Skip to main content

How to locate the milky way for night sky DSLR photography?

Our Earth is part of a huge sized galaxy, known as the Milky Way. Milky Way basically consists of our whole solar system and is made up of 100-400 billion stars. Until last year, I had no idea if we can see Milky Way with naked eyes. After a lot of failed late night drives and sleeping at the beach, I was finally able to get a grip on what I actually need to see Milky Way. In September 2016, I got my first Milky Way shot. It was an extremely emotional and priceless moment when I first saw the magnificent milky way with my own eyes. All the failed attempts or discomfort of not going to bed early seemed nothing in that moment. I would consider sharing this priceless memory with fellow photography folks as the inspiration behind this post. 
Moving on to the technical part, there is a minimal amount of gear required to take Milky Way shots using your dslr. Focusing at infinity and calculating the shutter speed to avoid star trails is purely technical, capturing Milky Way takes a little more preparation. Extra things you will need to check are:

-A dark sky to view or photograph the Milky Way.

-Location of Milky Way in the sky.

The most common and well-known website for the first part is Dark Site Finder. The image below is a screenshot of light pollution map for San Francisco and nearby areas from Dark Site Finder website. You would want to be in a Green/Blue/Grey zone if you want to view the Milky Way from naked eyes. Being in these areas will also make your photographs have a lot more details and less light pollution in it. 


Milky way DSLR photography
Light pollution map of San Francisco. Courtesy- Dark Site Finder 
Next target is locating the Milky Way in the sky. The galactic core (most bright part of the Milky Way) is not visible throughout the year and thus you might not be able to get a good view of Milky Way if you go at the wrong time.
Northern Hemisphere (North America, Europe, Asia, etc. )

Months it is visible: March to October

Best months for viewing: May to September

Best time: 3 AM - 5 AM May. 11 PM - 4 AM in June. Sunset to 2 AM in July. Sunset to 1 AM August. Sunset to 12 AM September. These times are just my personal observations, not a scientific astronomical fact. So now we know what month and time we can possibly see milky way at its best. If you are in a dark sky zone and go during these months, the Milky Way should be easy to spot once you scan the sky with your eyes. Give your eyes a good 15-20 minutes to adjust to darkness first. :)
Let's talk about direction. Don't look South, South-East, North, North-East or even West. Yes, I have read way too many blogs that give confusing information about looking in a particular direction but forget to mention the month and time. The only and only thing you should be concerned about is the constellation Sagittarius. The galactic centre of the Milky Way appears to be in the same direction of this constellation. To find this constellation, there are so many Android and iPhone apps. Two of them that come to my mind are Night Sky and Stellarium. Pointing your smartphone to the sky while the app is running would give details of all the planets, constellations and stars. Any other stargazing app would also work, all we want is the location of Sagittarius.


Milky way DSLR photography
Milky Way shot taken by me using High ISO
Once you spot the Milky Way with your eyes, don't forget to pause and admire the astonishing view before taking photos. It is such a good feeling to be able to see something expanding across the whole sky. Hope this post would help you in your Milky Way photography adventures.


Share the photography love by sharing this post.:)

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

sRGB vs Adobe RGB colour space explained

Digital images are everywhere, both offline and online. Each digital image is made up of a large number of square sized individual pixels. Zoom into an image at 2000 % or more in any of the viewers, you will see these pixels. Here is an example:


In order to categorize pixel colours, RGB and CMYK are the two widely used colour models. According to the RGB colour model, each pixel colour can be considered as an addition of different shades of red/green/blue light. These light shades are calculated according to the bit depth of the image. Jpeg images are usually 8 bits per colour channel (red, blue or green), which means 2^8 ( 256) different shades of each red/blue/green colour are possible. Few examples to make it clear how different colours shades are represented:
Red: (255, 0, 0)
Green: (0,255,0)
Blue: (0,0,255)
White: (255, 255, 255)
Black:  (0,0,0)



What does CMYK do? It is a subtractive colour model for printing purposes and stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. According to …

Digital photography histogram explained for better photos

The ability to read histograms in digital photography is an excellent skill that every photographer should have. Getting a properly exposed shot is crucial when it comes to photography, and using the histogram is a solid way to achieve it. That 2 to 3 inch LCD screen located on digital cameras is only a quick way to look at the photo exposure and its details. In harsh lighting or vivid ambient lighting conditions, it can prove to be misleading to the human eye. Sometimes the LCD brightness level can also create issues with judging the exposure of a shot. So what does histogram explain about an image? How can histogram help you to take better images? In this beginner-friendly post, I will try to answer these questions. You can consider it as a tutorial or cheat sheet for digital photography histograms.
Photography histogram image examples: The histogram is basically a mathematical way of representing data, and it applies to digital image information too. In digital photography, histogr…

Darktable vs Lightroom Classic CC

I first heard about Darktable software in 2016 and actually was quite fascinated with the name itself.  Within a few hours of hearing about it, I went to the official Darktable website and downloaded it on my Linux machine. Have been using it for quite a while now alongside Adobe Lightroom Classic CC and hence decided to write this small review post. If you are looking for a free Adobe Lightroom alternative, this might be or might not be for you depending on what you need.  Darktable is a free open source post-processing software which can do non-destructive RAW photo editing and photo management. Non-destructive means it does not change the original RAW file, all the edits are written to a sidecar file. It has evolved through so many phases of bug fixing and operating system compatibility. The latest version is available for Linux, MacOS, and Windows. Being an open source software it doesn't surprise me that it is available in 21 language translations. That's the power of op…