Hanover Star Trails

Star Trails over Hanover, NH

Here is another attempt of star trails taken during my Hanover visit. The entire day we were busy skiing and in the night we just headed out to a nearby falls to take some pictures, which I’m yet to process them. While taking those shots is when I realized that the light pollution which we get in the city was very minimal in this place. I was getting a clear view of the stars in my long exposures of the falls.

It was very considerate of my friend to bear the freezing weather while I tried my star trail attempt. Initial thought was to get 1/2 hr worth of exposure time in it with the falls in the foreground. So I set my intervalometer with the desired settings and started the first exposure. Ignoring the thought of getting cozy in the car, I kept waiting near the tripod to make sure that things were going on fine with my exposures. After the initial one, the intervalometer decided to go crazy. It suddently switched to a “count-down” timer mode with some random number. The first reaction was like “What did I screw up now?” But after a closer inspection, found out that I had set everything correctly and yet wasn’t getting more than one exposures.

We returned home for dinner and I cursed myself for not bringing the manual of it (still thinking that it was my fault with the settings). But then again, I was very sure that I had got it right. So while at the dinner table, took my intervalometer and started playing with the controls. With couple of attempts, I was sure that the internal clock on the device is not right and hence its stupid behavior. With couple of more tests, was able to find a workaround for it. But we had come back from the location and I didn’t have the nerve to ask my friend to take me back there 🙂

Since I was so desperate to get one, went out, setup the tripod right in front of his house, stuck to a simple composition to make sure that I can watch the camera and tripod from within the house 🙂 and after all the processing, got this one. I’m reasonably happy with it as 90% my mental image is present in this

From my earlier start trails pics, I had learnt that its better to have some foreground to the overall composition. So I had to account for that during this attempt. Identifying pole star was very easy (my friends were more avid star gazers than me during our schooling times). I was scared of leaving the camera out of my sight, so the initial composition that I had in mind was ruled out. Also I would be making frequent visits outside to check on things which would ruin some frames.

After the elements of the frame was decided, I had to get the focus right. It was a moon lit night, but still not enough contrast for the camera’s autofocus to lock onto something. So I asked my friend to stand on the deck with a flash light pointing right to the camera. Its a simple LED flash light, just enough to get my auto focus to lock on and later switched to manual focus. Each frame was with an f/8 and 61s exposure. Due to my intervalometer’s limitation of having a minimum requirement of 1s, I wanted to have a longer time than 30s, which would mean I’ll get a more even trail than a dotted one. All of the 99 raw frames was converted to TIFFs and then fed to a program Startrail.exe The program stacks each image which gives you the trail effect. The final image was given a boost to its brightness using curves in Photoshop.

Processing: Here are the steps that was taken to get the above image:

All of the 99 images was converted to TIFF using Adobe Camera Raw (ACR). Since I needed all of them to contain the same settings, just worked on one frame and copied it over to all the others.

The resulting TIFFs was then fed to Startrail.exe to generated a single composite image.

The composite image was then given a boost to its brightness in Photoshop.

4 thoughts on “Hanover Star Trails

  1. @Hari: thanks. I think your cannon allows manual setting and with that you don't need a DSLR to start anything. Use that to start learning the basics and you'll be amazed with the pictures you'll take with that.

  2. With noise reduction available for long exposure, is it not possible to photograph star trail with a single shot of long exposure (bulb) instead of several shots getting stitched with a software? Coming to your pix, what was the time interval while taking 99 images and the total time taken for shooting this pix? What advantage is available in this method compared to a single shot?cbraoMountain View (CA)

  3. @cbrao: Oh yes you can definitely get a star trail with just one long exposure too Vs a stacking smaller exposed frames. Both of them have their pros and cons. With a single exposure:- its a one shot attempt at getting it right. You either get a image or none.- some cameras can also give out a sensor heat in the frame. – Even with noise reduction, sometimes you just can't get them all out, so you'll end up having some. – Even a small amount of light pollution can make the frame loose quite a lot of contrast. The above are some that come to mind. I'm sure there are quite a lot of other things that might effect the overall outcome. With stacking, you get lots of advantages. You can even create a timelapse clip out of the entire set. The pros of this method are too many to list in a comment (good idea to put it in a post). Don't take my word for it, try it out and it'll be fun 🙂

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