Sky Full of Stars - Photographing Star Trails

I took advantage of the clear, moonless skies last night and made my first attempt at photographing star trails.

Sky Full of Stars

It's not a perfect capture, but I'll take it. I learned many things in the process.

  • I made 20 exposures using my 24-70mm lens, my camera mounted on a tripod. Some of the exposure details:
  • 24mm, f/8, ISO 3200, 20 seconds
  • I also used a remote shutter release in an attempt to reduce camera shake, but as you can tell, there is still some blur going on. I enabled the Long Exposure Noise reduction processing on my camera, which sounded like the right thing to do, but resulted in a 30 second delay between exposures. This causes gaps in the stars trails.
  • For Post processing, I combined 19 exposures (I removed one exposure due to an airplane flying low through the sky) in PSE and for each layer, set the blending mode to "Lighten", which allows the brightest parts of each exposure to be seen.
  • I also found software that will stack and process everything for you - StarStaX, making things very easy.
For my next try (possibly soon as the weather cooperates), I will make the following changes:
  • Exposure setting changes - 24mm, f/2.8, 20 seconds and whatever ISO gives me a proper exposure (I'll have to play around with it). The aperture change here is to see if I can get brighter star trails.
  • Turn off the in camera Long Exposure Noise Reduction.
  • Use the interval timer, which will automatically make consecutive images.
  • If possible, I will try for a different time at night to shoot - while it is dark enough at 8pm now, I found there to be a lot of "other stuff going on in the sky" - planes, etc, that interfere with the concentric trails.
Capturing star trails has always been on my "photography bucket list", but I was recently inspired to finally get it done. I found that inspiration in a song. It's all over the popular music airwaves, so maybe you've heard it.


Of course, it's Coldplay's Sky Full of Stars.
'Cause you're a sky, 'cause you're a sky full of stars
I'm gonna give you my heart
'Cause you're a sky, 'cause you're a sky full of stars
'Cause you light up the path

I don't care, go on and tear me apart
I don't care if you do, ooh
'Cause in a sky, 'cause in a sky full of stars
I think I saw you

The song evokes the vastness of the sky and reminds me that we are all connected by the stars. I am looking at the same stars as friends far, far away. We can be so far apart, but still feel a glimmer of closeness. Who do I look for when I stare up at the stars? Family, friends, loved ones. I also feel wonderment and remember that darkness is needed in order for the stars to shine.

I hope you take time tonight to check out your night sky - hopefully it will be clear and full of the same stars I'll be watching.

tinajo  – (September 25, 2014 at 12:38 PM)  

Well done, I think it looks wonderful! :-)

Jennifer @ Running on Lentils  – (September 25, 2014 at 5:02 PM)  

That picture is so cool! It almost doesn't look real. Really nice capture.

Amy at love made my home  – (September 25, 2014 at 5:10 PM)  

It is a beautiful picture Shirley, you are so talented!!! xx

Nicki  – (September 25, 2014 at 7:22 PM)  

This is so cool - I've just now added it to my photo-bucket list. Awesome job!

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