Into the Darkness by Mike Carroll

Into the Darkness by Mike Carroll

The beauty of our universe is undoubtedly something I look forward to, especially the Milky Way. In this article, I will discuss my planning and techniques for capturing the beauty of the night sky. 

 Alabama Hills, California (Lume Cube 2.0, Sigma 28mm f/1.4 Art, Canon EOS R5)

Planning Your Adventure

The sound of nature, shooting stars, and the feeling of getting lost in yourself while you’re under the night sky is priceless, but how do I plan for my next adventure? Before heading out, the first task on my list is to check the bortle scale in the area I’m heading out to. There are an abundant amount of resources online to check light pollution. Next, I check the weather, which plays a vital role in my next adventure under the stars.

Joshua Tree National Park, California (Lume Cube 2.0, Sigma 28mm f/1.4 Art, Canon EOS R5)


The weather is one of the most important factors for shooting the Milky Way. Keep your weather notifications on, as those warnings can save you from driving long distances.

Here are some key points of what I look for on my next adventure:

  • very low cloud coverage
  • calm wind conditions
  • high humidity can put a damper on your image’s
  • fog (keep an eye on the dew point and temperature. If they’re close together, there can be some potential fog!
  • smoke (wildfires)

Movie Road, Alabama Hills, California (Lume Cube 2.0, Sigma 28mm f/1.4 Art, Canon EOS R5)

Shooting Locations/Apps

It’s best to scout your vantage point during the day to see exactly what will be in your image. You can use the Night AR feature in PhotoPills to help you with your desired Milky Way alignment.

Relaxing on a bench at the beach, Barnegat Light, New Jersey. (Lume Cube 2.0, Sigma 28mm f/1.4, Canon EOS R5)


Light Pollution

As I mentioned earlier, light pollution is something to consider when planning your next shot. I had to battle the light pollution on the horizon in the image below. I also decided to capture this before moonset. Sometimes, the moon can provide lighting needed in certain situations, such as this image below at Joshua Tree National Park.

Joshua Tree National Park, California. (Lume Cube 2.0, Sigma 28mm f/1.4 Art, Sony a7 iv)

Another example of light pollution behind the tree on the island in Maryland below.


Self Portrait, Assateague Island, Maryland (Lume Cube 2.0, Sigma 16-28mm Contemporary, Sony a7 iv)


Foreground Options

I always look for something on the foreground while setting up my composition. It can be anything from a bench, branches, flowers, etc. Look for something appealing and take a test shot by shining your light on the foreground to see what it looks like. I advise you to refrain from staying in one spot for too long because you could miss out on other opportunities for other compositions. Please remember that your alignments will change as the Galactic Core moves.

In the image below, the Lume Cube 2.0 certainly helped the details of the elements in the foreground.

Milky Way Refelection, Pepacton Reservior, Upstate, New York (Lume Cube 2.0, Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 Art, Canon EOS R5)


Shooting The Milky Way

For the best results, you should use a full-frame camera, such as a mirrorless or DSLR. Use a lens with a fast aperture of f/1.4 or f/2.8. The Sigma 28mm f/1.4 Art is my go-to lens for the night sky. You can also use a wide-angle zoom with a constant f/2.8 aperture to have more options for compositions and a more desired focal length. As for settings, I usually shoot around f/1.8 and keep the shutter between 5-10 seconds to avoid star trailing. I turn up the ISO to compensate for my exposure.

Naturalist Shack, Assateague Island, Maryland (Sigma 28mm f/1.4 Art, Canon EOS R5)

About The Author:

Mike Carroll is a professional landscape and night photographer who has a passion for moon photography, astrophotography, concert photography, long exposures, and cityscapes.

Born and raised in New Jersey, Mike is a former musician who started his craft by photographing live music performances. His dedication to photography has taken his journey from the sun to the moon and even the Milky Way — It’s all about getting that once-in-a-lifetime shot!

Mike will plan his shoots a couple of weeks in advance. Preparation is critical in capturing that big moon or that lightning shot — Even if he finds himself running in a thunderstorm to a location or navigating in the dark to shoot the moon.

He was recently featured on the TV station News 12 NJ for his time-lapse of the SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket over New Jersey. In addition, the rocket was also published on Accuweather, Yahoo, and MSN. Other TV stations where his work was featured were WPIX & NY1. Mike is an author for the Sigma Photo Blog. He’s also an ambassador for f-stop gear, Lume Cube, and Ice Filters.

Social media contact:
Instagram @jerseyportraits
Facebook @mikecarrollphoto

His awards include:
•2019, 2020 & 2021 PhotoPills Award Book
•2019 Empire State Building Photo Contest Finalist
•2020 NJ Monthly Magazine First Place
•2021 NJ Monthly Magazine Runner Up
•2022 Printique Weekly photo contest winner

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