ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY sounds like serious stuff but it is actually pretty easy to do.
I call it star-studded fun and it’s a non-serious photography genre that I always like to do.
Yes, photographing the Milky Way is fun. You can do it alone or in a group. The best time is between mid-March and mid-October as the heart of the Milky Way will be above the horizon.
You need to prepare a few things first. If you use a full-frame camera, you need a fast wide-angle lens. It can either be a fixed or zoom type, ranging from 12mm to 35mm with large aperture opening like f/2.8.
My favourites are my 12mm fisheye lens and the 16-35mm wide angle lenses.
You can also do it with a 50mm focal length lens but you may need to do panorama stitching. Also, you will need a sturdy tripod, a remote shutter or intervalometer to do the job. Some photographers may also opt for light pollution filters.
Depending on the light condition and location, the rule of thumb to capture the elusive Milky Way is by using ISO ranging from 1600 to 6400, 20 to 30 seconds of exposure time and aperture from f/2.8 to f/4.0.
How to find the Milky Way? The simplest answer is, when the night comes, just go to the less light-polluted place and look at the sky with your naked eyes.
If you think it is too hard to find it, then there are smartphone applications like Star Chart, PhotoPills, Stellarium, etc to guide you.
Here are some photos of Milky Way that I shot.
1. DO A SELFIE
It is always a thrill to take a selfie with the majestic Milky Way as background. One needs to hold still during the exposure period, otherwise the outcome will be blurry. A little bit of light by your friend will assist in boosting the exposure on you. Getting the right result is very much dependent on the camera capabilities in capturing much light and handling image noises.
Shooting just the Milky way without any foreground will make the image less interesting. Under normal circumstances, your foreground subject is normally not lit very well, but with the help of a torchlight, that problem can be addressed. Just ensure that it is not over-exposed.
3. LIGHT CREATION
If you want to make the surrounding more interesting, get the light from either your battery charger, smartphone, mini LED light or any available light source and make interesting patterns on the foreground.
4. STAR TRAILS
If you stack multiple images into a single frame, you will get this circular kind of stars “turning” in one axis. But first thing is to find either the Southern or Northern star depending where you reside. Depending on the camera, some may come with built-in timelapse features. Otherwise, you will need an intervalometer to do the job.
5. ZOOM FUN
To get a light trailing in this image is not difficult. You can use a 16-35mm wide angle lens with focal length at 24mm. If your exposure time is 30 seconds, allocate the last 10 seconds for the zoom out to get this effect. If everything goes well, the result will be pleasing. Yes, it is that easy. However, ensure you have a sturdy tripod and steady hand when you do the zoom out on your lens.