The Milky Way

So, I have just achieved something that has been simmering away for some time now. An image of the Milky way captured in my local coastal Landscape. For those in the know Astral photography has its own skill set which not all Photographers can achieve. I don’t say this because of it requiring a particular expertise or experience as a photographer but sadly you can be limited in your results by the equipment you use. In a perfect world we would all be able to afford the best cameras and lenses money could buy, but most of the Togs I know are not in this position. To achieve the very best results would need a wishlist going something like:- DSLR with a very high ISO capability, F1.8,¬† 8 to 20mm prime lens, sturdy tripod, cable release, flask of Coffee etc, etc, a knowledge of how to focus your lens manually in the dark( AF wont work) and an understanding of how to use your DSLR in manual mode.

Milky way over Wembury
Milky way over Wembury

A full frame DSLR will tend to have a higher Dynamic range and a greater ISO capability than a crop sensor DSLR, allowing the camera to suck in more light during the exposure. You also need to work out your exposure time by dividing your focal length into 500 on a full frame sensor  ie, 500 / 24 = 20 seconds which is the maximum exposure time before you will pick up movement in the stars. Then instead of a starry sky you will be shooting star trails. On a crop sensor multiply your focal length by 1.6 for Canon or 1.5 for Nikon before using the 500 calculation. This will allow for the different sensor sizes and give you the correct exposure time for your camera and lens combination. Experiment with your ISO settings to see which setting gives you the cleanest image as this will vary greatly between cameras and manufacturers. Lastly, and probably most important you will need to pick a dark night with no moon and wait until after astronomical twilight ends to get the darkest night sky as far away from any light pollution as you can get. A tool like the Photographers Ephemeris (free on your computer) will give you this information. Sadly for normal people this is between 1am and 3 am during the summer months in the UK, when the Milky way is higher in the sky.

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