What is best time and way to shoot milkyway?
Star Trails Photography
January 6, 2017

Have you ever seen the Milky Way with your naked eye? If not, you may have been astounded by the several Milky Way photographs clicked by professionals. You may have even gone to the roof to get a look of it, but yet again you were disappointed. It’s extremely difficult to view the Milky Way with naked eyes especially if you are city dweller. There are far too many lights around you and there is far too much pollution.



Today I will discuss about astrophotography with special focus on the Milky Way.

Location - For any kind of astrophotography, location is immensely vital. You need to be away from pollution as well as from unnecessary lights. Try to shoot the Milky Way during a night when the moon is not at her brightest best. This will decrease the amount of the light in the sky, thus making your subject, the Milky Way stand out.



I will recommend a shutter speed of 20-30 seconds. This will bring the best out of the Milky Way. For this a tripod is mandatory. Try to attach some external weights to your tripod to stabilize it further. Shutter speed higher than this range will make the stars look as if in motion. Although that results in really awesome surrealistic astrophotography, it's not the current requirement. Remember, this shutter speed is applicable for a full frame camera. If you are using a crop frame camera, the focal length will get multiplied by the crop factor, thus making your stars bigger. So you will have to use a lower range of shutter speed in order to eliminate motion blur.

Aperture - Just because the stars are far away doesn't mean that you will have to shrink your aperture to get a good depth of field. Use a wide aperture to get the best out of the small dim lights in the Milky Way. I believe that a wide angle lens opening up to f/2.8 will do the job for you. The only time you will face hiccups will be when you have a foreground element in your frame. Since you are focusing at infinity, the foreground element will be absolutely blurry.



ISO - ISO needs to be as low as possible, normally. In this case however you will need a high ISO to get all the light. Do not be shy to use an ISO around 3200 and above. In modern cameras you often have a noise reduction mode. Use the long exposure noise reduction feature.

If you are having a problem getting combinations right, try the 500 rule. Just divide 500 by the focal length of your lens to get an approximate shutter speed. If you are on 18mm lens while using a crop sensor camera of crop factor 1.5, then divide 500 by 1.5 times 18. This will give you a shutter speed of about 18-19 seconds. While this is not perfect, this can be good for a start. Use this as your base while building the photograph.

It is likely that your shots will not have proper exposures initially, but there is no reason to panic. This will take a lot of time to master. During post production, adjust the sharpness and the white balance to get the perfect photograph. Mesmerize your viewers with the perfect Milky Way shots.

Star Trails Photography
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