Photographing Bodie Island Lighthouse and the Milky Way



With a weekend forecast of clear skies and moonless nights, I decided to drive to the Outer Banks and photograph Bodie Island Lighthouse with a Milky Way backdrop.  So I loaded up the car and left home at 1:30 pm last Saturday. Arrived at Nags Head at 5:30 pm and, after a quick dinner, drove to the lighthouse to scout for the evening shoot. By nightfall, I had several shots planned. My favorites from the evening are shown.  The last shot of the series was a 3 1/2 hour star trail image, finishing at 4:00 am. Following a sunrise shot at Jeannette’s Pier, I was on my way home, arriving 22 hours after I had left.

Images only added, for now. Within a week I will add some information on the methods used in obtaining these images.

Bodie Island Lighthouse and Milky Way

Bodie Island Lighthouse, Milky Way and Meteor

Bodie Island Lighthouse, Milky Way, Meteor and Self-Portrait.  The meteor is to the right and just about level with the top of the lighthouse, less than halfway to the edge of the frame.


Bodie Island Lighthouse Milky Way and Fireflies

Bodie Island Lighthouse, Milky Way and Fireflies.  Most of the firefly lights blinked on twice during the 15 second exposures. Several blinked three times.


Bodie Island Lighthouse and Milky Way

Bodie Island Lighthouse and Star Trails

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  1. Peter Stout November 25, 2016 at 4:13 pm #

    Ed that star trails show is excellent! I was going to attempt this tomorrow night, I would love to know how you prevented the light from the lighthouse from flaring out and hiding the whole top of the lighthouse, or how did you edit it out?

    • Ed Erkes April 13, 2017 at 9:38 pm #

      I apologize for not replying to you before now. Unfortunately, I’ve neglected my website for some time and have not added any new posts or even revisited it. Apparently I was also no longer getting notifications when someone posted a comment. I checked out my website today for the first time in months and noticed your comment and question. So… for a late answer to your question: I did the star trails as a series of 4 minute exposures over 3-4 hours. A 4 minute exposure did not flare out the light house. If it had, I would have used a series of shorter exposures, such as 1-2 minute exposures, or adjusted the ISO. The images were combined in photoshop using the “lighten” blend mode. The method can be combined with layer masks to block out excess light from a single image exposure such as, for example, car headlights overexposing the lighthouse in one frame. If you are really interested in night photography, I can recommend the following reference sources. A free source is Kevin Adam’s article: A Comprehensive Guide to Star Trails at Highly recommended (if you only buy one book, I recommend this one) is Collier’s Guide to Night Photography, available as a paperback or an ebook–an excellent resource for beginner to advanced photographers. The most detailed work on night photography is Royce Bair’s Milky Way Nightscapes ebook, however I don’t recommend it for beginners ( but it makes an excellent addition to Collier’s book).
      I hope this helps and I apologize for not replying sooner.

  2. michael April 18, 2017 at 10:19 am #

    what lens were you using to capture these images?
    thanks in advance

    • Ed Erkes April 18, 2017 at 6:36 pm #

      I used two Nikon lenses for the images: a 16-35mm f4 and 24-120 f4. Most of the images were taken with the 16-35. Wide angle lenses are generally best for these images of the night sky since you’re able to include so much of the sky in the frame. I’m thinking of buying a Rokinon 14mm f2.8 to give me an even wider view.

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