Catskill Mountains Milky Way Photography


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. When we turned our flashlights off at this castle, we could not see a thing! We literally could not see your hand in front of our faces. 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 for 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. See some fantastic ghost-hunting info here; if you would like to see more information on ghost-hunting this castle go to this page.

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How to Shoot Milky Way and Night Sky Photography

Catskill Mountains N.Y. Milky Way Photography Area

What you will need:

Light pollution map – light pollution map

Camera – You will need a camera to 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 must increase the ISO. The higher the ISO, the more grain or digital noise or grain 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 for flashlights. The ideal flashlight will have high lumens, and you can zoom in and out on the amount of 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, 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 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. When exposing your pictures in general, you can use the remote release, or you can use your camera’s built-in two-second timer.

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. 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. Each time you move your camera to take your next angel, you would have to do this.

Camera Settings

ISO – Start with ISO 1600 – 3200. This is just 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 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, which will give 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.

Catskill Mountains, N.Y. Milky Way Photography - Pamela Goodyer



Catskill Mountains N.Y. Information

Entrance Fees:

This has no entrance fee.

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 amenities like 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 facilities can be found on their website’s park and historic site pages. New York State Parks offer 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; 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 – According 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 their immediate family during deployment and their 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.

The best hotels while doing photography


Add Your Catskill Mountain Hotel Here

Do you want us to send our photography and ghost-hunting friends to your hotel for their photography or ghost-hunting trip? Put your hotel information here. We will put pictures of your hotel, the website link, the phone number and your information on your hotel.



Where to Stay When Photographing the New York Castle

Add your campground here! Do you want us to send our photography and ghost-hunting friends to your campground to stay during their ghost-hunting trip? Put your campground information here. We will put a picture of your establishment, the website link, the phone number and your information on your campground to make it easy for our photographers and ghost hunters to find you. They are really good at getting there in the dark.

Would you like to be featured in an article as a place to stay while doing photography or ghost hunting? If so, please send us an email.  You will be surprised at how affordable our prices can be.



Put Your Catskill Mountain Restaurant Here!

Do you want us to send our photography and ghost-hunting friends to your restaurant after their ghost-hunting trip? Put your restaurant information here. We will put a picture of your establishment, the website link, the phone number and your information on your restaurant to make it easy for our photographers and ghost hunters to find you. They are really good at getting there in the dark.



Check the Weather in the Catskills

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 100.

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

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