How to Photograph Milky way

Since childhood I have been fascinated by the Starry Night and astronomy, geography and the desire to travel the world and Photography. After the School, I started working as a Computer Technician and found in Astrophotography and Landscape my passion. It all started when I came across the pictures of the Milky way back in 2011, and inspired by photographers such as Maurizio Pignotti and Michael Shainblum (to name a few), I began to experiment.

The first approach to astronomical photography was very traumatic because I had to learn manual mode in dark places with all the difficulties that can arise.

Forget to use your camera and the various automation because we have to manage the light based on many factors. First of all the light pollution because I’m in the nation of the G20 with the rate of highest rate of light pollution, I had to run far and wide to discover completely darks places in Salento. In fact my photos made in the province of Lecce have been made in these “special” areas, away from the city lights. From Otranto you can admire theMilky Way with the naked eye thanks to the sea that surrounds the heel of Italy and the hundreds of kilometers that separate us from other States (the Balkans).

Make nocturnal quality photographs also it requires equipment of medium-high level, which is why I always used full frame SLR and luminous targets including a Canon 5D Mark III and Nikon D750 that I modified for use in astrophotography depriving it of the infrared filter. This change allows you to record the entire spectrum of light from the Starry Night and be faithful colors. For everyday use you must do a manual white balance before each shooting session because the lack of infrared filter produce photos too reds. The lens that I use often are the Samyang 14mm f / 2.8 and the Nikon 20mm f / 1.8. When I choose my lenses seek a good quality / price ratio by analyzing the fundamental characteristics for astrophotography:

– good control of chromatic aberrations ;

– absence of Coma at the edges of the image;

– a good image sharpness at full aperture;

– a vignette is not very marked.

But these indications are not enough to make a good photo of the Starry Sky, because it takes a good shooting technique and a method of adequate post-production.

Another advice I can give you is to try to photograph the picture elements of the place in day that they can create a good composition and make it pleasing to your nights photos. In fact a good sky may be useful for astronomical purposes, but it’s not enough artistic without a special subject. This is the characteristic that influences my photos as you can see below (from Loricati Pini photographed in the Pollino National Park to balanced stones on Red Beach in Matala, in Cretee).

 

 

But you’re probably wondering how do I know where is the Milky Way? Many persons think it’s only see in the summer months but it’s visible throughout the entire year . In the winter months we can see it in the constellations of Taurus , the Cepheus and Orion (as in the image to the right photographed in December). But in the spring and summer months we see it in the constellations of Cygnus, Aquila and Arrow and the brightest area called Bulge (Galactic Core) passes through the constellations of Sagittarius, Ophiuchus and Scorpion and it’s visible at our latitudes just above the horizon (In Italy).
You can see the Milky way with help of many astronomical software on PC and Android such as Stellarium, Star Walk, and Google Sky . But besides good technique it takes a proper post-production methods to edit our astronomical images.

These are the main shooting data for photographing the Milky Way:

  Milky Way Startrail
Time 300 / focal 20/30 seconds
Iso 1600/6400 200/800
Diaphragm f / 1.8 – f / 4 f / 1.8-f / 4
Rid. Noise OFF OFF
Number of shots Single or double esp. 150-300

 

For the digital processing of my astronomical images I use my plug-ins like Astro Panel and Fusion in Adobe Photoshop CC.

The main steps in Adobe Photoshop CC are described here:

 

 

PC software :

Fusion

Astro Panel

Simulators stellar PC / Android / iOS / Windows Phone :

http://www.stellarium.org/it/

http://vitotechnology.com/star-walk.html

https://www.google.it/intl/it/sky/

Maps for light pollution :

https://www.lightpollutionmap.info/

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