The Milky Way

Here is the story on how I managed to finally take pictures of the milky way.

Yesterday ( April 29th 2016) it was around 10:30 PM on our way back from the Samoa Circus which was great by the way! And I recommend bringing your kids.. hmm yeah on our way back, I was getting ready to set myself into my favourite sleep position when I was amazed to see how clear the sky was. There was thousands , millions, billions of stars shining and that was so beautiful.

Back home I grab my camera with the 50mm lens which was already mounted on it and place myself in my usual spot. A little place next to mom’s flowers. Took some snaps and trying to figure out where the milky way was. If you saw my old pictures you will noticed that we can barely see it but the pictures are full of stars not really the result I wanted. After some mosquitoes bites on the arm and face I was starting to get annoyed but not desperate. I just move forward from that special spot and decided to change angle and see if it would be cool to include the leaves of a mango tree with a background of gazing stars.

Suddenly..

When the shot is done I have to wait some seconds to see the preview as was on long exposure mode. When the preview came up and saw that little piece of strange clouds with a natural gold looking colour. And I think to myself…..

And here is what I saw from the preview:

Great! All this time I was trying to focus on the wrong direction. Not to hide that I bought some apps trying to locate that milky way. Now I know where to target but at ground floor there was so many obstacles and lot of leaves from the mango tree to get a proper shot. When the idea finally came up.

The Mission

The best place to get the perfect shots would be on the roof of the house so I called my lady (who were a bit pissed off about my idea actually). Got onto the roof and saw the neighbour looking at me thinking I was a thief until I wave my hand to them to reassure it was just me ( it was around 11:25pm I think nobody get on the roof at this time). Veronika (my wife) gave me the camera with the tripod and I look for the best spot. Took the first picture and arrrrgggggg…

Street lights!! Light pollution sucks! and this actually added some flares to the images. Sadly I don’t have any lens hood for the 50mm lens which would helps actually. So I look around and saw the shadow of the roof water tank. Why not?

Got into position there and here was the results:

I decided to change the lens and for that I needed to call Veronika. There was no phone and I couldn’t shout at night from the roof. The best idea I got was to knock the roof with my shoes hoping she would hear something. AND YES!!! IT WORKED!!! I heard a little voice asking if I wanted something. I asked her to bring me the 18-55mm lens which came as kit with my old D60. She brought the 70–200mm, I said “ no I want the smallest lens in my camera bag”. She brought the 18–200mm. Well, okay that would work.

I unmounted the 50mm and place the 18–200mm expecting to have a wider view of the milky way.

I had to change my camera settings for this new mounted lens at its focal opens up to 3.5 compared to the 1.8 of the 50mm

(P.s if you are selling a 35mm f1.8G Nikkor DX lens please let me know)

After some moments I could see clouds appearing and started to cover the whole sky. It was time for me to get off the roof in which I used my stone aged communication skill to call my wife.

Gears and tips

It’s easy to take pictures of the milky way with any Dslr but there are some rules to follow:

  1. First there should be a clear sky. Easy just look up and start to count the stars. If there are above billions then its good.
  2. Go to a place where there is less light pollution or no light at all like on the top of a mountain, hill or your house and make sure there is no street light.
  3. Lens hood is very helpful, it avoids the flares from the streetlights to get in.
  4. In Mauritius point your camera to the EAST direction and about 60–70 degrees up.
  5. Best time to shoot 11pm — 1am.
  6. On all my pictures I shoot on ISO 3200.
  7. On the 50mm lens the aperture was set to 1.8 and shutter to 6"–8" seconds.
  8. On the 18–200mm lens the aperture was set to 3.5 and shutter to 10" — 15" seconds.

That’s it! I really hope this will work out for you and don’t hesitate to leave a comment if you have any questions.

Find all the pictures taken on my 500px gallery here: https://500px.com/xavier-coiffic/galleries/milky-way