Laura Macky Photography

Journey of a body on this earth

My First Milky Way!


Last night we went to watch fireworks and then drive out to the darkest part of the bay area to attempt a milky way photo.  The spot I googled wasn’t very good for fireworks unfortunately so I just tried to enjoy the partially obscured show of lights without taking photos.  The odd thing was that when we got there, all kinds of people were there with their chairs, so I expected it to be wonderful.  Oh well!

The milky way location proved to be a lot better.  We went out by Lake Del Valle in Livermore which is the most rural part around here and about 30 minutes from home.  I never thought I could get a milky way photo around here but I was so happy to find out that it’s possible.  I used a light pollution map which you can see on the second image here.  You can see how light polluted the bay area is but there is a big dark spot right where the horseshoe shape dark spot is below the word Livermore, so that’s where we went.

Armed with a headlamp, my Nikon D750,  14-24mm lens, remote and my husband to keep me from getting hit by the occasional car (don’t ask lol), I thought this turned out pretty good for my first try.  I’d like to try another time later in the night as this was at 10:46 pm.


Milky way near Lake Del Valle, Livermore

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Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 7.08.00 AM

Light Pollution Map


Author: lauramacky

Journey of a Body on this Earth

123 thoughts on “My First Milky Way!

  1. Thanks for sharing a picture of the Milky Way. I was just looking up at the ckear sky last night and wishing I could see the Milky Way. You used to be able to see it where I live, but the Cities to the East and West of us have grown and more lights were put i

    • You’re welcome! The bay area is bad too but there are some dark spots that you can at least get something. I’m happy I didn’t have to drive 4 hours lol. Thanks much!

  2. Very fun Laura!! it is hard finding dark sky’s especially in the bay area. Check out my attempt from Yosemite.

  3. An excellent way “to make lemonade out of lemons.” Great image Laura!

  4. Awesome! I’ve been meaning to (read: procrastinating) try out photographing the milky way for some time now. Kudos to you!

    • Thank you so much! It’s not hard really. It’s just post processing to bring out those stars and clarity and then getting something in the foreground of interest. Good luck!!

  5. Dark is relative here in the Bay Area. Points to you for seeking it and capturing a beautiful sky. Excellent.

    • So true about being relative. To maximize the potential, I believe around 2 am might be best but I’m too old for that lol. Thanks much for the kudos and comment. 🙂

  6. Fantastic Milky Way shot, Laura–very impressive. As a Bay Area resident, I found the map interesting.

  7. It’s a beautiful image! You did great for your first time! I have photographed the MW up in the hills above Palo Alto. It was amazing that it could be seen there too since there’s so much light pollution here in the Bay Area.

  8. What a beauty! And on your first try! I tried several times to get night stars. Drove over an hour to get away from the lights of the strip and what did I get? Darkness all around. This winter, when it’s not so hot at night (and when it gets dark earlier) I will head on out to the desert to try my hand at it again!

    • The only thing wrong with winter, is you do not get to see the Milky Way, its more visible in the southern hemisphere….June, July and Aug are best for us….I’m going to sneak out to Hwy 395 one of these days…should be VERY dark over there.

      • Oh I didn’t see your response until after I said this to Emilio. Good info!

      • I have to find a dark road in the middle of a cold place. Our temps are just way too hot right now and tend to get even hotter in August!

          • So, the little lady doubts me! Today the high was 109. Right now, at 7 pm it is 102. At 8 (twilight? just after golden hour here) it will be 101. At 9 it will be 97. At 10, 93. Successive hours are 89 and then 86. The low tonight will be 76 at 5 am. Usually we only get down into the low 80’s by 5. Guess we’re having a cold spell! 😉

          • Geez! That’s hot at night! Even those few days it gets to 100 it never is above 70 at night. Maybe once in a blue moon. Right now the fog is rolling in and it’s 59. Unusually chilly for this time of year but we had a hot spell last week so I’m enjoying this!

        • It’s pretty warm here too, that’s why I like getting up into the Sierras

    • Thanks Emilio! Sorry to hear yo had a bad experience. I checked Google to see when it’s best here. I think the winter isn’t a good time though. July is best and the beginning of August when the MW is vertical. Other times of year I believe it’s beneath the horizon but I’m not sure.

  9. No doubt about it you ‘must’ get to Alaska in the fall. You will need extra thumb drives to hold all the photographs of the northern lights and the billions of stars in the sky you never knew were there.

  10. I take it for granted here as it is fairly easy to find a very dark place by driving just a few miles.
    I went on a camping trip recently to southern Indiana and about 2-3am it was so dark and I was mesmerized by all the stars that were there that I couldn’t see even in a dark area back home. Wish I would have had my camera.

  11. Spectacular shot Laura! First I’ve heard of the light pollution map, we’ll check it out.

  12. perfect timing Laura – the cosmos and the space expedition JOI!

  13. That was nice to see – thanks! The light pollution map is depressing, though.

  14. Light pollution, YUCK. The Milky Way would beat fireworks any day for me. Great shot.

    • Thank you Terry. Me too. I’m really not much of a fireworks person. It was just something to do so we didn’t have to wait at the milky way location for so long. 🙂

  15. Very nice, you’ve inspired me to try it sometime. 🙂

  16. Great image Laura! I have been trying to find a location near me where I can capture the milky way. Now I have to do it! Thanks for the inspiration.

  17. Great effort Laura. I’m going to try shooting the Milky Way over the Grand Canyon the next couple of nights. Thanks for the inspiration!

  18. Amazing work with the Milk Way, Laura. Stunning and doesn’t look like much light pollution in that area. Very lucky it wasn’t too far. A sky of shining stars welcomed you 🙂

  19. this is absolutely Lovely Laura!!

  20. Fantastic effort and result, Laura. Congrats on your first Milky Way image. You have inspired me, for sure. Such nighttime beauty.

    • Thank you Jane. 🙂 I really was fun and I know I could do a bit better next time. It’s so nice when someone is inspired by little ol’ me. I love that, thank you! I hope to see a milky way in your near future. Oh just btw….in this area you have until the first or second week of august I believe and then it’s over. Right now it’s still in an arch but in a few weeks it’ll be vertical.

    • I stand corrected. Evidently you can see the MW through the first week of September according to Robin Kent.

  21. congratulations !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  22. this is my first one…
    sedge's 1st galaxy

  23. Beautiful! The milky way is so gorgeous, I think everyone should photograph the night sky at least once!

  24. I like your composition, Laura. Keeping the road in the frame makes it the Milky Way in 2 ways. Are that beams of light on the road? It would be cool to have red and white light beams on the road which mimic the red and white light spots in the milky way.

    • Thanks so much about the composition. I really believe that the MW needs some sort of story along with the sky. To just take the sky doesn’t do much for me. Those are the road lines you see. We have yellow indicating two way traffic and white to indicate the side of the road. There weren’t too many cars that drove by. i tried to get one as it tailed off to the right of the image but I didn’t succeed. I’m glad you thought the same thing!

  25. Fabulous! You must be delighted with that shot, it’s gorgeous

  26. Your first Milky Way, and the Universe is far more beautiful as a result. Kudos.

  27. Great job, Laura! Rae

  28. Pingback: My First Milky Way! — Laura Macky Photography | Amazing Fine Art

  29. Wow…I’d say that’s fantastic for a first time. Stunning Laura.

  30. Congratulations, Laura! You did a beautiful job 😊.

  31. It came out really well, Laura! Love the image! I have yet to find a spot dark enough to try astrophotography on my new Canon. That will be interesting 🙂

  32. Very well done! Do you mind sharing your IS0 and exposure data? I’m hoping to get a similar wide angle zoom for my D750 so I can try some starscape photography.

    • Thanks so much! This really wasn’t a wide angle. I was using my 28-300mm on my D750 at 52mm, 1/60s, f/5.6, ISO 100. That milky way photo the other day was shot with my 14-24mm @ 16mm. Now that’s wide! 🙂

  33. Awesome! Another place I’ve always wanted to do astrophotography is Anza Borrego State Park – they have programs all the time.

  34. Laura there are about three or so spots on earth designated as light free at night. One is right here in CA in Borrego Springs! Perhaps you can head down this way and capture something amazing! And then stop and see me too!
    Wonderful work, as always – Douglas

  35. Nice shot Laura – love it!

  36. This is amazing, Laura. Hard to believe it’s your first one.

  37. Hey, Laura. Great image, especially for a first try. It’s not an easy shot especially when in areas fairly close to civilization. If you do go to Yosemite, I’d recommend Olmsted Point. Although that is on the eastern side of the park, no serious hiking is required. If your Google search hasn’t already turned up Michael Frye (Yosemite specalist), he has a wealth of info on the topic on his blog. Cheers!

    • Hi Robin! Thanks for the compliment. I was happy with my first try. Thanks for the recommendation @ Yosemite. I wish I could go there in the next few weeks but alas I won’t be able to. The MW will be over with in August. Oh! I subscribe to Michael Frye. I hardly subscribe to any blogs like that but I really love his. They are so informative! Glad to know he’s well known! I hope to do a MW photo down by Pigeon Pt. Lighthouse when I return from my trip when the MW is vertical but it’s been incredibly foggy at the coast. You never know though!

      • Yes, Michael is definitely well known. I was up at Glacier Point in Yosemite one afternoon waiting for the sunset and there were about 5 other photographers there with tripods. Every one of them had his “Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite” app. Anyway, you should be able to shoot the MW at least part way into September. I was there Sep 5-8 in 2013 (year of the rim fire–another story) and it was still great then. Pigeon Point sounds like it could be great. Hope the fog cooperates for you.

        • Funny…reminds me of being in Cinque Terra and everyone had a Rick Steves book! I didn’t realize I could get the MW so late. Not sure I’ll make it this year but at least I know I have more options. Thanks much Robin. Enjoyed the chat. 🙂

  38. Lovely, Laura. The summer Milky Way has the fanciest stars…

  39. Wow, what a great shot! I want to try doing this again sometime – somewhere that isn’t light polluted. Would you be able to tell me what the exposure for this shot was?

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