Milky Way

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 The Lemming 28 Nov 2017
I'm hoping to photograph the Milky Way, possibly over the next few days with clear sky's.

The problem is, I've only tried this once and it was too bright.

What must I consider if I am to be successful?

Do I take single, long exposures or do I consider stacking thousands of images?

I have a 12-35mm f2.8 lens with a micro four thirds camera. I know this is not wide enough but it is the best I have.

Any advice is most appreciated.
In reply to The Lemming:

Wait until the moon has gone, if there is any lingering high cloud, even if very thin, it will light up the sky and dramatically reduce the contrast in the image.
If the milky way is clear enough to see with the naked eye then your photos stand a fighting chance. If you can't see the milky way by eye you need darker skies.

Do you want to capture any foreground in your image or just the sky? If you want both then one exposure or the star movement will make stacking the images a problem. You would probably need to make a composite image to make that work.
If just the sky then I think take many shorter exposures, say 10-20 seconds.I think that will be short enough on the widest field of view to minimise significant star trails. Experiment. If the images look too bright, the sky might not be dark enough.
You should be able to see the milky way in a single exposure, but it doesn't matter if it is a bit dark as the stacking process will allow you to bring it out later. If the sky is dark enough to allow really clear images, then try stopping the lens down from 2.8 as it will probably be sharper.

The advantage you get from taking many short exposures then stacking them is that you can make a high dynamic range image with smoothed noise which you can then manipulate the histogram (using a paint program) to bring out the milky way. If you just have a single image and you try to stretch the histogram I think it will look quite speckly due to the noise being exaggerated.

The key is to experiment. Go with a plan and record your settings and see what works. You had some good moon images before, try a similar process
 HeMa 29 Nov 2017
In reply to The Lemming:

Alas I haven't shot any... So no experience, other than planning on trying to do the same in the neat future (MFT cameras as well, but a tad more options when it comes to lenses, namely 7.5mm fisheye).

Were I in your shoes, and had enough time... I'd prolly try both image stacking and also single long exposure. At least that's my plan.

For image stackin' I might try to include a few frames of the foreground as well.

Oh, and

 The Lemming 29 Nov 2017
In reply to richard_hopkins:

Thanks for the useful advice. I have also re-read the night time photography article to try and soak up more information.


I'm also quite proud of my moon image.
 alex anderson 29 Nov 2017
In reply to The Lemming:

I took some shots of the Milky way the other weekend, if you're starting out don't over think it or complicate it.
Sort out the best timing for the shot, new moon, 2 hrs after sunset and find where the milky way is in the sky. Photopills app is worth the investment.
Below is a link to the shot I got with the following settings, Fuji XT-2, 12mm f2 Samyang, 20 seconds @ f2, 3200 iso. The shot has had a quick run through lightroom only and doesnt look the best on facebook.
For further reading google the information by Royce Bair.
Hope this helps.
 The Lemming 29 Nov 2017
In reply to alex anderson:

> I took some shots of the Milky way the other weekend, if you're starting out don't over think it or complicate it.

Thanks for the most important bit of advice about not over complicating things.

However I have now read about the 500 rule. And then the 600 rule. And then the 450 rule. And finally the 300 rule (allegidly for crop sensors).

My brain hurts. I have a sensor half the size of a full frame sensor so should I just half/double the 500 rule, which is calculated for full frame sensors?

Or should I follow the advice of James Rushforth and stick to 450 rule?
With a 24mm lens full frame and the 450 rule, this would give me an exposure time of 18 seconds.
And with my 12mm lens on a m43 sensor I should double focal length and use the same 18 second exposure time?

I could experiment and see what happens with 18 seconds and 36 seconds respectively with the same focal length and aperture settings.

In reply to The Lemming:

Just take the picture and see if it looks OK!
If the stars trail more then you want make the exposure shorter.

There is no rule, just guidelines as a starting point for experimentation. Different people picked different standards for their criteria
 alex anderson 29 Nov 2017
In reply to The Lemming:

Again you're over complicating things, I started out with my D800 and the 14-24 with the 500 rule and was getting star trails so shortened the exposure till I got the results I wanted.
Play about and see.
Read up about it ( the Royce Bair ebook is well worth the money) but don't get stressed you can always re-shoot.
Practice now, the Galactic core is mostly hidden in the Winter, and you will be ready for the prime time.
 The Lemming 29 Nov 2017
In reply to alex anderson:

Thanks everybody.

 CasWebb 29 Nov 2017
In reply to The Lemming:

As others have said, the best thing is to simply experiment and try different speeds/durations. Once you get over 30 seconds star trails tend to become more obvious but really long exposures centred on the pole star can create stunning results.
You will get better results by stacking multiple shorter exposure images, have a look at Deepskystacker ( which is a pretty good piece of software given that it's free.
 CasWebb 29 Nov 2017
In reply to The Lemming:

One of my attempts - 30 secs at ISO1600, focal length 14mm, Canon 7d Mk II
 CasWebb 29 Nov 2017
In reply to CasWebb:

This link might actually work
In reply to The Lemming:

Here is one of mine.
It was taken with a 50mm lens so not at all wide field but you can see bits of the milky way.

I used an Ioptron Skytracker to hold the camera steady, then the image is 14 30 second exposures 50mm @ F4, ISO 1600 onto a Nikon D5300. The lens is a 30 year old 50mm/1.8 lens that you can pick up from ebay for peanuts.
I stacked the image with the Deepsky stacker program mentioned above by Caswebb.

30 seconds at 50mm needs a tracker to prevent star trails, but it'd be ok on a shorter focal length.

The colours are a bit washed out as unfortunately near me there is a lot of light pollution so I have to mess with the colours quite a lot to prevent getting an orange image.

This one was taken in France with no tracking, just the Nikon D60 camera lying on the ground with a 24mm/F2.8 lens wide open. 13 20 second exposures were used. There doesn't seem to be too much star trailing. I've stretched the histogram too far on this image, it looks quite grainy and noisy to me and there is perhaps too much contrast.
Again, 24mm isn't wide angle on a 1.5 crop sensor camera so not much Milky way visible.
 andi turner 30 Nov 2017
In reply to The Lemming:

Take your photos in portrait and then stitch them together afterwards.

It's important to not get star trails, experiment with your exposure time for this. When it's right then increase your ISO or aperture to get a decent histogram which isn't clipped.

Poor lenses will soon show astigmatism etc which can spoil your shot too.

Remember your lens hood to slow down lens fogging.

Take spare batteries.
 Brian 30 Nov 2017
In reply to The Lemming:
Use the fastest lense you have, iso 1600, find a really dark place, learn how to focus in the dark - - 24mm, f2.8 for 20 secs
Post edited at 21:13
 Brian 30 Nov 2017
In reply to Brian: take a look at this -

In reply to The Lemming:
Long exposure 'shot' noise is your enemy with m43, I think stacking would be the way to go although I've never tried it.
This is my best one, taken in the Auvergne with the 17/f1.8 single exposure
I think most 'good' milkyway shots have some sort of landscape in them.
Post edited at 01:00
 The Lemming 01 Dec 2017
In reply to The Lemming:

Over the last couple of nights I have taken some test shots along the coast.

I was testing which ISO and speed to use. Admittedly there was a bright moon and it was only 4 hours after sunset, but any shots taken with ISO at 800 and above made the sky look almost like daylight.

Is that normal, or should I have inky black skys and pinpoint white stars?
 Brian 01 Dec 2017
In reply to The Lemming:
As I said above, you need to find a 'dark' place ! - how long was the exposure ?
The moon will most likely be too bright if your exposure is around 20-30 secs
Post edited at 13:08
 Brian 01 Dec 2017
In reply to The Lemming: If its too bright then lower your iso - this was taken 200 iso, 10 secs, f2.8, practically in the city -
In reply to The Lemming:

Was the milky way visible with the naked eye?

You can easily make the sky darker by using a shorter exposure but then you might not see any stars!

If the moon is up, then unless the air is very clean and dry (eg in some Chllian mountain dessert) the sky probably isn't dark enough to get good results.

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