Planning for night photography.

I’m starting this thread to consolidate information on night photography for the upcoming trip to the Palouse in Washington.  It will include links to relevant sites and specific information about the planned trip. These are just my ramblings and a place to put some information to review before and during the trip.  I will divide the thread into the following sections:

  1. Timing and Schedules
  2. Visualization
  3. Locations and Subjects
  4. Equipment
  5. Shooting Techniques
  6. Post Processing Techniques

Timing and Schedules

We have already scheduled the trip to the Palouse for the week of June 14 – 20, 2015.  As fortune would have it, this will be an ideal time as far as viewing the night sky if the weather cooperates.  We can predict the phase of the moon and location of the stars but cloudy skies are not so predictable.  The months of June and July are the best times to view the milky way in the northern hemisphere, so that’s a plus for our schedule.  The moon will be “new” on June 16.  The following chart is for moon phases and times for Seattle, WA.  which should be close enough for our purposes.

The next consideration is the weather… clear or cloudy nights.  If you believe the Farmer’s Almanac, their prediction is not so good. Summer will be hotter than normal, with above-normal rainfall. The hottest periods will be in mid- and late June, early July, and mid- to late July.  Historical temperature averages are from 47-74 degrees F.

In June/July the center of the Milky Way will be low in the southern sky, and the band of the Milky Way will sweep upwards in an arch across the eastern sky to the northern horizon.

For a detailed description read “A Photographer’s Guide to the Milky Way” by Andrew Rhodes.

For those who have an IOS iPhone, Photo Pills is an excellent app to have.


Visualizing images ahead of time can be a great benefit in using your time wisely.  I like to research the area where I’ll be photographing in order plan my shots.  A good way to do this is to look at images on the internet, not to copy them but to get an idea of what is available in the area.  Some of the best resources are from professional photographers who conduct workshops in the area or who specialize in night photography.  Here are a few that I have found:


Using Google Earth in combination with Stellarium is also a good method for visualizing where and when the Milky Way will be in a given location.  Here is an example of Stelliarium showing the night sky from Steptoe Butte on June 16 at 2:00 AM.



Shooting Techniques

Clear Sky Nights –  Go for the stars and milky way.  Get a good foreground subject.

If subject is close, it may be necessary to expose at different focus points and blend in post processing.

Try some light painting on foreground subjects.

Cloudy Skies – Go for some light painting shots

Remember to turn off IS when on the tripod, especially with long exposures.