My first Milky Way photograph

The outer arm of our Milky Way galaxy

On the darkest, clearest winter night of the year, the Milky Way is visible to the naked eye. Billions of suns come together to form the Milky Way arm you see above this camp in Pecan Island, Louisiana.

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Image Details


Date Taken: 1/5/2019
Location: Pecan Island, Louisiana
ISO: 3200
Exposure: 1 Minute 40 Seconds (5 Composite Images)
Lens: 24mm F/4
Camera: Nikon D750
Additional Details: Standard tripod with a 2 second interval shutter delay.


I imported the images to lightroom and made some white balance adjustments and fixed vignetting as best as I could. From there I exported them to Photoshop where they were aligned and stacked.

Next I did something called “LRGB processing” which I learned from a tutorial by Lonely Speck. You copy the composite image three times and make three different layers: A high contrast black and white Detail layer, a low contrast black and white luminance layer where you capture the Nebulocity, and finally a layer that contains all of the Color. This allows you to capture as much detail, nebulocity and color from your shots. It’s a really neat process. At first I was just a monkey following along with the tutorial but once it clicked I understood what I was doing and began to learn a lot.

Once the LRGB processing was complete I made some vibrance and color corrections. Finally, I copied one of my original layers and made adjustments only to the camp and foreground and added it to the final image you see here.


The conditions were near perfect for astrophotography so I head out to my family’s camp in a dark zone with some friends. We could see the Milky Way’s outer arm with the naked eye.

I took 5 composite exposures for a total of 1 minute 40 seconds of exposure time on a 24mm F/4 . Taken at the family camp in Pecan Island on 1/5/2019 during a stargazing trip my friends Bennett, Colby and Danny.

My histogram was not where I wanted it to be, so I didn’t capture as much data as I’d like. But that’s all part of the learning process. We’re going to keep going out there and to other dark sky zones and take more photos of the milky way. Hopefully each one is better than the last.

My emotions were beyond excitement when I saw the stacked image on my computer. My first ever Milky Way shot and it’s looming over the family camp. I also got a rush when I noticed you can faintly see the Andromeda Galaxy in the shot.

This is my first ever Milky Way photo! I’m beyond excited — I have a lot to learn about acquisition and post editing but I’m still more than happy with how this turned out. You can faintly make out the Andromeda Galaxy which blew me away when I noticed it.

Here’s my long exposure version of this angle. It’s about 42 minutes, resulting in star trails.

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