Photographing the Night Sky

Star trails over a Canandaigua barn – 3 hours of 30 second exposures, all stacked on top of one another. This shows how the Earth is constantly rotating about our axis. At the center the North Star “Polaris” can be found.

When you are huddled outside with your camera at 3 a.m., trying to capture the perfect night sky, you can’t help but be struck by the magnitude of the universe. Billions of stars, all lightyears away, and you, a mere speck on a tiny planet, striving to capture their beauty. For us, that’s the draw of night photography – it provides an incredible perspective; one not many people experience.

With some planning, practice and patience, anyone can create eye-catching images of the night sky. In our area, the best time to see the Milky Way is between February and October. Peak times are in June and July around midnight – conveniently the most comfortable months to sit outside enjoying the view. The core of the Milky Way will be low in the southern skies, and the band of the Milky Way should sweep upwards across the eastern skies in a beautiful arch.

The darker the sky, the more stars your camera (and eyes) will see. As our cities and towns continue to expand, light pollution worsens. You’ll surely notice it as you keep an eye to the sky at night. To reduce light pollution from your own property, install outdoor lights that point straight down. Use motion detectors to minimize their use. Whether you’re taking photos or just making memories, look for locations least impacted by light pollution.

To create our images, we planned around moon phases and rise/set times, and waited for clear nights with little moisture in the air. These were all long exposures, between 15 and 30 seconds, taken with wide angle lenses. To capture the entire arch of the Milky Way, many of our pictures are panoramas with up to 25 individual photos creating a single image.


For more detailed directions, check out our night sky tutorial at


story and photos by Trevor Andrews and Larkin Ryan

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