Friday, January 3, 2014

How to Photograph Milky Way NightScapes

"Milky Way Rainbow" - a panorama of 5 vertical images - Grand Teton NP ~ © Royce Bair (click to enlarge)
This night photography blog contains a wide variety of nocturnal photography styles and features the work of many other photographers. However, just for today, I'm going to focus on Milky Way photography, and a style I've developed, called "NightScapes".

"NightScape" Definition: Starry night skies as points of light, with an interesting landscape feature that is light painted just enough to enhance recognition. Not all my my NightScapes have light painting, but many do; and that light painting often comes from moonlight or starlight via a second exposure.

Points of Light: Although I love star trails, the stars in my NightScapes are photographed the way you see them: as points of light, not trails via long exposures. My technique requires short exposures of 30 seconds or less. It also requires higher image sensor speeds (usually 3200 ISO and above), and fast lenses (f/2.8 or faster). The best results come from high-end DSLR cameras, but good images can also be made on a low budget.

NightScape "Recipe": A step-by-step recipe for taking NightScapes is freely given here on my blog. Phil Hart has also written an ebook about "Shooting Stars" that is very helpful for beginners. My recipe and the ebook will help you get started. David Kingham's new NIGHTSCAPE ebook will increase your starry night skills even further. Studying and following this blog will help you take NightScapes to a higher level, and improve the quality of your images. For even better results, I recommend taking one of my workshops.

Photographing the Milky Way: In every workshop I've ever taught, my students enjoy shooting the stars, but their real satisfaction comes from photographing the Milky Way. For many of my attendees, it is the not only the first time they have done this, but it is often the first time they have seen the Milky Way with their naked eyes —especially in such a dramatic and unpolluted state.

Royce Bair has been a magazine photographer, international lecturer, and workshop instructor for over two decades. He has photograph for magazines i.e. The Smithsonian and National Geographic (both hard copy and online). Some of his workshop attendees have returned multiple times and their testimonials speak for themselves.

  Thor's Hammer, Bryce Canyon NP - Double Arch, Arches NP - Delicate Arch, Arches NP
© Royce Bair (click to enlarge)

Milky Way over Teton Range & Jackson Lake ~ © Royce Bair (click to enlarge)
Milky Way over The Watchman - Zion N.P. ~ © Royce Bair (click to enlarge)
Milky Way over Grand Canyon - Nankoweep area ~ © Royce Bair (click to enlarge)
Milky Way over Teton Range from Cascade Canyon Overlook ~ © Royce Bair (click to enlarge)
 Milky Way views over Teton Range, Jenny Lake and String Lake ~ © Royce Bair (click to enlarge)


  1. You've mastered the Milky Way really enjoying yours shots QUALITY!

  2. Thanks, Royce. I admire your work & really enjoy your blogs. What time of year is the photo showing the Milky Way over the Watchman at Zion NP?

  3. Awesome!! This stuff is magical!! I love shooting in the night but since I'm a novice I'm always looking for tips and tricks on how to make my photos look professional. Since I can't afford to join a professional photography school I rely on online tutorials and blogs like yours to learn digital photography tips and tricks to add a professional touch to my work. Thanks a lot for helping out.

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