An all-star chal­lenge

A starry sky can be trans­formed into a swirly trail us­ing noth­ing more than a sturdy tri­pod and some clever photo- edit­ing

Amateur Photographer - - Technique Shooting After Dark -

Star-trail pho­tog­ra­phy has be­come in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar in recent years owing to a number of fac­tors. First up is the ac­ces­si­bil­ity to rea­son­ably priced, fast-aper­ture lenses and cam­eras that can per­form at in­creased iSO lev­els. Sec­ond, pho­tog­ra­phy is of­ten trend-led, and im­age-shar­ing sites have seen no end of in­spir­ing star trails plas­tered over so­cial me­dia and im­age-shar­ing web­sites such as Flickr and 500px. in short, star-trail pho­tog­ra­phy is cool.

One of the mis­con­cep­tions about this form of as­tropho­tog­ra­phy is that, like shoot­ing au­ro­ras, you have to de­bunk to a dark-sky area miles away from civil­i­sa­tion to stand any chance of cap­tur­ing a suc­cess­ful frame. Well, the truth is that you can ac­tu­ally shoot a star trail from the com­fort of your back gar­den – all you need is a clear sky, a tri­pod and a slice of tech­nique. Many pho­tog­ra­phers choose to in­clude fore­ground but an­other ap­proach is to make the trail the sole sub­ject in the frame, and even zoom in closer to the sky to cre­ate ab­stract swirls within the im­age.

The prac­ti­cal­i­ties

Wher­ever you shoot star-trail im­ages, some prac­ti­cal­i­ties should be ob­served. Make sure you have a head torch to hand so you can see what you’re do­ing with the cam­era. Place your tri­pod on an area of grass and you’ll be amazed at how the dew will climb from the grass up your tri­pod legs, es­pe­cially on warmer evenings. re­mem­ber as well that you’re go­ing to be locked down to one lo­ca­tion for a while as you cap­ture mul­ti­ple ex­po­sures, so it could pay to take along a flask of tea to keep warm.

there are ac­tu­ally two ways to shoot a star trail. the first in­volves shoot­ing one con­tin­u­ous ex­po­sure with the shut­ter locked open. this isn’t great though as noise can be more of a prob­lem and if you ac­ci­den­tally knock the tri­pod an hour into the ex­po­sure, your picture will be ru­ined. in­stead, shoot­ing mul­ti­ple files, edit­ing one us­ing light­room be­fore sync­ing the ad­just­ments to the rest of the files, and then merg­ing them to­gether us­ing StarS­taX soft­ware is a more com­monly used method.

Star-trail pho­tog­ra­phy is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar; it re­quires com­bin­ing a se­quence of shots taken over an hour

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