Tips For Creating Milky Way Photos of the Night Sky

May 25, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

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Creating night sky images of the Milky Way has never been more attainable than it is today. Astrophotography is no longer just for the privileged few that had access to powerful telescopes and expensive astronomy gear. 

With a good quality DSLR (and high-end mirrorless cameras too) coupled with a fast (e.g. F1.4, F2.8) wide angle lens and a tripod, you are in business.  

To create the image in this article, I only needed a single exposure.  I will walk you through the process to help get you started.  

I set up the composition before it got too dark so that I could manually focus to infinity.  That is important because it is very difficult to try and focus in the pitch black sky and try and get infinity into sharp focus. 

Next, I waited for the time when the Milky Way was hovering over the tree, and the orange glow from the pending sunrise was visible.  

I used a Nikon D810 in manual mode, set at ISO 3200 for 20 seconds to create this image.  I used the Tamron 15-30 F2.8 lens at 15mm F2.8.  I tried other versions of the image up to ISO 6400, but I liked the results of this version the best.  All of the other images were technically acceptable, I just like the light rendering in this version the best. 

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I didn't want star trails, so I divided 400 by 15 (my lens focal length) and got a time of 26 seconds.  So, I knew I had to stay below this value to keep the stars sharp and crisp.  The exposure in this article was for 20 seconds.

I used the self-timer versus a remote shutter release and simply took a few single exposures over a 30 minute period.   I could have used an intervalometer to take a series of photos automatically over a period, but this was just a simple and fun outing that didn't require too much thought or preparation.  I will write about more complex exposures in the future and maybe create a time-lapse movie.  

If you use this information to create some night sky photos of the Milky Way, scroll down to the bottom of the article and click on the "Add Comment" button and share your experience.  

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