Photographing the Milky Way Galaxy Near Fort Wayne

ISO2000 | f/2.8 | 10 sec. @ 18mm

Ok, I know the title says it’s my second attempt at getting a shot of the Milky Way galaxy, but it’s just my second attempt ever at shooting the night sky. Back in February, when we can’t see the Milky Way from here, I went out for my first attempt. I had no plan other than checking this Dark Skies Map to see where the darkest area was around Fort Wayne. I had no idea what I wanted to shoot, so I just blindly pointed my camera at the sky and started shooting.

I went out that first time on a whim, it was freezing cold and I had no idea what I was doing. I was using a new to me Camera and lens and I struggled mightily that night with focus. I was out in the cold for 2 hours and ended up with just 2 photographs that were in focus, and really just 1 photograph that I thought was at least good enough to share with people, the photo below.

This was the only decent photo I got on my first attempt.

My goal on this night was to specifically get a shot of the Milky Way, I knew the mistakes I made the first time I went out to shoot stars so learning from that I was able to catch focus more on this trip than the first trip, but still it was an issue. I’m using a Fujifilm X-T30 with the Fujinon XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS and while I still struggled with focus a bit, it wasn’t as bad as the first time I went out.

I went at it this time with more of a plan. My plan? It was about midnight, I looked up at the sky and it was clear. Plus it was a new moon, so it was ideal for trying this again…on a whim again. I downloaded the app Star Walk - Explore the Sky for iOS. Point your phone to the skies and it shows you in real-time the tracking of celestial bodies. So finding exactly where I want to point the camera this time was much easier. I picked a random dark green spot on the Dark Skies Map and the spot I chose this time was just southeast of Geneva, Indiana, about an hour drive from Fort Wayne.

First spot I chose didn’t work out, I had nothing for reference to get focus on and manually setting to infinity is finicky with my particular 18-55. I did manage, through trial and error, to capture the image at the top of this blog post. After leaving that spot, I blindly drove around until I could find something in the foreground, but more importantly, something to focus on. I ended up about 1/4 mile from the farm house, had some lights and gave my camera something it could actually focus on. I made a few shots with auto focus, and manual focus. This is the photo I made at this location.

ISO2000 | f/2.8 | 10 sec. @ 18mm

At this point, I was actually ok with what I had, even if it was just two photographs. It was two photographs of something I have always wanted to capture. I packed things up and started to head back to Fort Wayne when I randomly ran across this old iron bridge. I crossed it, and didn’t think much about it, but I couldn’t shake it from my mind. I turned around, drove back to the bridge and started working on a composition I would like. I’m glad I went back, these were my favorite images from the night, I think the elements in the foreground really help with the photo even if I don’t have as much of the sky in the photo you can still see the Milky Way.

ISO1000 | f/2.8 | 10 sec. @ 18mm

You can see where I parked, walked around to several locations and settled with the composition in the final image below, using my vehicles headlights to light the trees on the left side of the image, and used the flashlight on my iPhone to light paint some light into the grassy area of the foreground. So, yes, you can be a photographer in Fort Wayne, Indiana and with just a short drive you are out making images of the Milky Way. I can’t wait to get a wider, faster lens and explore this kind of photography more.