Milky Way using the Sony a7sii

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I have recently started capturing some milky way shots, and like everyone else when first starting I didn’t know where to begin. After doing a lot of research and capturing some amazing milky way shot I thought to create this blog to help everyone understand the best ways to capture a milk way.

First thing you would have to do is find a location with no light pollution. As it would be best visible to the naked eye. Below is a link to a website to be able to see where are the best spots that have no light pollution.

click here to visit Light pollution map.

You can capture some milky way shots with minimal light pollution but might have to bring it out in post. You would have to check to see which part in you area where the milky way is most visible and the best time of the year to shoot. The best times to go out to shoot the milky way is when it is darkest which is around 11 – 12pm. Best to shoot when there is no moon as it will wash out your shots.

This is the gear i use for my milky way shots. It is good to Use a camera with good High ISO capability preventing a lot of noise coming into your images. I shoot with the Sony a7sii which is amazing in low light. The a7sii is my favourite camera due to the low light capability it has and the dynamic range. You would also need a fast and wide angle lens. I use the 28mm f2 lens adding on the ultra wide 21mm f2.8 converter. The wider the lens and faster the F stop the better. It is best to use lenses with an F stop between f1.4 – f2.8 allowing more light. You will also need to use live view to try and focus in the dark using manual focus. With manual focus make sure you focus to infinity getting everything in focus. With the sony cameras they have the magnification tool allowing me to go in close making sure everything is in focus. A good tripod is very important to have as you will be doing a lot of long exposures, i currently have the Manfrotto mt055cxpro4 and the 808RC4 3 way head.

Now here is the fun part! Choosing the right settings to capturing the milky way. First things first for WB i have it set on kelvin setting the temperature between 3200 – 3600 as you don’t want the shots to have yellow in it. You want a more cool affect for your WB. Have your camera set on Manual mode. With the ISO i start around 3200, you can always go higher if it is still a bit dark or lower if it is bright. With milky way shots you would need to do some long exposures and at the same time avoid star trails in your images. The best way to work out the shutter speed is the 500 rule. The 500 rule is dividing 500 by the focal length, for my case the a7sii is a full frame camera so i divide 500 by 21 which will give me around 23 seconds. If you are shooting crop sensor you would need to times the crop factor with your focal length for example Sony and nikon has a 1.5 crop factor and 1.6 for canon. So if your are using for example a 16mm on a sony crop sensor you will have to times 16mm x 1.5 which will give you 24mm then divide that by 500 which then your shutter speed will be 20 seconds. Using this rule it will give you and indication of what shutter to use avoiding star trails. Once you work out your settings and you take your test shot you may have to adjust your settings either changing the ISO or Shutter  as in the first go it won’t be perfect.

Once you have your settings correct, work out the best composition. It is always good to add foreground into your milky way shots. With the milky way shots i have done i wasn’t lucky enough to have a good foreground so just focusing on the sky itself.

After capturing your milky way shots you will need to process it. I edit all my images in Lightroom CC. There is no right or wrong way of editing Milky Way shots it just comes down to taste and preference. If having a foreground in the photo you will want to pull up the shadows and having a camera with a good dynamic range such as the a7sii will allow you to still have a lot of detail.

Hope this helps you with capturing milky way shots. Doesn’t Matter what brand camera you use to capturing these types of shots. The Sony cameras does an amazing job and i have chosen to use their Mirrorless line up. Below are some images of the milky way i have captured and i have also included my settings.

This shot was in my back yard. Sony a7sii + 28mm f2 (21mm f2.8 converter) ISO 1250, f2.8 shutter 13 secs.
This Shot was captured in my back yard. There was a bit of light pollution but the milky way was still visible to the naked eye. Sony a7sii + 28mm f2 (21mm f2.8 Converter) ISO 1250, f2.8, shutter 13 secs.

This was captured at Sea Cliff Bridge Clifton NSW Sony a7sii + 28mm f2 (21mm f2.8 converter) ISO 2000, f2.8, shutter 13 secs

Sony a7sii + 28mm f2 (21mm f2.8 converter) ISO 2500, f2.8, shutter 20 secs

Sony a7sii + 28mm f2 (21mm f2.8 converter) ISO 1000, f2.8, shutter 15 secs

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