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May 04, 2009



a very helpful description! I will try it out!

celebrity videos

We are part of milky way.

Jordi Busqué

Hi Jim, I use a cheap alternative to the Nikon 14-24 f/2.8 with the D3. The Sigma 10-20 f/4 in a Nikon D300 camera. That lens is 1-stop darker at 10mm (and the camera is 2-stop noisier, something that I compensate with a lower ISO and a longer exposure) but it has almost no coma aberration, something remarcable in such wideangle. You can see some samples here is you like:


The most dificult thing in this kind of photography is findind the dark sky. I have found many astonishing skies in Chile, and I'm always dreaming in coming back there. I'm from Europe and here we have one of the most light-polluted skies on earth. I hope that your article will raise conciousness of this problem among the people who have the power to fix it.

Thanks for that!


Jim Richardson

Jordi, I looked through your images and was amazed and delighted by the work you have been doing on the night skies. Some really nice images of the Milky Way. You're right that the D3 or the new D3S would give you more sensitivity but you are getting great images with what you've got and few photographers are working as much as you on behalf of the night sky.

Thank so much for what you are doing and keep me posted.



Very helpful tips indeed. I live in Jersey so I don't get many chances to shoot a sky like that, but on westward expeditions it is most helpful.
Whoever that "celebrity videos" guy is, he obviously doesn't think outside the box very often. It's like saying: 'because I live in the US, I can't see the US'.

Alejandro Multimarelli

I guess arches are light-painted in your belief of what reality is. The photo looks too unnatural, the painting is artificial, the milky way is blurred and the stars are too oblong due to the long exposure.
Sorry but the result and technique don´t work for me.

Dan Schroeder

Thanks for your efforts to encourage others to photograph the Milky Way! Before I saw this article I wrote up my own "how to" version, which differs in many details. Then I read your article in National Geographic and responded to it on my own blog. Finally found this place to comment. Anyhow, my original article and response to yours are here:


Ray Soares

Very nice! Thanks.

Ray Soares

Grant Collier

This is a nice shot, but I have to agree with Alejandro that the light painting makes it much less realistic. If you had done one exposure for the arch and one exposure for the sky and later combined them in Photoshop it would have looked a lot more realistic (if done well) than this. Just because you manipulate a shot during the exposure with a flashlight doesn't make it any more "real" than if you manipulate it afterwards in Photoshop. Better yet, if you want to keep it truly "real" you can take the shot on a night when a sliver of the moon is illuminating the front of the arch - just enough of a moon to give the arch some color but not enough to obscure the Milky Way. Or just keep the arch as a silhoutte.

As for the telescope-mounted clock-driven image, this produces an image with far more detail and less noise that your shot, thus making it more "real" unless you consider the noise to be "real." For a shot like this one, you couldn't use a telescope mount since it would blur the arch or you would have to combine two exposures, but for shots that don't include the land, this technique is the best way to capture "reality."

Almost all of my night shots are taken with a single exposure and no light painting, but if I have to, I'll much sooner combine two exposures than light paint, because that way everything is still evenly lit by natural light.

Nhung Chu

Just so you know, I've almost cried when looking at this picture, I don't know why..., but it's just too beautiful to see alone. Thank you, sincerely.

QT Luong

I am curious why you stated "the milky way is always the same exposure", but then proceeded to list three different exposures. If I adjust ISO and fstop by reciprocity, the following sentence would read:

45 seconds, f1.4, ISO 1600 will always get you a nice, bright Milky Way. Or, 25 seconds, f1.4, ISO 1600 will work. Or 30 seconds, f1.4, ISO 1600 works well, too.

Regarding light painting, I think that it seems arbitrary to deem images produced with this technique more "real" than those produced with the other techniques listed by Grant, but I understand that you are not making the editorial policy. However do you have any insight on how the editiorial "one exposure" policy came to be ?


I have to say that if you light paint and use high ISO noise reduction in camera then it is the same thing as using PhotoShop. Definitely not realistic. Also the milky way can't even be seen this way by human eyes so that is misleading to people as well. So that policy is pretty silly. Natural lighting with human eyes is far different than this picture.

I know because I have been to some of the darkest possible skies with very transparent water vapor. The milky way is bright fuzzy and grainy and the cloudy like appearance is better seen with averted vision. So, to sum it up it would have been a better idea to edit these photos and combine them to make a better more breathtaking photo that would have really shocked people.

Not to say you didn't do a good job or anything, its a good photo and nice work geting out there, plus following an odd policy. But a tracking mount with longer exposures would have been amazing with the camera-lens you have.

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