During 2019 JBOTV used satellite maps to determine where there may be possibly some dark skies ranging from Bortle Class 1-4. We successfully located several spots along the Eastern Shore and due to filming from March-September Milky Way timelapse, we have determined that April, May, & June are without a doubt the best times for photographing the Milky Way from the Eastern Shore.
The summer months of July and August are great times for tourist to view the Milky Way mainly because as soon as it is dark, the Milky Way is already visible. This is convenient and wonderful to witness however it is not the opportune time for photographing the Milky Way. The reason is simple. The position of the Milky Way during these months is South/South West putting the galactic center above Virginia Beach. This does look pretty cool, however the light pollution radiating from Virginia Beach is a bit much. So if you intention is to photograph the Milky Way with the best conditions, then April, May, and June is what you want to aim for.
Yes it is true that the Milky Way is visible above the horizon in March, but not by much. Plus the window for photographing is very narrow. All one will have is approx. between 3:30am and 4:15am. Only about 45 minutes. Plus this time of year you will be combating heavy condensation, weather fronts that are also prevalent on the Shore this time of year, etc. So, if you are making a special trip, plan on April-June for photographing and the summer just for enjoyable stargazing.
To best show you how and where to set up your overnight camera we have pulled these graphs from Photopills. They are all of the same night and same time. The white dots that create an arch represent the Milky Way and upon inspection of these graphics, you can clearly see where the darkest sky will be, and that is Wachapreague Virginia.
To be clear
The below charts are all of the same date and time. The only difference is the location of where you are on the Shore. Your location will determine how dark the sky will be from class 1-4 bortle sky.
The reason why this area is so good is because this time of year the galactic center is over the Atlantic Ocean. The light pollution from Virginia Beach is pretty far away and it is also south west, where the galactic center is south east. So really the light pollution is not even really in the frame, all you have is dark sky.
|The light pouloution of Virginaia Beach is not in the shot.|
The skies are so dark at Wachapreague that in the timelapse we filmed there you can see the shadow of Saturn being cast against Cedar Island. That’s a dark Sky!
There are many places to set up in that area and I also recommend contacting a guide. You may be able to charter a boat for several hours (with licensed captain) and photograph the Milky Way from a desolate island like Cedar Island. But you do need to talk to the local folks and check rules and regs pertainling to the Island. However most anywhere in a five-mile radius of Wachapreague should be excellent viewing.
As you move south down the Eastern Shore you can see on the chart how that effects where the galactic center will be. The further south means the closer the Virginia Beach light pollution.
The Cape Charles graphic you can see the galactic center is already about over Virginia Beach (or close). This is why we will photograph the Milky Way from Cape Charles during the new moon of April. Then in May Red Bank, then in June Wachapreague. That is our schedule for 2020.
|Red Bank, closer to light poloution but still an excellent location. Galactic Center still over the ocean|
Lastly, if you are into astrophotography/nightscapes, etc, here on the Shore provides a very unique situation for photographers. There just is not many places on the East Coast that has skies this dark and the view of the stars overlooking the Atlantic Ocean is incredible.
|Galactic Center now over Va Beach|
There is also a LOT of subjects for foreground images. Anything from boats, houses, crap pots, trees, etc.
A few quick tips.
· Plan your time for prime viewing, we use photopills and it is a great planner.
· Just take it as a fact that you will experience condensation. The Shore is a small strip of land with the Chesapeake Bay on one side and the ocean on the other. During the 3 months of spring, you are going to get dew. Just plan on it. We use 3\4 heat packs and attach to the lens with runner bands. It is cheap and most importantly it works.
· Make reservations for lodging early and plan on several days if you can. Clouds are an issue on the Shore and to target just one night would be hard to do, the odds won’t be with you.
· Be respectful at night while light painting.
· If you are photographing in June on the Shore, have at least a 3 stage bug repellent system for you and your gear. We use bug bombs, spray on deet, and an OFF disbursement fogger.
If you are planning on photographing all night, your shoot will end just prior to Astronomical Twilight, but remember the sun will be rising over the ocean in a little over an hour. This is a perfect opportunity to film the sunrise over the Atlantic. Great shots.
For more teck info and to read our shoot log from our 2019 award winning Milky Way film click the link below.
Clear Skies and tight lines.
JBOTV Nightscape Gear 2020
Cannon 200d/SL2 Toniks 11-16mm, Cannon 50mmPrime, Cannon 24mm Prime, Tammeron 18-200mm, ioptron sky tracker equatorial mount, ioptron ballead, 2 monfrotto tripods.
|Wachapreague Eastern Shore Virginia|