I have always wanted to know how to photograph the Milky Way and last night I had the pleasure. I was very excited when two photography friends invited me on a little adventure out into the middle of the woods at 9:30pm at night. Doesn’t sound creepy at all does it?! We travelled up to the Glasshouse Mountains here in Queensland to perch ourselves in front of Mt Coonowrin as the Milky Way was due to be around that vicinity. Luckily enough it was sitting to the left of the mountain. As I have never done any astrophotography before, (I have only read how to do it, which was completely confusing) I had Scott’s experience to help me out as he has been doing astrophotography for the passed 5 years.
- DSLR Camera with Manual Function
- Wide Angle Lens
- Sturdy Tripod
- Shutter Release
- Torch or Head lamp
First of all, once you’re in location set up your camera on your tripod. Its good to have a lens that has a wide aperture like around F2.8 but I only had my wide angle lens with me which is a 17-40mm F4. I wasn’t worried though because I knew my Canon 5D Mk III could handle a high ISO to compensate and I was secretly curious to see how well it would perform!
Set your ISO to something around 3200. I set mine to 6400 because the widest my aperture would open was F4. If you had a lens that opens to F2.8 then you only need to crank the ISO to about 3200. This is so your camera sensor can capture as much detail in the night sky as it possibly can.
2. Camera Mode
You need to set your camera to the Manual setting so that you can have full control over the settings you are using.
3. Aperture and Shutter Speed
If you are using a wide angle lens which is the best lens to use for astrophotography shots, set your aperture to the widest aperture that you lens has, something like F2.8. Set your shutter speed to 30 seconds. If you are using a prime lens like a 50mm the shutter speed will be around 12 to 15 seconds.
Turn your focusing from Auto to Manual on your lens. Set your camera to Live View. Open your lens to the widest length. Turn your focus control all the way to the left so that you are on Infinity (which is the little sideways 8). Point your camera at a really bright star in the sky and try to find it on your screen. If you are having trouble finding it, zoom in to x5 by pressing the button with the magnifying glass on it. You should be able to spot something now, so zoom in to x 10 by pressing the magnifying button again. Once the star is really visible move your focus ring slightly left and right and watch the star go in and out of focus, when you see it really sharp, leave your focus ring there and don’t touch it again unless you change locations. You can move your camera around in different directions on your tripod but try not to bump the focusing ring. You will need to refocus if you move a fair distance from where you first focused, otherwise you should be all good.
Since writing this blog I have been shown a new way to focus which is much much easier and quicker. Have your focus on manual, turn the focus ring all the way to the left so that you are on the Infinity symbol then bring the focus ring back about 2mm to the fist line you see on your lens. This should give you focus overtime. After taking a few pics, zoom in on one of them just to make sure you are in focus. Simple!!
5. Shutter Release Cable/Remote Shutter Release
Plug in your Shutter Release cable, start clicking away and watch the magic happen.
It really is a fun way to spend the night and I look forward to some more night sky photography adventures especially while I am road tripping around USA and Canada soon. A big thanks to Scott from Scott Bourke Photography for being a great teacher and making it so simple for myself and Lisa to learn. Unfortunately we didn’t capture any shooting stars although we saw a lot. Theres alway next time though!
Did you enjoy this article or do you have any other tips when it comes to photographing the Milky Way? I would love to hear your thoughts so leave a comment below. 🙂