Rustic Lens
Stars over Payette Lake, McCall Idaho

Milky Way Over Payette Lake – McCall Idaho

So I got this crazy idea to capture the Milky Way over Payette lake. I thought it would be really cool to get a reflection of the stars in the water with the beautiful mountains in the background. What happened next is unbelievable. Not really, I just hate those blog posts that lure you in like that so I thought I would be sarcastic. Sorry. This was a lot harder to accomplish than I thought it would be though.  I first planned to stop on my way to Boise well over a month ago, but the weather did not cooperate and it was overcast. I was bummed and kept watching the weather reports to see when the next opportunity would be. I was again thwarted on another business trip to Boise a couple of weeks later. Then I got serious and when I saw the chance to see some stars on a Monday night, I took it. I jumped in my pickup and a couple hours later I had found a pullout along the Warren Wagon Road that had a nice view from the bank.  I had dinner, read a magazine, relaxed, texted with my wife and finally took a nap. About midnight I went down to the water and set up for the shot. Here’s the shot I took at that time.

stars over the lake
Settings: ISO 6400, 25 seconds at F2.8

There was no moon so it was nice and dark. If I hadn’t worked that day I think I would have done another longer exposure to get more detail in the foreground, but I was tired and lazy. After experimenting with different angles and exposures I set up the time-lapse app on my Sony a7rII and went back to my pickup for another nap. Around 2am I woke up and went down to the camera. This is the time-lapse.

I wish I would have let it go for another hour before stopping it. Lesson learned for next time. I took a few more shots before taking off and driving home, sleeping a couple hours and going back to work. I was a little tired that day.



milky way over the lake
Settings: ISO 10,000, 25 seconds at F2.8 I clicked my flashlight on and off very quickly to light the log and rock.

Over all, I like the shots I got and I learned a little more about astro photography. While talking with my fellow Arcanum cohort Tony Curado , he told me about a star tracker device that you mount your camera to and you can take longer exposures while the device moves your camera with the rotation of the Earth. I am considering getting one. Here’s a link to it Vixen Optics 35505 Polarie Star Tracker (White) . The Sony mirrorless cameras have an amazing dynamic range and unbelievable ISO range. I have the Sony a7R II Full-Frame Mirrorless  camera and I love it, but the real star in low light photography is the Sony Alpha a7S Mirrorless Digital Camera . If your interested in doing astro-photography, a wide angle fast lens is a must. I found a reasonably priced and nice quality Rokinon FE14M-E 14mm F2.8 Ultra Wide Lens for Sony E-mount. Tony also recommended Micheal Shainblum for his great star photography tutorials on his site.

There were a few lake houses over to my left that get to enjoy this view all the time.

houses on the lake at night

Thanks for reading! Please comment and share below!

Evan Jones

I am a landscape and travel photographer who is drawn to old and rusty stuff as well as beautiful landscapes. I like to explore the backroads of the Northwest United States and anywhere else I can get to. My blog is at

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