16 amazing images of the Milky Way (and the story behind them)
Travel photography blog
Capture the Atlas has published its annual Milky Way Photographer of the Year collection featuring what the website describes as 'the best 25 photos of our galaxy', of which we've shared 16 here.
“A Night at the Caves” – Sam Sciluna. “Ta Marija” Cave – Malta. I wanted to capture the core of the Milky Way over the entrance to ‘Ta Marija’ cave for years. I tried it several times previously, but I was unable to capture an image I was happy with. Last July, I headed back with a friend of mine to try to get a better shot, and finally make this dream a reality.
This compilation is always published in June coinciding with the peak of the Milky Way season, and it is aimed at inspiring and sharing the beauty of our night skies.
This year’s list includes images taken around the world in many countries including Namibia, New Zealand, Chile, Spain, United States, Australia, and Antarctica by 25 photographers of 14 different nationalities.
“Alien Eggs” – Debbie Heyer. Badlands of New Mexico, USA. The Badlands of New Mexico are otherworldly and mysterious. They resemble an alien planet. If you don’t believe in aliens, you will after seeing this place. This is not an easy terrain to navigate, and it is very easy to get lost. Luckily, my friends knew the area well, and we could enjoy this photographer’s paradise of endless compositions that blew my mind! This was shot last October on a two-week photo tour with friends through the Southwest. It was the best way to end the Milky Way season.
According to Capture the Atlas, the quality of the image, the story behind the shot, and the 'inspiration that the photograph can draw' are the main factors for selecting the images every year.
Dan Zafra, editor of Capture the Atlas, curates images captured throughout the year looking not only for images taken by some of the most renowned astrophotographers, but also for new talents and for new locations where the Milky Way hasn’t been photographed before, like Jorgelina Alvarez's shot captured in Antarctica.
“Heavenly Throne” – Ryan Smith. Southwest USA. I took this picture with the Canon EOS Ra; a mirrorless astrophotography camera that has a built-in infrared-cutting filter (positioned immediately in front of the CMOS imaging sensor), which permits approximately 4x as much transmission of hydrogen-alpha rays vs. standard digital cameras. This allows to capture more details of the night sky and the Milky Way, and really makes a difference in astrophotography.
Even though the Milky Way can be photographed throughout the year, the Galactic Center, which is the Milky Way core and the area with more interest, is only visible during the commonly known as “Milky Way season”. This season ranges from late March to early October in most of our planet and the peak with more hours of visibility takes place in June.
You can see more of the best Milky Way images on the
Capture the Atlas website.
“Alone & Together in the Stardust” – Marco Carotenuto. The Sahara desert. Describing this place in words or pictures is not easy because there are many emotions you can feel spending a night in the heart of the desert. Staying in the middle of nowhere hundreds of miles away from civilization and with no electricity, cellular network, or water, certainly puts you to the test. Shooting with your group, you can feel the emotion of sharing moments of humanity, even with those who you don’t know, being present, and forgetting about the daily routine.
“Base Camp” – Giulio Cobianchi, Dolomites – Italy. I love shooting the Milky Way throughout all 12 months of the year. I must admit that during the winter season, it fascinates me even more, probably because the Milky Way has cooler colors that combine perfectly with the snow, and also because shooting under these conditions is much more challenging.
“Desert Nights” – Peter Zelinka. Alabama Hills, California – USA. When I’m traveling through California, I always make sure to stop by the Alabama Hills. This is one of the most iconic locations in the western USA, with its incredible snow-capped Sierra Mountains, unique rock formations, and dusty roads. In June, I spent a few nights camping in the desert beneath the stars. Once the Milky Way was shining brightly overhead, I wandered through the brush and found this unique arch.
“Deadvlei” – Stefan Liebermann, Namib-Naukluft National Park – Namibia.The trees in Deadvlei have been dead for over 500 years. Located in Namib-Naukluft Park in Namibia, these saplings grew after local rivers flooded because of severe rainfalls, but died after the sand dunes shifted to section off the river. High above and far in the distance, the band of our Milky Way galaxy forms an arch over a large stalk in this night panorama image.
“Double Arch” – Pablo Ruiz García. “Picos de Europa” – Spain. This spectacular arch-shaped rock formation is located in “La Hermida” gorge, in the Picos de Europa mountain range in Spain. At first, my initial idea was to capture the galactic center inside the arch, but finally, I decided to shoot the two arches overlapped at this time of the year (late spring) when the Milky Way is still not too high in the sky.
“Elemental” – Miles Morgan. Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii – USA. During my trip to Hawaii, we were typically up around 2:30 am, and playing all day and well past sunset out on the lava flows. On this particular evening, after shooting the sunset, we checked Stargazer and saw that around 3-4 am, many of the planetary elements would be aligning around the plume at the Halema’uma’u crater. Even though the skies were covered during most of the night, we happened to be at the right time to capture the lava and the Milky Way
“Enchanted Monastery” – Ramón Morcillo, Ávila – Spain. The idea of shooting an old monastery under the Milky Way in the Spanish mountains was just hanging around my head for months. I was fascinated by the idea of planning this image; having the Milky Way arch above the ancient and lonely bell tower. The monastery was an Augustinian convent founded in 1504 and called the “Monastery of Our Lady of the Crag”. A few hundred miles drive followed by a long walk and a challenging climb and bushwhack ended in this beautiful and magical place where I could capture our galaxy arch.
“Good Night Utah” – Julio Castro, Kanab, Utah – USA. After visiting this location in 2017, it became my personal obsession to take a photo there, mainly because I couldn’t take any night shots since the place was very remote. In May, I decided to go back and try to take the photo I had in mind. After a very cloudy night, just before dawn, the sky opened up, and a spectacular starry sky gave me the opportunity to take this picture with the arch of the Milky Way above the “wave” of rock that seems to surround the two hills, creating an almost perfect circle and allowing me to get the photo I had dreamed of.
“Gran Firmamento” – Jorgelina Alvarez. Marambio Base – Antarctica. This was a very special night full of emotions that I tried to capture in this photograph. Planets like Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars, always attract my attention. The galactic center was about to hide, among thousands of other stars in composition with the snowy Antarctic landscape.
“Milky Way over Parque Nacional del Teide” – Mehmet Ergün. Tenerife – Spain. This photo was taken on one of my favorite islands: Tenerife. This is an island with unlimited possibilities, where you can enjoy nature in all its glory. In particular, the night sky over Tenerife is renowned worldwide for its excellent conditions for stargazing and astrophotography.
“Nightmare” – Michael Goh. Dumbleyung Lake – Australia. Dumbleyung Lake is a salt lake located in western Australia. The lake is surrounded by hundreds of trees that have died due to the salt levels, and, on a calm night, all the stars reflect off the water. For this image, the dead trees gave me the idea of capturing them clawing up at the sky – the fish-eye panorama turned out better than expected, as the trees almost looked like tentacles. The location is very dark, so with no moonlight available, I used my self-portrait style with the figure holding the light (now a bit clichéd) to create more depth in the image as a solitary figure standing amongst the dead trees.
“Winter Milky Way” – Dr. Nicholas Roemmelt, Marmolada, Dolomites – Italy. Although the Milky Way during the winter and early spring is often ignored in Astro-landscape photography, I really love the bright stars (some of the brightest of the night sky), colorful constellations, and fainter elements of this part of our galaxy when the galactic core is beneath the horizon.
Josh Beames, Bioluminescence, captured over the twelve apostles, Great Ocean Road.