Tyler Metcalfe is an associate photo producer and photographer for National Geographic Travel. Follow him on Instagram at @tylermetcalfe.
Bannack State Park is a popular destination for visitors seeking to experience a well-preserved ghost town in Montana, but there is a very good reason it became a ghost town in the first place: The site is located in the middle of the desertlike Beaverhead County and was only temporarily populated after the discovery of gold in the 1860s. Beaverhead County is Montana’s largest county and currently hosts a population of only around 9,000 residents, therefore receiving very little light pollution at night. Because of this, Bannack State Park is an excellent place for star viewing. When I was assigned to shoot at the park to illustrate an upcoming feature on the annual Ghost Walks that take place in the park each October, I knew I wanted to create a photograph featuring the brilliant night sky.
Photo Tip: To photograph the Milky Way on camera, first locate a remote area far from any city lights. In order to capture the details, set your camera on a tripod, manually focus your lens to infinity, and experiment with shooting long exposures of anything from a few seconds to a few minutes long. Setting your lens’s aperture between 2.8 and 5.6 will allow the camera sensor to receive enough light to capture the star details while at the same time retaining sharp quality in any foreground elements within the frame. Finally, set your camera to a high ISO in order to capture the relatively dim light emitted from the stars.
Photographed with a Canon 6D and 24mm 1.4L II lens. Exposure settings: 15 sec, f/2.8, ISO 3200