Have you ever seen a picture of the milky way and asked how can I do this? It’s actually quite simple. Welcome to “An introduction to astrophotography”. In my previous post I wrote about catching thunders. In this post I’m going to talk about how you can catch a the beauty that our home galaxy offers.
For this you’ll need a clear sky [just stating the obvious]. A camera set on manual mode, tripod and girlfriend or friends to keep you company and gaze at the stars.
Get away from light pollution
For gazing at the milky way and taking pictures of it you’ll need to visit a place that has clear sky. Preferably a mountain and somewhere far away without light pollution. Light pollution can affect you images, just like it affects you when you watch the sky at night in a city. If you try taking a picture of the night sky while being in a city you’ll have a hard time, therefore this is some kind of a must. Go to a place with no light pollution.
As you may see high from the mountains and Ljuboten Mountain Lodge there is no light pollution that can obscure your image. However, down below you may see the actual light pollution from the city of Tetovo. This is just one of the many pictures from my photographic portfolio.
I’ve found a location now what?
Although you have a good location you are not set. Go through this checklist: Camera, Tripod, and a lens that is very short and that has a very high aperture 1.8 or 2.8 is recommended although 3.5 would do just fine.
Put your tripod and set you camera on it. The camera settings for this occasion are:
- Aperture: 3.5 (or 2.8/1.8/1.4)
- ISO 1000 through 1600 depending on the aperture this might go up or down
- Shutter speed 20″
Put the focus mode to manual and set it almost close to infinity. This way you will have sharp stars. After you take the image check if everything is sharp enough, if it isn’t just adjust the focus.
As you’ll go on with this you will find yourself that these settings are not necessarily like this. You can put them to what suits you best. Just mind that the higher the ISO is, the more noise you’ll have when you are going to edit the photography. Finally press the shutter release, wait for it, and voilà.
Here is an example of what the picture looks like RAW when you take it with your camera and after editing it in software (post about this coming soon).
Mind the season
The Milky way galaxy is visible through the entire year. However, you need to be aware that the bright part of star dust is visible only from mid May through late October. Any other time you will just catch the starts and some part of the Milky way that is just not what you’d like. I’d say best time to capture the Milky way for me is August – September.
That’s it, you have the basic info you need to go on some light pollution clear space and take the most awesome pictures of our galaxy.