The Milky Way - Imaging our beautiful galaxy wide-field

This post regroups our favorites images of the Milky Way that we have taken over the years since starting Astrophotography. You will find our most recent attempts at the top, and can scroll down all the way to our very first photograph of our own galaxy. We will include the equipment used, the location, and other useful information for each image.



The Milky Way, or rather a part of it, is visible from both the northern and the southern hemisphere. From our location, the west coast of the United States, the brightest part of the Milky Way band is best observed in the Summer month. This is because from our location and during that time, our planet faces the core of the galaxy during the night.


Although we are deep sky astrophotographers, we still like to do wide field imaging with our DSLR camera and lens and capture the Milky Way. Take a look at some of our greatest Milky Way images below.



The Milky Way shining until disappearing during Sunrise

April 2020

Mojave National Preserve, CA


Back again at the Mojave National Preserve only a couple days before the last visit! Decided to do some Milky Way photography once more and some time-lapses. It would be a shame not to capture the Milky Way band knowing you are under such clear, dark skies.


At the beginning of the time-lapse, around 1AM, the Milky Way can be see rising behind the trees and looks something like this:


It is crisp, impressive, and looks bright against the surrounding dark sky. The green-ish colors low in the horizon (air glow) also tells us that we are under a really dark and quality sky.


Now, a few hours after this shot, around 4:30 to 5AM, the sky looked completely different! Although the sun was not expected to rise until 5:45AM, the insane brightness of our star already lights up the sky well before it pops out above the horizon.


This is why, more than one hour before sunrise, the Milky Way is already all washed out and looks like this:


What is that very bright blob to the left of the Milky Way band? That is not a star but a planet, Jupiter!


As you can see, our framing stayed exactly the same between 1AM and 5AM, and the Earth "moved" instead of the sky! In order to do that (which looks really nice in time-lapses), we used a star tracker, the Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer Pro which we aligned on the North Star and simply turned on. This allowed us to track the Milky Way all night long.


The 5D Mark II on the Star Adventurer Pro

GEAR USED:

Camera: Canon 5D Mark II

Lens: Canon EF 50mm f/1.8

Tracking Mount: Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer Pro

Tripod: Orion Paragon Heavy Duty

Intervalometer: Newwer Intervalometer

Processing: Pixinsight


ACQUISITION DETAILS:

Total Exposure Time: 30 seconds

ISO: 800





The Milky Way rising behind a desert tree

April 2020

Mojave National Preserve, CA


I decided to visit the Mojave National Preserve for the first time, a Bortle 2 zone in California about 2 hours away from Vegas. While there, I imaged the Iris Nebula, but also did some Milky Way Astrophotography at the same time!


The Mojave National Preserve is full of beautiful trees. There was a beautiful one just next to where I setup the telescope, and chose it as my foreground! I waited until about 1AM when the Milky Way rose and started shooting away! This eventually turned into a time-lapse, but you can see just one of the many frames taken that night below.



I really love the result, especially knowing it was just a single shot of only 10 seconds and untracked! The small tripod I used allowed me to place the camera very low to the ground and have this open upward shot towards the sky including most of the tree!


GEAR USED:

Camera: Canon 7D Mark II

Lens: Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8

Tripod: JOBY Gorilla Pod 3K

Intervalometer: Newwer Intervalometer

Processing: Pixinsight

ACQUISITION DETAILS:

Total Exposure Time: 10 seconds

ISO: 6400


Including Rho Ophiuchi in our Milky Way shot

April 2020

Nevada Desert, NV

We've attempted to capture both the Milky Way and Rho Ophiuchi widefield several times over the years, which you can see in our full post about Rho Ophiuchi.


This 2020 version is our favorite by far! We once again used our star tracker and our full frame DSLR camera with a 50mm lens to capture the image below. Make sure to visit our full post or even watch our two YouTube videos to learn more about this photo. Links to the videos can be found in the post.



GEAR USED:

Camera: Canon 5D Mark II

Lens: Canon EF 50mm f/1.8

Tracking Mount: Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer Pro

Tripod: Orion Paragon Heavy Duty

Intervalometer: Newwer Intervalometer

Processing: Pixinsight

ACQUISITION DETAILS:

Total Exposure Time: 30 seconds

ISO: 800


Attempting a Milky Way Mosaic for the first time

May 2019

Nelson's Landing, NV


A little bit bored while waiting for the telescope to be done image our main target for the night, we decided to attempt a Milky Way panorama / mosaic for the first time. We did not expect much as we did not research any tips on how to achieve that and just went with our guts, but the results turned out interesting.


Here is the result of the 3-panel mosaic below:

GEAR USED:

Camera: Canon 7D Mark II

Lens: Rokinon 10mm f/2.8

Tripod: Orion Paragon Heavy Duty

Intervalometer: Newwer Intervalometer

Processing: Pixinsight

ACQUISITION DETAILS:

Total Exposure Time: 30 seconds

ISO: 800




Portrait of the Milky Way, looking for detail!

August, 2018

Nelson's Landing, NV


Using the "portrait" accessory (sorry, I have no idea what the name of that thing is) that came with the tripod to set the camera at a 90-degree angle, I decided to take several shots of the Milky Way and later stack them.


After stacking 15 images of 50 seconds each on PixInsight and processing them, below is the result! We also tried inverting the image, which revealed a lot of detail in the core of the Milky Way band which we found interesting.


The light on the bottom left is the light pollution dome coming from Laughlin, Arizona.



GEAR USED:

Camera: Canon 7D Mark II

Lens: Rokinon 10mm f/2.8

Tripod: Orion Paragon Heavy Duty

Intervalometer: Newwer Intervalometer

Processing: Pixinsight

ACQUISITION DETAILS:

Total Exposure Time: 50 seconds

Number of exposures: 15

ISO: 800


Ready for Take-off!


Then, using the image on the left (non-inverted), I decided to try a composition with the picture of a toy Space Shuttle we took at night. We personally like the results, but composites are not really our cup of tea so we don't usually make these and most likely won't make more.



It was a beautiful, clear Saturday night. The kind of night we would usually image a deep sky object or two... Unfortunately, being in the heart of Summer, darkness comes around 9PM, and the moon rose around 11PM.

Instead of setting up our entire equipment and only image for two hours, I decided to take our little Endeavour Space Shuttle toy for a random ride, and ended up in the dark part of Boulder City.

There, I had to balance the ship on a rock and find the right angle to photograph it. In the end, Endeavour ended up not launching but falling to the ground and breaking one of its rockets...



Alaskan Milky Ways

September 2017

Ketchikan, AK


We had the chance of going on a trip to Alaska to visit one of Dalia's best friends. We visited Ketchikan and Metlakatla in September of 2017.


Besides images of eagles soaring in the sky, we were able to take two photographs of the night sky! Our favorite is the one below, taken after driving to a tiny, old airport with a jeep:



GEAR USED:

Camera: Canon T3i

Lens: Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8

Tripod: JOBY Gorilla Pod 3K

Intervalometer: Newwer Intervalometer

Processing: Pixinsight

ACQUISITION DETAILS:

Total Exposure Time: 30 seconds

ISO: 1600



At Peace, Far from Home


This little boat has a painful past. According to our friends and locals, this Chinese boat was hit by the huge 2011 Tsunami in Japan, and washed up on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, on the shores of the cold Alaska.

We did not have to do any light painting for this shot, we only used the headlights of our friend and host's Jeep, which was angled just right. (Thanks Michaela!)

I really wanted to have a boat as a foreground and a beautiful night sky behind it, I am so glad I was able to capture not just a random boat, but one that has an important history. Sadly, the sky wasn't very clear that night so I attempted to replace it with a previous shot of the Milky Way we had (from the image "Milking the Milky Way" later in this post).


Back then, I was really proud of that shot and decided to use it to replace the sky here. Today, I absolutely dislike it, I find it to be way over-processed and did you realize what the cherry on top was? I pasted the sky the wrong way! Normally, the core of the Milky Way (left here) should be on the right! Compare with the next section below and you will see :)



I decided to add this image here just because it is a reminder that everyone makes mistakes when they are overly-excited beginners. I was so proud of this shot back then, and a few years later I hate it.



Milking the Milky Way

June 2016

Nelson, NV

Featured on BBC Four Sky at Night June 2016


We took this photo in Nelson, NV, a Ghost Town that is very close to our former stargazing and imaging spot. It was our first time actually trying light painting on huge objects such as this tower and the vehicles. It took a bit of trial and error but we're pretty happy with the final image!


This beautiful town is in a Bortle 3 zone, the Milky Way was, to the naked eye, grey/blue but had obvious details.

Walking around the town wasn't relaxing. We had to have our torch light towards the ground at all times in case there were snakes or huge spiders. We could also hear coyotes barking very loud inside the town itself...


Let us know what you think!



GEAR USED:

Camera: Canon T3i

Lens: Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8

Tripod: Orion Paragon Heavy Duty

Intervalometer: Newwer Intervalometer

Processing: Pixinsight

ACQUISITION DETAILS:

Total Exposure Time: 30 seconds

ISO: 800




Falling in love with the Stars together

September 2015

Nelson's Landing, NV

Dalia & I, looking at our galaxy, the Milky Way.

This image is very meaningful to us because we consider it our first "successful" shot at the Milky Way. Unlike our previous attempts, this one was properly focussed, centered, and had an interesting foreground.


Scroll down to see our failed, very first few shots of the Milky Way!



GEAR USED:

Camera: Canon T3i

Lens: Canon stock lens

Tripod: Orion Paragon Heavy Duty

Intervalometer: Newwer Intervalometer

Processing: Pixinsight

ACQUISITION DETAILS:

Total Exposure Time: 30 seconds

ISO: 800


Failed Attempts




Trying to take a cheesy photo with our "new" (used and now replaced) Canon t3i DSLR camera.

As you can see, not only the Milky Way is out of focus, but we are as well and even the mountains behind. Pretty much nothing is in focus.





Trying to take another, cliché shot of our Milky Way.


Once again, the focus is terrible as we did not change it, but hey, we were happy at the time!







We spent the next day finally finally learning how to properly focus on the stars. It was way easier than we thought and we felt kind of stupid not knowing how to do it the night before.


We went out once again, super excited to get an awesome shot of the Milky Way... but of course, there were clouds everywhere!


The good thing is, our stars look perfectly focussed!

After this night, we knew we were ready to take an awesome photo on our next outing!


Said "awesome" photo is the one we have displayed above :)





This post is regularly updated with our new images of the Milky Way, ranked chronologically with the newest ones on top.


Make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube to stay up to date with our work!


Clear Skies,

Galactic Hunter





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