My Five Favourite Milky Way Shots of 2017

Continuing with my annual list of Favourite Milky Way shots, here is the line up for 2017.

This Milky Way season was challenging for a variety of reasons. Smoke from wildfires in Canada and the United States made it very difficult to find clear skies in Alberta and British Columbia for most of the summer. There was a lot of snow fall in the mountains this winter and into spring. The snow took a long time to melt out as well so I wasn’t able to get to some locations I had in mind for spring. This season I also tried chasing compositions I’ve wanted to capture since 2015, but quite a few didn’t work out due to weather or again the smoke. For example, I spent five nights in the backcountry at Mount Robson Provincial Park and didn’t get one moment of clear skies for Milky Way :(. That’s the way it goes sometimes though.

I’ve listed my favourite five photos in the order they were shot because I couldn’t commit to rating them from one to five.

To Her Darkness

Robed silhouette in stone building remains with Milky Way rising overhead

ISO6400 f2.8 21mm 20s

My Milky Way season kicked off really well. This was a concept I had envisioned without ever having been to the ruins of this stone building before. A few friends of mine had shot sunrises here so I vaguely knew what I would be able to compose with the Milky Way. It was actually a very chill night and I froze my hands during my self portrait attempts.

To create this image I used three shots. One shot was for the sky and the stone remains lit up with a LED using low level lighting (LLL) techniques. The robed figure is me, so two other shots were needed for that. I blended them together using Photoshop.

Come, Reap

Robed figure under milky way

ISO6400 f2.8 18mm 20s

This image was fun to create as a single exposure. To light up the scene I used two light sources. The LED lit up the inside of the dilapidated building. The circle of light was created by taping a small camp light to a dowel. I then spun the dowel quickly in a circle and planted the light into the ground to minimize the effect of the light on the remainder of the exposure since I had no way to turn it off without ruining my silhouette or creating more light lines.

As You Were

Couple standing under Milky Way in Banff

ISO6400 f2.8 14mm 20s

Sorry, this one is kind of gross =p. I talked my significant other into coming on a Milky Way shoot to take a few couples shots. I had this spot in mind for the shoot and only a small window to shoot it. The clouds that you can see to the left of Mount Rundle in this photo were blocking the Milky Way when we arrived. After patiently waiting (my partner napped while I glared at the sky) the Milky Way came into view and I set up as many compositions as I could before it was obscured again. It’s much trickier trying to get a shot with people in it when there are two bodies trying to stay still during a long exposure.

Night Music

ISO6400 f2.8 14mm 25s

There’s just something about a perfect reflection. I looked for a clear night at Herbert Lake in 2016, but it never worked out. This year, I was driving home from a family vacation in the Okanagan and saw the forecast was calling for clear skies all along the Icefields Parkway. So I took a “little” detour to shoot the Milky Way at a few locations. I kept the colour temperatures in this shot to the more blue temperatures mostly because of the light pollution coming from a highway interchange and Lake Louise. The streaks of air glow and hazy clouds reflecting the light pollution made for some interesting colours in this shot. Considering the light pollution, haze and that there were a lot of forest fires around, the Milky Way is really well defined.


ISO 6400 f2.8 14mm 20s, 6 shot panorama

I had to include this one in my list. This was my first time seeing Steve (purple arc) while out shooting as well as the picket fence aurora. Peyto Lake has a great Northern view which was why stopped in to catch some aurora. Generally when you see aurora shots from this location, the photographer shoots the view with the fox head (right side of the image). The Milky Way here is towards S/SW and Steve arced roughly from NW to SE. I had to shoot a panorama to capture the entire scene.