Cherry Springs State Park Photography 

Cherry Springs State Park is a dark sky park with little light pollution. This makes it an ideal place to take photographs of the night sky – something amateur stargazers and professional astronomers enjoy. This article will provide tips on making the most of your visit to Cherry Springs State Park and getting some great photos of the Milky Way.

Cherry Springs State Park is one of the best places in the world to photograph the Milky Way. The park is in a dark sky reserve, meaning minimal light pollution. The dark skies make it the perfect place to create stunning Milky Way photos.

Remember a few things when photographing the Milky Way. First, you’ll need a DSLR camera with a wide-angle lens. Second, you’ll need to find a spot with a clear sky view. Following these tips, you can create some fantastic Milky Way photos at Cherry Springs State Park.

When To Go Milky Way Hunting

Understanding when the best time to go is before taking your trip is imperative if you want to see the Milky Way. The best time to photograph the Milky Way is during the summer when the constellation is visible in the Northern Hemisphere. June through October are the optimum times to go.

The dark-sky field at Cherry Springs is open all year. About 60 to 85 nights a year are ideal for doing milky way photography.  The basic principle of doing Milky Way sky photography is to go when the moon is not visible. The week before the new moon, with clear skies, is an ideal time to go. You can shoot about a week before the new moon since the moon does not rise until very late, or should we say early a.m. Check out the moonrise times and see our dark sky resources page for the new moon chart. Remember, pick the correct month for optimum milky way visibility. After October, the milky way goes below the horizon and returns around February or March, but most humans aren’t awake for hours.

The Core of the Milky Way

In mid-February, the core of the milky way becomes visible in the pre-dawn hours before sunrise. It is only visible for a short time. It will be above the horizon during the day when you can’t see it. Of course, not the time to go hunting. The core becomes visible for a longer time frame each night. It peaks in June & July when the center will be viewable all night. We see the milky way in June shortly after sunset, and the skies go black. The best time is just after the sun goes down in the mid-summer. After this, the cycle goes in the opposite direction. Milky Way visibility begins to decrease and go in the opposite direction, becoming more and more visible after dusk. It will then disappear again in the winter months. Around the beginning of November, it is no longer viewable.

Understanding when the best time to go is before taking your trip is imperative if you want to see the Milky Way. The best time to photograph the Milky Way is during the summer when the constellation is visible in the Northern Hemisphere. June through October are the optimum times unless you are okay with going during most people’s sleeping times in March, April, and May.

Cherry Springs State Park, Pennsylvania Dark Skies

Astronomers and stargazers appreciate Cherry Springs State Park for the darkness and clarity of its skies, which make it “perhaps the last best refuge of the natural night sky” in the eastern half of the United States. The sky at Cherry Springs has been classified as a two on the Bortle Dark-Sky Scale, meaning it has almost no light pollution. With optimum conditions, 10,000 stars are visible with the naked eye at the park, clouds appear only as black holes in the starry sky, and the Milky Way is so bright that it casts a discernible shadow.

The walls of two of the park’s three astronomy domes prevent the wind from moving telescopes during observation. Nighttime visitors may only use flashlights with red filters and may only point them at the ground. The Astronomy Field has further light restrictions, and parts of the park are light-free zones. The DCNR spent $396,000 in June 2007 to buy mineral rights under 1,980 acres (800 ha) of the park and state forest to prevent natural gas drilling and associated development.

How to Photography the Milky Way Basics

Cherry Springs State Park is one of the best places in the world to photograph the night sky. Here are some tips to help you get started:

1. Find a dark location away from city lights. The darker, the better.
2. Use a tripod to keep your camera steady.
3. Set your camera to manual mode and use a low ISO setting. Start with ISO 800 and experiment from there.
4. Use a wide-angle lens for best results. A 16-35mm or wider lens is ideal.
5. See the details below for camera settings. Adjust as needed.
6. When ready, point your camera towards the Milky Way and start shooting.


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How to Shoot Milky Way & What You Need

Light pollution map

Check out a Light pollution map before you pick your dark sky location where the milky way is visible.


You will need a camera to control your ISO, shutter speed, and aperture manually.


A fast wide-angle lens of 1.4 – 2.8 is ideal. If you use a 3.5 or higher (slower lens), you must increase the ISO. The higher the ISO, the more grain or digital noise or grain in your photos.


A good sturdy tripod is essential for night photography. If it gets windy, you will need a sturdy one. Remember that when you buy one, it should be sturdy enough to withstand the wind but small enough to fit in your suitcase.

Sky Map

Sky Guide is available through the iTunes Store for $1.99. It has a 5 out of 5-star rating on both the current (3.2) version (1200+ ratings) and all previous versions (8600+ ratings).


Our choice is Coast brand for flashlights. The ideal flashlight will have high lumens, and you can zoom in and out on the light emitting from the flashlight. Get the HP7, PX45, or the G50. Ideally, go with the  HP7.

Moon Phaze Map

The best time to go is during a new moon; you want to be in the darkest area possible. The week before the new moon, when the moon has not risen, is a perfect time to go, so check the moonrise chart to see when the moon will be up.

Remote Shutter Release

When painting with light and you want to go over a 30-second exposure, you must have a shutter release to use your bulb mode. You can use the remote release or your camera’s built-in two-second timer when exposing your pictures.

How to Focus

Use live view. Use your camera’s live view to focus in the dark, hit the zoom button, and focus on a bright star. You can also use the infinity setting on your lens but do several test shots to determine accuracy. It can be off a little on some lenses. You can also light it up with a flashlight, focus, then gently, without touching the focus ring, put the camera in manual focus so it will not search for the focus. You must do this each time you move your camera to take your next angel.

Camera Settings


Start with ISO 1600 – 3200. This is a common starting point, and you will adjust from here.

Shutter Speed

Remember, the earth is rotating. If you leave the shutter open for too long, you will see star trails that will not make for a crisp image. We want crisp non-star trail images. Here is the formula to avoid star trails—the 500 rule – Divide 500 by the focal length of your lens. So, if you have a 24mm lens on a full-frame camera, you will set your shutter speed to 20 sec. (500/24 = 20.83). If you are using a crop sensor camera, first do the math of the crop sensor to find the focal length. Cannon is 1.6, and Nikon is 1.5. Convert to full-frame focal length, then use the formula. Nikon 18mm x 1.5= 27mm – 500/27 = 18.51 seconds.


Depth of field isn’t critical in these shots, but letting the light into the camera is; therefore, you should shoot wide open. If the depth of field is essential to you, try not to go too high. (wide open =the lowest aperture your camera will allow). You will have to increase the ISO some, giving you digital noise.

White balance suggestion:

Use live view mode to change your white balance settings and see what it will look like. You can shoot in shade or cloud mode as a standard setting and adjust things later.

Frosty Hollow at Cherry Springs State Park

We have found the best places to stay and eat while photographing at Cherry Springs State Park. We have picked one Bed and Breakfast for you and one Motel with Cabins. We stayed at both of them.

Bed and Breakfast – The closest place to the Park is the Frosty Hollow Bed and Breakfast. Not only is it the closest, but it is also one of the best B and B’s in the area. It’s a warm, welcoming atmosphere that we search the world for. It’s so good we didn’t want to leave. Set in a remodeled barn and farmhouse, this creekside B&B is in a picturesque rural valley only a 3-minute drive from US Highway 6 and 0.6 miles from a country club and golf course.

Since 1992, the Ayers’ has welcomed guests to the remodeled barn, which they have beautifully decorated with their lifetime collection of antiques and heirlooms passed down from generation to generation. In 1998, they completely renovated the farmhouse on this 10-acre property where Joe grew up. They can now offer ten guest rooms, each uniquely decorated with Gail’s special touch. They spare no expense here. The beds are top-of-the-line, and the pillows will make you never want to move a muscle. It will be hard to get out of bed and head down to breakfast, but once you get there, you will be sure glad you did. You can see the pride the owners take in the food preparation.

Check out the Breakfast Pizza in the images. Wow! If you have been here before, you will know we are health conscious, and there were great granola, yogurt, and fruit for me, which made us very happy.

When you arrive here, look for Gail. She is a wonderful person, and you can feel the warmth and pride she takes in the place when she greets you. Tell her Photography Magazine sent you.

FrostyHollow B&B – 814-274-7419 – 1077 Cherry Spring Road, Coudersport, Pa. 16915

Cherry Springs State Park Area Info

The best hotels while doing photography


Cherry Springs S.P.
Cherry Springs S.P.

Motel and Cabins 

Ox York Inn and Restaurant near Cherry Springs State Park

This is our motel or cabin pick for where to stay when photographing Cherry Springs State Park. We like the cabins because you can sit outside on the large stream behind them. It is also the first motel/cabin rental you will find when coming out of the southern route to route six from the park. Ken and Megan will make you feel so at home when you arrive to start your photography journey.

Tell them we sent you. After a good night’s rest, head to the restaurant for a delicious, filling, hot breakfast at an excellent price. Grab some coffee before heading out to the park around dusk to start your night photography adventure. It’s super tasty. We took many cups to go as part of our night’s preparations. P.S. Looks like a pretty cool bar to hang out in too.

Motel and Cabins – TOP PICKS – Ox York Inn and Restaurant

Ox York Inn and Restaurant – 29 US Highway 6 – Galeton Pa,  814-435-2515 –

area information - photography



Cherry Springs State Park & Area Information

Entrance Fees:


Seasons and Hours

The park is open every day of the year.

The Cherry Springs Rustic Campground is open from the second Friday of April through the last weekend in October.

The Night Sky Public Viewing Area is intended for short-term (a few hours or less) star gazing and is not permitted for overnight stays.

The Overnight Astronomy Observation Field is open to registered users all night.

Contact the Lyman Run State Park office for facility seasons and hours.




Camping at Cherry Springs State Park

Add your campground here!

Camping – Ox York Inn also offers camping accommodations. Give them a call to get some campground information or make a motel or cabin reservation.



Cherry Springs S.P.

Restaurants Near Cherry Springs State Park

Ox York Inn Restaurant and Bar

29 US Hwy 6W

Galeton, PA 16922



 Don’t forget that you can use a rain sleeve on your camera if it is raining. If it is bright and sunny, you want to use a low ISO such as 50 or 100.

If you photograph cloudy days, you can do running water or waterfall photography to help avoid the glaring sun. You can also use an ND filter to get long exposure for dramatic effects, even in the sunshine. If you ghost hunt indoors in abandoned places, be careful!

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