How I shot the Milky Way


I've been here before but not with a dedicated astro shooting kit. This is probably one of the most popular shooting spots in all of the US National Parks and easily the most popular angle in Zion National Park. The Canyon bridge on SR 9. I was here for a few days in August and lucked out. No clouds, no moon and the Milky Way in perfect position over the river at a reasonable hour, 09:30PM.  Any one of the above factors can derail best laid plans for a decent Milky Way shot.

We stayed in nearby Springdale, so I had the luxury of driving here over a few nights to get the shot. The first night was devoted to scouting. I learned that it's shoulder to shoulder photographers at sunset, then thins out a bit after. When I made this shot, there were about a dozen photographers on the bridge. The biggest lesson I learned is that the bridge is very susceptible to vibration. The entire second evening I shot here yielded about 5 crisp images, the rest were blurry to some extent. It doesn't seem to make a difference what your support is either. Everyone else up there agreed that the majority of their shots were blurry. So the takeaway is... shoot a lot. One will turn up right.

For the shot above, I preplanned the scene using the app called PhotoPills. It showed me what time the Milky Way would be where I wanted it. Equipmentwise, I used a Canon 6D and a Rokinon 24mm 1.4 lens, set at f 1.4, ISO 4000, 13" exposure. I timed the shot to expose a car coming towards us on SR 9, providing that light, and another Instagrammer was shooting his friend down on the river bank, so I leveraged that to provide an interesting foreground. I had to locally down adjust the highlights in the frames using adjustment layers. Nothing big.

Adam SenatoriComment