Want some incredible shots of the milky way? This post will teach you how to do it. One caveat — you have to be up for exploring nature in the middle of the night/early hours of a new day.
1. Choose your equipment
Body: A camera that allows you to control the shutter speed, most often this is a DSLR camera. Lens: A wide-angle lens that preferably stops down to at least f2.8. I use a Rokinon 14mm f2.8. Tripod: Any tripod will do. If you are in the backcountry and weight is an issue, get a travel tripod or take a beanbag. You can even rest your camera on rocks. Remote Shutter Release: This is not absolutely necessary, but it makes things much easier. When you press the shutter on your camera there is always a little bit of camera shake, which makes for a blurry image when using a long shutter speed. I use a wireless shutter release to alleviate this issue. Another option is to set your camera on the two-second timer so the shutter doesn’t open until you’ve had time to take your hand away from the camera.
Remember to pack something warm as you aren’t going to be doing a lot of moving around!
2. Find a location
In order to shoot stars you have to leave the city and get out into the wilderness. Cities have a lot of light pollution at night, which makes it difficult to see the stars, and next to impossible to photograph them. How far you have to go depends on where you live. An app like Dark Sky Finder is helpful in finding the darkest night skies close to you.
3. Set up your shot
Just like taking a regular photo, when setting up a night sky shot you want to create interest within the frame. It’s ideal to have a foreground, middle ground, and background. Think of composition and points of interest just as you would any other photo. For instance, place a person, tent, or tree in the foreground, silhouetted mountains make up the middle ground, and then a starry sky will be the background.
4. Adjust your settings
There are three parts to exposure: ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. All are subject to the conditions in which you are shooting. If there is a full moon, your settings will be different than if there is a new moon. Typically, if I’m shooting stars I try to shoot before the moon has risen, or during a new moon. My ISO is usually set around 1600, the aperture at f2.8, and shutter speed can range anywhere from a few seconds to a half hour, but all settings are variable.
5. Be Patient
Try different settings for various lengths of time. One of the most fun things about shooting the night sky is being surprised by the results. Sometimes, you capture residual light in the distant that adds cool colors and interest to the shot, other times you discover how to use the moon or a headlamp as a light source.
Happy shooting! 🙂
See more cool shots on Kat’s instagram @katcarney