Ever since the first time I looked in a book with long-exposure photography, I’ve loved the look of trailing stars in photographs. The idea is simple, expose for a long enough period of time to record the rotation of the stars as the Earth spins. My own attempts were never very successful using film due to the negative effects of reciprocity and my lack of technical skills and patience. Even later, when I finally got a digital SLR camera with the battery life to pull off an hour long exposure, my star streak photos were always sub par, riddled with technical and aesthetic problems. One of my problems was that I always tried to shoot star streaks as if I were shooting a film camera: One very long, guessed exposure, teetering on the edge of my battery life. As I will outline, there are many problems with this technique and there is a much better solution!

Stars over Lake Tahoe

The “Traditional” Method of Getting Star Streak Photographs

Things used to seem quite simple. Find a dark sky without too much light pollution, calculate an exposure based on the ISO, working aperture and phase of the moon, place your camera on “bulb” mode and expose for a long enough period of time so that the stars streak through the sky as the Earth rotates. As simple as this seems, there are many problems with this method. For one, while digital cameras don’t have the issue of reciprocity like film does, they do have the inherent problem of noise. Without getting too technical, all digital cameras use an internal imaging device to convert light into an electric charge, this is either a CCD or a CMOS in most cases. As the camera exposes, and depending on the ambient temperature, the sensor begins to heat up and produce thermal noise or dark current. Here, the star detail is limited because I exposed for the foregroundThis can heavily degrade the detail and quality of an image. Most modern digital SLRs have built in long exposure noise reduction by silently taking second “dark frame” for the same length of the first, thus removing the dark current. One of the major problems with the built in noise reduction is that in order to be effective, the camera has to noise reduce under the same ambient temperature as the original exposure(meaning the photographer has to stay on location for twice the amount of time), the other problem is battery life limitations. With my older Nikon D200 + battery grip, I could pull off about an hour of exposure + an hour of noise reduction and just barely have juice to preview the final shot.

Another problem with the so called “Traditional” method is balancing a light polluted sky with the foreground. Unless you are just going for a shot of the stars in the sky and don’t care about any foreground detail, you are most likely going to be very frustrated when you find that the sky is too bright to make out the stars due to light pollution if exposing for foreground detail (see the photo on the left). City lights, car headlights and especially a large phase moon can light up the sky dramatically brighter than the foreground leaving you with the choice of either underexposure your foreground, or losing precious star detail and contrast by exposing for foreground detail. Painting the foreground with light is one solution, but doesn’t solve the other problems.

Stacking, the (Almost) Perfect Solution!Stars over Verdi, NV

So instead of shooting a single long exposure, we can take a large number of short exposures equaling the length of time that our single long exposure would have been and “stack” them together. Let me clarify. Lets say you would like to have an hour long exposure of the stars moving across the sky. You could set up and shoot an hour long single exposure and run in to the previously mentioned problems, or instead you could do the following…

Shooting:

  1. You’ll need a fully charged battery (battery grip is recommended), a cable release or remote, a tripod and a memory card capable of holding a few hundred shots.
  2. Set your quality to .jpg-fine or RAW (Keep in mind that if you want to shoot raw, you will have to batch process a large number of files).
  3. On a tripod, compose your shot and set your shutter speed to the slowest speed your camera will shoot continuously, most digital SLRs will shoot as slow as 30 seconds, don’t use bulb.
  4. Taking a few test exposures, set your exposure (using your ISO and aperture) so that you can see stars in the sky. Don’t overexpose the sky, we want a fairly dark histogram, with a very small spike near the right for the stars. Also, don’t worry about getting too much foreground detail in your exposure right now, just focus on the stars.
  5. Set your white-balance for the sky. This is a matter of personal preference and it will vary depending on the light pollution.
  6. Turn off any kind of long-exposure noise reduction that is built in to your camera. High ISO NR can be left on.
  7. Set your camera to continuous drive mode.
  8. Lock your cable release/remote so that the camera is stuck firing continuously. Now the camera will shoot one 30 second exposure after another until you stop it.
  9. Stop after an hour (or however long your predetermined exposure is). The longer you let the camera shoot, the more the earth will rotate and the longer the star streaks. Also, keep an eye on the camera as some cameras do not have the buffer to handle so many shots in a row.
  10. Don’t move the camera! Once you’re done exposing, you still need to shoot a manual dark frame for noise reduction. Put your lens cap on, make sure the viewfinder doesn’t have any light shining into it and expose for 30 seconds.
  11. The last thing you need to do it shoot a brighter foreground frame for the detail in the foreground. Put your camera on bulb, and make an exposure long enough to get good detail in the foreground, don’t worry about overexposing the sky. I recommend using the same aperture and ISO setting as the 30 second exposures for noise consistency. You can enable in camera long exposure noise reduction for this if you want, or you can shoot another dark frame with the lens cap on of the same length for noise reduction. I recommend turning NR back on for this if you have the time/battery life.
  12. Go home and follow the next section for processing.

Processing:
Stacking How To

Windows Users:
Note that Windows users can also follow the OSX instructions for a bit more work, but also a little more control.

  1. Download StarTrails from HERE. We will also be using Adobe Photoshop CS3 (although you can probably use CS2 or even Elements 6).
  2. Open StarTrails and go to File –> “Open Images” and select all of the frames except for the dark frame and foreground frame.
  3. Go to File —> “Open Dark Frames” and select your darkframe
  4. Click Build —> Star Trails and give it a few minutes. You can watch as the star streaks grow.
  5. Save as a .tiff file and open the .tiff in Photoshop
  6. Also open the foreground exposure jpeg and paste it as a new layer on top of your stacked .tiff file in photoshop
  7. Create a black mask on the foreground layer and paint in the foreground carefully (see graphic above for example).
  8. Apply curves, noise reduction and other editing adjustments and your done!

OSX Users:

Since the StarTrails Software doesn’t work in OSX, we can use Photoshop to do the same thing. Its a bit more work, but it gives you more individual frame control. There are two ways to do it:

Method 1: Use the CS3 script under File —> Scripts —> “Load Files into Stack.” Open all of your exposures except the foreground frame. Change each layer’s blending type to “lighten” and the dark frame’s to “difference.” This is time consuming and tedious. I recommend method 2.

Method 2: Download this Photoshop action (this does everything above automatically, except the dark and foreground frames). Follow the directions on the site (one step). I recommend deleting the action step where it flattens the layers. Then add your dark frame as a new layer, change the blend type to difference. Next add your foreground image as a layer, create a black mask and paint in the foreground. Apply curves, noise reduction and other adjustments as needed.

Train Bridge Streaks

Almost Perfect? What gives?

While the stacking technique gives you a ton of control, it is definitely more work. Also, at large print sizes, small gaps can appear in the star streaks from the small gaps between exposures.

Some Tips

  • You can include the polar axis (rotational center) in your shot by including Polaris (the North star) in your photo (see the Tahoe photo at the top of this post)
  • Shoot during a new moon or smaller than half phase if possible
  • Look up local moon rise/moon set times so the rising moon doesn’t mess you up in the middle of an exposure
  • If you have a large budget, look at battery grips and/or external power sources for your camera such as Quantum’s Turbo 2×2 battery

Timelapses

If you took a bunch of stacking photos, you can always put them together as a time lapse like this:

That’s it for now, feel free to comment or contact me with any questions.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

87 Comments

  1. Across The Sky » Lets Go Streaking, a Guide to Star Trails
    on June 10th, 2008
    1

    [...] Lets Go Streaking, a Guide to Star Trails Lets say you would like to have an hour long exposure of the stars moving across the sky. You could set up and shoot an hour long single exposure and run in to the previously mentioned problems, or instead you could do the following… … [...]

  2. Asa
    on June 10th, 2008
    2

    Dan, that timelapse is so bitchin! Great article too.

  3. jcgilmore
    on June 10th, 2008
    3

    Excellent write-up, Dan – can’t wait to try it.

    Coupla questions:
    You said: Also, keep an eye on the camera as some cameras do not have the buffer to handle so many shots in a row.

    My questios: Will a D200 handle it?

    You said: Don’t move the camera! Once you’re done exposing, you still need to shoot a manual dark frame for noise reduction. Put your lens cap on, make sure the viewfinder doesn’t have any light shining into it and expose for 30 seconds.

    My question: if the lens cap is on, why can’t you move the camera?

    Thanks for the PShop action!

  4. Dan Newton
    on June 10th, 2008
    4

    JC,

    Your D200 shouldn’t have any problems. The only reason that I say not to move the camera is because you still need to take a foreground frame. I usually take my darkframe before the foreground frame so that I don’t have to change the exposure settings on the camera twice.

    Also note that the dark frame needs to be taken in the exact same ambient temperature. That goes for long-exposure noise reduction too.

  5. » Blog Archive » Where are my Fireworks?
    on July 8th, 2008
    5

    [...] Stacking is also great for startrails. The best directions on the web are on fellow shooter Dan’s blog. Comments [...]

  6. Jon
    on August 28th, 2008
    6

    Dan this tutorial is awesome, previously I have always gone for the 1 exposure method which I will probably continue to use for light painting but this makes a lot more sense for star trails. Will keep checking back as your blog appears to jam packed full of the kinda images I like and aspire to take. Will be adding you to my blog roll for sure.

    Cheers

    Jon

    http://tdmphotography.wordpress.com/

  7. Tim
    on September 5th, 2008
    7

    Great stuff Dan, keep up the good work. You’ll be a smashing success in life..

  8. Stjärnspår och mörka himlar « Eltongallery’s Blog
    on November 1st, 2008
    8

    [...] och ta sig ut i naturen för att fånga stjärnspår på bild. Här har Dan Newton skrivit en bra guide till ett lyckat resultat. Glöm bara inte inte en thermos med varm dryck. Taggad med:guide, [...]

  9. Wallace
    on November 8th, 2008
    9

    How do you “Set your white-balance for the sky?”
    You have written a very informative article…. I have been waiting for a clear sky for a week to try it all out!

  10. Tony
    on November 10th, 2008
    10

    Great article. I’m going to give it a try this week.

    Couple of questions though;

    1. If I did exposures to cover 30mins, does that mean I also have to expose a dark frame for 30mins, or does it have to be the same as one of the short exposures i.e. 30secs.

    2. I was thinking of painting the foreground frame with light to get some details on buildings in the shot. Would this work just as well as taking a long exposure to get the foreground?

    Cheers again for the article.

  11. Dan Newton
    on November 11th, 2008
    11

    @ Wallace: I’ll just experiment for the white-balance. I say “for the sky” because you can always change it when you are doing your foreground exposure. Usually I’ll start with auto and sometimes I’ll force it to daylight if I want a warm city glow. Go through your presets and see what works.

    @Tony:
    1. Your darkframe length should be as long as a single stacking exposure. So if you were doing 1 hour with 30-sec exposures, you’d use a 30-sec dark frame because it’ll match the noise of a 30-sec light frame.

    2.painting the foreground works very well! Check out my Fort Churchhill photo for example. One advantage of painting while stacking is that if you miss a spot you can paint it in a later frame and the stacking process will always keep the brightest info in the shot so its hard to mess up painting.

  12. James Bester
    on December 15th, 2008
    12

    Hi Dan,

    Love the guide and have spent the past few nights in my garden looking up and experimenting.

    I am using a Pentax K10d and would just like a ask a quick general question; on a 30 sec exposure the k10d processes for 30 sec’s after taking the picture leaving me with dotted star trails – is there a work around for this or is it because I have a more entry level camera?

    See examples;
    - http://www.flickr.com/photos/pentaxjunkie/3109465115/
    and
    - http://www.flickr.com/photos/pentaxjunkie/3109464979/

    Cheers and again thanks a million.
    James

  13. Dan Newton
    on December 15th, 2008
    13

    James,

    The 30 second processing is your camera performing long exposure noise reduction. On the k10d, I believe that there is a custom function to turn it off.

    -dan

  14. James Bester
    on December 16th, 2008
    14

    Dan, thanks a million – I have turned it off. I must say I suffered from the depleted battery syndrome after an hour of exposure time + another hour of processing time. This is the reason I had pretty much stopped taking star trails. Now it is a whole different matter, Thanks again for the great tutorial and the inspiration.

    James.

  15. Ziganny Photography’s Light Diary » Blog Archive » Star trails and landscapes
    on December 19th, 2008
    15

    [...] has written an excellent tutorial on this which you can find on his blog Liquid in Plastic, click here to read this wonderful post.  The tutorial shows you how best to capture the source images and how [...]

  16. Rob
    on December 22nd, 2008
    16

    Excellent tutorial on making startrails. The tip on shooting a foreground exposure and masking out is something I have not tried. Thanks for the tip!

  17. Johan
    on December 30th, 2008
    17

    Thanks for this great tutorial!

    Your great photos help as inspiration
    /johan

  18. HDR-fotografen
    on January 23rd, 2009
    18

    Thanks man. I will test it directly.

  19. Brady Dyer
    on January 30th, 2009
    19

    Thanks Dan! Good write up. going to have a try of this next week =) Will let you know how I get on haha.

  20. Andy Parker
    on February 24th, 2009
    20

    Hey Dan, great work and great tutorial! Just a few questions about your time lapses as I am looking into doing some of my own:

    What kind of shutter speed, iso etc. did you use for the time lapses?

    How often did you take a photo and for how long?

    In the edit, how many photos per second did you do to make the movement of the stars look as smooth as you have?

    all the best and keep up the great work!

  21. Brandon
    on March 15th, 2009
    21

    Dan,

    Can you tell us what software you used to make the time lapse video? I just took some pictures for a star-streaker, but when I came back to the camera the fog had really rolled in. Needless to say I don’t have star streaks, but I can make a cool video of the fog rolling in.

    Thanks.

  22. Dan Newton
    on March 15th, 2009
    22

    Brandon,

    I used quicktime pro to put together the frames. I usually use windows movie maker to add music/credits etc.

    The star stacking software that I linked to will also put together movies, but with less export and compression options.

  23. Jay
    on March 29th, 2009
    23

    I found your youtube video and came here. Great article, really nicely explained. I’m on my second night of star trail experiments, but live near to London so its a very orange sky. Would love to be out in the Nevada wilderness!

  24. Ryan
    on May 6th, 2009
    24

    Hey Dan,

    Awesome work. Thanks so much for the tips! This is a whole new approach! If your ever near the bay area Id love to tag along for a shoot.
    Ryan

  25. Chris
    on May 19th, 2009
    25

    Good article. I have been meaning to give this a go, but have struggled to find a free night, a dark location, a clear sky and no moon…but it’ll happen some day.

    You say there are small gaps in the start trails when you use the stacking technique. I recall reading another article somewhere that described a technique to overcome this, but don’t remember where. Might be worth looking into.

    Chris

  26. tom
    on May 21st, 2009
    26

    Thak you vey much!! this post is amazing!!!

  27. Or Eitan
    on June 21st, 2009
    27

    Hey! awesome technique. works perfectly when theres alot of different light sources around and long exposures arrnt possible. thatnks alot heres a result i got using Your Technique… thanks for the Tut!

    http://sevenths.deviantart.com/art/first-try-at-startrails-126462784

  28. help: star trails software
    on July 20th, 2009
    28

    [...] [...]

  29. Outdoors Night Shots
    on July 28th, 2009
    29

    [...] [...]

  30. Chris
    on August 2nd, 2009
    30

    The linked url for the Photoshop action is reported as an attack site (2 Aug 09).

    “This web site at http://www.schursastrophotography.com has been reported as an attack site and has been blocked based on your security preferences.”

    “What happened when Google visited this site?

    Of the 5 pages that we tested on the site over the past 90 days, 1 page(s) resulted in malicious software being downloaded and installed without user consent. The last time that Google visited this site was on 2009-07-28, and the last time that suspicious content was found on this site was on 2009-07-28.”

    Any alternatives?

  31. Andy Lejman
    on August 30th, 2009
    31

    Hi Dan, great work and the article as well. I’ve tried star trails once and had to expose single frame for 50 mins, because I had not heard about the software. I use Mac and unluckily the Elements. As you are probably aware, that combination has not got any software I’d know, do you? Surely there must be something somewhere…
    Do you still use 2001 version?

    Any comments will be appreciated.

  32. scott Thigpen
    on November 21st, 2009
    32

    Hey there,

    I’m having trouble with exposure and making sure things are in focus. I’ve tried iso 100, f4 all the way to f18. I get horrible results plus when I set my wide angle on infinty, it always comes out blurry.

    any ideas?

  33. Anonymous
    on November 23rd, 2009
    33

    [...] [...]

  34. Star Trails – An Easier Guide « Central Illinois Photoblog
    on November 25th, 2009
    34

    [...] perfectly at home with that idea on a cold night actually. But to make it even better, I found a tutorial about star trails on the Interwebs this morning from Reno, NV-based photographer Dan Newton that absolutely rocks. [...]

  35. Lets Go Streaking, a Guide to Star Trails. « Cooper Ricketts Photography Blog
    on November 27th, 2009
    35

    [...] looking on the internet for tips and inspration on tis type of photograpy when I found this site Liquid Plastic photography go look at the site for more tips on star [...]

  36. Justin
    on November 28th, 2009
    36

    That timelapse is beautiful.

  37. tagoshu
    on December 17th, 2009
    37

    You can generate star trails for time lapse movie by using my “Afterimage” plugin filter for VirtualDub (freeware):
    http://www.celestial-spells.com/logs/2009/12/virtualdub_afterimage_filter.html

  38. Sitanshu
    on December 17th, 2009
    38

    can a 500D handle it?

  39. links for 2009-12-17 « AB’s reflections
    on December 17th, 2009
    39

    [...] Lets Go Streaking, a Guide to Star Trails : Liquid in Plastic – Photography and Words by Dan Newto… Combining multiple photos (tags: photography photoshop tips howto technique star tutorial) [...]

  40. Ziganny Photography Light Diary » Blog Archive » Star Trail Photography Video
    on December 23rd, 2009
    40

    [...] blog http://www.liquidinplastic.com.  He has blogged about his techniques for star trail images (read it here).  Today I found this video of his which shows the creation of some of these images.  Keep it up [...]

  41. Twitted by soni_amit
    on January 12th, 2010
    41

    [...] This post was Twitted by soni_amit [...]

  42. Twitted by elars
    on January 12th, 2010
    42

    [...] This post was Twitted by elars [...]

  43. Sloth
    on April 12th, 2010
    43

    dan,
    awesome article,, cant wait to get out there and try your technique..
    is my d60 sufficient to do star-trail..? or should i consider to get a d300..

    cheers,

  44. Dan Newton
    on April 12th, 2010
    44

    Your D60 will definitely work. Good luck!

  45. Karl Beath
    on April 19th, 2010
    45

    Dan

    I have been searching the net for about two hours until i bumped into your article. Absolute winner…explains it really well.

    I used to star traces on my pentax 67ii, which i sold last year, and thought that with a dslr that wld be the end of the occasional star image.

    Thanks
    Karl

  46. Greg Downie
    on April 21st, 2010
    46

    Great guide, has helped me hugely with starting out.

    Just maybe an update to your OSX/Mac users. If they use Photoshop CS4, you can select

    File > Scripts > Statistics, pick your images. Set the mode to ‘maximum’ and let the computer do its work.

    Works with Raws, nef, tiff, jpg etc. I find the results to be the same as using Star trails on a PC, which is good if you have shot in RAW. Same applies to PC CS4 obviously too.

  47. Fernando
    on April 22nd, 2010
    47

    Great Article cant wait to start taking pics…Just got my hands on a Canon T2i…Been reading the manual and looking for the continuous drive mode…But apparently it wont let me put more than 10 secs…So, Im assuming every 30 seconds manually I will have to do this?

  48. Stephen
    on April 29th, 2010
    48

    Great article! I’m looking forward to trying this, but I just have one question: I’ve noticed that in some of your photos you are in areas with some ambient light. Now, if I’m understanding correctly, by doing this method one doesn’t necessarily have to be in the absolute darkest place in order to get a good star trail shot. Is this correct? It would be good to know as I live in a fairly urban area with darkER areas, but not really one of those truly pitch-black-middle-of-nowhere areas unless you go much further out. Thanks! Keep up the good work. :-)

  49. Dan Newton
    on April 29th, 2010
    49

    Stephen,

    That is correct. By using the stacking method, you are able to keep the ambient light in check and prevent the sky from blowing out. You’ll find that under very dark skies, the stars stand out more, but it is certainly possible to get star trails in light-polluted areas.

  50. Star Trail Photography | Imaging The Night Sky
    on June 21st, 2010
    50

    [...] Video by Dan Newton Dan probably has one of the greatest How-To’s on Star Trail Photography Lets Go Streaking, a Guide to Star Trails [...]

  51. Ian
    on July 6th, 2010
    51

    Hey Dan,
    Thanks for putting this guide together. I’ve been wanting to try my hand at this for a while now and finally got a chance this past weekend – http://flic.kr/p/8gg4w4

    I’m fairly pleased with the results but now I’m hooked and can’t wait to shoot some more! Thanks again for the great advice!

    Cheers,
    Ian Hyatt

  52. Fernando Ortiz
    on August 10th, 2010
    52

    You mention that ones needs to set the camera in continuous drive mode (in my camera(canon t2i)… cant enable both with a remote control)

  53. Dan Newton
    on August 11th, 2010
    53

    You can if you get the wired shutter release.

  54. Arjen Mulder
    on August 18th, 2010
    54

    Hi Dan,

    Very helpful article, just did my first experiments with star streaking in Spain and there is lots of room for improvement.

    Question: if I would only wanna make one shot of let’s say 1 hour, could I reduce noise by making a black shot directly after it, also of one hour, instead of using the in-camera noise reduction? Would that save battery power? I don’t want to do the whole stacking thing but gotta reduce noise of course.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this with me.

    Cheers,
    Arjen

  55. Nathan
    on September 6th, 2010
    55

    Will a Nikon D3000 be able to handle the 30 second exposure one after another for an hour? What happens if it can’t handle it?

  56. Randall Jackson
    on November 8th, 2010
    56

    I have a Nikon D700 and I’m wondering how long of an exposure could it handle? Related, would multiple exposures be a better way to do this?

  57. Chapter 6 Assignment 2 Photoshop
    on November 9th, 2010
    57

    [...] me start off my linking to the master of all star trails Dan Newton and his amazing tutorial on star trail shooting. His tutorial is the first time I tried stacking with my star trail [...]

  58. Inspiration – Light Painting « Richie | Photography
    on December 30th, 2010
    58

    [...] trails. There is obviously a little more to it than that. You can read all about it on his blog: http://www.liquidinplastic.com/2008/06/startrails/ There are loads of other cool examples of light painting on [...]

  59. Markus
    on January 6th, 2011
    59

    hi dan. i made it with the olympus E-5 with 12-60mm at Iso 400 2,8 / 30sec. the picture are perfect, very low noise.
    a add the pictures to imovie with 0,1 sec per picture, and the ouput ist very bad ! i have Lighthing noise in “slices”, do you know what i mean ? any idea ?

  60. Max
    on April 20th, 2011
    60

    Hey Dan!

    Great read!
    If anyone’s interested I found a star stacking program
    for max osx users called “StarStax”.
    You can find it here:

    http://www.markus-enzweiler.de/StarStaX/StarStaX.html

    Happy shooting
    Max

  61. Star trail | Ole Faass Photography
    on May 27th, 2011
    61

    [...] Tevens kun je meer info vinden op deze site: http://www.liquidinplastic.com/2008/06/startrails/ [...]

  62. Aaron
    on June 1st, 2011
    62

    Dan,

    Thank you for putting the how to page on your site, it made my first attempt of a city skyline startrail so easy to do. I never thought it would be possible to do such a startrail with a major city bridge in the foreground. I put the most southern star over the top of the bridge and it has worked a treat… The photo is of the Story Bridge in Brisbane, Australia.

  63. Karim
    on June 2nd, 2011
    63

    Thanks for sharing and giving inspiration!
    It’s a A-Z and very helpfull guide!

    What I always thought to be near impossible or only for the top photgraphers with very expensive equipment is now also for me.

    Still enough for me to learn, but because of your guide, it’s made possible to start and keep on trying.

    Again, thanks for sharing, and the website is full of usefull info and some really stunning photo’s.
    Always looking forward to see more guides and photo’s of your work ofcourse.

    Regards,
    Karim (the Netherlands)

  64. Chris Dougherty
    on June 11th, 2011
    64

    How is it that one might animate the light trails with no light decay (permanent streaks) in stacks, in PS CS5?
    Thanks,
    CD

  65. adam tan
    on June 22nd, 2011
    65

    Thanks for the generous sharing, dan!
    your works are brilliant!

  66. Syd
    on June 24th, 2011
    66

    Thanks, that has helped a lot for individual still shots. It lead me to a question that I have not managed to find an answer for.

    I was watching your video “Nevada Nights” on You Tube and noticed that when the star trails start they build up a trail that decays after a set length.

    How does that happen? Most other vids end up with a bunch of circles that spoil the effect.

    Regards,
    Syd

  67. Tom Moulin
    on September 2nd, 2011
    67

    Thanks for the sick beta!

    Headed out to give it a whirl

  68. How to Photograph Star Trails with a Digital SLR (+ Video!) | The Nomadic Photographer
    on September 13th, 2011
    68

    [...] known as “Stacking”.  Dan Newton of Liquid In Plastic has written an excellent post HERE on how to photograph star trails using the stacking technique.  I suggest you read it before [...]

  69. Lucas Boland
    on October 4th, 2011
    69

    Thank you Dan for putting together this post. I found your site through a Google search and am glad I did. However, I’m a bit confused and about how to lock the camera if it’s not in Bulb/Time mode. I have a d5000 with the ML-L3 wireless remote. Previously I had done star trails (with mixed results) using Time mode. The remote has a maximum exposure time of 30 minutes and there is just way too much light pollution around me. After reading your article I’m incredibly excited to try stacking but cannot for the life of me figure out how to “lock” the camera in continuous release mode without going back to the Time setting. Does the wired MC-DC2 operate differently that there is a locking feature? Or is this a feature not available in the d5000? What am I missing???

  70. Dan Newton
    on October 4th, 2011
    70

    Lucas, if you get the MC-DC2 (or an off-brand alternative), you can put your camera on continuous shooting mode, set the exposure to 30-seconds and there is a “lock” on the remote that is the equivalent of holding down the shutter release button. I don’t think that you can do this with the ML-L3 except for bulb mode. I hope that helps.

    -Dan

  71. Lucas Boland
    on October 4th, 2011
    71

    Thank you! I knew it had to be something simple but I’ve been trying to find an answer for three days and came up with nothing. I’m ordering right now and can’t tell you how excited I am to trying a new method for trails and for light painting. Again, your help and post are both very appreciated. I’ve subscribed to your RSS and look forward to digging into your website!

  72. Mark Connick
    on October 8th, 2011
    72

    Hi Dan,
    Thank you very much for this great guide. Really well put together and great images. I’m now ready to give it a go.
    Much appreciated.
    Regards.
    Mark

  73. Martin Sutcliffe
    on November 11th, 2011
    73

    Dan, great stuff. As you mentioned gaps can appear at larger print sizes and I am finding this happens at not so large sizes. I suspect this is due to the delay between shots which seems to be caused by buffering issues. Is there a way to overcome this? A fast card doesn’t seem to make much difference/ My camera is Nikon D300.

  74. Harsh
    on December 22nd, 2011
    74

    Hi Dan,
    Great Article! I was wondering if I can use the stacking technique with my Nikon D3100 ?

  75. Bob Hamers
    on December 24th, 2011
    75

    Hi Dan,

    Thanks for the great tutorial. I was amazed with the pictures and just needed to try it for myself. I just cant seem to get rid of one problem. Even if the camera is in continuous drive mode, I keep getting small gaps in the star trails. I guess this is just due to the delay caused by the shutter cycle. How do you deal with it in post-processing?

    Regards,
    Bob

  76. Star Trails – Tricks to the Trade | 366 Project - 2012
    on January 20th, 2012
    76

    [...] This tutorial was taken from: http://www.liquidinplastic.com/2008/06/startrails/ [...]

  77. Doug Bibo
    on March 11th, 2012
    77

    Dan,
    Very nice write up. I do star points, star trails, and star point time lapses. What I don’t get is the star trail timelapse, where the stars have tails, suggesting a lot more movement. I don’t get how that’s done. Is that a software thing?

    Thanks,
    Doug

  78. Star Trails – A Short Tutorial | 366 Project - 2012
    on May 9th, 2012
    78

    [...] more information on star trails, a more detailed explanation, and some wonderful tips go to: http://www.liquidinplastic.com/2008/06/startrails/ and read Dan Newton’s [...]

  79. The Courage to Create « Janyaa's Scrapbook
    on May 20th, 2012
    79

    [...] this post is copyrighted by Dan Newton. I highly recommend you checking out his gallery and blog, Liquid In Plastic! Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this [...]

  80. Kenneth
    on July 13th, 2012
    80

    Great work!

    I’m trying to figure out how to do the effect 20 seconds into your video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oLd1gpVa5TY

    Is there a special script to stack only about 30 frames at a time?

    Thanks!
    Kenneth

  81. gary
    on September 17th, 2012
    81

    Hi, first off, fantastic work. i love your video !! which is the main reason for this question ? what software are you using to do the star “trail” timelaps ? any help qould be most welcome :) again great work and thanks for your time.

    Regards
    Gary.

  82. gary
    on September 17th, 2012
    82

    Hi, first off, fantastic work. i love your video !! which is the main reason for this question ? what software are you using to do the star “trail” timelaps ? any help would be most welcome :) again great work and thanks for your time.

    Regards
    Gary.

  83. Dan
    on September 28th, 2012
    83

    Very cool. I have heard about stacking before, but never thought to try it. Always leaned towards long exposure. Curious though, what film were you using? Fuji Velvia transparency has one of the lowest reciprocity failures… dont (passively) diss film. :)

  84. Experiments with Time Lapse » Starlit Vision
    on October 16th, 2012
    84

    [...] composite image.  I’m no expert in combining image so take a look at the articles here: Guide to Star Trails and How to Photograph Star [...]

  85. Astrophotography questions
    on December 12th, 2012
    85

    [...] available. I just find that the wider the better in this scenario. Thanks everyone! Try here – Lets Go Streaking, a Guide to Star Trails : Liquid in Plastic – Photography and Words by Dan N… Scott H Murray D800 / D80 + Lenses Reply   Reply With [...]

  86. North Star Long Exposure Help?
    on May 30th, 2013
    86

    [...] if you do shorter exposures, you can have a better feel for how it's going to turn out. Here's a link to the tutorial where I learned how to do the stacked method. It might take you a few tries, but in [...]

  87. Dan
    on October 14th, 2013
    87

    Dan,
    Loved the video with the timelapse and still pics. Also have the same question as another asked. I didn’t see a response.

    How do you do the time lapse where the star trails look like comets streaking across the sky?

    Paul

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