I Actually Learned to Photograph the Milky Way

Wow, my first acceptable image of the Milky Way. Credit: Me/Cory & Tanja Schmitz

I’m really fortunate to live in a region of the world with pretty dark skies. And, I’ve got pretty nice camera gear that we use to make all our YouTube videos. But for some reason, I’ve never been able to take an acceptable photo of the Milky Way, and I wasn’t exactly sure where I was going wrong. Turns out… I was going wrong everywhere; wrong exposure, aperture, ISO, JPG vs RAW.

I finally reached out to two of the best astrophotographers I know, Cory and Tanja Schmitz from Both are world-class astrophotographers, with amazing shots of the Milky Way, galaxies, star clusters, nebulae and other deep space objects. And you should see their timelapses. They generously agreed to give me direct advice using the gear I have available, and then helped turn the raw photos into something usable through Photoshop (which is another area of dark wizardry).

I ended up using my Canon 5D MkII camera, which we shoot all our Guide to Space videos on. I tried taking pictures with its regular lens, and then got better results with a Rokinon 14mm lens that I actually don’t really use very often. It’s the wide angle lens we use in the car driving up to Comox Lake.

I captured the image at f/2.8, 30 second exposure, ISO 3200. Our shooting location had pretty dark skies, but it was earlier in the evening, and there was some light pollution off to the southern skies.

Here’s the final collaboration video, where Tanja and Cory give me their advice on which gear to use, how to set up and take the picture, and then how to clean it all up in Photoshop afterwards.

This is just the beginning of a whole new rabbit hole hobby for me, so hopefully you’ll see me improve over time as I learn to get more out of my gear, and find darker and darker skies.

Of course, you should check out Cory and Tanja’s, follow them on Instagram, and begin your own journey of learning how to shoot the night sky.

Fraser Cain

Fraser Cain is the publisher of Universe Today. He's also the co-host of Astronomy Cast with Dr. Pamela Gay. Here's a link to my Mastodon account.

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