Back at the start of December, I posted about a new bit of software I was using to create long-exposure pictures, usually of star trails. Well, since then, I’ve used it to excess and created the pictures below.
The effect is a bit like HDR in that there is a novelty value to it that soon subsides. But the 6 pictures below show how my understanding of the process (and so photography in general) has improved by learning the technique.
I have mixed feelings about the work that goes into these photos. Each one represents an hour or more of standing in the cold and dark, then another hour or so of processing, but I suppose if you want to catch the movement of the solar system, it’s going to take a bit of patience.
I still like using film (for regular photography, not this stuff) because it is so much more time-efficient. Once the shutter is pressed, that’s it, job done. I can’t look at the back of the camera, make some tweaks to settings and have another go (or 5). Likewise, when the negatives come back from Luke (and in future, always from Luke), the scanned image will be the one I use. No messing about with it.
Anyway Blogfolks, I promise, this will the the final post of this kind of pictures on here…
This was my second attempt, taken in the back yard of our house during the Quadrantids meteor shower
and started at about 4.15am. The star trails part of it is fine, but the foreground obviously needs to be more interesting than next door’s trampoline.
Above the tree to the left of the trampoline is a satellite called Iridium 95
passing 485 miles up and moving at 17,000 miles an hour. The flare that’s visible is the sun reflected in its solar panels. Iridium 29 passed 10 minutes later (just above, but really faint).
This was made from 98 exposures, each of 30 seconds (49 minutes in total).
For my next attempt, I concentrated on that foreground. This meant a trip to our local deer-themed attraction at 4.30am. I decided to go early rather than late, as parking on the hillside car park in the late evenings only attracts two kinds of people, both of which would spoil my evening.
Here there’s 77 minutes of movement but this time pointing south. Just the other side of this hill is the city of Leicester and its light pollution reflected in the clouds to the left of the picture threatening to wreck it…
The flashes to the right, are me passing 77 minutes at -4C. And just to the right of the tower is another Iridium flare.
Next up was the same technique, but a different subject matter.
The picture above is 20 minutes (80 x 15 seconds) of twilight over the A46. The shorter exposures cope with the additional light in the scene. It was still quite light when I began as I wanted to catch the colours in the cold sky.
That star trail to the left is actually the planet Venus – how about that!
OK, nearly done…
I decided next to attempt to get some water into the shot and if I was lucky, reflections of the stars. Unfortunately, it was windy enough to cause waves on the surface of the reservoir at the end of our street and so while I got reflections, there were no stars.
In this shot, I decided to try to embrace the light pollution of Leicester and use the orange glow. This series started at about 7.30pm and I had to abandon it about 45 minutes later as the dew was gathering on my lens.
The Iridium flares in the first two pictures above are visible for only a second or two. The International Space Station on the other hand is usually visible for a full arc across the sky, about 5 minutes.
To assist in satellite spotting, I use the most excellent app
, Sputnik! (their exclamation mark). One of its features is to give you a ten minute warning before a particular satellite will be visible. I was still eating my breakfast when the warning sounded that there was to be a bright pass of the ISS. I grabbed my gear, strapped it to my bike and pedalled out of the village and away from the streetlights that would spoil my view. As I got the camera bolted to the tripod, the space station appeared and I pressed the shutter.
Luckily, the camera settings remained from the last time I had been shooting stars. After 4 thirty second exposures, the space station moved out of shot above me. I picked up the tripod, turned it around and plonked it down and began shooting again. I can’t believe how lucky I was that its arc took it perfectly though the gap in the trees above and off into the sunrise…
OK, last one. And we’re back up Old John again.
This is another 155 exposure (30 seconds each) stack, but this time facing north. This means that the stars appear to rotate around the north star.
This shot was taken in the evening and for the first time I while shooting these pictures, I had some company. Thanks to Iain
, the 77 minutes passed much more quickly… The light on the tower is me running around with my bike light during the first few exposures. If you are going to add this kind of effect to these stacked pictures, it needs to be in the first or last exposures of the sequence. That way, if it doesn’t work out for any reason, you can remove them and not have a gap in the star trails.
So that’s it, my month in star trails. Normal service will now be resumed.
Read more about Starstax here
and see how other people have used it in the Flickr group here