There's nothing quite like the feeling of capturing the Milky Way's grandeur through your lens. The millions of stars, dust lanes, and the core create a spectacle unlike any other. But capturing such beauty requires careful planning, and these five apps have proven to be the astrophotographer's best friends.
These are apps we use and teach how to use on our workshops at New Zealand Photo Trips
PhotoPills takes the guesswork out of photography planning. Whether it's tracking objects, calculating depth of field, or planning for a long exposure or time-lapse, PhotoPills has got you covered. Its augmented reality feature provides a handy visualization of where the sun, moon, or Milky Way would be at any given time, making it an invaluable tool for any Milky Way photography adventure.
($18.99 NZD at the time of writing)
SkySafari 7 Pro
SkySafari 7 Pro is a robust astronomy app that offers a digital planetarium experience. It delivers detailed charts of the night sky, predicting the positioning of celestial bodies including stars, planets, and galaxies at any specific time. This feature is invaluable for planning astrophotography sessions, as it allows photographers to precisely track the Milky Way's position in the sky.
Beyond its predictive capabilities, SkySafari 7 Pro also serves as an informational resource, offering comprehensive descriptions and data on numerous celestial objects. Whether you're an amateur stargazer or an astrophotographer, SkySafari 7 Pro provides an interactive and educational exploration of the cosmos.
($19.99 NZD at the time of writing) Also, check out the “plus” and “basic” versions
No matter how well you plan, if the weather doesn't cooperate, capturing the Milky Way can be tricky.
Enter Windy, an app that offers detailed weather forecasts, including wind, temperature, precipitation, and most importantly, cloud coverage. Having this information on hand ensures that you're not setting your GPS to take you to a cloud-laden sky.
My Aurora Forecast
Aurora is a handy tool for tracking the Aurora Australis, or Southern Lights. This app provides real-time updates and alerts on Aurora activity, coupled with an intuitive interface to check the current KP index—a measure of geomagnetic activity. It helps users gauge if conditions are favorable for witnessing this stunning natural light show.
Beyond just immediate data, My Aurora Forecast offers short-term and long-term aurora forecasts, helping users plan their viewing experiences. The app also serves as an informative resource about the Aurora Australis, making it a practical and educational companion for anyone interested in this celestial spectacle. This app also covers the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights)
The iPhone version can be found here
New Zealand Topo Maps
This app offers comprehensive topographic maps of New Zealand, making it a must-have tool for anyone planning outdoor adventures in the country. The app provides a detailed view of the terrain, including contours, rivers, tracks, huts, and more, which can be crucial for activities like hiking, hunting, and Milky Way photography. With the offline mode, you can download maps for use even when you're out of range of cell service, ensuring you always have access to the navigational information you need. One of our favorite features!
In addition to its topographic features, the app includes useful tools like distance and area measurement, waypoint management, and track recording. These tools help you plan routes, mark points of interest, and keep track of your journey. For Milky Way photographers, knowing the lay of the land is essential for planning shots, and the New Zealand Topo Maps app makes this task easier than ever.
($19.99 NZD at the time of writing) - iPhone alternative found here
Capturing the Milky Way is no walk in the park. It's challenging, but boy, is it rewarding. Planning and visualizing your shots makes all the difference. They're like your road map to this spectacular photography journey.
Without planning, you might end up under a cloudy sky, missing the big show because you're in the wrong place at the wrong time. And without visualization, you'll get pictures of stars, but they might lack that emotional punch we're all after.
But when we've planned ahead, found the perfect spot, and know exactly what we're aiming for... that's when the real magic happens. That's when we click the shutter and capture not just stars, but a moment, a feeling, a slice of this incredible universe.
We're not just snapping pictures of stars. We're telling stories. So, grab your gear, fire up these apps, and let's head out under the night sky. There's a whole universe out there just waiting for us to capture it.
Keep it real, keep exploring, and don't forget to look up. The night sky is a pretty amazing sight.
Until our next stargazing adventure