Island Beach State Park, N.J.

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Island Beach State Park Photography Location Dark Skies

Island Beach State Park Photography Location Dark Skies. Yes! Milky way dark sky photography in N.J. Halleluja!  We do not have to drive out to Pennsylvania or Deleware to do milky way photography. We have it right here in out backyard in New Jersey. This summer of 2017 we will be exploring the milky way photography areas in the state of New Jersey. This area has some really great waters for the day time too. The blue-green waters you usually see out of state show up here.

Before you to to the park be very aware that you have to plan in advance to do milky way photography. Be sure it is a late moonrise or a new moon between March and October. Also be sure to know what time the milky way will become visible above the horizon. See our how-to page here.

This is VERY IMPORTANT.. You must bring fishing gear to get into the park late at night. Although what we are doing is completely harmless and we are all earth and nature lovers, they say you must be going fishing to get into the park. Throw out your pole into the waters and shoot the milk way. And we are not even killing fish.

Michael Ver Sprill Photography Magazine Extra

Check out this fabulous shot by Milky Way Mike. He is one of the very best milky way photographers out there and by far the most passionate.  Check out his other works and his profile here at our Photographer of the Month page.   You can also purchase his work at Fine Art America.

Hershey Motel. This is our favorite motel in the area. We highly recommend this hotel in Seaside Heights when doing your milky way photography at Island Beach State Park. It is the nicest motel to stay at in the area with the best rates. Tell them we sent you. Check out the website here. (732) 793-5000 – 1415 BOULEVARD -SEASIDE HEIGHTS, NJ 08751

The rooms are oversized, immaculate and the pool is one of the biggest in Seaside Heights. The front desk service was flawless. Easy check-in and check-out with pleasant service. We will only stay here when we are doing photography in the Seaside Park/Seaside Heights area.

  • Family-owned & operated, serving vacation needs for over 60 yrs
  • FREE breakfast for all registered guests (limited menu & in season)
  • Just one block from the beach and boardwalk
  • FREE parking
  • Refrigerators and microwaves in every room
  • Large, spacious sundeck
  • Banquet facilities available
  • Boasting the largest pool in Seaside Heights!
  • Separate kiddie pool
  • Ask about our Jet Ski and Pontoon Boat Excursions
  • Poolside service for our Bar & Restaurant!
Island Beach State Park Hotel
Seaside Heights Hotel, milky way photography, dark skies, pamkela goodyer, photography

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Photography Information


Gear List at a Glance: Circular polarizing filter, neutral density filter, tripod, shutter release, wide angle and zoom lens. During the daytime hours, there are fox and osprey along with many other birds in the park.

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 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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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. When you use live view, your mirror locks up, and it does not drop so avoid any movement at all inside the camera. If you are new to this, take a shot with regular focus.

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.

ISO – Start with ISO 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 that 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 doing milky way photography. 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, 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 very important on these shots but letting the light in is, therefore you should shoot wide open. (The lowest aperture your camera will allow).

Those are all of the basic 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 shots will not win you any awards.

White Balance – Always shoot your night photography raw so you can easily edit in Lightroom.  When in live view mode you can change your white balance settings and see which looks best for you on each shot. You can change it based on my subject matter. You can shoot in the 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.

Photography Magazine Extra Pam Goodyer

Park and Area Information:

Entrance Fees: Go to their website here.

NJ Resident
$ 6.00
$ 5.00
$ 7.00
Walk-in at Fisherman’s Walkway
Photography Magazine Extra Pam Goodyer

Hotel Information:

Hershey Motel. This is our favorite motel in the area. We highly recommend this hotel in Seaside Heights when doing your milky way photography at Island Beach State Park. Tell them we sent you. Check out the website here. (732) 793-5000 – 1415 BOULEVARD -SEASIDE HEIGHTS, NJ 08751

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