Milky Way, night sky, and near-sunrise photos taken at the following dark sky locations:
Mauna Kea, Big Island, Hawaii, USA
El Nido, Palawan, Philippines
Apulit Island, Taytay, Palawan, Philippines
Dagupan, Pangasinan, Philippines
The write-up below pertains to the first three photos of this gallery. Please be guided accordingly.
A Tale of Three Milky Way Photos Part One: "Spoon-fed, from a Silver Platter"
Dark sky location, check.
Above cloud cover, check. (9,300 ft above sea level!)
Low humidity, check.
Good weather, check.
Away from artificial light with virtually zero light pollution... Check. Even with a bright quarter moon, you still have a fighting chance - definitely the right place to shoot a Milky Way. In fact, this is one of the best places in the world to do this. You just have to be there at the right time to shoot the Milky Way's Galactic Center: that insanely picturesque and ethereally beautiful cloudy cluster of red giant stars. And being there at the right time without planning for it? That's a God-orchestrated "qarah" moment.
A Tale of Three Milky Way Photos Part Two: "Same-same👋🏽, but different ✋🏽. But still same.👇🏽" [Yes. With James Franco's hand gestures.]
This is still the Milky Way, it's just not the Galactic Center. You have a bigger chance of photographing this, the Milky Way's fringes. Although not as head-turning as it's red-orange section, it will still leave you in Abrahamic awe.
It's not about the shooting conditions. It's about chance and probability. If you can't see the Galactic Center, it just might be literally "under your feet", but on the other side of the planet, just there in someone else's sky, outshine by good ole' daylight. I've tried shooting the Milky Way a couple of times already in other dark sky locations - in Europe, Batanes and in El Nido's outlying islands - and it's usually just this - the fringes. There are instances wherein the Galactic Center will come up at the wee hours of the morning; SkyGuide (iOS) lets me know exactly when and which part of the night sky. It's just not practical to wake up my clients at 3AM, the day before their wedding, just to catch the Galactic Center. Interestingly enough, the times when I was able to do so, were done in very (very!) convenient times.
A Tale of Three Milky Way Photos Part Three: "The Beautiful Anomaly"
Dark sky location? Not quite.
Above cloud cover? Nope.
Low humidity? Haha! No.
Good weather? A big No. It's rainy season in the Philippines and just a few hours earlier that day, the weather was really bad - like "postpone the wedding/shift to Plan B/let's just do it indoors" bad. It should have been "Partly Cloudy" according to my Weather App; even a thin layer of clouds would have made this shot impossible.
Away from artificial light with virtually zero light pollution... Nope. I tried this in El Nido town in the middle of summer. Even with a clear, cloudless sky, the lights from the town and the different resorts just drowned out the smaller stars.
So putting things in context leads us to a backstory that's quite interesting: Bad weather earlier that day. Awfully cloudy the past few days. Under such circumstances, you wouldn't even attempt to do a Milky Way shot. I didn't even bother to look at SkyGuide (an iOS app). As I've mentioned in Part Two, there's a very small chance of shooting the Galactic Center (this one). If not for a Latvian wedding tradition that led us to a dark corner of the beach, I wouldn't have seen the unexpected: a clear, cloudless night sky, with the Milky Way's Galactic Center visible to the naked eye - something that you would only be able to experience in near-perfect conditions (see Part One). I don't believe in luck. Luck disregards the hand of a loving God.