We'll Be Counting Stars...
In a previous post I talked about viewing the Milky Way while on a trip to photograph Greater Prairie Chickens in Northwestern Missouri. That one viewing became the start of another type of photography for me to learn. I scoured the internet for tutorials and suggestions on how to photograph the Milky Way. Here is some of what I learned.
1. You need to find a very dark area. Living in Kansas City did not make that very easy. There is light pollution everywhere. I learned of darksitefinder.com and used it to find areas that have the least amount of light pollution around me. It seemed that mostly North and East of Kansas City was the best.
2. You also had to check to moon cycles. It is much easier to see the Milky Way when there is a new moon. Any little sliver of moonlight could affect your ability to see the Milky Way.
3. You need to have the correct camera settings. I was shooting with my d3200 and a kit lens to begin with (on a tripod of course). The widest I could shoot was at 18mm. That is where I started. I would then use live view to zoom in on a single star, and manually focus until it was as clear as I could make it. I would set my f-stop to 3.5, my ISO to 1600, and as shutter speed of 15-20 seconds. That seemed to get me my best results.
4. You have to post process your images! After my first night of shooting, I didn't realize the image captured would have to be post process A LOT! Noise reduction... color correction... white balance adjustment... exposure up and down in different parts of the image... It took me several days to get my first image ready, and as I look back at it now... it was way OVER processed. The second time I was able to go out I did much better with minimal changes, but enough to make the image pop.
5. Some of the best images are seen after "stacking" several images taken in succession. I had to learn Photoshop to be able to do this, but by my third time out I feel like I was getting much better at these sorts of pictures. Sadly, from September until March, it is not possible to see the Milky Way here in Missouri. Good thing I have other types of photography to keep me busy!
Song: Counting Stars by OneRepublic