Over the past few months I've been spending a lot time researching and practicing the art of taking photos of the Milky Way. There have been a lot of hiccups and trust me when I say that nothing is worse then coming home to edit your shots and realizing that they're all out of focus. Hopefully my missteps can and knowledge gained through idiocy can help others not make similar mistakes.
Do: Check the conditions
Obviously it's hard to take shots of the Milky Way if it's cloudy out so always check the weather before packing up all your gear. It's also important to check if the milky way core will even be visible, and if the moon will be too bright to get your shot. I use an app called PlanIt! for Photographers Pro to check position of the milky way core, moon, and plan my optimal shot so I'm always prepared
Don't: Forget your coat
More than once I've been prevented from getting my optimal shot while out backpacking because I underestimated how cold I would be deep into the night. Especially when working in the mountains remember that the temperature drop can be significant! Bring warm clothes, blankets, whatever you can muster to try and keep warm to take your shots.
Do: Know your settings
The first time I really got out there I realized I only had a slight idea of what settings to use and ended up missing the best shot because of it. With experience you can begin to tinker with settings but to start I found the calculator at lonely speck to be extremely useful.
Don't: Crank your focus all the way over
Above I alluded to one of my most painful experiences in photography, when I didn't realize my shots were out of focus. Before I really understood my lens I assumed if I just cranked the focus all the way over on the infinite side that the stars would be in focus. Moral of the story is that this assumption is incorrect, and you need to make sure that the infinity indicator is dead center.
Do: Check your shots carefully!
Messing up is easy when it comes to shots of stars. A photo can easily look sharp on the display window but actually have some real focus problems. Don't be like me, check your shots and save yourself some agony.