A Haunting Experience

Star Trails (3)

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I think that this shot turned out rather nice. I wasn’t quite sure how I wanted to process it and when I did it in color it just didn’t seem to work out so well. I ended up first processing it in LR then converted to B&W. I’m not sure why but I can never seem to get B&W photos to look the way I want in LR. I always finish the processing in Silver Efex Pro. The effect that I like to get is to get the dark areas more dark and add a bit more contrast to the other areas to give it more effect. With this photo though I was not even happy after going through Silver Efex Pro so I ended up taking it back into LR again because the trees were too over powering so I ended up lowering the exposure on those a bit in order to put more emphasis on the house.

When it was in color I think it was too busy and I barely even noticed the house as the trees stood out so much. I think the way I processed it my main priority was to make the house the main focus point with the star trails as secondary and the trees as more of a helpful prop to make the house stand out a bit more rather than take away from the effect. I kind of wanted to go into the house and do a star trail photo looking out a window but upon inspecting the house I noticed that the upstairs floor was dipping down quite low so I didn’t even want to chance it.

For this shot I ended up doing two exposures at 10 minutes each at 16mm, f/4 and ISO 100. For one exposure I did light painting on the house and trees and the second exposure I left them as silhouettes. The application I use will take the brightest parts of all the photos and stack them so it’s nice to not have to do light painting on all the photos. Originally I’ve always been interested in longer star trails but after processing these I think the smaller ones may give a bit more emphasis on motion. Not really sure but the good thing is that it’s much less time consuming and I can still get good results. Next time I attempt star trails I think I’ll try an ISO of 50 and be able to get a longer exposure. I’ll have to experiment a bit to see how it works out or something.

The Lone Giant

Star Trails

This is another star trail photo I got out of the same night as the last post. It was at a different location but not too far away. It’s very difficult to do star trails in this area because there is a small city about 10-15 miles away from where I was shooting. Not the idea lighting conditions but at least there was no moon and I was able to get some decent results. I always pass this tree when visiting my wife’s parents and I like to photograph it when I can. The placement isn’t the best because it’s next to an interstate so trying to get a good composition is somewhat difficult. As many of you that have viewed a lot of my photos know, I like to always take photos from a low perspective. This was no exception as I had the camera low and pointing up to get this shot.

Like the last one this was done with 3 photos at 10 minute exposures. The focal length was 16mm, aperture at f/4 and ISO at 100. If anything, I did come away from this shoot with more confidence on shooting star trails as I had to think very little when getting everything set up. Most of the trial and error happened at the beginning with the settings. I remembered to turn auto-focus off and everything.

Another thing that I did learn with these shots is something that I hope will help someone else. When composing a shot with little to no light, it is very difficult. Here’s what I did in order to compose my shots. I boosted the ISO all the way up. By doing this I was able to take a 5 second shot and it looked like I was shooting in daylight. By doing this I could see how my shot was composed and then adjusted. It was taking me about 7-10 shots to finally get my composition but I didn’t have to correct the horizon in post processing because I was able to get the composition right before I started the photos I used for the star trails. I think it is a good way to do it but you just need to remember to reset the ISO back down before starting your shots.

Protector of the Night

Star Trails (2)

One thing that I’ve been wanting to try is doing what I would call shallow DoF star trail photography with a small subject that I focus on closer to the camera in order to make the stars a bit out of focus. Because this was more of an experiment to kind of get an idea of what it would look like I didn’t spend a lot of time to get more photos to make the trails longer. I do find that I kind of like the idea though and will try more of this in the future. I can’t find any photos doing this type of photography and there could be multiple reasons why. One big reason that I can think of is that because it takes a good amount of time to do star trails in the first place, many people are unwilling to take the time to do one of these. I think once I move out to the country though I’ll have to do more experimenting as I’ll have more chances to work with this than I do now with living in a small city.

For this shot I did 3 frames at 10 minutes exposures each. I used my 16-35mm lens and shot at 16mm with the aperture at f/4 and the ISO at 100. If I would have done the normal shooting with setting the intervalometer up in camera I would have came out with 60 photos instead of 3. I do like having less photos to work with in the end because it means less work processing. Because of this I think I might invest in an intervalometer remote to set up for exposures at an ISO of 50 or 100. If I do that then I’ll also take a dark photo of the same exposure in order to have a dark frame to cancel out the long exposure noise from hot pixels and what not.