Where to Do Milky Way Photography New Jersey Style

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Where to do Milky Way Photography in New Jersey

You can see the Milky Way in New Jersey if you know when, where, and how to look for it. You must have this information because she is not always visible. To do so, visit our DARK SKY PAGE and click the Dark Sky Finder map.

The Bass River/Bellepain State Park Area is a dark sky area, and Hope New Jersey is a dark sky area.  Jenny Jump State Park has rustic cabin rentals. These are some places not listed below. If you have a good location and would like your image featured, please be sure to email us.


To see the Milky Way, you should be in the yellow areas shown on the map of New Jersey. The map does not show any dark blue or dark gray regions in New Jersey, but yellow is sufficient.

How light pollution affects the dark night skies dark skies flipped left right

ESO/P. Horálek, M. Wallner, CC BY 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

To see the Milky Way, you should be in the yellow areas shown on the map of New Jersey above. The map shows no dark blue, gray, or green regions in New Jersey, but yellow is sufficient. Red, white and orange locations are not good for the Milky Way. Depending on the other variables, you might get something faint in the orange areas.

BLACK—1, GRAY—2, BLUE—3, GREEN—4, YELLOW—5  is good for New Jersey. All our images on this page are in the yellow or #5 areas.


Island Beach State Park has some of the darkest skies in New Jersey. Our favorite place is called the Judge’s Shack near Area 12. You can star gaze on the New Jersey beach or photograph at the judge’s shack.

Judges Shaq with Pam Goodyear in front of the Milky Way.
Judges Shack, then. alien reaching for the Milky Way.

Make sure to make the most of the sunset location. Don’t miss this chance to capture the stunning beauty of the setting sun at the Judge’s Shack.  If you’re lucky enough to have some clouds, they will add a vibrant touch to the colorful display in the sky. And when the night sky reveals a blanket of stars and the Milky Way, your photo will forever document its breathtaking grandeur.

From the moment you arrive at The Judge’s Shack, the allure of its historic charm and panoramic ocean views are palpable. This hidden gem nestled on the shores of Island Beach State Park is the perfect setting for your photography.

Where to Shoot the  Milky Way in New Jersey

Where to Photograph the Milky Way

Milky Way Photography Cape May, New Jersey

Cape May bunker with the Milky Way.


We are pleased to share this breathtaking photograph taken by Robin Eiseman, one of our landscape photographers of the year. The photo was taken at Cape May and features a bunker on the water. Robin did an exceptional job of capturing the stunning beauty of the Milky Way in the background, blasting its brilliance in all its glory.

Milky Way Photography Batsto Village, New Jersey

mike ver sprill milky way mike batsto village 1


We have not yet photographed the Milky Way here, but it is one of New Jersey’s locations for dark sky photography.   A park police officer advised that we could get arrested if we went in at night. We may attempt this someday and will bring our bail money with us. In the meantime, please enjoy this stunning star trail photo captured by a renowned Milky Way photographer, Milky Way Mike. 

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How to Shoot Milky Way and Night Sky Photography in N.J.

What you will need:

Light pollution map – light pollution map

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

Lens – 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 will appear in your photos.

Tripod – 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).

Flashlight—Our choice is Coast brand. The ideal flashlight will have high lumens, and you can zoom in and out on the light it emits. Get the HP7, PX45, or G50. Ideally, go with the  HP7.

Moon Phaze Map – The best time to go is during a new moon, and 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 be sure to 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.

Use a Tripod – First, 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. To focus in the dark, use your camera’s live view, 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 – when it’s not just star gazing

ISO — 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.

Aperture—Depth of field isn’t always critical in these shots, but letting light into the camera is; therefore, you should shoot too wide. If the depth of field is essential to you, try not to go too high. (Wide open = the lowest aperture your camera will allow ex 2.8) You will have to increase the ISO some, which will cause digital noise.

In live view mode, you can change your white balance settings and see what they look like. You can also shoot in shade or cloud mode as a standard setting and adjust things later when editing.

When to view the Milky Way

The best images are usually of the dense part of the Milky Way. We can see this part of the milk way in the southern sky. During March, April, and May, the Milky Way rises above the horizon in the pre-dawn hours. In June, at about 10:00 p.m., you will see the Milky Way. From July until October, you can see the Milky Way as soon as the sun sets, and it becomes dark enough to see about an hour after sunset. In November, the Milky Way no longer comes above the horizon. You will have to wait until March if you want to stay away really late or get up early to see her again.

See our Night Photography Information. 

Park and Area Information for N.J. Milky Way:

Every place here is free to enter. :) Just don’t park in the Barnegat Light State Park parking lot. They lock the gate at 8:00 p.m. Park on the street.

The cool night air wraps around my body like a heavy cloak, the darkness pressing on all sides. I’m alone atop a rocky hill, surrounded by nothing but the silence of the night. An eerie stillness permeates every corner of this lonely place and sets my nerves on edge. My gaze turns upwards, and the sight before me immediately takes me aback. The night sky is alight with stars, twinkling like distant fires and creating a hazy, ethereal band of light that stretches across the heavens – the Milky Way. Its beauty lies an otherworldly power that draws me in like a moth to a flame. Despite my fear, I can’t turn away from its majesty.
I set up my tripod and attached my camera, eager to capture this moment forever. As I snap photo after photo, I feel I’m transcending this world and entering another realm entirely. Every detail is vivid – each tiny pinprick of light representing a star much like our sun, held together by an invisible force we know as gravity. It’s mesmerizing and awe-inspiring – a reminder that even in places seemingly so small and insignificant as this rocky hilltop, profound mysteries live beyond our reach.
For one fleeting second, I forget all my worries that exist in this moment of pure beauty. When I am done capturing it all, I realize how lucky I am to experience such wonders firsthand. I vow to chase after these moments that fill me with delight and make life worth living forever. With renewed purpose, I pack up my gear and head for home. – Pamela Goodyer
Photography Book Coming in 2023!

The Milky Way is the galaxy that contains our Solar System. The descriptive “milky” is derived from the appearance from Earth of the galaxy – a band of light seen in the night sky formed from stars that cannot be individually distinguished by the naked eye. The term Milky Way is a translation of the Latin via lactea, from the Greek γαλαξίας κύκλος (galaxías kýklos, “milky circle”). From Earth, the Milky Way appears as a band because its disk-shaped structure is viewed from within. Galileo Galilei first resolved the band of light into individual stars with his telescope in 1610. Until the early 1920s, most astronomers thought that the Milky Way contained all the stars in the Universe.[28] Following the 1920 Great Debate between the astronomers Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis, observations by Edwin Hubble showed that the Milky Way is just one of many galaxies.

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