Milky Way Photographer of the Year: See 10 stunning new images of our home galaxy shortlisted for the annual award – Forbes | Ad On Picture

Have you ever seen the Milky Way? It’s estimated that about 80% of Americans can no longer see the arc of our home galaxy’s spiral arms due to increasing light pollution, but this rarity is spurring interest in seeking it out — and capturing it on camera.

Travel photography blog Capture the Atlas has just released its 5th edition of its annual Milky Way Photographer of the Year, a collection of the top 25 photos of the Milky Way.

Here are 10 of the best images from the competition, including images created in 12 countries, along with some commentary from Dan Zafra, editor of Capture the Atlas, who is curating the competition.

Why is photographing the Milky Way so popular?

“Part of the excitement of photographing our galaxy is capturing a subject with lots of detail, color and texture not fully visible to the human eye,” said Zafra. “Our vision is very poor at night, we can see some light and dark mists, but our vision hasn’t evolved to see color or all the detail our cameras can capture.”

“Seeing our Milky Way photographed on the back of the camera screen is a very moving experience for most photographers, and being able to see our MW in different positions and angles based on latitude and hemisphere makes it even more exciting.”

How to quickly take a picture of the Milky Way

All of these images are painstakingly created with star trackers and multiple exposures, but there are easier ways to do it — although you’ll need a manual camera on a tripod. “Aside from the basics of shooting during or around the new moon and avoiding sources of light pollution, I would recommend the following settings to anyone who is photographing the Milky Way for the first time,” said Zafra. So here it goes:

  • Use the maximum aperture of your lens
  • Setting the maximum ISO allowed by the camera while keeping noise under control
  • Set a shutter speed between 10-25 seconds depending on your camera and focal length.

“Also, using a wide-angle lens with a fast aperture makes a big difference regardless of the camera model,” said Zafra.

Are star trackers used in all of these images?

“17 of the 25 images in this year’s edition were taken with a star tracker, while up until a few years ago we never saw more than two or three tracked images in the list,” Zafra said. A star tracker tracks the Earth’s rotation, so the stars remain crisp, rather than blurry, as they move across the night sky. It enables photographers to use ultra-long exposure times. “This speaks a lot about the current trend in wide-field astrophotography, where photographers are using star trackers and the aforementioned astro-mode cameras to capture more detail, color and the overall quality of their images,” said Zafra.

The astro mod camera trend

Astro modified cameras have become very popular in recent years. A camera with astro mode is a camera where the low pass filter has been removed from the sensor and replaced with another filter that blocks the UV and IR light but allows more light transmission depending on the filter, especially at certain color wavelengths. “The most popular for astrophotography is the H-alpha (hydrogen alpha) filter, which captures the red nebulae in some regions of the night sky,” Zafra said. You can see this in several images of the Milky Way shown here.

Why Use an Astro Mod Camera?

The general belief is that these modifications are only made to capture the colors in the nebulae,” said Zafra. “But the biggest benefit of Astro-Mod cameras is their ability to capture more light, resulting in cleaner images with less digital noise.”

Do they make the Milky Way look unrealistic? “In my opinion, these filters don’t make it look unrealistic, they just help capture something that our eyes can’t see but is out there in the night sky,” Zafra said.

Other trends in Milky Way photography

The main trends are the use of star trackers and astro-moded cameras. “However, technology is constantly evolving and we’re seeing a big trend towards automation in astrophotography,” said Zafra, who is currently testing a device called Benro Polaris, which can automate various processes including pole alignment, panoramas and exposure tracking. “I think the future tends to automate all the technical steps and leave more room for the creative part of the astrophotographer,” said Zafra.

The growth of astrotourism

“Other trends are more related to destinations in the Milky Way or astrotourism,” said Zafra. “Some of the top destinations where astrophotographers will be photographing the night sky include La Palma and Tenerife in the Canary Islands of Europe, the US National Parks of western North America, and the Atacama region of South America.”

These are also the top three places on the planet for the biggest and best telescopes in the world. It’s not a coincidence.

Where else do astrophotography

There are countless locations for astrophotography where not many people have photographed the Milky Way before. “Examples in North America are public lands outside of national and state parks that are less crowded,” Zafra said. “A good example of this is the BLM lands on the east side of the California Sierra or National Monuments like the Grand Staircase Escalante in Utah.”

Zafra also mentions some other otherworldly locations for adventurous astrophotographers like the Peruvian Andes. “You can see our Milky Way at higher altitudes with no people and no light pollution at all,” he said. “Other regions in Africa, Australia and New Zealand also offer exceptional opportunities for original images of the Milky Way. I highly recommend checking light pollution maps and researching online to find some of these areas.”

The best place to take photos of the Milky Way

One of Zafra’s favorite spots for Milky Way photography is Death Valley National Park. “This is a massive national park with endless miles of beautiful scenery and foreground elements that offer an opportunity to find original compositions while being relatively accessible,” he said. “This is also one of the best places to photograph panoramas of the Milky Way as there are no elements blocking your view of the horizon.”

The timing of the Conquer the Atlas contest is no accident, as late May is the peak of the Milky Way season, when it’s easiest to see them rise from both hemispheres (although they’re February through October in the Northern Hemisphere and January through January). seen in the Milky Way on November). the southern hemisphere).

I wish you clear skies and big eyes.

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