Have you ever seen an incredible image of the milky way, and wished you could take a photo like that. Well, one of the first questions you’ll need to ask is:
Where can you photograph the milky way?
You can photograph the milky way in most rural areas and national parks. Avoid cities and places with bright lights as they obscure your camera’s view of the night sky. This is due to a phenomenon called light pollution. You can only photograph the milky way in places with low light pollution. Here’s a great resource you can use to find dark places with little light pollution near you.
How can you use the light pollution map?
You can use the light pollution map or dark site finder (which I mentioned above) to find good places to photograph the milky way galaxy. You can either choose https://darksitefinder.com/maps/world.html or https://lightpollutionmap.info. These websites show you light pollution levels overlayed on a map of the world. Dark site finder shows how far light pollution extends better than light pollution map, but light pollution map is more precise and accurate. Here is the key to light pollution levels. The brighter the color the higher the light pollution. The darker the color the less light pollution and better sky for milky way viewing and photography.
On either map, type in your location, or click the location icon for dark site finder to automatically go to your location on the map. From there you can zoom out with your scroll wheel and find the closest place to you with low light pollution. Be careful not to confuse the white level of light pollution (high light pollution) with black or grey levels of light pollution (low light pollution) on dark site finder.
So there are many great spots for milky way photography. Let’s take a look at seven of my favorites.
1. Yosemite National Park
Yosemite national park is a great place to view and photograph the milky way for those of you in California and Nevada. Plan your visit during the summer to avoid snow and clouds which can block the milky way. According to the light pollution map and the dark site finder map (which both use rankings of bright to dark colors to show light pollution), Yosemite National Park is in the blue category meaning it has very low light pollution.
2. Grand Canyon National Park
If you live in Arizona, the Grand Canyon National Park is an amazing place to photograph the milky way. The Grand Canyon National Park is a certified dark sky park by the International Dark-Sky Association. This means that the Grand Canyon National park has amazing unobstructed views of the stars and night sky.
3. Joshua Tree National Park
Another national park in California is Joshua Tree National Park. It’s known for its unique trees and you might have figured out by the name. But its also known for its sunrises and sets, and low light pollution. Its also a certified dark sky park. In the photo above you can see the silhouettes of the park’s trees with the milky way and stars in the background.
4. Jasper National Park
Jasper National Park is a place in Canada with extremely low light pollution. It’s a great spot to photograph the milky way as well as the Aurora Borealis. If you can capture the northern lights in your picture along with the milky way it adds an amazing element to the photo.
5. Death Valley National Park
You may have heard of Death Valley, the hottest place in the US. It has extreme heat in the day and can sometimes can cold at night. Due to the extreme climate, not many people live near Death Valley, so there are very little human light pollution and activity. Death Valley is a desert which also means it won’t have forests that block your view of the milky way and the stars.
6. Big Bend National Park
Big Bend National Park in Texas is known as the darkest, least light polluted national park in America. You can take some amazing photos in Big Bend Park and get thousands of stars as well as the milky way in your photograph. It’s said that in such low light pollution the light of the milky way casts shadows on the ground.
7. New Meadows
I chose to add New Meadows to this list because that’s where I took my first photograph of the milky way. New meadows is a city and Idaho with low light pollution due to it being a rural area. It has trees and mountains which are good in night sky photos. Mars is in the photograph above at the very bottom.
You can take amazing photos of the milky way too, you don’t have to be a professional photographer. All it takes is the right camera, some research, and a place with low light pollution. Good luck!