Star Trails CC and seeking advice for tonight's attempt


No longer a newbie, moving up!
Nov 27, 2012
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Toronto, Ontario, Canada
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Hi guys. I'm currently enjoying the next few days at the cottage and the weather here is great. No humidity, warm weather and clear skies. With no city lighting around it creates a perfect setting for capturing some star trails. Yesterday I carefully picked a spot which I thought would work well for creating a pleasant photo and although I'm not totally displeased with the results what bothers me is that the star trails themselves don't stand out as much as I see they do in some other photos taken by others. This photo was taken on the edge of my cottage property. I was pointing at a neighbour's property which was surrounded with trees and all his cottage lighting was off with the exception of a mild driveway green light which I thought would add some interest to the photo. As for composition, I wanted the bottom of the photo to show the green light and I wanted slightly less than half of the image to show the irregular tree line with the rest of the photo left for star trails. I also composed the photo such that the centre of the star trail rotation would sit within the upper right frame of the photo just at the tip of the tree line. As for technical aspects, I shot at 18mm, F/8, ISO 100 and the exposure time was about 15 minutes. With respect to the star trails not being so pronounced, would it have helped if I found a spot with absolutely no artificial lighting around and exposed for longer, say half an hour? Also, I am always paranoid of negatively impacting my sensor by exposing for more than 15 minutes. Is it safe for me to expose for say 40 mins at a time? Lastly, what techniques can I employ in post processing to improve the end result of such a photo? I use PSE. I'd really appreciate any advice, thanks in advance.
With regard to safe exposure times, I would imagine its 'safe' to push it to maximum video length times (20/30 min on d600 ?)
For the really good star trail photos.... most people cheat. It can be done with super long exposures but there are "better" ways to do it. You would be better off with lots of 30 second exposures stacked using software like Star Stax . Keep in mind when I say "stacking" I don't mean in the HDR sense. If you try and do the full exposure all at once, if there is any light source near by, it can be very problematic. If you have an intervalometer it can be your best friend. Just set your exposure, set the intervaloment, and go grab some coffee or something. If you don't have one, you can still pull it off but... it can get REALLY tedious, monotonous and boring.
I shoot star trails at on my d7100 with 1 single 30 min exposure.....Yes getting as far away from the city and artificial light is the best bet, there is a website there is a website called this will tell you the best places in your area to shoot or view the sky. Also both of your cameras have built in interval meters that allow you to set up a series of 30sec shots over the course of 1min to hours....also bring a big flashlight if you want to light the area you are in and for the last little bit of the exposure (not long 30 sec or so should be plenty) and try not to shine it directly into the lens I've done that before lol, turn the light on and paint the area you want lit with it finish the exposure and BAM!!!! Star trails. If the sky is like wyoming sky then 1 long exposure is fine I'd say anywhere within an hour of Toronto is probably gonna be to bright still for one long one so an interval meter would be better. Hope that helps.
You can do a lot to make these stars stand out by doing a simple curves adjustment. Bring down the lower range and keep the upper range at normal levels and you'll see them pop- just be careful not to overdo it or the sky will get splotchy.

$star curves.jpg

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