Photograph the Milky Way at Loveland Pass

Originally added by Ben Beyers

With 360-degree views of the surrounding peaks under clear skies full of stars, this may be the best place to photograph the Milky Way that is only an hour drive from Denver.

Loveland Pass is often very busy during the winter as people move through the pass to access the nearby ski areas and just as popular for tourists admiring the beauty of the continental divide in the summer. It is also the start of some great hiking trails like the Mount Sniktau Trail

However, after night falls here it seems to become deserted except for the occasional semi-truck passing through. Unfortunately, at night people miss the crystal clear sky full of stars and the Milky Way to the south. 

The best time to go shoot the Milky Way at Loveland Pass is definitely during the summer. This yields the clearest view of the stars and also the best temperatures. Daytime temperatures are usually very nice in the 60-70's. However, even in the middle of summer, you can expect the temps to drop down into the 30 to 40-degree range at night. Make sure you dress warm and prepare for occasional strong winds that may make it even colder. 

If you're planning on shooting the Milky Way, make sure to check when the best visibility will be. It's usually anywhere from 10PM to 4AM. I recommend the app Photopills to get all that info and even help you with choosing the right exposure depending on your camera and lens. Also, remember to take the current cloud cover and the moon's position in the sky into consideration as these can obstruct views of the Milky Way. 

When it comes to camera gear, most DSLRs and lenses will work fine as long as you have your tripod to keep the camera from shaking. The more important part is figuring out your settings. Always use the lowest f-stop possible and select a shutter speed that freezes the stars in place instead of allowing them to create star trails. If you need a brighter exposure, start increasing your ISO as needed. There are also plenty of videos on YouTube that go into more detail with camera settings and editing techniques. 

Happy shooting!

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