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My First Time Photographing the Milky Way

Astrophotography was always something I was super obsessed with looking at, but when it came to actually photographing the night sky I didn’t know where to start. Every once in a while I would decide to give it a try but I always ended up failing because I had absolutely no idea what I was doing and no clue where to start.

About a month ago I started planning my trip up to Yosemite and I decided it was time to get serious about figuring this out. National Parks are notoriously known for their night skies and I knew I could not miss out on this opportunity. I mean, it’s not everyday I find myself in a National Park (although I wish cause that would be awesome!)

 

To prepare, I began reading a bunch of blog posts online to get perspectives from some seasoned astrophotographers. I had an idea of the general rules of night photography but I knew there was a lot I was missing since I never seemed to get it right.

I thought I understood some of the basics: long shutter, wide aperture, raise the ISO. These are the key factors to nailing the right exposure in low light situations, but some things just didn’t seem right with me. As I was reading a bunch of blogs I found some information that confirmed my suspicions and definitely helped to point me on the right path. Since I don’t want to get too in depth into explaining everything, here’s a quick overview of my conclusions:

      • Keep your ISO about 800-1600
      • If you’re wanting a full landscape image with a good foreground and background, you gotta take 2 or more images and combine them in photoshop afterwards. Keep your aperture wide for when you’re focusing on the stars and small when focusing on the foreground
      • Keep your shutter speed below 13 seconds to avoid star trails (my favorite was 8 seconds)
      • Whatever details these settings couldn’t get, you would probably be able to bring them out in post-production. You definitely want to test different things out to make sure you’re getting the exact image you want.

 

Alright, so I figured all that out and I felt like I had a good game plan. So now it was time to put it all to the test. Andrew and I decided it would be fun to go camping up in Flagstaff a couple weekends ago to just get away from all the craziness at home, not to mention it was a million degrees in Phoenix so we had to get out of the heat.

 

I wasn’t certain that there was going to be a good chance to get anything but I came prepared with my camera and tripod just in case. We got to our site pretty late and once I hopped out of the car, I looked up at the sky and instantly got so excited because I knew this was gonna be great! I mean… I freakin’ saw the Milky Way with just one look! Of course it was going to be awesome!

At first, I almost put off trying till the next night since I was so tired but I decided to just pull out my camera for a few minutes before we headed to bed because I really didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity. I started testing some things out and I was so stoked at what I was seeing. I mean, one of my other attempts had ever looked like this before. Granted, I had only (kinda) tried a few times and didn’t know anything then, but still… everybody knows that feeling when you finally figure something out… yeah it’s a great feeling!

Now are these the greatest photos ever?? No, I’m not going to try and make that claim. (Although shout out to my brother in law who said they deserve to be in a National Geographic magazine. That seriously made me happy cry. 🥰) There’s still a lot of improvement that can be made and I have a lot of practice ahead of me to get to where I want to be. But still, how many people can say they’ve photographed the Milky Way?!? (okay probably a lot but don’t try to take this away from me)

Now why all the excitement?? What am I going to do with this skill in the future?? Everybody knows that nature is a huge part of my work. A lot of my couples specifically pick me as their photographer because they are drawn to the way I photograph people and the environment together. If there’s something I can add to the list of things I can offer my couples then I will absolutely do it!

 

 

I’ve already booked a few couples in 2021 who have specifically asked me to photograph them at their wedding under the night sky because their venue is in a great location for it and with the amount of adventurous weddings and elopements that have been coming in, I can only imagine that it’s going to be even more popular as time goes on.

So for the next few months I’m going to keep practicing and getting better every opportunity I can. Next month in Yosemite is going to be amazing! I specifically planned it to be over a new moon so we would get perfect stargazing conditions! I can’t wait for that and to share those photos after.

If you’re a photographer who is interested in trying out some Astrophotography, stop thinking and just do it! Yeah, it might be a little rough at first, but you’re only going to get better with practice and you’ll be so happy you did in the end!

And if you’re a couple who is interested in getting some photos of you under the stars, hit me up and let’s start planning your adventure! 😉 Because you know I am already itching to get back out there.

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