One of the best things about the PicsArt community is that we get to share our photography experiences with others, regardless of the distance between us. By sharing images, we can be in Barcelona one minute and Patagonia the next. However, if we look up the night sky, there is always one common thing we can find: the Milky Way — under the right conditions, that is. Now that we’re in peak Milky Way season, learn how to prepare for and shoot the glowing band gracing our night skies.
Up, Up and Away From Light Pollution
There are many perks to living in or near big cities, but viewing the night sky is not one of them. These days, light pollution means we’re lucky if we can even see more than ten stars each night. The best places to view the Milky Way will be far away from major cities and may take your hours or even a full day of driving to reach. DarkSiteFinder.com can help you identify the best locations near you, which will include national parks and coastlines, to name a few.
Stop! Wait a Minute
Before you go on your grand adventure to reach a dark location and see the Milky Way, check the calendar first. In the Northern Hemisphere, the Milky Way is only visible between March and November, while the Southern Hemisphere can view it as early as February. However, the best months to find the Milky Way will be between June and August, which is when it will be visible most of the night.
Once in a
Blue New Moon
The great news is that we’re at the peak of the Milky Way season, so for those of you itching to get your astrophotography on, make sure that you’re not going out on a night while the full moon is out. MoonConnection.com offers a calendar that shows you what the moon will look like at each month. The brightness of a full moon will overpower the Milky Way, so the best time to see the Milky Way will be during a new moon.
Clouds Are “Cirrus” Business
Unfortunately, there is one more unpredictable force that can prevent you from seeing the Milky Way: cloud cover, which can inhibit you from seeing many stars or taking clear photos. This Clear Sky Chart has charts for thousands of locations that can help predict how well the conditions will be for shooting.
Alas, some of the best adventures are the most spontaneous ones. So even when you’re not planning your Milky Way adventures a week in advance and are lucky enough to see it on one of your nights out, make sure you have the right gear to capture this beautiful sight.
You may be able to capture the Milky Way with your camera phone. However, if you want high quality photos, then opt for a DSLR that will let you leverage high ISO capabilities without sacrificing image quality due to noise, paired with a prime lens that works well under low-light situations. Due to the size of the Milky Way, the wider the lens the better, so choose a lens with a focal length between 10mm and 24mm to capture the entire band.
Ready, Set, Go — Say Cheese!
The shutter speed, ISO and aperture settings will be instrumental in composing your Milky Way images. You will need to set a long shutter speed to capture more light and should start between 15-20 seconds. Meanwhile, setting a high ISO will help reduce motion in your images. Be careful not to increase it too much, as a higher ISO will result in higher noise. For this setting, start between 2500 and 3200.
Lastly, if there’s one setting that needs to remain consistent, it’s your aperture. Your aperture setting determines how much light can pass through your lens and setting a maximum aperture will result in your ability to shoot images faster in low light.
Now that the stars have lined up for you, it’s time for you to capture the Milky Way! Show us what it looks like from where you’re standing by sharing your photos on PicsArt photo editor with the hashtag #MilkyWay!