this is referred to as “Milky Way Season” by most astrophotographers.