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Photographing the Milky Way:The instructions by Anja Kallenbach

Milchstraße fotografieren Panorama

Our home galaxy, which also includes our entire solar system, is called the Milky Way. The stars of the Milky Way appear as seen from Earth in the night sky as a band-like brightening that closely resembles a brushstroke drawn with milk. It basically covers a viewing angle of 360. Unfortunately, this formation consisting of billions of stars can only really be seen and photographed with the camera when you step away from the bells of light pollution that are increasingly covering more and more metropolitan areas of our planet. More than 80 percent of the world's population has never seen the Milky Way with their own eyes, and the trend is rising. Our guide and tips on camera settings, equipment and location for photographing the Milky Way and starry sky like ours unsere Astroklar filter against light pollution help you not only to admire the stars in the night sky, but to capture them in your own way.

This two-part series of blogs on the subject of photographing the Milky Way wants to motivate you to face this adventure - the reward for the effort will inspire you and maybe even make you a real fan of this photographic disciplinesen. Apart from the fact that there is hardly anything more breathtaking than the starry sky, whether as a photo or with the naked eye.  

In this first part of this mini-series is about the technology, important background information and the rather demanding shooting in the dark of the night. The photographer Anja Kallenbach gives Equipment tips, camera setup for night photography of the starry sky, Location and Details like aperture, ISO values and lens. In the second part we will us the Post-processing of the images in Adobe Lightroom dedicate. The A suitable location is the number 1 success factor for star photography. Accordingly, we have to take care of the planning and preparation of our Milky Way shooting very intensively.

The experienced Milky Way photographer Anja Kallenbach kindly contributed all images and lots of background information to this article, and we would like to thank her very much for her extensive support at this point. Anja Kallenbach has been dealing with star and Milky Way photography for about 3 years and has meanwhile gained an excellent reputation.

Technology, important background information and shooting in the dark at night

The right location is the number 1 success factor for star photography. We have to take care of the planning and preparation of our Milky Way shoot accordingly:

Milchstraße Panorama

1. Find the right location and time

In fact, there are a few places in the world that offer the perfect view of our awe-inspiring starry sky. The Canary Islands of La Palma and Tenerife are among the top locations. The accumulations of observatories serve as a good indication..

As a beginner in star photography, you usually don’t book a flight to the Canary Islands directly to gain your first experience. Nevertheless, in our latitudes, you have to travel a few kilometers away from civilization to get a reasonably good view of the interior of our galaxy. But now, before you wander aimlessly on the next best starry night, you better consult a light pollution map on the free websitee the light pollution levels of the respective location are listed according to the globally standardized Bortle scale. To get reasonably reasonable results, seek out locations that are at least Class 4 (green zone, rural/suburban transition). In the extension of the selected location to the Milky Way, there must not be any larger city, since its light dome can still be seen from a distance of 10 kilometers and can still impair the recording.n.

The heaviest light pollution but still has natural causes for millions of years. The moonlight or the sunlight reflected from the moon's surface does not only shine atbeim super full moon extremely bright. Even in normal full moon phases one achieves rather unsatisfactory results. Furthermore, the brightest part of the Milky Way, the so-called galactic center, hides behind the horizon from Europeans between mid-February and October. So it's only really worth grabbing your gear and heading towards the Milky Way between March and the end of September and during the days around the new moon.eren.

But where exactly is this located? The web also has an answer to this question: the pagee Stellarium has an open-source, free program available for all common computer operating systems that tells us the respective position of the stars, planets and also the entire Milky Way. The Planitpro app, which costs 10 euros but has an incredibly helpful range of functions for passionate Milky Way photographers, is suitable for on the go. For example, you mark your own Google Maps position and receive precise information on where and when the galaxy can be seen. The built-in LiveView function makes aligning the camera child's play, and a panoramic overview also shows mountains that might be in the way. Of course, a light pollution map is also integrated, so that you can plan from the start with just one app.n.

Stellarium Programm f√ľr Milchstra√üenfotografie

Alternatively, you can also use the Photopills app, which has a similar range of functions. In addition to this very specific information, you should of course always keep a close eye on the weather - the best location is of no use to us if it's pouring rain and the cloud cover is as thick as concrete. As an astrophotographer, you only work when the sky is clear, known in technical terms as CS Clear Sky. Here, too, the most up-to-date data is retrieved from the Internet auf Tile man weather and meteoblue you get very good and reliable data, presented in a compact way.

Milchstraßen Astrofotografie Panorama

Summary: when and where to photograph the stars of the Milky Way

  • Remove from the chimes of the citiesen
  • Photograph the Milky Way only at new moon
  • Carefully research day, location and weather using apps and internet to achieve perfect results in Milky Way photography

2. What equipment do you need for Milky Way photography?

Now that we've covered the necessary planning and preparation, let's move on to the equally critical gear issue. Unfortunately, the Milky Way and astrophotography are among the areas that require particularly high-quality photo equipment, both in terms of the camera body and the lenses and filters..

Suitable cameras for photography of the Milky Way & starry sky

The quality of the camera and the size of the sensor have a fundamentally positive effect on the noise behavior in the dark, since we, as star photographers, are always out and about at night, we cannot make any compromises here. In addition, all functions should be executable in manual mode, and the camera should also have a connection for radio or cable remote control and a LiveView option..

Lenses for photographing stars and the night sky

With regard to the angle of view, the same applies to the lens: further is better. We don't just want to capture a small section on the memory card, we want to capture the Milky Way in all its beauty. As galaxy photographers, we prefer to leave the photographing of individual stars and planets to the scientists in the observatories with their special lenses.

Of course, the Milky Way also wants to be staged appropriately; without known reference points, the human brain cannot adequately grasp the magnitude of our astronomical neighborhood. Therefore, we should use astro lenses that have a focal length ofon 14-24mm (full format sensor) or 10-16mm (APSC sensor) feature. The second critical factor is the light intensity here we should take optics with us into the night that open up to f 2.8 or more. Unfortunately, the light intensity also regularly increases the price of suitable wide-angle lenses for Milky Way photography..

Tripods for astro and star photography

Stable, weather-resistant and extremely stable Outdoor and travel tripods are particularly suitable for photographing the Milky Way. Given the long exposure times, even the slightest shock from an accidental bump or a gust of wind can ruin the entire shot. The tripod should ideally also have a center column hook to handle the weight of oures photo backpacks or the camera bag to shift the center of gravity further down. Since we rarely know the conditions on site in advance, tripod feet, which can optionally be equipped with steel spikes, make our work as astrophotographers a lot easier.n.

Additional light sources for nighttime star photography

Ideally, we should be familiar with our equipment for star photography and be able to make all the important settings even in the dark and with the brightness of the camera screen turned down.en.

For the way to the location or for additional measures on site, we need a headlamp, which can also be switched to red light mode if necessary. Red light hardly dazzles our eyes, and if we have to turn on a standard flashlight every time, our eyes need up to 20 minutes to be able to return to night vision mode. We should also think of our environment, nocturnal animals and fellow photographers, whom we don't want to blind unnecessarily.n.

Remote shutter release for photographing stars in the night sky

Much better than the self-timer, which often informs us about its operation with unwanted light and sound signals, are suitable Cable or radio remote release. In addition to simple triggering, these should ideally also allow the free choice of exposure time and intervals. Cable releases offer the advantage of not being able to be disturbed by external radio signals.

Camera filters / lens filters for Milky Way photography

In order to be able to master the remaining light pollution at the selected location, a special one is set Astroklar filter against light pollution one that reduces the wavelengths in the yellow and orange range, largely restores the natural blue of the night sky and also ensures stronger contrasts.

Astrofotografie Milchstraße mit und ohne Filter

Accessories and clothing for star photography

Spare batteries are not carried in a photo backpack, especially on cold nights, but are carried close to the body to protect them from premature discharge and to protect yourself from disappointment. Also think about additional memory cards, Camera and lens cleaning material and warm, waterproof clothing that is as inconspicuous as possible.

Now that we have completed the planning and preparation as requested and the camera equipment is safe and dry in the well-padded and fatigue-free carry bag photo backpack stowed away, we deal with the right setting regarding our camera..

Summary of equipment for Milky Way photography

Camera settings for Milky Way photography

As in all other photographic disciplines, the mutual dependency of astrophotography also applies¬†exposure time, ISO and aperture¬†‚Äď clearly represented in the so-called exposure triangle. Here's how to do it in detail¬†settings on the camera¬†should make to¬†success at¬†Photographing the stars of the Milky Way¬†to have.

In the Milky Way and star photography, however, we come up against our limits on the exposure time axis: the earth continues to rotate, if we expose too long, the stars and planets turn into lines. Although we can deliberately use this stylistic device to illustrate the orbits of the celestial bodies, we should only expose as long as necessary to achieve a razor-sharp representation of the whirlpools in the Milky Way. As a rule, when photographing the Milky Way and the night sky, one goes from one Exposure time between 20 and 25 seconds. However, this can vary greatly from location to location.

Nowadays, in view of the much more sensitive sensors, instead of 500s - only the 300s rule 300/(focal length in mm), with APS-C sensors we also have to take into account the reduction in the final image size in the formula: 300/(focal length in mm x crop factor).

However, a general recommendation cannot be given even if these variables are taken into account. The influencing factors at the location are too varied and changeable. In order not to experience a nasty surprise after taking the Milky Way photograph at home on the computer, you should definitely take a few test photos and on the Check the camera display by zooming in to see whether the stars are still stars or already streaks..

So we mainly influence the image quality and the wow factor of the end result with the sizes ISO number and aperture. Try out at home in the dark from which ISO number your camera starts to produce noise. Since we are going into the astrophotography ring with a housing that is as high quality as possible, we should not be afraid to go into the 3200 (APS-C) or even 6400 to 8000 (full format) range. If we then also open the aperture properly, the chances of being able to take great photos of the Milky Way home are relatively good. We can safely leave out the autofocus, since the distances and the widest possible recording angle do not allow this otherwise very useful helper to function properly. We therefore proceed differently:

How to focus on the Milky Way?

First we turn off image stabilization, set to infinity, find the brightest star, zoom in as close as possible with LiveView, and then turn the focus ring back and forth. As soon as the celestial body can no longer be screwed smaller, we have reached the ideal setting. Now we can zoom out again and focus on the

Choose RAW or JPEG for star photography?

Although the RWA format occupies more storage space, it also saves significantly more information. Since the white balance does not really work reliably at night (due to the lack of a reference surface), we secure more reserves with RAW and can also get a lot out of noise reduction in post-processing.

We therefore prefer to switch off the camera's own noise reduction completely, since the well-intentioned automatic system in the exceptional situation of Milky Way photography is happy to identify and erase one or the other star from unwanted noise.“.

Instructions: Camera setup and equipment to photograph the Milky Way:

  • Trigger:¬†M mode recommended, best to work with a tripod and remote release
  • Lens:¬†use a wide-angle lens (astro lenses), 14-24mm (full format sensor) or 10-16mm (APSC sensor)
  • Cover:¬†Aperture at least at f 2.8 (aperture)
  • ISO values: 3200 (APS-C) or even 6400 to 8000 (full format) best results with a wide open aperture at the same timee
  • exposure time:¬†usually between 20 and 25 seconds. Expose only as long as necessary, as exposure time is limited by the rotation of the earth

Astrofotografie Milchstraße

Image composition in astrophotography

After the warm-up test shots with the highest possible ISO value and variable exposure times, it's time to shoot sharply: In the area of ‚Äč‚Äčtension between brightness and image noise, we play with the ISO value a little and then select the desired image section.itt.

But be careful: We shouldn't be lulled by the brightness of the camera's display. The mouse cinemas always mean it too well and present us with a consistently too bright image of the real data stored. At home, an actually unnecessary nasty surprise awaits us again.ung.

Images that are too bright can still be saved in post-production, but it is rarely possible to make anything useful out of drowned black images. As hardened astrophotographers, we therefore prefer to rely on the deflections of the histogram, which we show on the dimmed display. The curve on the left, which is much more meaningful, should not be cut off under any circumstances, otherwise there is a risk of an underexposure alarm! We should also always photograph the horizon horizontally in order to place the many curvatures of the wide-angle shot in a frame that is familiar to the eye. How much sky we then capture depends primarily on the splendor of the respective Milky Way! In order to focus perfectly horizontally, we can resort to the help of high-quality spirit levels/vials.n.

Summary Camera settings for Milky Way photography

  • The rotation of the earth sets us limits to the exposure time
  • Autofocus usually does not work, work with LiveView for reliable focusing
  • Always work with RAW format
  • Trust the histogram instead of the viewfinder, it must not be cut off on the left!

In the second part of this blog article series, we deal with the sensible post-processing of our astrophotography in Adobe Lightroom at the beginner level, several screenshots provide clear and understandable tips.

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