We’ve never shared our Milky Way photography gear recommendations before, so we figured let’s do it now since Amazon Prime Day is near. So we asked members of the MilkyWayPhotographers.com Production Team to make their Milky Way photography gear recommendations for items that they like and use.
This list is not a bunch of randomly selected doodads that were picked at the last second for some photography podcast closing segment. No – these are items we actually use and want to share with you. We trust you’ll find this photography equipment as useful and helpful to your Milky Way photography as well do.
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Milky Way Photography Gear
Aaron King recommends –
I love my Carson Lumiloupe. I am particular about my focus, and I prefer checking my focus every time, and with a Carson LumiLoupe, I can do that fast and easily see if I have tightened the focus as much as I can. I wouldn’t be able to do my Milky Way Photography without it!
In an upcoming podcast, Royce Bair convinced me that I need to add these
When I am out doing low-level lighting, I often get in situations where I want the light to hit a subject from a more natural looking high position. These very affordable Impact Air-Cushioned 8′ Light Stands make it easy to get that reach I need!
Using two of these with Phil Sisto out in Goblin Valley, we were able to light the goblin hoodoos without casting shadows from the closer hoodoos because of how high we were able to put the lights. Love these stands!
While usually perfectly stable, there have been one or two times that wind could topple the light stand, so be prepared to anchor with your camera bag or a bag of rocks.
I love my F&V Z96 UltraColor LED light! With High-CRI LED lights, I don’t have to worry about a color cast at all! The natural colors of my subject are the only colors I get unless I use the orange gel that easily connects and disconnects from the light with magnets. While way more expensive than the Neewer brand, the F&V has way better, quality construction, dims more, and has excellent durability that has lasted me for three years already!
As a guy who loves bringing his laptop to work or an iPad to watch movies, having portable power is awesome! My Goal Zero Yeti 400WH Portable Power Sta
On these adventures, I can’t go without my Goal Zero since it provides me emergency backup power for charging my phone, silent power to charge batteries while sleeping and an awesome way to pass the time while waiting on a time-lapse using my laptop. Definitely, an easy thing to recommend to all of you!
Aaron Martinez recommends –
As you can imagine, as night photographers, we spend a lot of time taking photos when the sun is down, so a good flashlight is always in my kit in case of an emergency. I carry the Streamlight Stylus Pro because it’s bright, at 100 lumens, it’s small, it’s very light, and it’s a very cheap flashlight for how tough it is.
My personal light has been in my pocket every day for over a year and has been abused, dropped, submerged, and lost several times, but keeps going strong.
HotHands Hand Warmers are regularly a part of my kit because they’re light, they keep my hands warm, and in a pinch, can keep your lens fog-free with a little bit of tape.
Earlier in the year and in some parts of the world year-round, when the sun goes down, it gets cold. It may not be freezing-your-water cold, but at places like my favorite park, White Sands National Monument, it’s not unusual for temperatures to drop 40 degrees after the sun goes down.
Because of cold and extreme weather, a hand warmer can be the difference between a full night of shooting and huddling in your car, defeated by chilly weather and aching fingers.
A Wacom Drawing Tablet is an inexpensive piece of gear that can change the feel of your workflow.
When I started learning Photoshop a few years ago, I used nothing but my laptop’s trackpad, which got the job done. I bought my small Wacom tablet at the recommendation of Ryan Dyar, and editing almost immediately became an easier process.
For those that are very hands-on, like me, having a Wacom tablet set up to your specifications makes cloning, masking, dodging, and burning much more like writing with a pen.
Until I worked with a tablet, I felt detached from my work because it was edited on a computer. But when brush strokes feel like actual brush strokes, you feel more connected to your work after you literally dodge and burn the core of the Milky Way by hand.
I don’t own a dedicated camera bag because I like having multi-use bags that I can use for things beyond just photography. These Tenba BYOB 10 Camera Inserts allow me to turn any bag I own into a camera bag. I personally own the 9″ and 13″ camera insert and have been using them consistently without issue for over a year.
Even if you already have a camera bag with dividers and compartments for camera gear, these small camera inserts can act as organizers for cables, flashlights, batteries, hand warmers, or anything else you may want to stick in them.
Keep an eye out as I will soon be publishing a review showing you how and why I use these standalone gear dividers instead of a “real” camera bag.
Kirk Keyes recommends –
These Zeiss Lens Wipes are simply awesome. They are inexpensive, individually packaged, premoistened with an alcohol solution, lint-less, small, and lightweight. You can put a couple in your pocket or a few in your camera bag, and you’re ready to go!
For years I used a StaticMaster Lens Brush, and while that was great for removing loose material from the lens elements, it could not remove any water spots or finger smudges from the lens. So then I’d have to get out the Kodak Lens Tissues and lens cleaning drops. The drops always had too much liquid, and I’d spend way to much time getting that off. I never have that issue with the Zeiss Wipes. They have just enough cleaning solution on them to get the job done.
I’m not a fan of ball heads. I know, it’s unusual. But I am a big fan of 3-way geared tripod heads. And the Benro 3-Way Geared Head (GD3WH) is my current favorite. If you’re tired of fiddling around with a ball head, trying to get your verticals vertical and your horizon horizontal, it’s time to consider a 3-way geared tripod head. You will be able to get your camera perfectly level and plumb in mere seconds with one.
From the beginning of my photography life, I’ve used 3-way tripod heads. But in the late 80s, I kept reading about photographers raving about ball heads. So I bought a big one to use with my 4×5 Linhof Technika field camera. What a miserable experience that was! I spent what seemed like hours trying to get all three axes lined up. I quickly went back to my trusty Bogen 3-way tilt head.
When 3-way geared heads came out, I thought it was a gift from the gods. And then I saw the prices, like on the Arca-Swiss C1 Cube! But then Manfrotto released the 410 Junior Geared Head – it was a great price but required a non-Arca-Swiss plate. And it’s 2.69 lbs!
When the Manfrotto XPRO Geared 3-Way Pan/Tilt Head came out, I had to get one, Arca-Swiss plate or not. I slapped a third-party Arca-Swiss adaptor on it and gave it a try. It’s good, and the price is nice, but the handles are bulky, and I’m concerned about the plastic quick release handles breaking.
You do have to pay a weight penalty with a geared head compared to a ball head. And the XPRO does weigh a little less than the Benro, but the Benro is better user experience. So, get the Benro!
You’ve heard about this lens. You’ve lusted after it. Well, now’s a perfect time to get one! And I’m glad I got a Sigma 14mm f/1.8 Art DG HSM Lens for my camera. It’s just so awesome to focus – you twist the ring and the stars snap into focus. And since it’s so fast, it’s much easier to see than an f/2.8 lens.
I highly recommend the Sigma Art lenses. If you’ve not made the jump to a third party lens maker, then these are excellent lenses to start with. Start with the Rokinon, and when you’re happy with that focal length, then get the Sigma. I have the 35mm f/1.4, and I’ve used the 20mm f/1.4 Art lenses, and they are also excellent.
Marybeth Kiczenski recommends –
Milky Way Duct Tape!
A necessary item for any adventure. It can be used in a pinch for just about anything! I recently used it to put my car key back together when the key broke in half somewhere in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Plus, there’s Milky Way themed tape! What’s not to love.
Next up, is my second favorite item for Milky Way Chasing is the SkyWatcher Star Adventurer. I LOVE my tracker, and the SkyWatcher series has been great for me. Even though I have the Star Adventurer Mini, I use the larger one due to the weight of my camera and telephoto lens. I also bought the pro pack, as I find the declination bracket highly helpful. I also bought the SkyWatcher S20530 Star Adventurer Latitude (EQ) Wedge, which is sold separately. This makes polar alignment a bit easier. You can see it below.
When you get your Star Adventurer, make sure you get the SkyWatcher S20530 Star Adventurer Latitude (EQ) Base. It helps get your tracker polar aligned.
Another item I recommend after almost getting stranded is paper maps. After I broke my key, and my phone died – I realized all the offline maps in the world wouldn’t help you if your battery is dead. Do yourself a favor and have a backup map like the Rand McNally 2020 Large Scale Road Atlas!
That brings me to battery back-ups! When you need to have an emergency charge, these come in handy.
Rhonda Pierce recommends –
The Hoodman H32MB HoodLoupe is one of my favorite accessories that is a must-have in my bag and a recommendation for my photography students. During the daytime, the Hoodman Loupe allows you to see the back of your camera screen even in the brightest of sunlight. When photographing at night, you can view your screen without bothering your photographer friend standing next to you.
The Hoodman Loupe has a built-in diopter to allow a crisp image for those who wear glasses. Available in a 3 inch or 3.2-inch model, check your screen size to get the best fit. The newest one has an interchangeable base so as you change camera models; you can purchase the plate that best fits your screen. This comes with a lanyard to wear around your neck for quick accessibility.
During my last trip to the desert southwest on a Milky Way chase, I took a MiniComp II – Mini Orienteering handheld compass with me. I found that this was a quick way to tell if a composition looked promising for Milky Way photography when out scouting locations.
I like this compass due to its rounded corners and having a lanyard. Carrying a handheld compass helped save the battery in my cell phone as my Photo Pills app would sometimes need to have a quick recalibration after being near the navigational equipment in my vehicle. Once I determined that my foreground was in the appropriate direction, I would then use PhotoPills for exact Milky Way placement and time in my composition.
Stanley Harper recommends –
I have recently started researching ways I can transform my 4Runner into something a little more comfortable when it comes to long distance photography trips. One of the first and cheapest additions I have made has been buying two
Need to take a selfie while shooting the Milky Way? Get a Magmod MagSphere. Lightweight and compact, it is perfect for those themes you don’t want to haul out bigger light diffusers.
This Vanguard Alta Pro tripod is not exactly the same tripod I use, but the one I do own has been treated like dirt and is still working fine. I do have the same ball head, and it is well worth the money.
Milky Way Photography Equipment
Well, that it for our list. If you have an item you really find handy or useful, something you hate forgetting when you’re you in the filed, or one you use at home, post a note below. Let us know – we’ll probably get one as well!
MilkyWayPhotographers.com and Adventures Gear and Swag
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