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I stayed up the other night until 2 a.m. hoping there would be a meteor shower from midnight to 2 a.m., as predicted – no such luck. I did get lots of star trails, though, and had a great time with it. If you have lots of time to spend, take your camera outside and shoot the stars. I usually set up the camera and go in and doing something else and set a timer for the exposure I want. I do different times and settings to experiment until I achieve the image I want.
Star trails are really fun to do. As I live in an area void of street lights, it is quite easy on a clear night to achieve star trails. For these images, I used a 24 mm lens and focused on infinity. Being dark, it is difficult to position the camera for the right composition. If there is a tree in or rocks in the foreground, I will shine a flashlight on the foreground objects so I can get some idea of how to position the camera. That usually works. If it is too dark, then I do a quick test shot to find the right composition.
I do a test shot for about 30 seconds – 1 minute to see if the composition will work. From there I may do diffent exposures depending on how much time I have. They are anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour, normally. Some star trail images can take many hours, but I am usually not that patient.
All you need to photograph star trails is a camera with lens that can do time exposures (put on ‘B’ or Bulb mode), a cable release or lockable shutter release, and a tripod. Make sure that your batteries are fully charged so they will not drain during the exposure. A very important accessory is a sturdy tripod that will not move with the wind which would cause the star trails to be uneven.
You can do short or long trails depending on what you want to achieve artistically. You can also light paint the foreground with a flashlight.
The first image, 3361 was exposed for 18 minutes at 4.5 with ISO 400, 24 mm lens. The above image, 3357, was exposed for 10 minutes at 4.5 with ISO 400, 24mm lens.
This image was exposed for 24 minutes at 4.5, ISO 400, 24 mm lens
If you have never tried star trails, get your gear and start shooting. If you are out camping, that is a great time to shoot the stars as the area will be void of lights except for the stars.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, GET OUT, EXPERIMENT, AND HAVE FUN…