Talman Madsen: Amazing Milky Way Photography (Case Study)

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talman madsen milky way

In this interview, photographer Talman Madsen talks us through how he took this picture above and how he goes about shooting the Milky Way from New Zealand.

How Did You Plan the Shot?

This photograph is a single exposure taken atop Mount Ruapehu in New Zealand’s Central North Island.

A friend and I hiked 4 hours up the mountain to get to this vantage point then waited through the night for the perfect moment when the stars aligned and the clouds had dissipated!

It’s one of my favorites and is a constant reminder of why I love doing what I do.

I planned this shot using the app PhotoPills. I used the app to plan for a night where the moon was absent to maximize the contrast in the sky, therefore, making the stars ‘pop’.

The Sony Camera system has the best dynamic range I’ve ever used allowing me to really push my files in post-processing”

What Equipment Did You Use?

I shot this image on a Sony A7RII with a Zeiss Batis 18mm F2.8 lens on a carbon fiber Sirui Tripod.

This is my go-to setup for astrophotography, the Sony Camera system has the best dynamic range I’ve ever used allowing me to really push my files in post-processing.

They are also extremely lightweight making them perfect for taking to hard to reach places like this!

How Did You Compose the Shot?

Firstly I set up the tent in a place that was going to align perfectly with the Milky Way.

Then I went to sleep and woke up at 3 am when the stars were all aligned with my ‘Million Star Hotel’.

Using my wide-angle lens I got down low to the ground as it was windy and I wanted to reduce camera shake.

I then placed my head torch in my tent facing upwards to illuminate the silhouette and provide a sense of scale to the scene.

I shot this image using the following settings:

  • F/2.8
  • 20 seconds
  • ISO 6400.

These are my go-to settings and allow me to capture enough light to showcase the scene without blowing out any highlights, or creating star trails in the image.

What Post-Processing Did You Do?

I lightly post-processed this image using Lightroom.

The main adjustments were bringing up the shadows, and the whites while adding in some selective contrast to really make the image pop.

I am completely self-taught and developed these techniques through trial and error over many years.

Can You Recommend Any Learning Resources For Other Astrophotographers?

In terms of further learning, the Lonely Speck website has a huge amount of resources that will help people wanting to learn more about astrophotography in a huge way!

talman madsen

About You – Talman Madsen

I’m based in New Zealand and work as a full-time landscape and commercial plus tourism photographer.

In 2017 I released my first book- Talman Madsen, New Zealand.

This 168-page book is my life’s work and contains images from the far reaches of New Zealand – including lots of astrophotography! It’s a must-have for anyone wanting to discover the best places in New Zealand!

You can find more of my work here:

(This interview was first published on May 12, 2018)

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About the Author

Anthony Robinson is the founder and owner of Skies & Scopes, a publication and community focused on amateur astronomy and astrophotography. His work has been featured in publications such as Amateur Astrophotography, Forbes, the Guardian, DIY Photography, PetaPixel, and Digital Camera World - read more.


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