August 2019 Activity 2: Night Photography at Cuyamaca Lake

Since clouds botched our first attempt for night & Milky Way photography in June, we’re giving it another go at the end of August. Please join the club’s own Duane Bazzel and Mark Ochenduszko for a summer evening photographing the Milky Way at Cuyamaca Lake. Details below.

As usual, this is not a Sierra Club outing. You may join up, leave, participate at your will on the scheduled evening. Please continue reading for the details.


  • Date: Saturday, August 31st, 2019
  • Time: 8:30 p.m. until ??
  • Location: Chambers Park (Boat Dock), North Side of Lake Cuyamaca, Hwy 79
  • Fees: none
  • Carpool (optional- to be arranged individually)
    Suggested meeting location is La Mesa Civic Center Parking Lot, Spring Street, La Mesa, 7:15 p.m.

We will photograph two locations, the boat dock and lake, and then drive to a nearby parking lot and take a short but dark ½ mile hike to the abandoned Boy Scout Camp Hual-Cu-Cuish.

What to Bring

You will need hiking shoes, warm clothing, a headlamp, mini flashlight, water, and snacks. You will also need a tripod, wide angle lens, and a remote control for your camera.

Night Photography Primer

You may find a guide on how to photograph the Milky Way at They also have a free “night photography cheat sheet” for download (in exchange for your email address).

Guide from Duane and Mark

  • Equipment:
    • DSLR with manual and/or bulb setting and ISO up to 6400
    • Wide angle lens (be prepared to shoot between 14-24mm) with aperture of f2.8
    • Tripod
    • Remote shutter release
  • Suggested Technique/Guide:
    • Manual or Bulb mode
    • Use Liveview to focus on stars
    • Use raw data for the maximum latitude in noise reduction, shadow detail and highlight recovery
    • Lens at approx. 16mm, f/2.8, ISO 3200, 20 seconds is a good beginning point
    • Use the Rule of 500s (see below) as an additional guide for exposure time limits for other focal lengths

Rule of 500s

Divide 500 by the focal length of the lens that you’re using to determine the maximum exposure time that is possible without the stars turning into streaks. For example, if you have a 16mm lens on a full frame camera, you will set your shutter speed to 500 / 16mm = 30 seconds.

If you’re using a crop-sensor camera, you must account for the crop factor as well (this is 1.5 for Nikon, Sony, Pentax, Fuji, and 1.6 for Canon). If you’re using a 12mm wide angle lens for crop sensors on a Nikon body, your calculation would be 500 / (12×1.5) = 28 seconds.

Note: if you are using a camera with a high-resolution sensor (crop sensor: 16 megapixels or higher, full frame: 36 megapixels or higher) you may have to adapt this to a “400 rule” to avoid streaking of stars.

Wooden Pier & Milky Way at Cuyamaca Lake, photo (C) Duane Bazzel
Wooden Pier & Milky Way at Cuyamaca Lake, photo (C) Duane Bazzel

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