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Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Maine, USA
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Home> Maine Lighthouse & Milky Way Photography

Maine Lighthouses, Milky Way & Night Photography 

We traveled this route over several days. First of all, you will want to be sure to check out our Dark Sky Resources page to determine the ideal conditions for milky way viewing before planning your trip. The locations that we have picked for you are dark sky locations, but you will have to check the new moon/moon rise charts and be sure to go in the right month with a clear weather forecast to photograph the milky way. We suggest you do this trip during the milky way week of the month from May thru October when it is visible. We were able to shoot for four nights before the clouds arrived. Therefore, we ended our trip. It was a beautiful stretch of perfect weather, and it was also during the week of meteor showers in August of 2015.  As a result, you will see many meteors in our images.

The Lighthouse State

With 65 historical lighthouses still existing along the 5,000 miles of coastline, Maine is well known as the Lighthouse State.  Many of Maine’s lighthouses are not accessible since you must take a boat tour to see them to get the best images.  You can get some good shots with zoom lenses from the mainland at some locations, but you do need to be at a decent distance to do good night time milky way photography so not all lighthouses are ideal for this purpose. Here are our favorites where you can stand right next to the lighthouse and get your images.

Maine lighthouse photo tour map, photography

See interactive google map below. Click on images for details.

Interactive Google map – Click on it

Cape Neddick Lighthouse, or Nubble Lighthouse

Cape Neddick Lighthouse or Nubble Light is located just a few hundred feet off of York Beach, and many tourists come to see its beauty. When we were there the milky way was very high up over the lighthouse when the sunset. The rich section of the milky way was in the opposite viewing direction.

Photography by Pamela Goodyer for Photography Magazine Extra©

Portland Head Lighthouse

The oldest lighthouse in Maine is located inside Fort Williams – 1000 Shore Road, Cape Elizabeth, ME 04107 –  Welcoming nearly a million visitors a year, it is not a location we stopped at for an extended visit. We found this lighthouse along our trail but unfortunately, this park closes at dusk so don’t plan on doing any lighthouse milky way photography here. \

Portland Head Lighthouse is a good stopping point along the trail to get some images of a daytime lighthouse. There is a food truck here with a very long line, a hike along the coastline and a few other things to photograph.  It is not an ideal location with our high standards. Unfortunately, this is an understandable old tourist attraction and not made for incredible dynamic photography.  We include it only as a resting point and a place to see some history and go to their museum and be a tourist for a short time. Yes, you can get some good image with long exposure on the water of the lighthouse but not too much more than that.

Porpoise Maine

This is a great little spot due to its colors. You can shoot this location a hundred different ways and edit it so many ways and it still looks wondrous.

Baily’s Island Maine – Dark Sky Photography Location

Bailey Island is an island in Casco Bay, and a part of the town of Harpswell, in Cumberland County, Maine. The island has a year-round population of over 400. Although there are no lighthouses on this island, this is a great dark sky location.  While Lands End Gift shop is located at the southernmost tip of the island there is an excellent view with rugged rocks, a statue and blaring milky way above.  Check it out during the daytime and visit the store at the same time to prepare for your nighttime milky way shots. Furthermore, there are several bays with boat docks to photograph with interesting angles. If you get some puffy white clouds, you could get some good stuff on this island.

Where to Eat

Where to eat and do sunset photography – More’s Cribstone Grill – Go here. Go early. It is the most popular place. We could not wait because we showed up at prime time.  We went down the street to a place with one car in the parking lot. Starving to death, we gave it a try. Now I know why there was one car in the parking lot.  Don’t go to Giant Stairs Seafood Grill. You will most likely be disappointed. Go early to Moree’s

Where to Stay

The Driftwood Inn –  You can shoot Milky Way photography down the street and at your front door.  We liked the atmosphere and the breakfast at this location. It was an excellent bang for your buck, and the milky way is blaring outside on the grounds with a ton of deliciously sounding waves crashing at the base of the location. Always be quiet when you are out late at night steps from your room doing milky way photography of course, but the wave sounds will drown out your noises. The Inn is different from any you have known with its oceanfront location on the outermost island in Casco Bay. Driftwood is the oldest Inn on Bailey Island and has been in continuous operation for over 100 years. Our three acres offer space for relaxation, the sun, and fresh sea breezes. Bailey Island is

two and a half miles long by one-half mile wide, with a variety of picturesque views and breathtaking sunsets.

How to Shoot Milky Way and Night Sky Photography

Milky Way photography.

Use a Tripod – You must be on a tripod. A good sturdy tripod is necessary if it is windy. If your 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 the camera 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 a little off on some lenses. If you have subject matter like a tree, shine a flashlight on the tree to obtain focus then carefully without touching the focus switch it to manual focus. Do this each time you change your shot. 

Manual Mode – Set your camera to manual mode so you can control the Aperture and the shutter speed.

ISO

Start with ISO 3200.  This is just a standard starting point, and you will adjust from here. Remember the higher the ISO, the more digital noise you will have.

Aperture

The depth of field isn’t critical on these shots but letting the light in the camera is. Therefore you shoot wide open. (The lowest aperture your camera will allow).

Shutter Speed

Meanwhile, you have the ISO and Aperture set in Manual Mode. Now roll your shutter speed until your meter reads (0) zero. Take a test shot and adjust from there.

Remember the earth is rotating. If you leave the shutter open for too long, you will see star trails which will not make for a crisp image. You can make star trails specifically, but that’s not what we are going for here since we are starting with Milky Way photography. We want crisp non-star trail images when doing this. 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, you should 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.

White Balance

Shoot your night photography raw so you can easily edit your images and have more information to work with than if you shot JPEG.  When in live view mode you can change your white balance settings and see which looks best for you on each shot.  You can shoot in the shade or cloud as a standard setting and adjust things later.  Add in color in your milky way to match the subject whilst editing in the image if you would like to.

Those are all of the basic starting points for doing your Milky Way shots.  You will want to find some exciting foreground to make your shot dynamic. Doing plain old Milky Way shots will not win you any awards.

 

Photography Magazine Extra Pam Goodyer

Park and Area Information:

Entrance Fees: None

Photography Magazine Extra Pam Goodyer

Hotel Information:

Milky way photography outside your doorstep at both locations.  See details in the article above with photographs.

We LOVED  this place but they shut down this year. We will be back and feature a new hotel in its place. Good Luck My Barbara!!

Ye Old Forte Cabins18 Old Fort Road – Pemaquid Beach, ME 04554-4522 

When in the Bailey’s Island area stay at the Driftwood Inn. Click here for their website and information.

The Driftwood Inn 81 Washington Ave.  – Bailey Island, ME 04003

Telephone: 207-833-5461

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