It’s that time of year again when the evenings are starting to feel a little warmer and the idea of sitting outside all night is a little more attractive than it was in the freezing cold dead of winter. So you know what that means? Milky Way photos. In this video, astrophotographer Alyn Wallace goes over seven tips to help us improve our Milky Way photography and get the absolute best shots that we can.
The first tip is the biggest and the one that catches the most people out and that’s to find the darkest skies you can. Much of the populated world is heavily polluted by light from surrounding towns and cities and you’ll need to get as far away from those as you possibly can if you want to have a chance of getting the best shots.
- Get away from light pollution and consider the direction you’re looking at
- Scout in the daytime – It’s easier to find a good landscape (and it’s good for your safety)
- Use a fast wide-aperture lens – You still may need a high ISO, too
- It’s not all about the Milky Way core – Look at other times of the year, too
- Use a star tracker – Otherwise, your shutter speeds are limited
- Stack multiple shots for noise reduction
- Don’t shine your flashlight at it – It won’t make it look any better
To look for those areas of darker skies check out the Light Pollution Map. I use this regularly myself when I go camping to try to pick spots that might potentially be good for some nighttime shots, too. Of course, the clouds here in Scotland often mean that you don’t get to see the stars anyway, but we have to at least try, right? As Alyn suggests, I also try to scout my spot out in the daytime (this is a good tip for fireworks displays, too!) because you get to see the landscape in all its glory in the daylight and you’re able to easily spot potential dangers that you wouldn’t see in the pitch-black darkness.
To add to Alyn’s tips, I’d suggest loading up the laptop or iPad with movies, too, so you’ve got something to help pass the time while your camera’s busy shooting away for a couple of hours getting timelapses of the stars flying across the skies. Also, make sure to take lots of munchies and drinks with you to help you stay awake!
What’s your top Milky Way or Astrophotography tip?