Photography is a personal pursuit. Over time, every photographer assembles a kit that suits their style of photography. “What’s in my camera bag,” is a question that’s often asked. By looking into the camera bag of a photographer that specializes in a particular subject, you will discover the best tools used to photograph that subject.

Sure, a lot of people don’t like to talk gear. After all, the only equipment you truly need is a camera with a lens – even a tripod could be optional. But to make the most of your Milky Way photography, there are several items you’ll want to have in your camera bag. So we’ve gone through our bags, and over the next few months, we will be listing the camera gear we find indispensable for Milky Way photography.


This week we’ve asked our own contributing author, Stanley Harper, to review what’s in his camera bag when he shoots the Milky Way. Stanley says he shoots with the goal to create an image that will capture the viewer’s eyes and make their minds wander off into what could be in deep space and what we can see in our night skies.

Stanley tells us, “My bag is suited as it allows me to carry most, if not all of my gear that I might use to capture that image.

“I shoot to stack and blend, so I shoot a series of shots at each location. But there might be a rare occurrence that I will use a single shot. I want to have enough shots, sometimes at different exposure values, that will allow me to have the most material to work with once I get home. My favorite Milky Way photo I took used three different exposures alone because I did not have enough lights to cover all of the walls in the image.”

Camera Bag

The Mindshift Firstlight 40L Bag

MINDSHIFT FIRSTLIGHT 40L BAG – I received this bag a few years ago, and it’s a great bag for me to carry all of my gear in, plus some. Made with backpacking in mind, I can get a ton of stuff in it. It might be overkill if you are just carrying one body and lens, but you can also use all of the extra room for things like lights if need be.


NIKON D750 – Not a whole lot to say here. When I jumped from Pentax a little over a year ago, the D750 made the most sense for me. Check out my article “Switching Camera Brands” for my thoughts on that.

The ProMedia Gear Universal bracket worked great with my Pentax K-5 II. It is an even better fit with my Nikon D750 and I did not have to change brackets when I switched.

PROMEDIA GEAR UNIVERSAL L-BRACKET – Changing camera brands can be a pain due to everything needs replaced. Luckily I did not have to replace the L-Bracket. A lot of photographers recommend getting an L-bracket made for the specific camera body, which is excellent advice. I got this particular model while I was running Pentax. There was no bracket for it at the time, so I went with this. The plate is Arca-Swiss compatible so that it can be mounted on a ton of different ball heads.


The Tokina at-X PRO 16-28mm f/2.8.

TOKINA at-X PRO 16-28mm F/2.8 – Bang for the buck, this might be the best landscape/astro zoom glass on the market, plus Tokina’s customer service, when repairs are needed, is on point. It’s available in both Canon and Nikon AF mounts.

Camera Remote

My first outing with the MIOPS Smart Trigger/controller, doing its thing. Although people look at it as an option for lighting captures, its ability to be a wireless remote will appeal to Milky Way photographers.

MIOPS SMART CAMERA TRIGGER – This little thing is pretty awesome. It is a control unit for your camera. Most commonly associated with lightning photography, this unit can also be a wireless remote for your camera. You can use a smartphone app to control the Smart Control unit. Unlike other controls on the market, you can control the MIOPS via the front panel on the unit.


Vanguard produces a line of tripods that are suited for the budget-minded folks. They last a long time as long as the owner takes care of it.

VANGUARD ALTA PRO 263AB w/SBH-100 BALLHEAD – I will confess, I do not use this tripod or ball head. My tripod is not made anymore, but this is a successor. I have treated my Vanguard Alta Pro 263 tripod-like trash at times. In the seven years I have had it, I have only cleaned it once or twice. The ball head I use is a very similar Vanguard model. Again, bang for the buck, this is about the best you are gonna get until you start laying down some serious coin on high-end tripods.


The Neewer CN-160 LED Panel is a popular inexpensive choice for Low-Level Landscape Lighting.

NEEWER CN-160 LED PANELS – I have had these panels for a few years now and have used them extensively out on location and for still work. They come with CTO slide panels so you can use a custom white balance of about 3800 Kelvin when out shooting.

The new Lume Cube 2.0 packs a lot of light into a small package!

LUME CUBE 2.0 – Even though I have had these for a while, I have not used them much to this point. I will be writing a review on them after I do some actual photography work with them, to include Milky Way photography. I love the size of them and cannot wait to see how they stack up against my other set of Low-Level Landscape lights.

Personal Comfort

BRITA DRINKING BOTTLE W/FILTER – The recent COVID-19 pandemic made people go mad by buying all the bottled water the stores could stock. I drink a ton of water and use a ton of water for my energy drinks. Luckily not long ago, I picked up one of these bottles so I could make less of an impact with my water intake.

Handwarmers keep your hands happy!

HAND WARMERS – Okay, so I am not the brightest light around. I found the ones in the picture above on sale a couple of years ago, thinking what a great deal. I was shooting football in Kansas at the time, and I needed them. Guess what? I forgot all about them. Now I carry some in the camera bag at all times.


The Adventure Medical Kit.3 is perfect for the camera bag.

ADVENTURE SMALL MEDICAL KIT – These little medkits are just about perfect for a camera bag. The company behind this product also sells larger kits. The kits are watertight, reusable, and refillable. You can resupply the bag straight from Adventure Medical.

PURE KICK ENERGY MIX – I am a huge consumer of energy drinks. Outside of the major brands, the market can be somewhat volatile, and I have bounced around until I found these. They are cheap and easy to store. I still buy cans of energy drink here and there, but this is my go-to right now. Each packet is suitable for a typical 16-ounce bottle.

Paracord, get some.

550 or paracord – This. Right here. Get some. Right meow! If there is any product in this universe that is more versatile, I cannot name it. The only limit is your imagination. I have used it for boot laces, replacing metal hardware on tactical gear for noise purposes, key chains, taking prisoners (well maybe not that far – yet), and a whole host of other things. And when I went through Air Assault School back in the day, we learned that the innards are used in portions of sling-load operations. There are a ton of color options available.

Hang a glow stick on your tripod when shooting at night. It’s bright enough to see where your tripod is, but not that it shows up in your photos.

LED GLOWSTICK – These things are awesome! A lot of us are probably familiar with chem light glowsticks. These are similar, but they use LEDs and run off batteries – so they last forever. They also come in a ton of colors. I have blue, red and purple ones. If I think about it, I will usually hang a blue one on my tripod when I am shooting at night. The light is bright enough to see, but not bright enough that it will show up on the camera. I have two different types. The ones pictured and the ones in the link. The difference is where the power switch is. The tailcap switch is a pain to operate, so I would suggest getting the type in the hyperlink.

Alpha Defense Gear Face shield – fight the dust or the cold!

ALPHA DEFENSE GEAR FACESHIELDS – The link will take you to the 5 for $15 deal that Alpha Defense runs on these. They are really great, and you can toss a couple in the camera bag. If you are like me and find yourself out chasing Ultra4 cars in the desert dust or on the sidelines when it’s 30 degrees, these come in handy.

Your Thoughts?

We’re sure you have some ideas on what gear you use or some ideas based on Stanley’s thoughts. Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

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Stanley Harper