ABOUT THE IMAGE: I've had many people comment that they thought this photo was done with Photoshop. It was, in a way, but not the way they thought. It's not separate elements composited onto a shot of the Milky Way (a "fake" shot), this is our camp exactly as it looked during our Thanksgiving week trip. It would be impossible to properly expose this scene in one frame. It required three frames - it typically requires a 20-30 second exposure for the Milky Way. A long exposure would overexpose the tent, so I shot another frame exposed properly just for the tent, and yet another (actually several until I thought I had a good frame) to light the Jeep. I didn't have my lighting kit, so I used a flashlight to light the Jeep. My Jeep is silver so it doesn't take much to light it and I needed to keep that exposure short, but it's hard to avoid a hot spot when using a flashlight. I then layered the three frames in Photoshop and "masked in" each properly exposed element to get the look I wanted. If I was doing this for a commercial shoot I would've taken more frames of the Jeep so I could really take my time and light all of the Jeep evenly, but this was just a spur-of-the-moment shot done with limited gear. I also used Photoshop to clone out the extension cord running from the tent to an inverter in my Jeep. So yes there is a bit of Photoshop magic, but it's a very real scene. And it's a good example of why I tell beginning photographers that learning to see the light and understand it is the key to moving your photography to the next level. In order to shoot an image like this, you need to pre-visualize the final image and understand how to handle the exposure and lighting for each element in the scene.
I don't usually shoot the Milky Way this time of year. I don't even bother to look for it. The galactic core - the bright and colorful part of the Milky Way- isn't visible in the Northern Hemisphere from November until late February, so it's not nearly as spectacular as it is during the summer. But it still is something to see! My husband joined me on a few Milky Way shoots this summer and picked up a few things, and he was the first to notice it. We didn't have a campfire so there was no ambient light to ruin our night vision, and the moon didn't rise until many hours later. The lights were already strung on the tent (using duct tape!) in hopes of a beautiful desert sunset that never happened. It was an exceptionally clear night, and this is the first time I've noticed the Milky Way in an autumn/winter desert night sky. As soon as we spotted it, I grabbed my camera and and tripod and started shooting. It was just a stroke of luck that the Milky Way happened to be positioned directly behind my tent and Jeep.