It is that time of year where the Milky Way (actually The Carina–Sagittarius Arm, but that is a subject for another time) emerges from its winter in the Southern Hemisphere and begins to show its galactic center in our northern latitudes. Starting in February it rises in the South-East around 2 AM and rises earlier each evening until Summer when it is already visible high in the sky upon Sunset. I love to take pictures and time-lapse videos of our galaxy as it traverses our nighttime sky and Gold Butte National Monument is a pretty good place to do it.
When and where to point your camera.
Shoot during the new moon phase so you do not have light competition from our dance partner, the Moon. Here is a good site to determine this: https://www.timeanddate.com/moon/@7173851
The Milky Way will rise in the south-east (March ~1:30 PM, April ~Midnight, May ~10 PM)
- Use a DLSR Camera shooting in Manual Mode taking raw images.
- Use a tripod
- Settings. My suggestions are only starting points, adjust them until you are happy with your outcome.
- ISO: Between 1600 and 6400
- Aperture: Wide open (f/1.4-f/2.8)
- Shutter Speed: 20 seconds – Note: I use 20 seconds to lessen the star movement blur.
- White Balance: Auto
- Focus: Infinity ∞
Challenges in Gold Butte
- Unfortunately, we sit right in an east-west air corridor and planes zip by constantly only thinning out after 2 AM
- The Las Vegas light pollution siting south-west of us.
Other fun options.
- It is neat to shoot with the moon lighting up the landscape backed by the Milky Way.
- Take a selfie.
- Shoot during a meteor shower (See the Perseid meteor we caught in August of 2017)
Have fun, sit in your favorite camping chair relax and watch the many satellites traverse our beautiful sky. Add something cool in the foreground, maybe a goblin in Little Finland, an arch, a rock or a sign.