Shooting the Milky Way

Along coastal South Carolina late summer is the best and worst time to view and photograph the Milky Way. Best because it’s easy to spot as it rises nearly vertically in the southern sky. Worst because we have to contend with atmospheric haze, clouds, thunderstorms and BUGS! If you have the opportunity, get out and try this unique form of photography. There are still good shooting opportunities through the end of September. Once the sky is completely dark setting your camera to ISO 3200, f2.8 or 4 and 30 seconds  with your widest angle lens should get you in the ballpark exposure wise. You can tweak those settings from there. It’s best to focus before it gets dark on some object in the distance, a transmission tower, distant pier, or the like and turn off the auto focus. If that’s not possible you may be able to focus manually on a bright planet or star using your camera’s live view. Again be sure to turn the AF off.


For a little more fun and a bit of a challenge, try capturing the Milky Way with a satellite or some other celestial object moving through it. The top image was captured just after sunset as the International Space Station moved into the Milky Way. This image shows the Hubble Space Telescope moving through the Milky Way. There are numerous websites and smartphone apps to help you locate these and other objects. I use Spot the Station and Stellarium on my desktop computer and  ISS Detector, available for Android and iOS, on my smartphone.


My good friend and teaching partner Kate Silvia and I will be hosting a workshop here in Charleston in March of next year entitled “Charleston’s Best Photo Locations.” This workshop was just posted earlier this week and is already ¾ sold out! If you would like to learn more please contact me or see the web page HERE.

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