Travel and photography blog Capture the Atlas has released its latest installment of the “Milky Way Photographer of the Year” compilation—an annual collection of 25 photos that highlights some of the best night sky images from around the world.
Unlike some other “contests,” there are no overall winners or runners up for the Milky Way Photographer of the Year. Instead, Capture the Atlas simply selects and highlights 25 of the best Milky Way photographs from around the world.
This year’s photos highlight image makers of 14 different nationalities, with selections appearing from countries as diverse as Namibia, New Zealand, Chile, Australia, and Antarctica. Each photo is selected for “the quality of the image, the story behind the shot, and overall the inspiration that the photograph can draw [out of the viewer].”
Scroll down to see 15 of the stunning selections from this year’s crop:
“A Night at the Caves” – Sam Sciluna
Location: “Ta Marija” Cave, Malta
Caption: I wanted to capture the core of the Milky Way over the entrance to ‘Ta Marija’ cave for years. I tried it several times previously, but I was unable to capture an image I was happy with. Last July, I headed back with a friend of mine to try to get a better shot, and finally make this dream a reality.
“Alien Eggs” – Debbie Heyer
Location: Badlands of New Mexico, USA
Caption: The Badlands of New Mexico are otherworldly and mysterious. They resemble an alien planet. If you don’t believe in aliens, you will after seeing this place. This is not an easy terrain to navigate, and it is very easy to get lost. Luckily, my friends knew the area well, and we could enjoy this photographer’s paradise of endless compositions that blew my mind!
This was shot last October on a two-week photo tour with friends through the Southwest. It was the best way to end the Milky Way season.
“Alone _ Together in the Stardust” – Marco Carotenuto
Location: The Sahara Desert
Caption: Describing this place in words or pictures is not easy because there are many emotions you can feel spending a night in the heart of the desert. Staying in the middle of nowhere hundreds of miles away from civilization and with no electricity, cellular network, or water, certainly puts you to the test. Shooting with your group, you can feel the emotion of sharing moments of humanity, even with those who you don’t know, being present, and forgetting about the daily routine.
“Base Camp” – Giulio Cobianchi
Location: Dolomites, Italy
Caption: I love shooting the Milky Way throughout all 12 months of the year. I must admit that during the winter season, it fascinates me even more, probably because the Milky Way has cooler colors that combine perfectly with the snow, and also because shooting under these conditions is much more challenging.
“Deadvlei” – Stefan Liebermann
Location: Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia
Caption: The trees in Deadvlei have been dead for over 500 years. Located in Namib-Naukluft Park in Namibia, these saplings grew after local rivers flooded because of severe rainfalls, but died after the sand dunes shifted to section off the river.
High above and far in the distance, the band of our Milky Way galaxy forms an arch over a large stalk in this night panorama image.
“Desert Nights” – Peter Zelinka
Location: Alabama Hills, California, USA
Caption: When I’m traveling through California, I always make sure to stop by the Alabama Hills. This is one of the most iconic locations in the western USA, with its incredible snow-capped Sierra Mountains, unique rock formations, and dusty roads.
In June, I spent a few nights camping in the desert beneath the stars. Once the Milky Way was shining brightly overhead, I wandered through the brush and found this unique arch.
“Double Arch” – Pablo Ruiz García
Location: Picos de Europa, Spain
Caption: This spectacular arch-shaped rock formation is located in “La Hermida” gorge, in the Picos de Europa mountain range in Spain.
At first, my initial idea was to capture the galactic center inside the arch, but finally, I decided to shoot the two arches overlapped at this time of the year (late spring) when the Milky Way is still not too high in the sky.
“Elemental” – Miles Morgan
Location: Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii, USA
Caption: During my trip to Hawaii, we were typically up around 2:30 am, and playing all day and well past sunset out on the lava flows. On this particular evening, after shooting the sunset, we checked Stargazer and saw that around 3-4 am, many of the planetary elements would be aligning around the plume at the Halema’uma’u crater.
Even though the skies were covered during most of the night, we happened to be at the right time to capture the lava and the Milky Way.
“Enchanted Monastery” – Ramón Morcillo
Location: Ávila, Spain
Caption: The idea of shooting an old monastery under the Milky Way in the Spanish mountains was just hanging around my head for months.
I was fascinated by the idea of planning this image; having the Milky Way arch above the ancient and lonely bell tower. The monastery was an Augustinian convent founded in 1504 and called the “Monastery of Our Lady of the Crag.” A few hundred miles drive followed by a long walk and a challenging climb and bushwhack ended in this beautiful and magical place where I could capture our galaxy arch.
“Good Night Utah” – Julio Castro
Location: Kanab, Utah, USA
Caption: After visiting this location in 2017, it became my personal obsession to take a photo there, mainly because I couldn’t take any night shots since the place was very remote.
In May, I decided to go back and try to take the photo I had in mind. After a very cloudy night, just before dawn, the sky opened up, and a spectacular starry sky gave me the opportunity to take this picture with the arch of the Milky Way above the “wave” of rock that seems to surround the two hills, creating an almost perfect circle and allowing me to get the photo I had dreamed of.
“Gran Firmamento” – Jorgelina Alvarez
Location: Marambio Base, Antarctica
Caption: This was a very special night full of emotions that I tried to capture in this photograph. Planets like Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars, always attract my attention. The galactic center was about to hide, among thousands of other stars in composition with the snowy Antarctic landscape.
“Heavenly Throne” – Ryan Smith
Location: Southwest USA
Caption: I took this picture with the Canon EOS Ra; a mirrorless astrophotography camera that has a built-in infrared-cutting filter (positioned immediately in front of the CMOS imaging sensor), which permits approximately 4x as much transmission of hydrogen-alpha rays vs. standard digital cameras.
This allows the camera to capture more details of the night sky and the Milky Way, and really makes a difference in astrophotography.
“Milky Way over Parque Nacional del Teide” – Mehmet Ergün
Location: Tenerife, Spain
Caption: This photo was taken on one of my favorite islands: Tenerife. This is an island with unlimited possibilities, where you can enjoy nature in all its glory. In particular, the night sky over Tenerife is renowned worldwide for its excellent conditions for stargazing and astrophotography.
“Nightmare” – Michael Goh
Location: Dumbleyung Lake, Australia
Caption: Dumbleyung Lake is a salt lake located in western Australia. The lake is surrounded by hundreds of trees that have died due to the salt levels, and, on a calm night, all the stars reflect off the water.
For this image, the dead trees gave me the idea of capturing them clawing up at the sky – the fish-eye panorama turned out better than expected, as the trees almost looked like tentacles. The location is very dark, so with no moonlight available, I used my self-portrait style with the figure holding the light (now a bit clichéd) to create more depth in the image as a solitary figure standing amongst the dead trees.
“Winter Milky Way” – Dr. Nicholas Roemmelt
Location: Marmolada, Dolomites, Italy
Caption: Although the Milky Way during the winter and early spring is often ignored in Astro-landscape photography, I really love the bright stars (some of the brightest of the night sky), colorful constellations, and fainter elements of this part of our galaxy when the galactic core is beneath the horizon.
To see all 25 of this year’s winners, head over to Capture the Atlas. And if you’re interested in getting into Milky Way photography for yourself, have a poke around their blog—there are some really valuable resources there, like this guide to photographing the Milky Way, and this helpful Milky Way calendar we shared with you earlier in the year.
Image credits: All photos credited individually, used courtesy of Capture the Atlas.