top of page



No tricks, just a step-by-step procedures to getting it right.

Get a digital SLR and the fastest, widest lens you can. A 24mm f/1.4 is the best, an f/2.8 ultrawide or zoom is next best, and if all you have is an 18-55mm kit lens, use that.


Turn off the flash.


Use your AF system's center sensor to focus on a distant city light, or a very bright star or planet. It's easy to focus on the moon, but if the moon is up, the Milky Way won't be as visible. It's important to focus on something as far away as possible. If your AF system isn't working, magnified Live View might. Focus on something as far away as possible; if you focus on something 20 feet away, the stars won't be sharp.


Once in focus, set your lens or camera to Manual Focus (MF) so it won't move. (With Nikon manual-focus AI-s lenses, just set the lens to its infinity stop and you're done. Most AF lenses don't have a stop exactly at infinity.)

Kauai stars

Photography by Gavin Hardcastle

Kauai stars
Kauai stars

Photography by Sapna Reddy Photography

Put the camera on a tripod, and be careful not to touch the focus setting.


Set Manual exposure mode.


Set 30 seconds exposure time.


Set the lens to its widest aperture (the smallest f/number, like f/1.4, f/2.8 or f/3.5 depending on your lens).


Set your ISO (view his chart and "discussion" at


(optional) Set Tungsten white balance to keep the sky blue. Otherwise, it will probably look brown or orange in the camera's default AUTO white balance setting.



Photography by Gavin Hardcastle

bottom of page