Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Photograph the Milky Way

Milky Way, Jasper, Alberta, Canada
Checking the long-range weather forecast and the moon phases, next week.  It appears that the evening of the 24th and 25th of September will be a good time to photograph the Milky Way. 

Two locations in southeastern Massachusetts that are good locations with only a small amount of light pollution is the Stone Barn Farm property of Allens Pond Massachusetts Audubon Sanctuary, located in Dartmouth, Massachusetts and Gooseberry Neck portion of Horseneck Beach State Reservation in Westport, Massachusetts (walk part way up the path from the parking lot and look south).  Any time after 8 PM will be great since that will be the end of astronomical twilight plus the crescent moon will have set.  Everybody is welcome to join me at the Stone Barn, both of those evenings to observe and photograph the beautiful Milky Way.

The gear that you will need to capture photographs of the Milky Way are a digital camera with a wide-angle lens that has an f-stop of four or larger, a sturdy tripod with an appropriate sturdy head, a cable release, extra batteries, and a small flashlight (red if possible).  Wear appropriate clothing, non-DEET bug spray, snacks and/or drink in a sense of fun.

You will be shooting in manual mode and also have the focusing in manual mode.  The way I prepare for nighttime shooting is during the day I take my camera and appropriate lens and focus at an object in the distance, note where the infinity mark is and utilize gaffer tape (the reason to use gaffer tape is that gaffer tape leaves no residual) to tape the focusing ring of the lens into position; finally, make sure both the camera and lens are set set to manual focusing.
Setting the lens
 My favorite lenses for night sky photography is the Ronikon 24 mm f1.4 and the Tokina Fish-eye 11-17 mm. The Ronikon lens is manual focus, and despite being relatively inexpensive is very sharp and is available in various mounts.  It can be purchased from Amazon

In order to capture the maximum amount of light from the stars, the ISO will need to be set at 1600 or 3200.  If your camera has the capability with low noise, you can go high as ISO 6400.  The shutter speed should be between 20-30 seconds or you can use the 500 rule; 500 divided by millimeters of the lens will give you the best time so you will not get start trails.  Example 500/24 = 20.8 seconds, so setting your timer for 20 seconds will be great.  The aperture of the lens should be set to wide open or close to it.
Milky Way at the Stone Barn with the Ronikon lens

Take a test shot and adjust the settings as needed.  I also will bring a larger light so we can lightpaint the landscape.
Milky Way at the Stone Barn with a fish-eye lens and Light-painting
I also utilize for my location shooting PhotoPills, The Photographer's Ephemeris
 and Star Walk on my iPad.

So hope to see you there.  Any questions or need directions contact me at mborn@photobee1.com


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