Capturing images of the night sky is one of the most exciting photographic expeditions I have ever embarked upon. Adding stars to any image lends such an element of coolness, and if you can manage to capture the Milky Way…wow!
The basics of capturing good shots are not really very complicated. You’ll need a decent DSLR, a wide angle lens (anywhere from 14mm to 24mm), a cable release and a tripod. And a headlamp, so that you can see what you’re doing!
The only real difficulty is having the luck to get the convergence of a moonless night coinciding with a clear sky! At least here in Washington State, that’s not a regular occurrence.
Then there is location: the farther you can get from the lights of man the better. even when you are at some great distance from any towns or cites they still show up brightly on the horizon of any nighttime images. Often people ask me if their glow is the sunrise, its so bright.
If you would like to view a gallery of these images for purchase, here is the place to go!
I have several spots that I have tested that can be easily reached in a few hours drive, one of them, the Washington Pass Overlook, on the North Cascades Highway, has several wonderful benefits: its far from any cities, its easy to get to, it has a wonderful view of Liberty Bell Mountain, overlooking the highway and its at a high elevation, making for clear skies.
Another easy location to reach near by is actually along the same highway, the Diablo Overlook has great views of Diablo Lake and Dam and several glacier-clad peaks.
Other destinations for night sky imaging involve some hiking. Last summer I made it up to the Park Butte Lookout, on the southern slopes of Mount Baker and was blessed with some wonderfully clear skies. The Lookout provided a wonderful foreground for capturing images.
In a recent article I wrote for Mountaineer Magazine I described more details of how to capture these images.
As the world turns and relative position of the Milky Way to what you see changes. In this image below I waiting until 3am for the Milky Way to be situated right over Mount Rainier.
On my hike to the Park Butte Lookout I was pleased that the Milky Way first appeared that night aligned perfectly with the summit of Mount Baker. In fact, it almost looks as if the stars are issuing from the crater atop the mountain!
This coming March the new moon is March 20th and I am planning to make it back to the lookout and see if I can get more images.
This link provides details and way to sign up for my Night Sky Photo Tours. Hope to see you soon!