August the Month for Shooting the Milky Way and Spider Webs


Wandra Krack

August, the month of Milky Way and Web Pictures for Nature photographers, each season and sometimes each month brings forward specific things that are poised for picture-taking.  The month of August, the Milky Way is visible during the late evening and early night skies here and the weather is such that it’s comfortable spending several hours outside. 

The most successful pictures of this group of stars happens on a clear night (no or few clouds and little or no haze), no moon, and the location being the darkest spot you can locate (away from house and security and streetlights).  Required is the stabilization of the camera and lens.  Most people use a tripod, but other things can be arranged so the camera does not move while exposing, such as a bean bag on top of your car, or a pillow, or clothing, etc.  Camera settings must be for a longer than normal exposure.  You can use the shutter delay or a remote shutter tripper to ensure no movement when you press the button to take the picture.  If you have an automatic, use the longest exposure possible in your menu.

For a DSLR, start out with an exposure of between 20 and 30 seconds, ISO high, possibly 2000 to 32000 or higher, and the lowest f-stop number possible (f2.8 if possible).  Stabilize the camera, take a shot, and look to see if the picture is too bright or too dark, and adjust the camera settings.  Increasing the ISO will increase the brightness, as will increasing the speed (like from 10 seconds to 20 seconds time of exposure), and likewise, decreasing one of these will darken the exposure.  Point the lens toward the SW skies. Once you have the camera settings adjusted, you can move the camera around to include different things in the picture, such as have trees, rocks, a lake, or whatever in the bottom of the picture, with the Milky Way up in the sky.  If you want the foreground items to show up more, a flashlight can brighten up objects for exposure, by quickly passing over those objects.  The resulting pictures will need to be “developed” on the computer, and the internet has many YouTube programs on how to edit night sky shots.

The second best shooting (for me) during the month of August is wet spider webs.  After heavy dews and rains, the tiny spider webs show up well in pictures and the month of August the tiny spiders are busy creating.  This requires patience and much practice to get the drops of water sharply in focus.  It helps to align the camera and lens on the side of the web that is most parallel with the flattest part of the web.  It is also helpful to move in to be as close to the web as your lens will allow and still maintain sharp focus.  Not moving the camera is also important.  If the speed is set high enough, you can hand hold the camera, but some people use a tripod.  If your camera has a “close-up” or “macro” setting, use that.  Steady hands make a difference with these pictures.

The Cookeville Camera Club extends invitations to visitors for all meetings held on the second Monday of each month via zoom and in person at 1 Stonecom Way, Cookeville, just of Old Sparta Road.