I’ve wanted to learn star trails for a long time.
Some of the ones I’ve seen on Flickr are simply amazing. With this week’s theme in The HooHaa 52 being stars, I thought it was the perfect time to challenge myself and go for it.
Earlier this week when coming home from a softball game, the skies were clear, dark and amazing. So I stopped at the top of Meridale Mountain and set up the tripod, hoping to see if I could figure something out. I stayed for a while, took a few shots and realized I vastly underrated how hard star trails are.
So, back to the drawing board.
Knowing the weather going into the weekend wasn’t being looked at as perfect for star trails, I aimed for Wednesday or Thursday, which would follow another softball game.
Wednesday got washed out.
Alas, despite clouds throughout the day Thursday, things cleared up to allow me a second go at these things Thursday.
I was more prepared this time as I went and researched star trails a bit more online and had an idea of what I did wrong the first time (exposure, lens setting, exposure time etc.)
Earlier in the week, my attempt was awful. With not setting my camera to “infinity,” I got nothing but a blur. And with only going for a short amount of tiI didn’t even get any blurred star trails!
Back to figuring things out, I guess!
After looking at many star trails photos on Flickr and reading about techniques in other places, I realized a few things:
- I needed something in the foreground to attempt to focus on.
- I needed to set the camera at infinity.
- For a single exposure, I was looking at a 20- to 30-minute exposure, at least.
Enter Fitch’s Bridge.
I’m a nut when it comes to photographing covered bridges. But I’ve wanted to come up with other ways of shooting them, so this was the perfect example. Fitch’s Bridge is outside the village of Delhi, so it would be dark, for the most part. I just needed to hope against cars and houses with flood lights (which killed my final of three shots of the bridge).
This was my first attempt:
I like this, but I wanted to get more of the bridge. My second attempt is the one at the top of this post.I like that one because of the streaking car lights coming through the bridge.
I still need to get better focus on the foreground object, I think. And I need to find a place where I think I can get a good foreground object and a solid, dark backdrop for the stars. I have a few ideas that I plan on trying out.
Too, I need to be better prepared to light up the foreground object so I can focus. A large flashlight or floodlight so my camera can see the object would be best. Maybe even setting my car up to point at the object, get everything set, turn all the lights out and then let the image go.
I’ve seen some things about taking 100 or so images of 30-second exposures and stacking them. It sounds like a cool way to do this, but I wonder how it works considering if I tried a 30-second exposure, I get nothing but darkness. If anyone has any thoughts on this, I would appreciate it.
Star trails are wild, that’s for sure. It’s actually one of my Day Zero goals. But until I get an image that really wows me, I won’t check it off yet.
It’s a challenging image, that’s for sure. But I think, when done right, it’s totally worth the wait.
Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog [at] gmail.com.
Good stuff man. I am going to have to try this sometime. I know of a couple of good spots out in the middle of nowhere with an awesome view of DuBois off in the distance.
You ever take any pics of lightning? I have a couple but they are not the best.
I took one of dowtown from up top of a hill and the light art that I got from it was neat. Sometime I wanna redo it though. Keep me posted on this.
Simply amazing man! I do have large spot lights that you are welcome to use anytime. Not sure if they would last 30-45 minutes on one charge though.
Chuck — Never have done lightning. It’s something I’d like to do. I have an idea of what to do, just haven’t been in a good spot when there are good storms!
Tom – Wouldn’t need them to last. The idea of them would be so I could focus in on something, then they would be turned off as they wouldn’t be needed until the next shot!
Wow! I’ve seen photos of star trails in National Geographic and other outdoors / travel magazines with a high photo content, but never knew the name of the technique before. Next time our oldest son complains that he’s bored, I’ll suggest that he take some time to do some research on the topic. I figure the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend (early October) would be a perfect time for him to try this out.
Really like these shots. Might have to try this out sometime.