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Sonoran Desert Milky Way

The early spring is one of the best times of the year to shoot the Milky Way in the Sonoran Desert. Clear dark skies make capturing the splendor of the Milky Way exceptional. Temperatures during the early morning hours when the Milky Way is at its best position for shooting remain in the mid to low 50's. A light jacket and a thermos of hot coffee make for an enjoyable shooting experience. As with any desert shooting adventure you want to take the following precautions: Scout your location ahead of time and record your GPS coordinates and make sure someone has them, you will not always have a cell signal. Apps such as GPS Gaia will allow you to create and download a map with your precise location in case you need to be found. Use apps such as PhotoPills to plan your Milky Way shots, it will provide you the best times to shoot and you can use the augmented reality to preview your shots. You want to plan your shoot during or right after a new moon, when skies are the darkest. Bring plenty of water, snacks, first aid kit, and in some cases extra fuel. The desert terrain is rough, it is recommended you wear a sturdy pair of boots, and pants. It's always useful to have a multi-tool (Leatherman etc) just in case you encounter the devilish jumping cactus (Cholla). During this time of the year desert dwellers are out and about, keep an ear open. I have not encountered many snakes in the early spring nights, but I am aware and again a good pair of boots and thick pants are a safety feature. There are many great videos and articles out there with recommendations about camera and lens combinations for shooting the Milky Way. My preference is a 12mm lens set to f2, with a Hoya light pollution reducing filter for 20 seconds. I set my ISO between 3200 - 6400 with a custom white white balance set to 3800 for an Olympus OMD-EM1mkII. I also set my camera profile to muted or neutral to preserve contrast. You can bring out your colors in post. This time lapse was taken at f2.8 with a shutter speed of 10 seconds with a Canon 7DmkII. The video below was shot on April 7, this is a 4 hour time lapse on a moonless night. Enjoy!

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