If you want to, you can go nuts with planning a Milky Way shoot! I do my night shooting on the weekends (my 9-5 keeps me from staying up all night on any random week day) so I often plan obsessively to make sure my time out in the field– in the middle of the night– isn’t wasted. Unfortunately, mother nature sometimes has other plans, and all your own planning can go down the drain with just a few clouds showing up in the sky.
I use all sorts of resources to plan my Milky Way shooting excursions. I like the “Astronomy” feature on Accuweather that gives you a simple outlook for how good the stargazing conditions are. Two powerful tools I often suggest are the clear sky charts for astronomers on Clear Dark Sky and light pollution maps at DarkSiteFinder. These will help you determine how dark your shooting location will be (yellow at the absolute least, but blue and black areas will give you fabulous results!) and what percentage cloud cover you’ll encounter, among other things. I also use the StarWalk app on my iPhone to determine where the Milky Way will be in the sky at certain times, to even more accurately plan my shoot.
I was armed with all of these tools when I set out to Greer’s Ferry in Arkansas this weekend, hoping to catch the Milky Way over the lake on a gorgeous humid Saturday night. All forecasts predicted clear skies; it was a new moon and very dark; and Greers Ferry is in a green zone, plenty dark for MW viewing. I relaxed by the lake, had a couple of beers, and waited…
Only for some low lying clouds to roll in. I waited, and waited, hoping they would dissipate; but the sky only grew cloudier as the night went on. All my camera was picking up was yellow light pollution reflecting off the hazy clouds, with no stars in sight. A total bust. By 2 am I hit the hay.
I’m glad I took a bunch of test shots at dusk– I do these to check my composition and make sure the image will be sharp. I happened to catch a few frames of a lit up boat gliding down the lake after sunset– not what I had set out for, but a neat image nonetheless. I already have plans to get out on the next new moon with a group of photographers to shoot the Milky Way, and I hope there are no clouds this time!
In other news, I had been having a ton of issues with the host of my store, and subsequently cancelled my account with them. I am currently reviewing my other store options so hopefully I can get another one up and running soon! In the meantime, if there are any images you see here that you would be interested having printed, please shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can work something out. Thanks for stopping by!