Tutorial: Motion Timelapse of the Milky Way with the Dynamic Perception Stage One and Stage R

This tutorial will take you through the entire process of shooting a professional motion timelapse of the Milky Way, from planning to settings, shooting, processing in Lightroom and compiling in After Effects.

After learning how to photograph the Milky Way, learning to shoot timelapse is the logical next step. Astrophotography is already a slow and patient form of photography: we use super slow shutter speeds, and planning for a shoot is a careful and selective process. If you’re looking for a new way to use your astrophotography, timelapse is a great challenge, and the results can be breathtaking.

It’s an amazing thing to be able to see the the slow and elegant motions of the night sky and watch the galaxy progress across it. It’s an even more amazing feeling to capture it on your camera and share the results with others. I hope this video will help all of you just getting started with timelapse of the night sky and make it as easy as possible to understand.

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To get started with timelapse, all you need is an intervalometer (B&H / Amazon) that’s compatible with your camera. For a more advanced technique that yields more spectacular results, a motion control rig slider can add a lot of depth to the timelapse.

For the video above, we paired up with Dynamic Perception to bring you a concise yet detailed overview of all the steps necessary to shoot a complete motion controlled timelapse of the Milky Way. We used a 2 axis combination with their linear motion slider, the Stage One, and their rotary axis, the Stage R. Both of these tools are perfect for making timelapse of the Milky Way because the Stage One gives use side to side motion and the Stage R lets us perfectly track the Milky Way as the earth rotates.

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The Dynamic Perception Stage One and Stage R Timelapse Rig

Even if you don’t have one of Dynamic Perception’s amazing timelapse rigs, the video above walks you through each step of shooting timelapse of the Milky Way including the basics of making a great exposure of the Milky Way, so you can get started with just your tripod.

I would love your feedback on the video and to see if any of you have questions about shooting timelapse. We will be writing a lot more about astro-timelapses in the future, so let us know what you want to see!

About the Video

Equipment:

Here’s a list of the following equipment used in the making of this video. Most of the filming was made with the a7S and the 40mm while the a6000 stood in as the demonstration camera. It is shown fitted with the Rokinon 24mm f/1.4.

Locations:

  • Reno, Nevada
  • Mt. Shasta, California
  • Death Valley National Park, California
  • Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

Thanks to:

Jay Burlage of Dynamic Perception for providing the Stage One and all accessories for the creation of this video.

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Believe it or not, Lonely Speck is a full-time job. It’s been an amazing experience for us to see a community develop around learning astrophotography and we’re so happy to be a small part of it. I have learned that amazing things happen when you ask for help so remember that we are always here for you. If you have any questions about photography or just want to share a story, contact us! If you find the articles here helpful, consider helping us out with a donation.

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Thanks so much for being a part of our astrophotography adventure.

-Ian

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Ian Norman

Creator at Lonely Speck
Ian Norman, co-founder and creator of The Photon Collective and Lonely Speck. Ian is a full time traveler, photographer and entrepreneur. In February 2013, he called it quits on his 9-to-5 to pursue a lifestyle of photography. Follow Ian's photography adventures on Instagram.

39 Responses

  1. Tommy July 16, 2016 / 5:34 am

    Ian – Outstanding tutorial, very informative and helped me with the camera settings to start with. You mentioned DarkSkyFinder which is a nice tool to find dark sites. To help me schedule my photo sessions, I use cleardarksky.com, it has the light pollution map that’s used for darkskyfinder, but it also has a wide range of seeing conditions, broken down hour by hour for the area you are in. I know you can only put so much info in a tutorial, just wanted to share this with you and the other viewers. Cheers!

  2. Keith Liew November 1, 2015 / 8:40 pm

    Hi Ian, very good & knowledgeable tutorial you have there. For milky way time-lapse, if you would like to see the movement of the milky way from east to west, what is the duration for all those shot? 3 hr or more? What is the interval between each images? Thank you!

  3. Allen April 24, 2015 / 2:28 pm

    I was wondering if you have looked at the NMX module from dynamic perception. I’m not sure, but it seems like it is a digital version of the MX3 with smartphone capabilities. Is there any advantage of the NMX system other than the smartphone capabilities?

  4. Mark April 15, 2015 / 3:09 pm

    can the dynamic perception setup be used to capture star trails?

  5. Frank Artmont April 1, 2015 / 7:21 am

    Hey Ian,

    Can I ask how you shot the 10 second time lapse right in the beginning of the tutorial? The transition from twilight to night is something I’ve been playing around with but haven’t gotten great results yet. How do you determine the proper exposure for the Milky Way without doing a test shot in the same conditions, and how is the exposure modified from the beginning to the end, aperture priority?

    Thanks,
    Frank

  6. Matin March 26, 2015 / 11:37 am

    Hi,

    After you recommended i got the sellarium for android, i tried but i couldn’t find the milky way, could you please make a short video about it or explain to us how we can find it …

    Thanks in advance

    Best,
    Matin

  7. Kaj March 9, 2015 / 10:47 pm

    Hi Ian, what battery system to you use with Dynamic perception? BTW great tutorial.

    • Ian Norman March 10, 2015 / 6:22 am

      I have a couple of the Dynamic Perception branded batteries but I also have an Anker branded 20000 mAh 12V/9V + USB Lithium Ion Battery. There are a few options available on Amazon.

  8. Josh December 11, 2014 / 12:28 am

    Hi Ian, thanks for this amazing tutorial (and everything else on this great website). Really helpful as I am about to go on a holiday to dark sky sites in New Zealand with a new DSLR and diy timelapse dolly. Any tips on taking astrophotos on Canon crop sensors (70D)? Cheers, keep all this awesome stuff up!

    • Ian Norman December 21, 2014 / 11:07 pm

      Everything translates pretty much directly regardless of your sensor size. Faster lenses are always a huge help. Anything specific you want answered?

  9. Grant November 25, 2014 / 7:37 pm

    I just finished your **very** well crafted and presented tutorial and want to say THANKS for your work. Very nicely done indeed.

  10. Maeva November 18, 2014 / 8:21 pm

    That is an awesome and very descriptive tutorial! finally someone that goes from start to finish!
    Love the set up. Can you set up the rig on tripods if you want?

    • Ian Norman November 20, 2014 / 1:26 am

      Maeva, thanks! And yes, the Stage One can mount directly to tripods in various ways to support shooting higher up off the ground.

  11. Mike Hendren November 18, 2014 / 12:01 pm

    Great tutorial, Ian, and thank you so much for all the time and effort you put into these … we really appreciate it. You’re getting me very interested in astrophotography with all you’ve done here, so keep it coming.
    Mike

    • Ian Norman November 20, 2014 / 1:36 am

      Thanks Mike!

  12. Steve Bain November 16, 2014 / 3:13 am

    G’day Ian
    hey, I know that by using the affiliate links you are only trying to make a buck
    But considering this tutorial is aimed at those learning astrophotography, how about keeping the hardware prices down or, at least, offer an alternative such as a purpose-built tool like the Vixen Polarie for less than $500?

    • Ian Norman November 16, 2014 / 4:51 pm

      I knew a lot of viewers would not yet have a timelapse rig so I still tried to gear the tutorial such that it still applied to those without the gear. In my experience the Vixen Polarie is also a good tool but just like the Stage R alone, it’s just a single axis and prices for either rig are comparable. Adding a slider is, of course, more money in either case. The DP setup is a little more geared toward pure timelapse so I think it’s more suitable for this tutorial.

      Our delivery of tutorials in the past has been a lot more irregular but I’ll probably be making much more videos in the future, including some that use the Polarie.

    • Walter November 17, 2014 / 9:06 am

      I have been following the conversation about the expense of a time-lapse rig with interest. Ian the rig you used was amazing! I did find one alternative, it’s not as sophisticated as the one you showed but with a little “science teacher” or McGiver ingenuity anything is possible. Here is the like if anyone is interested. FYI, I have no stake in the product; I just thought it was interesting.
      http://orderastro.com

    • Ian Norman November 17, 2014 / 1:17 pm

      The Astro is certainly another interesting product. I was surprised when it came out that it would be as expensive as it is. It reminds me of a beefier version of a lot of the various egg timer timelapse mounts.

  13. Simon c. November 15, 2014 / 4:27 pm

    Great tutorial. Good job. What about the controller? I can’t find a link.

  14. rich November 15, 2014 / 2:22 pm

    Absolutely amazing tutorial: Clear, concise and well presented!!! Thanks.

    • Ian Norman November 16, 2014 / 4:51 pm

      Thanks Rich!

  15. Walter November 15, 2014 / 9:22 am

    Another great totorial

    • Ian Norman November 15, 2014 / 10:27 pm

      Thanks Walter!

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