How to capture a star trail

What you'll learn

1.Two options for shooting star trails
2.What to look for in a good star trail location
3.How to put star trails together in Photoshop

Shooting star trails shows off the Earth’s rotation using long exposure photos of the stars. As the Earth rotates, the stars appear to move across the sky – and when you shoot with a long exposure, these are captured as stunning trails.

What you'll need

A bit of theory

Before we get into the photography side of shooting a star trail, you need to make sure that your location is suitable and the conditions are going to be good. To get the best star trails, you need a clear, dark sky (preferably before the moon is out) and a location well away from any light pollution. Also, think about what you want in the foreground of your photo. An interesting feature like sea, cliffs, or a rock formation is always a striking way to go.

There are two methods for shooting star trails. One uses a really long exposure to capture the image, the other uses lots of shorter exposures and then some clever post production to achieve the same result.

Using one long exposure can be convenient, but it does introduce a lot of extra noise in the image which can be distracting. As the exposure time gets longer, the sensor warms up and more noise sneaks into the image.

You can easily get around this noise problem by shooting multiple shorter exposures, with a gap in between. This can be done by using a normal intervalometer and shoot it as you would a timelapse, but with longer exposures. Alternatively, we would suggest you use the Star Trail mode on Triggertrap Mobile, which lets you set up perfectly with a exposure duration of your choice and allows you to put a gap in between frames, allowing the sensor to cool down slightly.

The other thing to think about with star trails is the location of the stars. If you line your camera up with Polaris, the North Star, you can get some amazing results with the stars creating a perfect circle. If you don’t want circles, or want to capture an interesting bit of landscape away from Polaris, simply point the camera elsewhere!

Setting up

Capturing the photos

Post processing


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