This blog post is all about the milky way and astrophotography. If you've ever needed Milky Way Season explained then you've come to the right place.
What is Milky Way Season?
- Planet earth is located in a barred spiral galaxy. We are situated on one of the arms of the spiral with our own solar system. Think of it as a flat disk.
- If you look to the centre of the galaxy, you will find a higher density of stars and gas clouds, which is what we call the galactic core.
- You can see this galactic core and milky way with the naked eye if you are in a dark enough place. It looks like a faint, milky band in the sky.
- Because of earth's journey and rotation around the sun, some times of year are better than others to witness the galactic core.
- If you're in the Northern hemisphere it is visible at night (other times of year the core is in the sky during the day, rendering it invisible) from March till October, with prime viewing times from late April till late July.
- In the Southern hemisphere you're at an advantage as you can see the core from February till October, with the prime time being June and July.
How do you find the Milky Way:
- There are a lot of ways you can locate the Milky Way but my preferred one is using an app called Photopills. It's developed by a team in the Canary Islands and their app is like a Swiss army knife for photographers.
- A cheaper alternative is The Photographers Ephemeris.
- Once you've downloaded and opened Photopills, scroll to the ‘planner'.
- At the top, above the map, scroll sideways till you hit ‘visibility GC (galactic core)'.
- Use the pin on the lower right to navigate to your current location, or use any of the other pin options to navigate to another place. You can save pins and visit them later.
- Scroll forward and backward in time using the bottom navigation bar (with the sun and timing on it). Depending on the season you will see a half circle of white dots appear. These dots are a representation of the angle and orientation of the milky way, with the biggest dot being the galactic core.
- If you're location scouting for a shoot in the future, you can adjust the timing by clicking on the time and edit the time and day.
- If you're at the spot where you are shooting or you want to find out where the milky way is where you live, try the AR feature, which will overlay a night sky over your phone's camera feed. It uses the internal gyroscopes to give you an accurate representation of what lies in the skies.
What you need to shoot the Milky Way or Galactic Core:
- A dark sky (check out DarkSky.org)
- The right time of year (use PhotoPills or free alternative TPE)
- A camera (I often use the Canon EOS 6DMkII DSLR or Canon 1DXMkII)
- A ‘fast' lens (I started with the Tokina 11-16 f2.8 and now use the Canon 24 f1.4)
- A trigger (I use the Canon TC-80N3 timer remote)
- A tripod (I use the Manfrotto 190Go Carbon Fibre)
How to shoot the milky way:
- This is honestly really simple. Use Photopills to determine where the galactic core is.
- Set your camera on a tripod, make sure it's steady and not shaking due to wind or ground vibrations. Enable the delayed shutter or use a remote.
- Fire off a few test shots to make sure you like the composition. Make sure your lens' image stabilisation is turned off (if you have it).
- Your settings will probably end up looking something like this: iso3200 f2.8 20s
- Don't forget to shoot RAW photos, you'll be able to extract way more data in post production to make your photo POP more. We'll discuss post processing astro photos in another blog post.
Want to learn how to shoot astro timelapse sequences? Check out this e-book I wrote about it!