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Catskills N.Y. – Castle Milky Way Photography

THERE IS NOW POLICE PATROL AT THIS LOCATION. There are now cameras all around the castle. 

The Catskill Mountains or the Catskills are a large area in the southeastern portion of the U.S. state of New York. They are located approximately 100 miles north-northwest of New York City and 40 miles southwest of Albany.

The Catskill Mountains contains some of the darkest skies on the east coast. At this castle, when we turned our flashlights off, we could not see a thing! We literally could not see your hand in front of our face. If you don’t already know, you need dark skies to be able to see and photograph the milky way at night. Go to our other pages to learn more about doing Milky Way photography and get more details and resources. Make sure you check out the dark sky map – Go to Dark Sky Photography Info. For information on how to do night sky photography, go here.

DON’T go to this castle alone! – We highly recommend you do not go here by yourself. There are entities here for sure! Check out our new Ghost Hunting Photography Section in October. This trip inspired the new section. I assure you, we were not alone!

Very dark castle with the milky way above it in the dark

When to Go: WARNING THERE IS NOW POLICE PATROL AT THIS LOCATION. The week before the new moon is when the moon rises very late at night so you can do photography before moonrise. Be sure to check the new moon and moonrise charts before you plan your trip.  We are going back in October. We didn’t get this quite right. Any excuse to travel and we now want to document the entities that reside within! Always shoot the milky way when there is no moon visible to get the darkest skies.

Please also see our Dark Sky Photography Information page to learn more details.

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castle ghost hunt with Paranormal Page looking at her Ghost Detector.

Photography Information – What you will need to bring

Camera – You will need a camera that you can manually control your ISO, shutter speed, and aperture.

Lens – A fast wide-angle lens of 1.4 – 2.8 is ideal. If you use a 3.5 or higher (slower lens), you will have to increase the ISO. The higher the ISO, the more grain or digital noise or grain that will appear in your photos. Nikon’s 28mm f/1.8G or Canon’s 28mm f/1.8 are good choices if you are going lens shopping for your night photography trip but there are many other options.

Tripod – A good sturdy tripod is essential for night photography. If it gets windy, you will need a sturdy one, and we never know what Mother Nature will bring us while we are out there. Keep that in mind when you buy one to go in your suitcase if you are going on a plane. 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).   Android Version? Sky Guide is not currently available as an Android app. The closest thing I can suggest is SkySafari ($2.99).

Flashlight –  Our choice is Coast brand for flashlights. The ideal flashlight will have high lumens, and you will be able to zoom the in and out on the amount of light emitting from the flashlight. I like a small stream of light. Get the HP7, PX45, or the G50. Ideally, go with the  HP7 if you can.

Light Pollution and Moon Phaze Map – The best time to go is during a new moon, and you want to be in the darkest area possible. You can also download these apps or see our Milky Way page for dark sky map info.

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. When exposing your pictures in general, you can use the remote release, so you are not using your hand to press the shutter button and make the camera move even a little bit.

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How to Shoot the Milky Way

Use a Tripod – First of all you must be on a tripod. A good sturdy tripod is necessary if it is windy. If the tripod moves your picture will blur.

Focus – Use live view. When you use live view your mirror locks up and it does not drop so avoid any movement at all inside the camera.

To focus in the dark, use your camera’s live view and focus on a bright star. You can also use the infinity setting on your lens but do several test shots to see if it is accurate. It can be off a little on some lenses.  You can also light up your subject with a flashlight to focus, then switch to manual focus so your camera will not try to refocus. You will need to redo this step if you use this method, each time you do a different shot.

ISO – Start with ISO 3200.  This is just a standard starting point, and you will adjust from here.  Remember the higher the number, the more grain or digital noise. 1600 is a good starting point too.

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.  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, 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.

Aperture – Depth of field isn’t significant on these shots but letting the light in is; therefore you shoot wide open. (The lowest aperture your camera will allow). 2.8 or less is best.

Those are all of the essential starting points for doing your milky way shots.  You will want to find some interesting foreground to make your shot dynamic. Doing plain old milky way sky shots will not win you any awards.

If you need some supplies please support us by buying from our Affiliate Store.  Grab some filters for this area. There are plenty of moving waters here too.  If you don’t see your product please CLICK HERE  to go to our store.

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Park and Area Information:

Entrance Fees: This has no entrance fee.

Most New York State Parks charge a vehicle use fee of between $6 and $10 dollars for day use. Parks may also charge additional fees for such amenities as pools and picnic shelter reservations. Historic sites generally charge an admission fee of between $1 and $6. For more information about park and historic site fees and hours, including when fees are charged, please contact the facility directly. Contact information for our facilities can be found on the park and historic site pages of our website. New York State Parks offers certain discounts through the admission programs listed here. For more information, please visit the following links:

Admission Programs

Empire Passport – Your key to all-season enjoyment at New York State Parks. Passports are available for different lengths of time, choose from one year, multiple-year or, the Lifetime Empire Passport. All Empire Passports provide unlimited day-use vehicle entry to most state parks and recreation facilities.

Patriot Plan Benefit – Pursuant to Executive Order 125 and in recognition of their commitment and sacrifices while in service, a member of the New York State Militia or any branch of the New York State National Guard or military reserves who are currently serving on active duty in support of the war on terrorism is eligible for one free Empire Passport for use by his or her immediate family during deployment and/or for his or her own use when returning home.

How: Complete an ordinary Empire Passport application, attach a copy of the orders (showing authorization/purpose/type duty code) calling the soldier to this active duty and mail it to Empire Passport, Albany, NY 12238 or fax it to 518-486-7378 attn: Empire Passport. Once approved, a free Empire Passport will be mailed. Applications are available online, by mail or at any New York State Park. Note: Annual reapplication, including submission of orders, is necessary as long as this program is offered.

Golden Park Program   If you are a New York State resident 62 or older you may obtain free vehicle entry into state parks on non-holiday weekdays.

Access Pass – The Access Pass permits residents of New York State with disabilities free or discounted use of state parks, historic sites, and recreational facilities.

Lifetime Liberty Pass – The Lifetime Liberty Pass permits New York State veterans with a 40% or greater service-connected disability discounted use of state parks, historic sites, and recreational facilities.

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Why not consider staying in one of New York’s beautiful state parks? Imagine pitching a tent near the St. Lawrence River or one of the beautiful lakes or waking up in your recreational vehicle surrounded by the majesty of the woods or cooking breakfast in a cabin overlooking the “Grand Canyon of the East.”

Did you know you save 15-20% by reserving a weeknight* campsite?
(*Sunday-Thursday, excluding holidays)

For information about camping in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks visit


Arranging a stay at a New York state park is easy! Reservations can be made from 1 day – 9 months in advance by calling toll free 1-800-456-CAMP or For a spur of the moment trip, rentals are also available on a walk-up basis.

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