Jan 22, 2012

Startrails - Week 4 - Up

My first attempt at doing Startrails, something I never seem to think of doing in the summer.

Basically, startails is done by doing either 1 really long exposure (not recommended) or doing a series of long exposures and then putting them into a single image.  My result is below;

Now like I said, this was my first attempt so I didn't exactly do what I wanted.  The horizontal red lines are actually airplanes that crossed while I was taking the picture.  As I hope everyone here is aware, the stars move around the night sky (well actually it's the earth moving, but you figure it out hahaha).  For the most part the north star doesn't move and can be used as a fixed point in the sky and if you do enough or a long enough exposure you can see the stars rotate around it.

Not my picture but here is an example:

Now my image above was looking into the southern sky and not long enough to see how circular it can become.  To the north of my house is the city of Ottawa and it was showing quite a glow on the horizon so I decided to try first to the south just to see if it would work.  AND IT DID!!!!

BUT......it wasn't a complete success.   The temperature outside was -16c.  That coldness combined with 30 sec exposures one right after the other ended up killing the battery in about 32 minutes, not the desired 60-90 minutes that I wanted.

So how did I do it?  Simple!   You need a tripod, a shutter release cable that has a lock feature (you can get them on e-bay from china for about 3 bucks) and a camera with manual mode.  Set the camera to manual mode.  These settings worked for me - Aperture f2.8, shutter 30 secs, ISO 100.   Focus on something far away so that the lens goes into infinity mode (half press your shutter for the focus).  Then turn off your Auto Focus.  Switch your shooting mode to continuous.  Frame your image with the camera on the tripod - normally you want to the north so you can get the circular pattern or you can do like I did.  Press and lock the remote shutter.   Go inside and have a coffee and watch some TV.   Whenever you want, 20 minutes - 7 hours later, go out and stop the picture taking.

Now your left with a pile of photos, what to do with them?  In my case I shoot RAW format so I had to convert them over to jpg.  The reason I shot RAW is so that I can fix issues with the images before conversion if needed but to date I rarely have to do this, so shooting in jpg is fine.  You could combine all the images (I had 50+) in photoshop, but that is one serious pain.   So a bit of digging around the internet found a really nice piece of shareware called Startrails - http://www.startrails.de/html/software.html

Just load all the images into the program and it creates a single image.  Way to easy and way cool!

Another thing you can do, if you have enough images, is you can make it into a time lapse movie.... a project I plan to try when it's warmer.

There are tons of tutorials around the internet on how to make these cool looking images.   Just google startrails and you'll be all set.

If I get another clear evening this week, and it's a bit warmer, I'll attempt one to the north to get the circular effect.

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