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
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.
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