Astrophotography in Arkansas - Pedestal Rocks | Arkansas Astrophotography How-To
If you don't care anything about what I have to say about astrophotography, and just want to see a cool picture of the stars, just scroll on down!
Astrophotography is one of my favorite types of photography – to look at and to photograph. To understand a little about how astrophotography works, you need to understand how to properly expose your camera for the Milky Way, what to look for (the Milky Way), when and where to look for the Milky Way, and where you need to go to see the Milky Way. Lets skip over the camera exposure part for now and talk about everything else (which is truly the key to taking great Milky Way photographs).
First off, what to look for: the Milky Way. Yeah, you've got that already. Ok.
When to look for the Milky Way: Well, if it weren't for the stinking moon, you would always be able to see some portion of the Milky Way (btw, some portions are brighter than others... we'll talk about that). So a better questions is, when is the moon not shining brightly in the sky? There are two ways for the moon to be dark from your perspective: either it has set in the evening and won't rise until the morning, just like the sun, or it is a new moon. Typically, either one of these occurrences will give you about a week of dark skies perfect for photographing the Milky Way (and sometimes you'll get really lucky and they will occur one right after the other, giving you two week of dark skies!). So how do you know when the moon is gone... check the internet, there are hundreds of sources telling you months/years in advance what the moon will be doing on specific days.
Where to look for the Milky Way: This totally depends on the time of the year. During the winter months in Arkansas (and the US), only the darker parts of the Milky Way are visible, except at times around sunrise you might see some of the brighter parts. So, we are really talking about April/May through August/September. In the Spring, the Milky Way is diagonal across the sky, starting in the Southwest and moving up towards the South. In the Fall, the Milky Way is straight up and down from North to South. I recommend doing most of your astrophotography in May-July.
And last but certainly not least, where to go to see the Milky Way: Download a Dark Sky map application for your phone or look at one on the internet. Go to only the darkest or next to darkest places listed on the maps. Light pollution is terrible for astrophotography. That is truly the only restrictions on where you need to go to do astrophotography. However, don't be surprised if you find yourself hiking a trail at 2:00 in the morning while your friends are talking about the Blair Witch Project... it will happen!
Below is a fun picture taken from a Hike through the Ozarks earlier this year! It was about 1.2 miles in and another 1.1 out, which is a pretty long hike for 11:00pm - 2:00am. It was pitch black in the woods, there were lots of caves and man-sized holes to fall in, and yes, one of my friends that was hiking with us couldn't help himself and started talking about the Blair Witch Project! And did I mention the spiders?! This image was taken with a Sony A7s and a 24-105mm Canon L lens.