Milky Way and Mars

My first attempt at a Milky Way shot. The location wasn’t ideal. The glow on the left is from the city of Florence, Oregon. The shot overlooks the Siuslaw River. Mars is in the upper left corner.

Comments and suggestions for future shots appreciated.

Any pertinent technical details:

Canon 7D Mark II; 17-40 mm at 17mm; 28 seconds (ideally, 18 seconds would have been better); f4.5 (accidentally set here, should have been 4.0)

Allen: Looks like a very nice first attempt. The milky way looks ok, if not quite sharp. You didn’t say if you did some light painting on the foreground. The left edge tree is certainly an eye grabber in the scene.

I’m going to guess that with the settings you’ve outlined, this image was pretty underexposed in camera although you didn’t mention ISO. At f/4.5 and 28 seconds the ISO would have to be very high to grab enough light for a milky way image.

If you end up really wanting to do night skies with the Milky way or star trails, a faster lens is pretty much a requirement. f/4 is just not fast enough. I think of the entry point at f/2.8 and faster is better. I usually shoot an f/1.4 lens.

Not bad for a first attempt, but I agree with Keith about using a faster lens. I recently also photographed the Milky Way and Mars and I used the relatively cheap Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 lens at f/2.8, 25 seconds and ISO 3200. It worked out alright but I’m still using the almost 10 year old Canon 5DII which is quite noisy at the higher ISO’s.

Thank you Keith and Tom for the suggestions. The ISO was 3200. The trees were lit by the light from the nearby house. As noted, not a great location

Nice job Allen. The first milky Way shot is always super fun right? Its amazing what todays camera sensors are picking up out there in the dark skies. Heres my recommendations. Shoot the MW only, until you’re happy with the results. Don’t worry about adding in foreground interest like the trees on the left…yet.

My biggest concern with this MW shot is it doesn’t look in focus. You can get pinpoint stars with most lenses. Which, BTW is not easy to to at night, especially with an f4 lens. The best way to focus on stars is to use Live view, zoom in…and scroll throughout the scene at 2.8, and a super high ISO until you find a sparkling star and focus on it. Once focused, you can select any reasonable composition or setting for picking up light you want. Unfortunately you don’t have that 2.8. Your best option is to focus on a very distant mountain ridge or something far off in daylight and don’t touch it until nighttime. Don’t trust your infinity setting on your lens unless you’ve tested it.


Agree with others that this is a nice first attempt. I remember mine, which explains why I don’t do night shots very often… :wink:

Not much more to add to what’s already been said. Unless scouting ahead during the day for composition or potential distracting elements, it’s tough predicting what might show up at night. For me, the lit tree on the left is a distraction. But as you noted, the location wasn’t the best and I suspect your attention was on capturing the night sky.

I’m sure there are some common techniques for determining the exact, best focus point (it’s not turned all the way to infinity!) So that should be something to nail down.