How to Plan and Shot the Milky Way

How to Plan and Shot the Milky Way

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Astrophotography  is a fascinating world, finding yourself under a magnificent starry sky is an experience that everyone likes, it is always fascinating for me to photograph the night sky and enjoy stars photography

Years ago photographing the stars at night was something that perhaps few people would have the lucky to do, but today with modern DSRL and technologies, astrophotography has become more easy

In this article, I am going to show how to plan and shot the milky way, what you have to know to do it, what you need for and how can do it!

WHEN TO GO

Milky way is clearly visible during the summer months, before you go always search on internet that milky way will be visible in your area

WEATHER

Essential condition for photographing the milky way is a cloudless sky, more clouds will make it more difficult to see the stars, so always check the weather before you go to shoot

MOON  PHASE

Another milky way enemy is the moon, always consider the moon phases of the rise and the sunset to avoid having a bright ball to ruin the show in the sky. The best time to go is during the new moon or with low moon visibility rates. To check the best moment to go you can check on the web but there are many apps to do that, I use PhotoPhills

WHERE TO FIND A DARK SKY

In astrophotography is very important to find a good location to photograph a starry sky with some composition element of course to composite a landscape. You have to get away from the big cities and light sources as much as possible, which is the main element of disturb for good visibility of the milky way. Fortunately it’s easy to find apps and tools to do this. Before go give a look on light pollution map  it will to help to find good locations or confirm that the place you chose is good to shoot the night sky

COMPOSING THE SHOT

the best thing would be going to the dark location before night, with sunlight you can better understand the location and think about how to take the picture once night comes. There are many apps that allows you to find the milky way once darks begin. Some of this are Google Earth, Stellarium, Photopills, Google Sky Map and Sky View. If instead you go to the place when it is already dark, if you have found a good location with dark sky you can see it with a naked eye

GEAR YOU NEED:

 

A Good Camera

A good camera that is capable of working with high ISO is an indispensable requirement to capture the milky way. As nikonist I know the fabulous performance of the D810A, but there are many other here great mirror-less options available these days, even cheaper, solutions on the market that guarantee excellent low light performances

Tripod

It is not possible to do a long exposure without a tripod, so this is an indispensable requirement for photographing the milky way. For a landscape photographer investing on the good and sturdy stand is very important

Lens

To capture the milky way you need to have a wide angle lens, the reason for this is that the milky way is very large in the sky and if you want to have a good frame need to include a composite element below, the wider will be your lens more is better. Another important element is the aperture value, a good aperture lens will capture more light this allows to  play with ISO and get great results, I personally use the nikon 14-24 f2.8 that I use in most of my landscapes

Remote Shutter

I’t highly recommended to have one with you. During a milky way/night shot you, you may need to shot for 25-40 seconds exposures. Normally you can do it with self timer but over 30 sec camera switch to bulb mode, to avoid staying the whole time with your finger pressed on the button with an almost always moving result a remote shutter will not let you shoot without interacting with the camera keys, risking having a blurred picture. Also, if you like to shot startrails  is a key requirement

CAMERA SETTINGS:

 

Focus

During the night, auto focusing in the dark is very difficult , so it is necessary to use the manual focus (which I generally recommend for every landscape photo)
You can focus manually in the dark with great results adjusting the lens, setting it to the infinite symbol and then moving it slightly to the right, shot a trial shoot  and zoom on it,  you will be able to see if it’s all in focus correctly

Shutter Speed

Talking about exposure time may be lower or higher depending on the lens you use or the ISO that you set. In most cases, good results are obtained with 25-30 seconds, but many photographers rely on the 500/600 rule that displays exposure times of the the milky way before stars that make it passes from point to trails (you can find the app for this rule the name is dark skies). I personally think it useful but with good DSL with high ISO sensitivity you can quietly use values much lower than those that are reported in thesw two rules.

Aperture

For this type of photography, the camera’s aperture value must be the lowest f/value added. This will allow the camera to receive as much light as possible without raising ISO too much,  more this value of your lens is as low and cleaner will be the final result

Iso

This is a decisive value and linked to the previous point. Usually I get best results in an ISO range ranging from 3200 to 6400 before noise starts destroying the image. With particularly bright lenses you can keep this value low gaining photo cleanliness, so it is to balance the shutter and ISO aperture value to find the best compromise

I’ve talked about the composition before, always try to photograph the milky way below some compositional element to have a good overall landscape.

CONCLUSIONS

Once photographed, the post-processing stage is what allows you enhance the visibility of the milky way. In my opinion, this kind of photo requires initial work on Camera Raw before starting to work with Photoshop so you need to take it in this format to get the best results

How to process the milky way depends on your personal taste, if you prefer something more natural or something that increases more colors and details.

This might be the subject of my next tutorial, let me know what you think in the comments!

I hope you enjoy and you find this tutorial usefull, I’m always happy to ear it from you!


10 Tips To Improve Your Landscape Photos

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I Have always been a lover of  Landscape photography. A suggestive spot, natural locations or a beautiful sunset over the sea for me have always been something unique, a moment to stuck. In my experience I have made ​​many mistakes during my shots over that places, but I’ve also learned from them what are the main warnings to keep in mind when need to photograph a landscape. So in this article I will  share with you 10 Tips To Improve Your Landscape Photos, hope you will find them usefull:

Plan for your shots

If you plan well your photos, you’re already a step piece. This means to know the shooting place and location features.  In  Landscape Photography we need to know so many factors such as the position of the sun, weather conditions, moon phases and moon sunset for the milky way.

There are so many apps that allow you to know the conditions of  your shooting location. I usually use Photo Emeries, Photo Phills and Golden Lite, they are all good for the direction of the sun, or times for the golden/blue hour, or even where you will locate the milky way in the sky

Giuseppe Sapori - Moonwalk

Arrive Early to get the best position

It seems a small thing but it isn’t, get there early helps you find the best position before other photographers, you will also have all the time to understand where it will comes the sunrise or sunset and calculate the shot. For example when I was in Oia Santorini, many people wanted to take the famous sunset, the best spot was invaded by many tourists and photographers.

I arrived at my spot at least 4 hours before sunset (it’s too much I know, but in my case it was really necessary) finding the spot I chosen, during this long time I set the camera, I cleaned my lenses, I set the shot while I made an aperitive with beer and chips while waiting. By the time all the others  photographers and tourists crowded behind me in bizarre positions 🙂

Giuseppe Sapori - Oia Sunset 2

Clean your lenses

If you arrive early to your location you will also have time to give a clean the lens you decide to use. The best solution is to use specific products for lens cleaning but if you don’t have something of this try to clean them using cleenex.  Avoid absolutely to breathe on the lenses and to give him a clear brief with the shirt 🙂 breath is not suitable to clean and shirt can drop pesky lint that attach to the lens

Always use tripod

In one word “essential”, to get the freedom to shoot with manual focus, with long exposure times and with bracket shots. Depending on the light and the type of photo it may not be necessary but photographing landscapes at dusk  is a prerequisite

IMG_4898-min

Don’t move tripod

In landscape photography tripod always it assumes a fundamental role, but personally I think it also aids in shooting creativity. Once I have chosen a good position I hardly move my tripod, this because it allows me to be able to catch and shoot the various moments of light alternate with the passage of time. This means choosing the best light, the best color or just have the choice to do it.

For example in the pictures I took in the new district of Milan Porta Nuova I stayed for about two hours withoud moving my tripod capturing everything I needed even if far apart them in a time frame. At home with Photoshop I merged all the layers I needed to put it all together in one frame: light trails, city lights and sky with the colors of the first sunset. Moving tripod or changing the direction of the camera this would have been impossible

Giuseppe Sapori - Faster ride

Manually focus

The auto focus is definitely more practical, but to improve it and sharpen your images nothing is better as manual focus, expecially in cases where there is low light manual focus is the best choice.

If you want to be sure to don’t mistake with the manual focus I can suggest a little trick: Set the live view and enlarge the picture on the part to focus on, turn the focus ring until the image is perfectly in focus and then returns to classic view in this way it will be easy and fast do it

Bracket your exposures

It ‘a personal taste choice, some photographers prefer to work with single RAW but personally I bracket all the time because it allows me to capture the entire dynamic range in a picture and to work more freely. Have a series of shots allows great control on the result final, all this is not always possible with the individual RAW exposure

With foreground is better

Many photos of landscapes made by the greatest photographers are characterized by this element, in fact, never underestimate the potential of the foreground which serves to capture the attention of potential frame viewers. For example when we are capturing a mountain, or a sunset in the background have an interesting foreground to insert make the image much more complete and interesting, helping to broaden the overall vision. It can make the difference

Giuseppe Sapori - The last light

Shoot looking into the sun

Shooting into the sun will completely transform your images. Sun will add a wonderful point of light into the frame, it will change and enhance the entire balance of light in your picture. Don’t worry if the image may be too overexposed in some places, taking with brackets shot you can bring back the light where you need to create a more dynamic and natural look

Giuseppe Sapori - Coastal Sunset

Focus stack

This last point of 10 Tips To Improve Your Landscape Photos can be connected with point number 8 “with foregound is better”. When I spoke about foreground, it can happen that the image is not perfectly sharp between the foreground and background. For this reason, using the focus stacks  is important to have a perfectly focused image in all its parts without sacrificing a full-frame elements. I talked about the stack depth focus in this article.

Giuseppe Sapori - The Heaven Mirror

these are my 10 Tips To Improve Your Landscape Photos. if you were to tell me your what you put it? Your point of view is important, write me in the section below


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Hi, my name is Giuseppe Sapori, a professional photographer and author of this website, created by yours truly to show my work and share with you the techniques I use. My expertise is in the field of Landscape Photography... (Read More)

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