Star Trails

posted by tucker

This is something I never thought I’d attempt, but rumors that the Northern Lights were supposed to be visible tonight had me out on the dock at around 11pm with my camera… and no lights in sight 🙁 there were, however, some great clouds that were partially covering the stars, lit by the lights of far-away East Boothbay, so I decided to kill some time while waiting to see if the Aurora would appear by doing some star trails. This is a technique that requires use of the Bulb mode on the camera, which means that the shutter stays open as long as I have it pressed, and it closes when I release it. I have a wired remote that I attach to the camera that can lock the shutter open, so all I have to do is lock the remote and wait around. This particular exposure was 815 seconds, but I have done some much longer, around 2000 seconds. I find that that just results in more noise and not a huge improvement in the star trails, so I keep it to just over 10 minutes (the exception to this would be if you were in a particularly dark place, with ONLY starlight and no man-made interference… a rare occasion, even for Maine). I did two of these, and I actually like the second one better, but this first one took about 2 hours to clean up in Photoshop after doing the initial HDR processing in Photomatix…. ugh. This is of course a single-shot HDR; it would be nearly impossible to do an actual, 3 shot HDR of a scene like this because you would need to have approximately an hour, and the clouds and stars would have changed so much during that time that it just wouldn’t work. I used the Raw Converter in Photoshop to simulate a +2 and -2 exposure, and then merged those in Photomatix for the HDR that then was processed in Photoshop. I’m quite pleased with the results, and I can’t wait to process the second one!

Single-shot HDR of an 815 second long exposure, resulting in star trails and cool moving clouds.

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