When taking pictures at night, how I learned was pretty straight forward, I put my camera setting into it's manual mode so I had complete control of the ISO, the 'F'-Stop and the exposure time, how long the lens will be open, capturing the beauty in front of you. Be sure to have a stable tripod so your camera will not move and maybe set your camera on a 2 second delay to prevent additional vibrations.
Basics, Crank up your ISO to 3200, your exposure time to 20 seconds, white balance auto, and your F-Stop to the lowest your lens will let you and be sure to set your camera lens focus to manual, which will enable you to focus manually and try to manual focus in your camera's live view function. If your lens has infinity setting sometimes you can adjust it to infinity and get lucky with an easy sharp view. Experiment, light paint, innovate and have fun!
For this capture I used a 24-85mm lens, 20 second exposure and I had a fun time playing with my F-stop because of a street light behind me emitting a yellowish light onto the landscape so I used F5 I believe and an ISO around 2500. Definitely learn Light Room and PhotoShop post processing because it will really make your already beautiful photos turn to gold!
Focusing can be very tricky at night but with new features on your cameras like live view, it can be pretty easy to focus your images sharply in the night. If you are looking for a nice camera be sure to buy one that has a nice live view which will enable you to focus on a star by magnifying it on your live view and manually adjust your lens until it is the sharpest you can get it. I am always trying to find a the brightest star on my live view and magnify it on my monitor. Or sometimes I will shine a light on the foreground in front of me that I want sharp to find the right depth of field for my lens.
For this image I was shooting a petroglyph, I was shooting with Nikon D 750(nice camera with an excellent live view) and a 14mm Rokinon(no complaints so far), I used a reflective light which I shone behind me as a low level lighting with as you can see did a beautiful job of lighting up the petroglyphs and completing my milkyway picture(on the left side visible through the crack).
Capturing the Milky Way...
Capturing the Milky Way is easy but it is really all about timing. In the southwest of the United States the Milkyway becomes visible in March all the way till November/December but what you want to try to capture with the Milkyway is it's galactic center, which will be visible during new moons(No moon in the sky), from March to September, and early October.
Camera details for a nice capture of the Milkyway and it's Galactic center involves the camera's aperture to be fully open, as open as it can go to let in the beauteous light the Milkyway and airglow in the sky. A fast lens is prime for this and lately I am all about the F stop being around 1.8 to 1.4. When I am shooting with a wide lens sometimes it will only let you go to F 2.8 and that will let you capture it pretty well to.
ISO should be up pretty high, and I would say to at least 6400. Sometimes older camera bodies will produce much noise at these high ISO levels but sometimes you can manage this in post processing. I love to shoot in the 6400-128000 range.
Your lens will determine how long your camera lens should be open. Lately I have been using a friends Nikon 35mm at F1.8, so a common rule is the 500 rule, which is you divide 500, by what you are shooting at, so 35mm, and that equals =14.28...So this means if I have my camera open longer than 14.28... seconds the stars will begin to move, so I would be safe with shooting a sharp capture around 10 or maybe 13 seconds. And then Boom! You will get something like this 🠗