Through the Viewfinder
And What Alice Found There
On Tuesday night I went up to a quiet lane near Brigsteer and Scout Scar to try out star trail photography. It was a lovely clear night so I took my tripod and set up facing away from the town to minimise light pollution as much as possible. I've tried photographing star trails a few times before, but this was the first time I got some reasonable results! I chose to frame my shot with part of the horizon in to give it some context, then I started shooting a few test shots to get the composition and the settings correct.
Test shot 1 - f/4.5, 10 sec, ISO 3200 (managed to catch a shooting star in this one!)
Test shot 2 - f/4.5, 30 sec, ISO 4000 (on a tripod)
Once I was happy with my composition and camera settings, I began shooting. I set my camera up to do multiple exposures of 9 combined images, each one with a 30 second exposure time. I repeated this 10 times so overall I took 90 pictures, taking me roughly 1 hour in total. Once I was finished I packed up and went home to work on combining all 90 images into one final picture using Photoshop.
Here is the end result:
I am very pleased with my final image - I find it fascinating to see the movement of stars across the sky as it's something we don't notice with the naked eye. The stars have moved quite a distance in the space of just one hour, it makes you wonder how much they move for the duration of the night! I will definitely be doing more of these in the future, but next time I will shoot for at least 2 hours to see how much clearer the trails are!
If you want to give star trail photography a go, here are some things to remember:
1. Always use a tripod! This is essential as you will be shooting at least 30 second exposures so a tripod is an absolute necessity to avoid camera shake.
2. Remember to try and include something in the foreground to give the image context, for example, mountains/buildings/trees.
3. Use manual focus - this might seem quite obvious but auto focus doesn't work in the dark as the camera can't pick up anything to focus on! Focusing manually will take a few goes to get right as it's a case of shooting a 30 sec exposure, then checking the image is sharp, and then adjusting and re-shooting if needed, until you get it right.
4. If you don't have a remote or a cable shutter release for your camera then don't worry - I don't use one! Just remember to set the timer for about 2 seconds so when you release the shutter the camera has time to stabilise again after you press it down, reducing camera shake and producing a clearer picture.
5. Pick a night when the sky is clear! Don't forget to check the weather forecast before you go out as there's nothing more disappointing than travelling out to the middle of nowhere with all your equipment to find it's cloudy and raining by the time you get there!
6. Choose a place away from light pollution if possible. The further away you are from towns and cities, the darker the sky will be meaning you will get better results as the stars will be more visible.
7. Wrap up warm! Shooting star trails needs a lot of time and patience which means spending hours sitting out in the cold, so don't forget to wrap up warm and take someone with you for company! If you plan to stay out for several hours then maybe even take some food or a flask of hot drink with you to keep you going! But remember, the longer you shoot the better your results will be so don't be put off by the cold!
I love photographing the night sky as I've always been intrigued by space and the universe - not knowing exactly what is out there is so exciting! I will give star trail photography another go soon so look out for more posts in the future! If you decide to try it out, leave me a comment to let me know how it goes!