Milky Way Blast Off

When you look at this photo, what’s your first thought?

How I could capture this scene differently in a future outing. Decisions were made to balance the foreground and night sky, but I believe many other interesting compositions exist from this vantage point.

Was it a special trip to get the shot from this vantage point? How long of a trek was it?

It was actually a trip to photograph the wildflowers at Mount St. Helens at sunset. The trek to get to this vantage point is very short, so not much of a hike was required.

What was your planning process? Checking weather, deciding on time, any special gear choices, etc.

I did check weather, and knew there was a good chance that there would be no cloud cover. I brought my typical gear, which also works quite well for night sky photography (Nikon D800, Nikkor 14-24, sturdy tripod, wired shutter release). There was also no moon that night, which helped with making the Milky Way clearer.

How many photos did you take before you thought you had it?

I took about 20 or so photographs (exposures ranged from 20 seconds to several minutes).

Could you talk about those decisions to balance the foreground and night sky? Did you do anything special in post?

I purposefully included a good amount foreground in the picture so it took up about 1/3 of the frame. In post, I had to combine two exposures, one longer exposure at a lower ISO and smaller aperture for the foreground, and a 20 second exposure at f/2.8 and ISO 3200 for the Milky Way. I purposefully kept the foreground somewhat dark in my final processed image because this is closer to what you actually see and experience. If you view the picture on a dark background, there is plenty of shadow detail without the over-the-top look of photos that have a foreground clearly taken at twilight with a blended Milky Way that is processed to within an inch of its life :-)

Do you always have a camera with you?

Unless it is the weekend, I typically do not carry a camera with me. I work Monday through Friday, and leaving expensive camera equipment in my car is just asking for trouble around where I live.

What applications do you use for post processing?

For post processing, I use Adobe Photoshop CS5, Adobe Lightroom 5, and various plugins from Nik Software and Topaz Labs.

Is there a technique you consistently use in post?

In post, I almost alway use luminosity masks to balance and control the luminosity in an image. I like to add saturation with vibrance masks.

What’s your next camera/equipment purchase going to be and why?

I have always wanted to own a Zeiss wide-angle prime lens. My next equipment purchase might be a Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 or a Zeiss 21mm f/2.8.

About the Photographer

Tyson Poeckh is a fine art photographer from Lacey, Washington. You can find him at his website and view his photos on

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