With winter approaching, I’ve really been trying to take advantage of the nice clear skies and warm nights while they last. So when a fellow night photographer invited me to go camping near an old Nevada military fort for some night photography, I jumped on it! We were granted access to the monument after dark and both of us got some great shots!

One thing that is different about the exposures below is that I’m now using a different stacking technique. Instead of firing off a sequence of 30 second exposures at a higher ISO (800-1600), I’m using an intervalometer to shoot 5-min exposures at ISO 400. This results in better noise performance and more control over the brightness of the sky. The intervalometer also eliminated an issue that most Nikon D-SLRs have: a limited number of continuous shots in a row. No matter what quality and exposure length, all of the Nikons that I’ve tested (D3, D300, D200, D2x) have a limited maximum frame count when shooting continuous (my D300 is 100 and if memory serves me right, the D3 has a 125 shot limit). Once this limit is reached, the camera stops shooting and the remote must be unlocked, then locked. This makes exposures longer than an hour (at 30 seconds) very difficult. Now can take an unlimited amount of shots for any exposure length and just walk away (see the second shot down for example). I plan on posting directions on how to use both Nikon and Canon intervalometers soon. Until then, enjoy the photos… 

Fort Churchhill at night 

Above: A stack of 5 min exposures adding up to just over 1.5 hours. We gelled the inside and outside of the old captain’s quarters with our pointing north to get this photo.

Our camping spot for the night - 2 hour exposure

Above: This is where we camped for the night, finally getting to bed around 3:45am after a long night of shooting. For this shot we decided to just let the cameras stack through the night. Exposure time: 2 hours, 15 mins using 5 min exposures. Gelled like the previous shot, this time facing south-east.

Jupiter over Bonsai Rock

Above: Finally, here is a less serious (noisy) shot taken at ISO 3200 for 30 seconds with the D300. This is the iconic Bonsai Rock at Lake Tahoe taken a few weeks ago. Jupiter is setting near the center of the frame.

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  1. Brandon
    on October 2nd, 2008

    I love the site, I came to read about the star-trails and stayed around for the whole show. I can’t wait to see the new technique you described above

  2. pdtnc
    on November 1st, 2008

    wow!! Pretty amazing shots 🙂

  3. Lathkill96
    on October 10th, 2009

    Kia Ora from New Zealand,

    Spent a couple of hours viewing your archive after seeing one of your photos on Explore on Flickr.
    I would be keen to learn how to use the intervalmeter on a Canon as I have both pieces of equipment but have not tried them out together yet.
    I hope you friend didn’t cry too much dropping the Nikon on the camera toss; or is he hoping his insurance company doesn’t find your website? Keep up the great work. I have added your site to my favourities list.

  4. David wilder
    on November 20th, 2009

    What intervalometer did you use becuase I also would like to avoid the 125 image limit

  5. Dan Newton
    on November 20th, 2009

    The intervalometer I use is the Nikon MC-36.

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

    […] I was reading more old posts on Dan Newton’s site, and I came across this update to his technique post. He’s started using an intervalometer to overcome the buffer limitations on his camera. Some […]

  7. Roger Mullis
    on April 17th, 2010

    I wanted to thank you for taking the time and effort to offer all this advice for your readers. Your technique in star trails has been an enormous help to me! Thank you

  8. Ranjit Arvind
    on August 3rd, 2011

    Great tutorials, Dan. I’ve been struggling to get that perfect start trail shot. One other issue with exposures longer than 30s on Nikon bodies, is the cursed amp glow. How did you eliminate that with this technique?

  9. Dan Newton
    on August 4th, 2011

    Ranjit, the dark frame should eliminate most amp glow issues.

  10. Ranjit Arvind
    on August 8th, 2011

    Thanks, Dan. I’ll give this a shot (or a few shots in this case) and tag you when I post them online.