Updated: Jul 18
One of the most frequently asked questions that I received is where to photograph the Milky Way? Well, no doubt that finding a good shooting spot for Milky Way can be difficult. The place has to be very dark with at least minor light pollution also preferably with a good foreground subject.
Most people failed to capture Milky Way on their first attempt because they were shooting in a not "dark" enough place. The place has to be far from the city, with at least minor light pollution. (Other possible reasons are taking photos at the wrong timing or pointing the camera in the wrong direction)
Same like all the beginners, I went through the same pain by making the same mistakes, and this is why I decided to write this article, to share a list of photography locations to photograph the Milky Way, to help aid beginners to start somewhere and also to ease my fellow photographers to plan their shooting.
Note that this is the list based on those locations that I have gone to before, and I personally think it is suitable to photograph the Milky Way.
1. Cameron Highland
The first one I decided to start with is my favourite spot in Malaysia, the Cameron Highland. Even though you can get a much clearer night sky at other places with lesser light pollution, still this would be my top pick because the place has one of the most beautiful sceneries in Malaysia. It contains the largest tea growing region in the country, and the view of the countless tea plants that cover the hills is just amazing. Normally I would go for the Sungai Palas Tea Plantation as it has the best viewpoint not only just for the Milky Way but also best for the sunrise and is an ideal location for pre-wedding photography.
The Sungai Palas Tea Plantation has several spots, and I have labelled them on the above map view so that you all can have a clearer picture of where they are.
For spot 1, I don’t have any photo of the Milky Way for this angle (yes, it is possible to photograph the Milky Way here), so I using the photo during the sunrise, just to give you all a better idea about the location and also sharing it is also a good place for sunrise.
GPS Coordinates for Spot 1: 4.515860, 101.405868
Spot 2 is the classic sunrise viewpoint and is now also a popular spot for Milky Way.
GPS Coordinates for Spot 2: 4.517530, 101.406893
From Spot 2, following the route to Mossy Forest, here you will arrive at another shooting location. There’s a big boulder at the side, so just park your car there. However, the place is limited with space. It can only fit around 4~5 people, so is not really recommended to come in a large group.
Lastly, if you further going up, you will see the house in the photo on your right side. It is a house on a vegetable farm. After parking your car at the entrance, you can walk into the farm for the photo. Just be careful not to step on crops.
GPS Coordinates for Spot 4: 4.525724, 101.390234
2. Mersing, Johor
Mersing is one of the best locations for Astrophotography in West Malaysia. In terms of night sky quality, Mersing has lesser light pollution compared to Cameron Highland, which means you can easily get a clearer Milky Way here around the beach area. For accommodation wise, you can either choose to stay at one of the resorts on the beachside or in Mersing town. Travelling from the town to the beach will require a 30 minutes drive, but in exchange, you will have easy access to nearby shop lots in the town and have better food choices too.
GPS Coordinates for Mersing Beach Car Park: 2.603342, 103.781046
Note: the car park is no more accessible now, and the entire place is fenced now. You will have to park your car at the entrance and walk in, which means a longer walk now.
It will require roughly 10 to 15 minutes to walk to reach the Island. You will first reach a mangrove forest and find your first subject there, a lonely tree.
After visiting the place so many times, it was my first time encountering blue tears here. I took the photo in May 2022.
From there, you proceed to walk along the beach until you almost reach the end of the route.
Then, you will have to enter the forest using a hidden trail. The trail is concealed and sometimes a bit tricky to locate as the entrance is covered by bushes and trees.
So, in this case, for the first-timer, I would strongly recommend you to scout the place first during the daytime. Following the trail, you will reach a steep area that requires climbing. There are a few ropes tightened there to ease the climb, and you will see a rocky arch once you climb over. The arch is another shooting location.
From there, if you follow to the right side of the coast, there’s another trail at the end of the beach. Again, another short climb (much safer and less steep compared to the first one) and then you will reach the last beach of the Pulau Mawar. Other than Milky Way, the place is also good for sunrise.
Alternatively, you can also find yourself a foreground subject for the Miky Way at the beach that's not too far from the car park. It can be a person, a tent or anything that's interesting.
I set up a tent there and drew a Malaysia flag using my light painting tool.
3. Mount Kinabalu, Sabah
Compared to West Malaysia, East Malaysia (both Sabah & Sarawak) has more beautiful scenery and a better night sky. On top of that, It also has the highest mountain in Malaysia, Mount Kinabalu, with an altitude of 4,095m in height. The view from the peak of Mount Kinabalu is absolutely breathtaking but taking a photo here is not that easy as you need to hike all the way up there.
#Tips – Remember to check the Milky Way rising time and position using Apps like Stellarium, Starwalk or Starchart. You will have a very limited time before the sunrise for Milky Way once you reach the peak, so timing is crucial.
4. Batu Pahat
Unlike Mersing is on the east coast of Johor state, Batu Pahat is on the west coast, making it a more suitable place for sunset instead of sunrise. The shooting locations are not too far from the town, and there are several spots with different fisherman jetties. However, depending on which spot you going to, some of the routes can be very narrow and not suitable for a big vehicle.
#Tips – It is better to have a local photographer friend to guide you around the place. If not try scouting the place first in the daytime. It can be difficult to find your way in when at night.
GPS Coordinates: 1.746059, 102.989383
Note that the GPS can only bring you to the abandoned house. From there you still have to drive further to the beachside for the fisherman jetty.
5. Kuala Kubu Bahru Dam
For places that are near Kuala Lumpur city, Kuala Kubu Bahru is so far the best location for Milky Way, with only around 45 minutes drive to get there. The photo is taken at the Kuala Kubu Bahru bridge there, but there are also some other possible angles in the dam area for you to explore.
GPS Coordinates: 3.580113, 101.728984
6. Semenyih Dam
Although the place is less ideal due to the light pollution (compared with Kuala Kubu Bahru) but if you already get bored with the Kuala Kubu Bahru dam and wish not to travel that far to places like Cameron Highland and Mersing, Semenyih dam would be your choice. Same as the Kuala Kubu Bahru dam, you can explore the dam area from a different angle of the dam.
GPS Coordinates: 3.097427, 101.895274
7. Tasik Beris
Tasik Beris is located in Kedah state, and it takes around a 2-hour driving distance from Penang island.
This place has only minor light pollution, making it one of the best locations to photograph the Milky Way.
If the weather is clear enough, you can also capture both the Milky Way and its reflection on the lake here.
To find out more about the place, you can check out the shooting vlog video that I created here.
GPS Coordinates for Tasik Beris: 5.929777, 100.771061
That’s all for now. I will keep the list updated when I get more photos from any new location. Happy shooting!
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