Lonely Planet Writer

An astrophotographer visited New Zealand’s Dark Sky Reserve to capture the Milky Way and now he shares his tips

Grey Chow is a Malaysian photographer who developed a passion for astrophotography after seeing a photo capturing the Milky Way. “I was impressed,” he told Lonely Planet. “It looked so magical, like some special effect. I want to capture the beauty of the night sky and it is something slowly disappearing from our sight due to heavily developed cities and light pollution.”

Earlier this year, he visited New Zealand’s South Island to take pictures in their International Dark Sky Reserve. With amazingly clear visibility of the Milky Way, he calls it “a playground for astrophotographers”. He also shared his tips for starting astrophotography with Lonely Planet.

Planning: “Before reaching the location, I will try to get as much information as possible, things such as possible angles and direction, Milky Way position and the tides. I will try to be there earlier to scout around the location and explore any possible composition.”

Gear: “Most of the time you will need to do a long exposure shoot. A good tripod will help in eliminating any possible camera shake. Personally, I would use a Full Frame camera with lenses that have an f2.8 aperture or wider, but don’t worry too much about it because now almost every camera is capable of photographing the Milky Way.”

Post-processing: “Usually you need to give an extra boost in order to retrieve the contrast and the detail.”

Location: “Download any astronomy app that will be able to tell you when the Milky Way will be in the night sky and at what direction it is. Star Walk, Star Chart, Stellarium are just some examples.”

Safety: “Instead of going alone to photograph the night sky, get a companion. You will need to go to places that are far from the cities and entering a totally dark environment, it would be much safer to have someone with you.”

Among Chow’s favourite places to shoot have been Mount Kinabalu in Malaysia, 4905 metres above sea level. “The experience of viewing the night sky at such height is just simply breath-taking,” he said. “It was challenging for me to reach the peak with all the heavy camera gear I carried but the view just makes all the effort worth it.”

In the future, he hopes to visit France, Australia, Jordan, Italy and Iceland, to name just a few. You can view more of his work here.

Grey described the scene as a 'magical night.' Image by Grey Chow
Grey described the scene as a 'magical night.' Image by Grey Chow
A stunning stream of stars above a Moeraki boulder. Image by Grey Chow
A stunning stream of stars above a Moeraki boulder. Image by Grey Chow
Church of the Good Shepherd. Image by Grey Chow
Church of the Good Shepherd. Image by Grey Chow
The Milky Way & Aurora. Image by Grey Chow
The Milky Way & Aurora. Image by Grey Chow
Mount Cook at night. Image by Grey Chow
Mount Cook at night. Image by Grey Chow
The sky above Glenorchy hut. Image by Grey Chow
The sky above Glenorchy hut. Image by Grey Chow
The photographer called this stunning shot 'The Intersection.' Image by Grey Chow
The photographer called this stunning shot 'The Intersection.' Image by Grey Chow
A timelapse image captures the stars across the sky. Image by Grey Chow
A timelapse image captures the stars across the sky. Image by Grey Chow
The road home. Image by Grey Chow
The road home. Image by Grey Chow