Catskill Mountains, N.Y. Milky Way Photography

Hot Spot Location

Catskill Mountains N.Y. State Milky Way Photography


Catskill Milky Way/Night Photography Hot Spot Location


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 (160 km) north-northwest of New York City and 40 miles (60 km) southwest of Albany.

The Catskill Mountains contain 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 see and photograph the milky way at night. Go to our other pages on milky way photography more details and resources. Make sure you check out the dark sky map. For Information and resources – 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! THE POLICE HAVE ARRESTED PEOPLE HERE, SO WE SUGGEST YOU DO NOT GO TO THE CASTLE.

Ghost Hunting the Castle

We threw in some ghost hunting information since maybe you are a ghost hunting photographer too. See some cool ghost hunting info here.   If you would like to see this spot specifically for ghost hunting, this is the page.

How to Shoot Milky Way and Night Sky Photography

What you will need:

Light pollution map light pollution map

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.

Tripod – A good sturdy tripod is essential for night photography. If it gets windy you will need a sturdy one. Keep that in mind, 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 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. We like a small stream of light not a wide amount of light. Get the HP7, PX45, or the G50. Ideally, go with the  HP7.

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.

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.

 Catskill Milky Way Photography

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.  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 see if it is accurate. 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 focus. You would have to do this each time you move your camera to take your next angel.

ISO – Start with ISO 1600 – 3200.  This is just a standard 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 which will not make for a crisp image. You can do star trails specifically but that’s not what we are going for here since we are starting out 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 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 critical on these shots but letting the light into the camera is, therefore you should shoot wide open if. If the depth of field is essential to you, try not to go to high.(wide open =the lowest aperture your camera will allow). You will have to increase the ISO some, which will give you digital noise if you don’t shoot wide open.

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 dull old milky way shots without foreground will not win you any awards.

White Balance – When in live view mode, you can 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. You can shoot the sky in tungsten mode to make it bluer but if you have trees and such in the picture they will come out blue also.

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,[29] observations by Edwin Hubble showed that the Milky Way is just one of many galaxies.

Light Painting

The next step is to learn to light up the subjects under the milky way by painting them with light. This is where being an artist comes into play. The basics idea is to light up just what it is that you want to appear in the image with a good flashlight. Experimentation sometimes will lead to pretty interesting images. Remember if something is moving in your image and the light hits it, it will blur. If it is a stationary object it will not blur. Light Painting 101 is coming soon!

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Photography Magazine Extra Pam Goodyer

Park and Area Information Catskill Milky Way Photography:

Entrance Fees: This location has no entrance fee. The only fee may be a trespassing fee given by the police sitting outside 24-7 now.

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 specific discounts through the admission programs listed here. For more information, please visit the following links:

Admission Programs  – New York General Park Info

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 is 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 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 sent. 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.

Photography Magazine Extra Pam Goodyer

Hotel Information Catskill Milky Way Photography:

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