There are two key things that make for great astrophotography. The first is having it be dark, and when I say dark I mean PITCH BLACK dark! That means absolutely no light, including the moon. Thankfully, a ‘new moon’ is the moon phase where there is no moon in the sky at all.
The second thing, which is more or less a major part of item 1, is light pollution. Light pollution is the light that spills into the sky from malls, parking lots, airports, houses and more. You can’t appreciate how much light pollution exists until you start a journey to take night photos. Even in a remote area of a suburban area you’ll find most shots ruined and few stars appearing in photos due to the light pollution.
For these photos, I took to Lake Taghkanic in Ancram, NY. Roughly 35 minutes north of where I live in Hyde Park, NY. There are actually light pollution maps available online. While this state park is not ‘perfect’, you can see it’s one of the darkest areas within the region.
A third element, which is more luck than anything is obviously a clear sky. There is no point in going out to take astro photos at night if there is an overcast, which makes it exceptionally difficult to time these shots. You need to have a free night (in other words the time) to take the pictures, you can only do it twice a month during a new-moon phase, and you need to be able to drive to a remote area.
Before taking the camera out, if you’ve never paid attention you will see more stars than you ever imagined. It’s quite a beautiful experience and I highly recommend scouting a location and enjoying the view camera free!
The weather was great, it was a nice cool summer night, and I’m still dumbfounded by the images the camera captured. It was incredible to shoot these 20+ second exposures and see the incredible images showing up on the screen. It still seems like magic what today’s cameras are capable of capturing.
The first two pictures were taken with a 24-105MM L lens, the second photo was taken by the amazing $100 Canon 1.8 50MM STM lens. I will note, the STM’s ‘drive-by-wire’ system makes critical infinity focus nearly impossible. The last shot was just luck taking a stab in the dark bumping the focus ring shot after shot.
Here are some of the photos: