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Learn By Doing Photography

How to take pictures of Star Trails – Learn by Doing

Assignment #38 – Take a picture of a star trail


This picture was taken using the kit 18-55mm lens on my Canon 60D (45 minute exposure – F/4 – WB = Tungsten)
I am extremely excited about this week’s assignment! Last week two amazing things happened! First my grandma flew up from California to spend time with with my parents in Bigfork. Which of course is where my family and I are trying to spend all our time as well. Secondly I got the spent a night with my husband star gazing. When everyone was asleep one night we walked to a clearing in the trees by my parents house (they live out of town) There were no lights around us at all, completely dark. I can’t remember the last time I saw so many stars at night.

First I set up the tripod and took a quick test picture. Cranking up the ISO to 6400, fully opened on the aperture and took a a test shot for just a couple minutes. I wasn’t sure how the first picture would turn out, but I was pretty sure it was going to be just a black picture since it was such a dark night! But to my surprise it wasn’t you could see the trees and stars….

A couple things I learned:

  • Know how to manually focus to infinity before you are standing in the dark and can’t see anything. Auto focus won’t help you much in the dark so you will want to be on manual focus.
  • If you want the North star to be your center point make sure you know how to locate the North star
  • How to find the North Star – If you’re visual here is a YouTube Video Arma 2 – Northern Star or try this link – how to find the north star.
  • Take a test shot with your ISO as high as it will go, wide open on the aperture so you can see your composition. Just try it for a few minutes,you should have enough light to see some stars and trees. That way you can change your composition quickly instead of waiting 30 minutes to see what your picture will look like.
  • If you want to see how long your star trails will beĀ  try picking one star to follow. Find a star close to the top of a tree or something and watch it. If it looks like it moved about 1 inch then your star trail will be about an inch. (The stars look like they’re moving counter clockwise even though we’re moving)
  • Shoot in RAW so you can play with the different White Balances, Tungsten I think comes out pretty awesome!
  • Prepare for the weather, bring something comfortable to lay on.
  • Bring a flash light

What you will need:

  • Tripod
  • Cable Release
  • Depending on your light about 30-45 minutes of time for one picture

Here is a video I foundĀ  – Robert Zimiga talks about his experience photographing star trails:

Remember you can post your pictures at the bottom of this post or on DigitalCamFan FaceBook wall. If you have questions about “Learn By Doing” Please refer to the guideline page. If you have no questions post away!

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2 Responses to “How to take pictures of Star Trails – Learn by Doing”

  1. Fantastic Amy, Love it & will try it. I am calling you because it will be fun to tell you that I thought it was just cool. Good job & fun.

    Posted by Bonnie Donovan | August 27, 2012, 10:14 pm
  2. Ah thanks! It was fun to take…. You will have to try it!

    Posted by admin | August 28, 2012, 6:16 pm

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