When taking photos of the Milky Way, you’ll often find yourself in less-than-ideal conditions, which is why it’s important to make sure you have the right clothing and accessories.
Photos taken during the day require just basic gear—that’s a stark contrast to photos taken in the middle of the night, when temperature drops, and visibility is at almost zero, with not even the moon to help you.
So let’s have a look at exactly what you should pack for Milky Way photography…
We’ve all seen someone (maybe you saw me!) holding their phone or their flashlight in their mouths while simultaneously trying to carry a tripod and a camera.
Not only does this look silly, it’s not very practical, and all of this can be solved with an inexpensive $10 headlamp.
However, don’t just buy any old headlamp.
For Milky Way and nighttime photography, we’re looking for something specific that your average 50 LED lamp won’t give you—a red light option.
The reason we use a red light is because it’s much easier for our eyes to adjust to the night sky after we turn off a red light, versus a white light.
So although the white light is good for walking back to the car, when you’re heading to your favourite spot to capture the Milky Way, always use a red one.
We recommend something like this headlamp: Shining Buddy on Amazon
Here you can see how much nicer the red light is to view at night than a white one.
It goes without saying that it’s cold in the middle of the night, almost regardless of where you are.
For that reason, we recommend layers, and lots of them. The top layers don’t have to be waterproof (you won’t get any photos of the Milky Way in the rain), but they do need to be warm.
I’m sure you probably have a hooded jacket, but if not, there’s a ton on Amazon.
Padded Ski Pants
During the night, the cold ground becomes wet with dew, making the uncomfortable ground even less comfortable to sit on.
For that reason, I always recommend padded ski pants, as they will keep you dry and warm, and they provide an extra layer of comfort as well.
You’ll almost certainly want this layer because there’s a very high chance of sitting out in the cold for hours when taking photos of the Milky Way.
We like: Arctix Padded Ski Pants
I don’t remember the last time I took photos of the stars at night without having to climb over some rocks or walk through a muddy wet field to get that perfect shot.
I remember being in Yosemite Valley walking through marsh, and in the plains of Arizona, traipsing across a stream.
Without the right footwear you end up cold, wet, and with sore ankles, so I always make sure to wear waterproof boots.
Even simple rubber Wellington boots are better than a pair of old sneakers.
Amazon have a bunch of options for every price range.
This one might surprise you, but it’s actually more useful than you may realise.
We’ve already established that it gets pretty darn cold at night, but that’s nothing compared to sitting in one spot, not moving for hours on end (which is how long these photo trips can take).
A simple sleeping bag is perfect for keeping your core and lower half warm during the night, and they’re fairly inexpensive too.
Sit snugly in the comfort of this sleeping bag.
“Cold cold cold, yeah change the record Josh, we know already.”
Well, it’s cold out, so you ought to wear gloves, but not just any old gloves.
There’s two things I look for:
- Dexterity – they shouldn’t be so thick that you can’t use your gear with them on
- Smartphone-friendliness – the gloves are specially designed to allow you to operate your touch screen devices
Personally, I wear the North Face Etip Gloves.
Bonus – Soft Golf Bag
Shoutout to the co-creator of Milky Way Mastery, Casey Keirnan for this one!
“Golf Bags (weighing under 50 lbs) are treated as an exception on most airlines (Check your airline!) – and are not part of your normal luggage. Southwest Airlines ships Golf Bags for Free! Purchase a soft golf bag – so that you can carry more equipment. Use the golf bag for tripods, sliders, boots, heavy jackets, extra clothes – but not for electronics, cameras or lenses. Keep the weigh under 50 lbs! Plus the golf bags folds up once you get to your location.”
So if you’re traveling on a flight to get to that perfect Milky Way location, this is a sneaky way to bypass expensive baggage fees.
We like: Intech Golf Travel Cover with Wheels
Your Free Video Course: The Milky Way Mini Series
This article will provide you with excellent base knowledge for understanding how to capture photos of the Milky Way, but we wanted to go one step further.
We’ve put together a free three-part video course on Milky Way photography, to help you understand how to capture those breathtaking images in no time at all.
Inside this course you’ll learn:
- Your Camera Settings – Find out the settings we use for 98% of our Milky Way Photography and how to find your ideal settings too
- Essential Gear – 5 inexpensive accessories that will make a world of difference to your Milky Way photography
- How to Find The Milky Way – The knowledge pros use to get the best and most breathtaking views of the Milky Way galaxy
Free Course: Capture Stunning
After spending months capturing photos of the Milky Way, we’re proud to share our free video series showing you how to capture photos so gorgeous, people may accuse you of stealing them from National Geographic!
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A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:
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