Sunday, June 9, 2013

Capturing the Milky way 101



So you are looking around the web and you keep seeing the photos of the Milky Way. The first thing that goes past my mind is "How, How in the hell did they get that?" Well this last week I set a goal for my self to see if I could get a photo of this. I looked all over the Internet trying to find out what is the best time, best settings, and what part of the sky to look for it. After looking High and low for it I found a few sites that were able to help me out. First thing is first, what you need!
Shot with a Kit lens. 18mm at F3.5, 20 secs, ISO 4000


What you need!

  • Forget what people tell you about having to have a full frame camera like the D800 or 5D Mark 3. You can do this with a crop sensor camera like my D7000 or a 50D. It can be done!


  • A kit lens will get the job done! You can use a lens with a faster aperture like a 35mm 1.8. But just as long as you have a wide-angle lens with a F3.5 at a min.


  • Tripod, Tripod, Tripod! If you don't have one, Get one! A tripod is something that you buy once and don't buy again. If you go cheap you will end up buying one every year like clockwork. Don't skimp on this item!

Taken with a Canon 50D and a 11-16 lens
This image above was taken by Skip Reeves. He is a amazing Photographer and you should follow him on Facebook and check out his website Silver state Photography
  Settings
The fail-safe settings. (ISO 3200/F2.8/20 secs)

  • ISO 3200. You are going to need a camera that can do High ISO. The higher the better. (This is why a Full Frame are better) it still can be done with any camera that can get to ISO 6400. It might not be museum quality. But it will work! 

  • Lowest F-stop. You want to let in the must light as possible. F1.8 or F2.8 are best but it will work with the Kit Lens F3.5.

  • Long Shutter speeds. 20 Secs is a good starting point cause you need to open the shutter to let more light in for a longer time. Play with this till you find the right spot. 


  • ISO 3200/F2.8/20 secs. This is a setting you can’t go wrong with to start the night with. Am not saying this is going to be the setting every time and be the right one for you. It will help you one the road to get to the right now. You might start with it and find out you need a faster shutter speed cause you are getting blurry stars. Either way it’s a great way to start.

Finding a Spot 

Well am not going to say that you cant get a milky way shot in the city but I doubt it. You need to be in a dark.... Dark...DARK spot. You need it to be dark so your camera can only pick up the lights of the stars and the Milky Way. If you have a city lights near by it will bleed over and ruin your photos. So use Dark Sky Finder

Where to look 

Some people use Stellarium. However if you are like me. I use StarTracker HD for my Ipad. It works like a charm and its well worth the money, but it does go for free some times. Either way it going to be late at night. So plan ahead and make sure you have a spot in mind.



Ok with that being said. Find a spot. You have the camera and lens combo, and the settings are in. now take a test shot!  Then plays with it tell you get the right settings. Once you got it down. Then start snapping away till you get what you want!



As you see below I took 9 images to get all of the milky way in and then I photo merge it in Photoshop CS6 and then edited it in Light Room 4.

9 shots taken with a D7000/35mm 1.8/ISO 2500/ 10 Secs
Head on over to my 500PX to see the full res image. follow me on Facebook at Heath Smith Photography.
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When it’s all done you end up with a final image of this. Hope you enjoy this post. I hope you go out and try this at your neck of the woods. So go out and try it. Work on it, and challenge your self to getting great images!!!