Milky Way Shoot

Milky Way, by Tom Jones

Ken Duquaine

On Aug. 28 five members of the Sun Lakes Camera Club (SLCC) traveled to Superior, for a Milky Way photo shoot. The group was led by member Tom Jones who organized the trip based on several factors that were favorable for photographing the sometimes tricky and elusive subject. The chosen location was the Picketpost Mountain Trailhead about an hour’s drive from Sun Lakes, which offers the required dark skies and interesting foregrounds for photos. Members participating were Shelley Hughes, Phyllis Peterson, Dennis Hughes, Ruth Massey, and Tom Jones.

Apart from knowing the technical aspects of shooting the Milky Way, many factors need to be taken into account in planning for such a shoot if one expects to get interesting photos. The Milky Way is constantly changing in appearance throughout the year, rise and set times vary, and the phase of the moon dramatically affects the visibility of the Milky Way. One needs to know what its position will be, e.g., horizontal arch or nearly vertical, the position of its center (Galactic Center) and where the center will be at any given moment relative to one’s desired foreground, the time of day during which the Milky Way will be visible on a given date, the length of the shooting window, which can be as short as a few minutes depending on the season, etc. Fortunately for our participants, Tom did all of the pre-shoot planning, assuring a successful experience. But suppose you’d like to plan your own shoot. How do you go about it?

Fortunately, there are apps readily available to assist you. Currently, the most comprehensive planning tool for astrophotography is one called Photopills. Its price ($10.99) belies the wealth of information and functions that it provides. Unfortunately, at first glance, it can only be described as intimidating. There are, however, a large number of free tutorials that demonstrate its impressive capabilities. In addition to its use for astrophotography, it has many other very useful photographic applications relating to sunrise and sunset, solar and moon positioning, depth of field, time-lapse and exposure calculators, and the list goes on. Another app that is very useful to photographers is The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE). While it provides less information than Photopills, it can provide street-level views of locations around the world, and its learning curve is less challenging. Used in conjunction with Photopills, it can be a valuable addition to your photo planning. Currently, TPE is available in both free and pro desktop versions for Windows and Mac and for iOS mobile only.

The Sun Lakes Camera Club meets on the first and third Thursdays, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., in the Navajo Room of the Sun Lakes Country Club from October through April. For more information about the SLCC and its activities, call SLCC President Samantha (Sam) Palmatier at 902-727-0334 or [email protected], or past President Lynn Thompson at 480-734-0040 or [email protected], and visit our website,