The milky way is one of things you only ever see in movies or magazines, very rarely do you get to see it with the naked eye, or never see it at all if you live in cities or where there is a lot of light.
To really get the best results of seeing the milky way you need to out of the way of those big cities, right out into the countryside miles from any civilisation, im lucky enough to live in the Uk best dark night spot right here in Northumberland, which is about an hours drive for me, so not to far.
Before I start showing you my images of this amazing sight in our sky I thought I would run down a few apps I use for planning
Apps I use for planning Milky Way shots
My Moon Phase
Moon phase does what is says, it tells your the dates of the moon cycle so you exactly when the new moon will be here so can plan ahead of time. it also gives you moon rise and set times as well as other information.
I use this app mostly for sunrise shots but it can still tell you the amount of cloud around a specific area and if the cloud is low, medium or high altitude, of course we ideally want zero clouds to shoot any stars.
Please tell me you know this one, if you have been shooting images for a while then you should be using this app. The photographers ephemeris is a paid for app but it very powerful in the photography world. there is so much detail within this app there is too much to go into but it should be on your phone.
Another very powerful app, and this one is quite the opposite to TPE, where TPE is more for day shot planning and the position of the sun and moon rise and set ties, Photopills is for night shots with an amazing night AR showing you exactly where the milky way will be. I must admit this app is so powerful I havent even learnt it all, its capabilities are endless.
So now you have your apps ready and you have planned where to shoot what about how to shoot, what equipment do you need?
I use quite simple gear and nothing really cost a lot of money, not in the photography world anyway.
When I shoot night photography I always use the same equipment:
Velbon 655 tripod.
That is it, thats all I use to shoot. The main thing you should spend your money on is glass, my Samyang cost me £190 when I bought it and I personally think its an amazing lens. its perfect for landscape photography and most importantly – night photography. WHY?
The Samyang 12mm is a F2, meaning it can allow a lot of light into the camera capturing lot of detail in the night sky. You can still get some good shots with a kit lens but nothing as good as you can with a lens that shoot wide open at F2 or lower.
My first image was shot in Kielder forest located in Northumberland’s national dark sky spot. nestled in the trees the Milky way was rising perfectly above. I couldn’t see this with my eye so this is where Photopills would come in.
Setting my tripod head pointing upwards I was able to capture the tops of the trees with the sky above and I think it make for a good foreground interest.
Sony A6000 – Samyang 12mm – @12mm – 13 secs – iso2500 – F2 This photo has been edited using Lightroom and Photoshop CC
The next shot was actually taken on the same night when i was heading home. it was around an hour after the first and moon had started rising as you can see in the bottom left of the photo.
The milky is very hard to see when the moon is out thats why using apps like My Moon Phase. but I think I was rather lucky as it was just rising and i was in a very dark location – but if your planning to go out try and do it when we have a new moon and a clear night. Which is hard to get both when your living in the UK.
Oh yes the photo, as I was driving home over the hills I spotted this tree standing tall against the starry sky, would have been rude not to photograph it. and in fact this image has appeared in another blog post of mine I have just revisited the image for another edit on it.
Sony A6000 – Samyang 12mm – @12mm – 13 secs – iso3200 – F2
There you have it, the amazing milky way right here in the uk. Its all about planning the night and plan ahead, there are lots of amazing location in the Uk where it is dark enough to shoot this amazing scene.
DARK SKY LOCATIONS
As you can see below the UK light pollution spots and the dark night spots. Do you live near any? I hope I have inspired you to go out and shoot some amazing night photography.