Photographing the Milky Way From an Airplane?

If someone said that you could shoot the milky way right out of a plane window, what would your first thoughts be? Would you say given the right time and location it's possible, or would you say no way without a tripod?

Landscape and adventure photographer Benjamin Jaworskyj recently shared an image of the milky way as viewed from his window seat on a plane. Apparently, the image was very well received and sparked a bit of a debate about whether or not the image was a composite, how much was real versus Photoshop, or if it was even possible to shoot an image like that from a plane. In this video, he breaks down the scene and how the different factors all came together to make the shot possible.

Obviously there are a few things that come to mind right away in order for something like this to even be possible. You need to be in the right location, you need to be able to get steady enough (made easier with camera stabilization), you need low light pollution in the sky (moonlight would be a huge factor that could make this impossible at the wrong time), and you're going to want your camera to perform well at a higher ISO range. I think that it goes to show that given the right circumstances, trial and error, and a general working knowledge of what you're trying to do, cool things like Ben's shot happen.

Have you folks ever tried shooting out of a plane window, either daytime of the landscape and clouds below or the night sky? I know that I typically enjoy the window seat and usually try to remember to at the very least use my cell phone to get some interesting images of the top of the clouds. I've never actually attempted any kind of night sky photography from a plane though; maybe I should try to schedule more flights at night just in case.

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4 Comments

Steven Magner's picture

I appreciate Jaworskyj acknowledging those before him who successfully pulled off the same image, such as Ian Norman back in 2016 (https://petapixel.com/2016/06/23/photographing-milky-way-airplane/). The difference now? This paid advertisement for Sony boasting about the features of a "entry level" full frame camera...

He really should have to be honest. But it wouldn't even surprise me that he doesn't know who Ian Norman is. Really annoying video to be honest. Making it sound like he invented this, even though many photographers have been doing this for years.

I did something similar a few years ago on my 6D, just need steady hands & airspace and something to block the reflections (I used a jacket). Of course nowadays with better camera's the quality will be higher.

Rod Kestel's picture

I have tried but found eliminating reflections really hard. Cute solution using the cushion.

Works really well with jacket as well. You can stuff the jacket underneath the window shade so it'll stay in place.