How to Use the Star Walk 2 App for Milky Way Photography

How to Use the Star Walk 2 App for Milky Way Photography

Photographing the Milky Way is unlike any other kind of photography. The camera settings are completely different, as are the post-processing techniques, and there’s a lot more planning that goes into a successful outing than people (who haven’t done it before) realize.

How to Use the Star Walk 2 App for Milky Way Photography

The Milky Way over Half Dome in Yosemite NP, shot from Glacier Point.

The trick is how to find the Milky Way

You see, finding the location of the Milky Way in our sky is always changing. In the northern hemisphere the best time to photograph the Milky Way is in the late spring to early fall. It isn’t even visible during most of winter because it’s only above the horizon during the day when we can’t see the stars. And of course in the southern hemisphere, everything above is reversed.

How to Use the Star Walk 2 App for Milky Way Photography

The Milky Way over a group of oak trees in San Luis Obispo, California.

When the Milky Way is visible, it’s hard to know when it will be in peak position and in which direction (north, south, east, or west) it will be visible. Then there’s the question of whether or not it will be rising straight up from a certain direction or appear as an arc across the sky.

Plan your trip accordingly

All of the answers to these questions will, of course, determine what foreground subjects you can use at any given time of the year. For example, if you’re trying to shoot Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, you’ll need the Milky Way to be visible in the northeast sky. Plus, you need it there at a time of night when the moon is either beneath the horizon or during a moon phase where the light from the moon will be minimal. If it’s a full moon for example, the Milky Way and night sky will be considerably dimmer than say during a new or crescent moon.

How to Use the Star Walk 2 App for Milky Way Photography

The Milky Way over Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, Utah.

As you can see, there are a lot of variables. That’s where the app Star Walk 2 comes in.

I found this app years ago when it was in its first incarnation, and still use it today for most of my night sky photography planning. This app is beautifully designed and will let you know exactly when and where the Milky Way will be at any given time, along with every other star and constellation in the sky. It’s an incredible resource for photographers. I created a video showing how I use it.

Have a look below and let me know what you think.

Conclusion

I know there are other options and apps that do similar things available as well, so comment below and tell us what you use. I’m always open to trying new things and would love to hear them.

You can find the Star Walk 2 app in the Google Play Store for Android and on iTunes for Apple devices.

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James Brandon

James Brandon is a landscape photographer and educator residing in Dallas, Texas. Join 20,000+ photographers and get access to his free video tutorial library at his website. James also has an online store full of video courses, ebooks, presets and more. Use the coupon code "DPS25" for an exclusive discount!