Shooting the Milky Way and Rock Art

A Pahranagat anthropomorphic figure at Shaman’s Knob at Mt Irish Archaeological District.

One of the most frequent questions that I get asked about photography is how do you shoot images like this where you can see the Milky Way?

The Shooting Gallery Archaeological District in the Basin and Range National Monument. The Shooting Gallery was an archaic kill site. Beginning 5,000 years ago the enclosed valley was used to drive game animals into and harvest them in large numbers.

Photographing rock art -or anything really- and the milky way is a matter of balancing the light?

To answer questions about how to do it, I put together this video that walks you through the process of visualizing and making images at night with particular emphasis on shooting the milky way.

In short you need: a modern DSLR camera, a tripod, a remote and a wide lens.

It also helps to have a desire to experiment and a willingness to fail.

A good base exposure for a clear, moonless night when you can see the milky way is

iso 6400, f4, 30 seconds.

New cameras work at absurdly high iso these days so experiment and check your histogram to avoid heartbreak later (watch the video for an explanation of the histogram curve).

The video gives you a good overview

Most importantly have fun being outside at night!

Stephen Alvarez