Multi-row Milky Way Panorama - Shooting Workflow

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indigoshrine Forum Member • Posts: 69
Multi-row Milky Way Panorama - Shooting Workflow

Milky Way season is finally starting this year, and with a new season comes a new set of resolutions: getting started with multi-row MW panoramas.

Now, I already got some good starting advice from the experts here and there are also a few threads handling the topic, like these:

While this might be enough for getting the feet wet, I'd like to clarify a couple more points before going out. Due to circumstances I will probably only have about 5-7 nights until October (and that's without taking weather conditions into account), so there is not much room for the whole trial-and-error process. Having a detailed plan on what to do right from the first night would help a lot jumping in at a higher level and avoiding some basic beginner mistakes which might render a complete shooting night worthless. That being said, since it is a complex topic I'd like to focus only on the actual shooting workflow (no planning, panorama rig, post processing …) for now.

Below I summarize my intended shooting workflow which is based on information I gathered from the forum - and would appreciate any comments/corrections/hints.

Gear: I am using a Sony a7iii with 3 lenses (18mm, 50mm, 85mm), but the main lens for the panoramas will be the 50mm (Voigtlander Apo F2.0). Pano rig is not finalized yet, so for now can only use a ballhead. Tripod head supports panning and has a scale, so at least panning can be done by degrees on the scale.

I am using below Milky Way image shot at 18mm (no pano) as reference - it's just an example with a matrix applied to ensure we are talking about the same panels. General consensus here seems to be to shoot in landscape in order to get the horizon line quickly. Also, for this example I assume 4 rows and 4 columns. The pano should be a combination of tracked and stacked shots.

Intended Workflow

  • Polar Alignment, Level Horizon, Composition
  • Starting point: Apparently it doesn't matter or landscape might even be prefered if it's still in the early evening. But since later for the foreground I want to stop the tracker, I would much rather start with the sky so I end with the landscape and don't need to move completely up again --> A1
  • Found an online calculator which recommends pan: 20° / tilt: 13.5° for 16 panels at 50mm with 50% frame overlap and desired output FOV 24mm (84.1°) However, these values are just for reference and probably hard to replicate in the field --> will follow Roger Clark's described method of Pan/tilt movement by simply picking star in viewfinder for orientation - in the future hopefully can utilize a pano rig
  • Settings for sky: ISO 800 @ F2.0 40s tracked x 3 (not sure about the 40s, the non-panos I shot @ISO 800 F2.8 80s with a 18mm lens - for the pano I try not to exceed 120s per panel but wonder if it might be insufficient exposure)
  • Shoot with sky settings from A1 --> A4 --> B4 --> B1 --> C1 --> C4 --> D4 --> D1
  • Now I wonder how to continue with the foreground - my gut feeling would be to just stop the tracker and shoot rows D and C (still some landscape in C) untracked, foreground settings: ISO 400-800 F4.0 240s (only starlight, higher F number for more DoF) x 3 per panel to remove noise/hotpixels due to long exposure
  • However, I read about some different methods. Somewhere it was mentioned to even shoot the whole mosaic a second time just for the foreground, and then merge as 2 separate panoramas in PTGui. I do not understand how for the foreground, it would still be required to shoot the whole scene (including rows without landscape like A/B) again - there might be a benefit that I am missing?

Sorry for the long text. I'd be happy for any feedback, also regarding my intended camera settings. Of course, camera settings depend on many factors and are highly debatable. But just getting a rough reference will already be helpful.

 indigoshrine's gear list:indigoshrine's gear list
Sony a7 III Zeiss Batis 18mm F2.8 Sony FE 85mm F1.8 +1 more
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