My Very First Milky Way Photos

And other fun stuff

Linda Horton


Composite of the Milky Way over Death Valley

A lot of planning went into this. I scheduled a trip out west around the new moon — when the sky is the darkest — with the intention of capturing the Milky Way. Beginning weeks beforehand, I researched what equipment I needed, and how to take the photos.

First, I bought the equipment. I read articles, watched YouTube videos, and talked with friends to find out what I needed. I bought a tripod (lighter than the one I had), a stone bag (to weigh down the tripod), a red headlamp, and a wider angle lens than I owned (a friend convinced me that 24mm was not wide enough).

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I decided upon this tripod, since it was affordable, and lightweight.

PHOPIK 77" Tripod — Get it here

It was suggested that I purchase a stone bag, which attaches to the tripod and then rocks or weights can be added to stabilize the tripod during long exposures.

Being able to see in total darkness is essential, and a red light is better for night vision (and is apparently less attractive to bugs). So I got this EverBrite Headlamp — 300 Lumens Headlight.

EverBrite Headlamp — 300 Lumens Headlight — Get it here

And finally, the lens. A friend suggested this Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 IF ED UMC Ultra Wide Angle Fixed Lens

Now I had to figure out what to do with this stuff. As I researched, I saw just how much goes into getting a great shot. Many of the spectacular images I saw involve stacking several images, and combining in post-processing, and that is what I set out to do.

To really boil it down, you need to know what settings to use on your camera, how to focus, and where to find the Milky Way.

Since the earth is moving, and the stars are not, you have to figure out the optimum shutter speed — so that the stars look like dots and not little lines (which will result from using too long of a…



Linda Horton

Born a photographer, but prone to writing haiku on public transportation, or baking things. Death Doula in training.