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Author Topic: Shooting the Milky Way  (Read 5701 times)

Offline gautam023

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Shooting the Milky Way
« on: March 12, 2014, 02:21:40 PM »
I was wondering how to shoot the Milky way photographs. The reference pictures are as shown





I read up few basic things on the net here, here and here.

The reason for posting it here is that I need personal experiences. Tips, tricks, techniques, locations, gear . Also, few places where this can be practised & tested before I plan my Spiti trip.
"Tezi gaadi mein nahi, chalanewale mein hoti hai"

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Offline VikramF

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Re: Shooting the Milky Way
« Reply #1 on: March 12, 2014, 07:57:42 PM »
Tripod
UWA lens
DSLR which handles high ISO low light shots well
A remote trigger.

At Spiti (hope it's a new moon and not a full moon), you should be able to see the milky way quite clearly at night if you're away from town.
You'll see a dense pattern of stars.
Set the camera up on the tripod.
Set lens at infinity (this is where MF lenses are good as they have a hard stop for infinity)
Set aperture to wide open or a stop closed from wide open.
Set shutter to about 20-30 secs (30 secs might be too long if you're not using a UWA - you'll get star movement)
Set ISO to as high as you can
Trip the shutter with the remote.

Why high ISO and not low ISO long shutter speed:
With a longer shutter speed, you'll start getting star trails (which is also cool if you do a series of exposures and blend them).
So you need to limit your shutter speed to where you don't get star trails.
If you do that with a low ISO, you'll just get a black shot. So high ISO.

Why wide open? - Wide open, you're not going to be exactly worried about dof when you're pointing at the sky. The stars are a few million kms away and dof won't matter.

Why UWA? - the wider the lens, the less apparent star movement is and larger the area you cover in the sky to get that beautiful Milky Way. If you use a longer lens, you'll need to shorten your exposure time a fair bit.

Vikram Franklin
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Offline Subhadip

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Re: Shooting the Milky Way
« Reply #2 on: March 13, 2014, 05:47:38 PM »
Thanks Vikram!!! Superb in detail.. step by step guide.... Will keep this in mind, unfortunately i have hardly been to a place where i have found no light pollution, this should put that bug in my head to head somewhere...

As of now the only place i can think of is Chaibasa which is around 2 hours from Jamshedpur, that's where my wife grandmother live and a little out of town i can find a light free zone... (my wife will be happy reading this post ;) )

Just one question... i dont have a UWA but 18-55 Kit lens.... will it work well?
Mad about Nikon... :)

Offline VikramF

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Re: Shooting the Milky Way
« Reply #3 on: March 13, 2014, 07:39:27 PM »
Just one question... i dont have a UWA but 18-55 Kit lens.... will it work well?
You'll need to shorten your exposure and push your ISO accordingly.
Vikram Franklin
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Offline kaushik_s

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Re: Shooting the Milky Way
« Reply #4 on: March 13, 2014, 08:39:13 PM »
Kit lenses like 18-55mm has a smaller max aperture too. It might become too noisy. It's better to have a wide lens with aperture f2.8 at least as otherwise you'll end up pushing the ISO too much. Even with f2.8 you will need an ISO like 3200 on a dark night to get those stars at 30 sec, so at f3.5 of a kit lens would need even more bump in ISO.

Another thing is about manually setting your White Balance. Yeah,  with RAW you'll have your option to set it later but I would suggest that you keep your WB at a colder Temp (around 3000 K) for a good starting point. You ofcourse can adjust later in RAW processing if needed.

Focusing is another pain area as in today's lenses it's not always the correct infinity even if the marking says so and you'll have to do some bit of search for the correct focus. Not an easy task on a very dim lit sky. Find out the brightest star and point towards that, use your live view, put it at highest possible zoom and focus. Once you get the focus never touch the focus ring again. May be you can take a few test shots to check the focus. Even with manual focus lenses do the same exercise as you won't know otherwise if the hard stop for infinity is actually at infinity (ie. Samyang 14mm 2.8, very good lens for such photography but it's infinity focus is not at the hard stop).
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Offline gautam023

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Re: Shooting the Milky Way
« Reply #5 on: March 18, 2014, 02:57:40 PM »
Thanks Vikram & Kaushik.
Vikram, you actually summarised whatever I read on those three links given.

I would like to another aspect about the position of the stars. Like Vikram mentioned it should be new moon and not full moon [to remove the light coming from moon I presume]. Are there any other factors which enhance or limit your viewing of the scene? Specific position or specific time constraints. Tried reading about this but could not understand correctly. Are there any apps for this?

Mumbai guys, any tried and tested location around where you have witnessed this?
"Tezi gaadi mein nahi, chalanewale mein hoti hai"

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Offline VikramF

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Re: Shooting the Milky Way
« Reply #6 on: March 18, 2014, 03:06:58 PM »
LOL!! Yeah - I remember putting Mars in the center of the frame thinking it was the North Star .... only saw my mistake several hours later when I saw that the "North Star" was drifting  ;D

So yes, I downloaded a sky map app that allows you to identify the stars (ofcourse you do need to have an internet connection for that and I don't see that happening everywhere you go in Ladakh).

Height enhances your view of the scene.
No moon greatly enhances that.
Being away from brightlights also does - but I didn't have too much of an issue when I shot this (my first ever attempt at the milky way btw):
(I just used a flat card to shut off light at the bottom of the frame)


Thanks Vikram & Kaushik.
Vikram, you actually summarised whatever I read on those three links given.

I would like to another aspect about the position of the stars. Like Vikram mentioned it should be new moon and not full moon [to remove the light coming from moon I presume]. Are there any other factors which enhance or limit your viewing of the scene? Specific position or specific time constraints. Tried reading about this but could not understand correctly. Are there any apps for this?

Mumbai guys, any tried and tested location around where you have witnessed this?
Vikram Franklin
98864 (PM me for the rest - I get strange calls)

Check out my FaceBook Photopage @
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Offline kaushik_s

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Re: Shooting the Milky Way
« Reply #7 on: March 18, 2014, 03:38:53 PM »
Use Google Sky Map, that doesn't need any internet connection (ofcourse you'll need net to install the app :P ). The Google sky map is pre-loaded but there is a caveat. It need your location co-ordinates to show the exact star positions. GPS position locking is faster when net is on and so having a net connectivity helps to get a more accurate positioning. But without net also you can get a GPS lock but would take time on many phones.
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Offline samraj

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Re: Shooting the Milky Way
« Reply #8 on: March 19, 2014, 06:01:16 PM »
Thanks for the info provided.

Sent from my XT1033 using Tapatalk 2


Offline sujoyp

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Re: Shooting the Milky Way
« Reply #9 on: March 22, 2014, 12:54:21 PM »
Thanks a lot vikram for the information...really helpful :like:
Covered 17-500mm ....Need a better body and more strength

Offline Sandeep

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Re: Shooting the Milky Way
« Reply #10 on: March 22, 2014, 01:30:45 PM »
Great information...easy to read and  make sense..thanks Vikram and kaushik
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Offline Nikon

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Re: Shooting the Milky Way
« Reply #11 on: March 25, 2014, 06:01:52 AM »
Tripod
UWA lens
DSLR which handles high ISO low light shots well
A remote trigger.

At Spiti (hope it's a new moon and not a full moon), you should be able to see the milky way quite clearly at night if you're away from town.
You'll see a dense pattern of stars.
Set the camera up on the tripod.
Set lens at infinity (this is where MF lenses are good as they have a hard stop for infinity)
Set aperture to wide open or a stop closed from wide open.
Set shutter to about 20-30 secs (30 secs might be too long if you're not using a UWA - you'll get star movement)
Set ISO to as high as you can
Trip the shutter with the remote.

Why high ISO and not low ISO long shutter speed:
With a longer shutter speed, you'll start getting star trails (which is also cool if you do a series of exposures and blend them).
So you need to limit your shutter speed to where you don't get star trails.
If you do that with a low ISO, you'll just get a black shot. So high ISO.

Why wide open? - Wide open, you're not going to be exactly worried about dof when you're pointing at the sky. The stars are a few million kms away and dof won't matter.

Why UWA? - the wider the lens, the less apparent star movement is and larger the area you cover in the sky to get that beautiful Milky Way. If you use a longer lens, you'll need to shorten your exposure time a fair bit.

Nice Information, thanks vikram...

Offline sehgalatul

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Re: Shooting the Milky Way
« Reply #12 on: March 29, 2014, 10:07:56 AM »
Hi Guys...Its great Reading your Chit Chat...Nice piece of Information gathered for all new bees..Very True. I would like to emphasize Very few Very Important Points. Firstly Timing and planning are very Important If you wish keepers in Astro work. If i have to go  Milky Way I will prefer to see Moon phase first...I will prefer and time when it is cresent or between cresent and new moon ...nether full moon nor full moon. Why not new moon is because you have to bump iso to exorbitant levels and grain and noise are always there...you have to Post process it markedly...Even Full frames start showing noise on new moon. Why Cresent is because moon has very less luminosity that aids you in shooting at relatively lower iso( you might get a same shot what you took at 3200/6400 on new moon at say 2000 or little less because of slight aid you get from moon. This difference will markedly improve pic quality and put you to less time on Computers. Point is Emphasis on timing and Planning. Do search for moon phases and luminosity charts before visits and never forget to check moon rise and moonset timings as well if you wish to scout to a location far away and come with handful of keepers.
Cheers...

Offline LightWave

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Re: Shooting the Milky Way
« Reply #13 on: March 29, 2014, 11:14:36 AM »
Just one question... i dont have a UWA but 18-55 Kit lens.... will it work well?
Actually the trick is to get Lowest possible ISO to avoid noise as well as avoid star trails by keeping the shutter times reasonably low. A rough formula is to 500/600 rule. Divide 500 by your focal length and 600 by your focal length and keep the shutter speed between these two numbers. Like if your focal length is 24 your shutter speed will have to be between 500/24 (20.9) and 600/24 (25) seconds. Any longer than 25 and you will get stars turning to lines instead of dots.
Now you can see how if your focal lengths are on longer side like 50, your shutter speeds will have to be much faster and hence you will need wither good fast lenses or resort to high ISOs. That's why Vikram was suggesting UWAs as then you won't need to jump ISO too much.

Offline kaushik_s

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Re: Shooting the Milky Way
« Reply #14 on: March 29, 2014, 07:03:07 PM »
Hi Guys...Its great Reading your Chit Chat................ Do search for moon phases and luminosity charts before visits and never forget to check moon rise and moonset timings as well if you wish to scout to a location far away and come with handful of keepers.
Cheers...

True that. And again, another app to help you out on Moonphases and moon-rise/set times is Sundroid (dunno what it is called for iPhone but there should be something similar). I use this app extensively and works perfectly fine when it comes to Moonphase/rise/set along with Sunset/rise times.
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