Milky Way photography is one of the most fascinating types of photography, but to shoot the most appealing part of our galaxy, the Milky Way center, you need to plan your shot since it’s not always visible.
The galactic center is only visible during a specific season (March to September in the Northern Hemisphere and February to October in the Southern Hemisphere), and also, just for a few hours during the night.
Also, to photograph the Galactic center, you need to keep other things in mind, as the darkness in the sky according to the moon.
To save you the time of having to juggle with all these different variables, I created a Milky Way Calendar where you can see at a glance the best days of the year to shoot the Milky Way, according to your location.
The calendar is pretty straightforward to use:
1. Download the best calendar for your location
Calendars are based on latitude, so even if you’re located in a different area or country, you can use them, providing you’re located at a similar latitude.
For example, the above example is a Calendar for the US West Coast taking Death Valley, in California, as a reference (36º latitude). If you’re located in Durango, Colorado (37º), you can also use this Calendar, just consider the time difference between both locations.
2. Check the best days to shoot the Milky Way
There are different columns related to the key elements you need to see and photograph the Milky Way:
The first thing you need is a day with no moon or with a moon not too bright (less than 30% is a good reference point). Secondly, hours of darkness (time between sunrise and sunset). Lastly, you don’t only need the Milky Way in the sky, but also the hours when the Galactic center is visible. (3rd and 4th columns).
3. Plan your composition according to the Galactic Center position
In the rightmost column, you can see the average angle of the galactic center in the sky. In a single night, you can see the Milky Way core as a full band or arch across the sky, as a diagonal/vertical line, or both. It also depends on your location and the time of the year.
4. Take note of the best days according to your goals
Depending on the number of hours when the Milky Way core is visible, we have divided the calendar into three different colors:
- Best days to photograph the Milky Way
- Days where the Milky Way is visible for a short time
- Days where the Milky Way isn’t visible.
Below you can find the calendars for the most popular areas:
In addition to those, you can download ten more Milky Way photography calendars at Capture the Atlas for other locations around the world. If you can’t find any calendar for your location or any calendar that you could use as a reference, please send a request, and I’ll do my best to create those new calendars.
Also, please consider that the Calendars have been created taking all the Saturdays of the year as a reference. Generally, you can also see and shoot the Milky Way two days before and two days after the best days to photograph the Milky Way.
Other things to consider for Milky Way photography
Besides all the factors mentioned above to shoot our galaxy, there are other elements that you should consider for a successful Milky Way shooting:
Light Pollution: The moon doesn’t matter if you’re close to a strong source of light pollution. The darker the sky, the more vivid you’ll see the Milky Way (even with the naked eye), so make sure that you’re planning your night session away from cities, villages, and other possible sources of light pollution.
You can use a light pollution map to decide the best areas.
- Clouds: Even in the remotest and darkest place, you won’t see the Milky Way if there are clouds in the sky. Before your shooting, check any weather site where you can see the cloud forecast.
- Technique: Milky Way photography is a challenging type of photography. Composing, focusing, and shooting at night requires knowledge and experience. Make sure you know the best technique to photograph the Milky Way , and don’t hesitate to try new techniques like shooting panoramas of the Milky Way.
I hope these Calendars and information help you plan and succeed in your Milky Way photography!
If you have any questions about the calendars, please leave a comment below!
About the Author
Dan Zafra is a Spanish-born travel photographer living in the USA. His passion is to travel to where you can not only create beautiful photography but also to soak in those experiences which leave a permanent mark on your life. You can find out more about Dan on his website and follow his work on Facebook and Instagram. Images used with permission