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How do I take pics of star trails?

Forums Forums Get Technical Tips & Tricks How do I take pics of star trails?

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 18 total)
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  • #1527
    monsieurstabby
    Participant

    I’ve always admired Soosh’s pics of star trails. How can I do that?

    #20899
    Elsinore
    Keymaster

    You need to be able to do a long (more than 30 seconds) exposure, almost certainly using the bulb feature of your camera. It’s best if you have a remote shutter release to trigger the shutter so you don’t introduce movement blur. You’ll probably want anywhere from 5 or 10 minutes to several hours, but keep in mind that if you’re shooting digital, the longer your exposure, the more noise will be generated. Most cameras try to combat that but doing a second dark frame exposure that takes as long as your original frame took to shoot, so you won’t be able to shoot for twice the amount of time while your camera processes the original photo and the dark frame. I shoot primarily with a 30D, and an exposure of 20-25 minutes wasn’t bad, but that seemed to be the upper limit.

    #20900
    soosh
    Participant

    You can get a bit of streak with a three to five minute exposure. But fifteen to thirty minutes is better for real trails. And yeah, it’s a slow process, because if you screw up one shot, you’ve lost a half-hour or more. I bought about six Chinese batteries for my camera, and that helps, having them to swap out. A 35 minute shot + a 35 minute dark frame at 0? can drain a full battery if you’re not careful.

    You’ll get more stars the more open your aperture is, but at the same time, you’ll get more ambient light with the wider apertures, which can wash out the stars. I only shoot really wide open, like f/1.8, when it’s totally dark outside with no moon. Other times, I’m at anywhere between f/4 and f/8. I mostly shoot at ISO100, but sometimes go up to 200. I use a 20D, and if you nail the exposure on the shot and don’t have to try and stretch it in RAW, noise isn’t too much of a factor. I’ve gotten pretty good at being able to judge what exposure time will suit what light, but that’s taken four years of practice.

    It’s really a trial and error process more than anything else. get a good sturdy tripod, a remote release, and be prepared to spend an inordinate amount of time standing in the dark. I find music on headphones enhances the whole experience greatly. A timer remote is a great investment if you really don’t want to drive yourself crazy. You can get a cheap but totally functional one on ebay from China for under $50.

    #20901
    orionid
    Participant

    get a good sturdy tripod, a remote release,

    While my star trails aren’t quite as good as soosh’s, here’s the way I attack the issue.

    I couldn’t find a timer remote for my nikon (didn’t look too hard) and settled on a much cheaper alternative (that was actually, ummm… enginerded, for doing double exposures). I superglued a 1/4-20 nut to my operating button, and use a strip of nuclear grade duct tape (nuthin’ special, just chloride-free) to hold the button down on bulb setting. I have a small cardboard box with a hole in the bottom just big enough to fit around a 52mm lens and the inner flaps cut slightly smaller to lock the box onto the lens while simultaneously sealing it from rear-entry light leaks. A black T-shirt tied loosely around the lens and flopped over the front of the box serves as shutter mechanism.

    I’m actually planning a couple rediculous time-length f/22 and f/64 shots once the weather gets a bit warmer.



    Here’s a star trail with the box: http://www.buckscorner.com/farktography/mnight/antennas.jpg

    And here’s a double exposure: http://www.buckscorner.com/farktography/inout/ghosthood.jpg

    /This is what happens when you let a redneck from Virginia operate a nuclear reactor whilst trapped in a steel tube underwater for months at a time.
    //Have also attempted to use household appliances to make diamonds.
    ///Got lonsdaleite instead.

    #20902
    staplermofo
    Participant

    Get your camera super drunk.

    #20903
    monsieurstabby
    Participant

    Thanks guys!
    I was wondering what the bulb setting was.

    #20904
    soosh
    Participant

    I highly recommend the Chinese remote releases for bulb exposures. They’re anywhere from 1/10th to half the cost of OEM and have not given me any problems ever. I even closed one in a car door, leaving the control head dangling out above the pavement, and drove over 100 miles like that. the whole thing was encased in a good inch of ice when I stopped. It thawed out and worked fine.

    #20905
    nobigdeal
    Participant

    Man soosh you are tough on your equipment!

    #20906
    soosh
    Participant

    I am that. I have no tolerance for things that can’t take a good thrashing.

    #20907
    orionid
    Participant

    I am that. I have no tolerance for things that can’t take a good thrashing.

    I hope you don’t have any kids running around….. Or at least have a wife that’ll hit back.

    #20908
    soosh
    Participant

    dude, my kids are rugged. this past weekend, the 13 year old had some friends over and they stripped down to boxers and rolled in the snow for the hell of it. it’s hell getting them to wear a coat to school if it’s above 20 degrees…they just want to wear a sweatshirt.

    #20909
    soosh
    Participant

    we fold over in half in the heat, though.

    #20910
    jpatten
    Participant

    And heat counts as what … 80 degrees? 🙂

    #20911
    nobigdeal
    Participant

    And heat counts as what … 80 degrees? 🙂

    32…once water melts so does soosh

    #20912
    geom_00
    Participant

    My camera upper limit on shutter speed is a 60 sec exposeure. I DO have a Canon AE-1 at my disposal…but that requires real film.

    I know that doing this would not allow me to enter my pics in farktography, but is there a way I could combine shots if I wanted a longer star trail?

    I have always wanted to try this.

    Thanks.

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