Category Archives: TimeLapse

How to fix Time-Lase Star Trails foreground by blending

Overview

Sometimes when you take Time-Lapse star trails your foreground image looks dull or you cannot even see it. This article will cover how to increase the visual look of your photograph by blending your time-lapse star trails with a correctly exposed photograph.
 

How to Blend

Follow the follow process to blend your Time-Lapse Start Trail image with a properly exposed photo:
Step 1: Take your Star Trail Photos
Step 2: Take a photograph where your foreground is perfectly exposed (using light painting) 

Step 3: Build your Star Trails Photo with StarStax
Item
Description
Site
StarStax
Description
I use StarStax to Stack all the Time-Lapse photos into one brilliant photo.
URL
Step 4: Save your StarStax Image

Step 5: Start a New StarStax project

Step 6: Add your Generated StarStax Image and your perfectly exposed foreground image

Step 7: Select the AVERAGE option from the Dropdown and Process the Image

Step 8: Save your image and enjoy it

The final Product

Thus s you can see blending your final image makes a massive difference to how your photograph looks like.

I would recommend you try using this method to generate even more awesome Star Trail photos
Advertisements

Fiddler on the Roof: Star Trails from my Roof

With my investigations and settings analysis I’ve taken some star trails photographs from my roof. These photos were taken in different conditions ranging from bright street lights to a full moon. Enjoy these photos:

I wanted to include a street light straight in front of the camera to see what the effect will be. After a couple of minutes playing with settings I got the correct camera settings to include a bright light straight in front of the lens without any flaring.

The photographs were taken with the following settings:

Exposure Time: 30 seconds – average 446 stacked frames
Aperture: f/16
ISO: 6400
Exposure Bias: 0 stop
Lenses: 18mm
Camera: Canon 5D and Canon 760D

Some notes on the Photos:

On one of the photographs I zoomed in a bit to showcase how the length of star trails increases when you are zoomed in a bit. The downside of this is that you lose some of the foreground details.

On the photograph on the right hand bottom: I wanted to incorporate the moon with some star trails. Thus I spend a long time and my photos to be able to capture this photo. I modified the focus ring until the moon looks like a star coming out of the tree, and due to time-lapse star trails I incorporated some star trails as well:

The bottom photo showcases the moon which looks like a bright star (again played with the focus ring until I could get the ultimate looking Moon “Star”. Note the amount of flare on the lens; this is due to the focus, aperture and full moon reflecting on the lens. I made the flare part of the photo.

Advanced Time-Lapse Star Trails: How to do Tutorial v2.0

1.1        Overview

My favourite method of shooting StarTrails is to do it via the Time-Lapse method. During the last couple of months I’ve honed my skills with Time-Lapse Star Trails, and thus I felt the need to re-vamp the Time-Lapse Star Trails article for version 2.0.

This article will cover how to do Time-Lapse Star trails. I usually do Time-Lapse star trails when there is too much light around you, which may spoil your photograph, or when there are some clouds around in the sky. Time-Lapse star trails method provides you with the opportunity to modify individual “frames” or remove unwanted “frames” in your photograph.

Time-Lapse Star trails in essence is taking hundreds of single photographs and then combining it at the end. This allows you to control your individual photographs light on a shorter basis, so that a singular light source from in front of your photograph does not spoil your photograph.

1.2       What is Time-Lapse Star Trails?

1.2.1         Overview

Star Trails is a method of capturing the movement of Stars over the heavens. Star-Trail photography shows arced lines moving over the heavens depending where you point your camera. You get nice circular Star-Trails when you point your camera to the poles, but you can get straight lines as well when you point your camera away from the poles. The duration of the photograph should usually be undertaken from an hour to 8 hours, depending on how long you want your star trails to be.

Time-Lapse is the process where you take multiple short exposure photographs with the help of a cable-release and stack them together to get the majestic star trails.

1.2.2         Benefits of using this method

The biggest benefit of this method is to reduce the amount of grain (noise) in your photograph, whereas in long exposure photography you get a lot of pixel noise or pixel burn on the photo.

The second benefit of this method is that you can control each photographs light, and if there is a bright light in your image then your whole image will become a white blur on long exposure, but on Time-Lapse Star trails you can control it via settings (ISO and Aperture) to ensure that your photograph looks crisp and clear.

The third benefit is that if you want to modify one of the photographs (for example to remove a plane passing) then you can modify the individual frames. 

1.3       The process of taking Time-Lapse Star Trails

This article will go through several steps in explaining the process of taking Time-Lapse Star Trails: Required Gear,  How to Plan your Trip,  Composition, Focusing, Camera Settings, Test Shot, Taking the Photograph and Putting it all together 

1.4       Required Gear

The first step in taking great lightning photographs is to obtain the correct gear and software. The following indicates the required gear and software with a short description of each:
Equipment
Description
A DSLR Camera
You will need a DSLR camera with Manual capability.
Manual capability will allow you to set the ISO, shutter speed and aperture. Ensure that your camera can operate in low light, and that it has adequate noise filters and ability to handle high ISO values. I personally prefer using Canon cameras.
A Wide angle Lens
You will require as well a good lens with the ability to set it to manual focus. Manual focus is required because the camera will not have the ability to focus automatically, and you would use manual focus to focus your star to pinpoint sharpness. It would be good if your lens has the ability to have fast-aperture wide-angle lens (ideally in the f/1.4 – f/2.8 max aperture range). I like to shoot in the 18mm range, and any lower mm range would be brilliant, as you would like to shoot as much as possible of the stars.
A Sturdy Tripod
You would require a sturdy tripod due to you shooting long exposures. Ensure as well that your tripod which will not shake when there is some wind.
Ensure as well that your tri-pod’s head can rotate horizontal and vertical. This will enable you to take landscape or portrait photographs.
A remote camera trigger
You would use the remote camera trigger to trigger your shutter without you touching the camera (avoiding camera shake), and to control the exposure time (ranging from a couple of seconds to a couple of hours)  You can use as well a Intervalometer.
Flashlight
Ensure that you take along a good flashlight and headlamp. You will require the headlamp to see where you are going and to see the back of the camera when setting up. The lamp will as well be used to perform focusing your camera at low-light conditions.
Extra Batteries
Always take extra batteries with you, as taking photos over a long time period will drain your owner, and it will be a pity if you have to stop shooting because you do not have enough power with you. (No – red bull will not give your camera extra power :-))
Extra Memory Cards
Always take along a extra memory card. Especially if you shoot in RAW mode. Raw mode always eats up a lot of storage space, so it is better to have extra memory cards in your repository.
Chair
To have something to sit-on during the process
Patience
You would require a lot of patience capturing the perfect lightning shot

1.5       How to Plan your Trip

One of the major parts of astrophotography is the selection of a site where you will take your epic photograph. There are many considerations for an ideal site in South Africa. But my biggest advice is- shoot anywhere, and spend time with your loved ones as well.

Note: For more information what gear you require, please refer to: http://www.skyclik.blogspot.co.za/2016/03/how-to-plan-your-trip.html 

1.6        Composition

1.6.1          Overview

Ensure that you include as much as possible sky into your photograph; this will ensure that the primary focus of the photograph is on the star trails. A good rule of thumb is between 30% and 50% of your photo frame must include the sky. Ensure that your foreground is clear, and not too distracting – but add to the value of your photograph. Lastly make double sure that your horizon is straight, off centre photographs does not look nice, and distract the viewer’s attention away from your subject.

1.6.2          How to Compose

1.6.2.1           Planning for your shot

Planning your photograph is one of the key things of taking the Time-Lapse Star Trail photograph.

PlanIt! Is the best tool that I have in my repository! With it you can run simulated star trails. View your location or any other location on maps based on terrain, road maps etc. There are too many feature the even star discussing it here, thus check it out. I use this application to check first where I want to shoot and secondly in which direction would be the nicest star trails in relation to your foreground.
Item
Description
Site
PlanIt!
Description
AWESOME tool to provide you anything from milky way centre to star trails simulation
URL

 

Be sure to include points of interest in your foreground as this will enhance the visual look and feel of your photograph. Some interesting points I like to include is: Trees, houses, old ruins, mountain silhouettes, rocks and sand and still would like to include deserts.

1.6.2.2           During the day

I would recommend that you scout your location first during daylight. During the day you can properly plan your photograph, and see the “lay of the land” This will enable to choose the most optimal site with the most effect for your photograph.

Mount your camera as well on the tri-pod and take a test photograph or two to ensure that you got your desired composition correct. Ensure that you place your tri-pod as well on a solid surface – which will ensure that your photograph comes out very sharp. Another tip is to connect a 2 litre water bottle to the bottom of your tri-pod (there is usually a hook onto where you can connect the water bottle) this will assist your tri-pod to become more stable. Connect as well your cable release, as this will ensure that there is no camera movement when you activate your shutter. Camera movement will cause your photos to display blurry, no matter how well you focus on your landscape and stars.

Ensure that you include as much as possible sky into your photograph, this will ensure that the primary focus of the photograph is on the star trails. A good rule of thumb is between 33% fore-ground image and 66% sky. Ensure that your foreground can give some perspective of of your planned scene, for example to include a tree, car or a house. Make double sure that your horizon is straight, off centre photographs does not look nice, and distract the viewer’s attention away from your subject.

Composition is one of the most important parts of shooting a Time-Lapse Star Trails photograph, and thus plans your photograph, and this will make the difference between a good photo and an awesome photograph.

1.6.2.3           Lines or Circles

Part of your planning for a star-trail photo is if you want the stars to appear as lines or circles. If you want circles then point your camera to the South or the North Pole. BUT if you want your star trails to be straight lines then point your camera to 90degree east or west from the South or the North Pole. This will then cause the star trails to move in straight lines. 

1.6.2.4           How do you do: Light Painting

I would recommend to perform light-painting on one of your photographs – so that you have one photograph in which the foreground is perfectly exposed. You can use a torch to highlight your foreground landscape when you start taking your photograph. I would suggest to carefully lighting the scene. You can do this by diffusing the light by standing far away from your subject, and flashing the light over the subject from different angles. Be careful of using too much or too little light. If you use too much light then your scene will be too white and harsh and when you use too little light your foreground scene will be too dark. Be careful of using too much light from the back of your camera as this will create a too harsh scene with too much light, but rather try and light your scene from the sides, and other angles.  

1.6.2.5           Other lines impacting on Star Trails

There are other elements which have an impact on your star-trails photograph by adding “abnormal” or UFO like lines in your photograph. These include: Satellites, Planes, Helicopters, Drones and real life UFO’s (I would be so lucky). You will easy spot these lines in your photograph as they create unnatural lines in the final photograph.

1.6.2.6           Light Pollution

Light pollution is one of the biggest drawbacks of taking Star-Trail photographs. Light pollution comes from cities (Street Lamps) lights which are on at night, the moon (especially full moon) the sun (glow of the sun after sunset on the horizon). Thus to counter light pollution you have to seek the darkest skies, when there is a new moon (or 60 minutes after moonset), away from the city, be 90 minutes after sunset and a few clouds (clouds can reflect sunlight as well, and Winter is usually best for this kind of photography due to there not being a lot of clouds).  

1.6.3          Setting-up

This section will provide you with the technique for photographing the Time-Lapse star trails. The primary settings to remember is that you must use high ISO, slow shutter speed and varying apertures to compensate for the low light conditions.

The following steps show you how to get ready:
1.       Connect your camera to your Tri-Pod
2.       Remove your camera-strap (the wind may cause the camera strap to move and thus have an negative effect on your camera)
3.       Connect your cable release to your camera
4.       Set your camera to M- Manual mode
5.       Set your camera to continuous shooting
6.       Set your shutter speed to 30seconds
 
TIP: If you’ve forgotten your remote trigger or cable release then you can do one of three things:
1.       Put your finger on the shutter for one hour – ouch
2.       Take an elastic band and an eraser (rubber) and rig the eraser on top of the shutter button
3.       Take masking tape and a small round rock and rig it on top of the shutter button
These solutions are not elegant but it works.
Check as we how you mounted your camera onto the Tri-Pod. You may need to change batteries during your photography session, and if the tri-pod mount is situated infront of the battery door then you will have to move the camera’s direction, and trust be you will never get the exact same direction of your camera again. When you mount your camera onto the tri-pod mount, then leave space open for you to open the battery door.

Now you are ready to start with your Time-Lapse star trails photograph.

1.6.4          Focusing

1.6.4.1           How to Focus

The next step is one of the most important parts: how to focus onto the Time-Lapse star trails. It is important to take the time to focus your photographs to pinpoint clarity, and it is one of the few times where you cannot rely on your camera’s autofocus system. Your camera’s auto focus system will not be able to focus on the Time-Lapse star trails as there is not enough contrast for it to focus on specific stars due to the stars being too small.

Follow the following steps to focus on the Time-Lapse star trails:
1.    If you have a UV filter fitted to your lens then remove it,
2.    Set your lens to MF (there are two options AF (Auto Focus) and MF (Manual Focus)),

3.    If your lens has image stabilization, then switch it off (the reason for this is: in the evening your lenses will constantly try to stabilize due to the low light conditions, and may soften your sharpness of your image),

4.    If your lens has the infinity symbol on the focus ring (∞) then set move the focus to there. But if your lens do not have this setting then do not stress, just continue to the next step,
5.    Switch your camera’s live view on,
6.    Move your camera that it points to the Time-Lapse star trails,
7.    Zoom your lens out to the minimum (widest field e.g. 18mm) ,
8.    Turn your focus ring until you can see the stars with pinpoint accuracy. You achieve pinpoint accuracy when the stars do not look like blobs. This can be a painstakingly slow process, but well worth it,
Once you’ve achieved the perfect focus, and then lock your focus on your lens (another flip button on your lens. This will ensure that you have perfect focus for the whole evening’s photos.
 

1.6.4.2           More Information

Note: For more information please refer to the following article: http://www.skyclik.blogspot.co.za/2016/04/time-lapse-how-to-focus.html

 

1.7        Camera Settings

1.7.1          Overview of Settings

Now what are the right settings into taking the ultimate Time-Lapse star trails photograph?

The two primary settings to control in astrophotography are shutter speed and aperture. These two settings manage how much light will be captured by your camera. The amount of light is important because most stars are faint, and you would like to capture as much as possible of this faint light in the dark. But there are other factors to consider as well, e.g. what is the correct white balance to use. 

1.7.2         Delay

Make sure that there is no delay or interval between your shots, as this will create a dotted line of star trails.  Thus to minimize the gaps/spaces between your photos you need the shortest interval between shots, and so I use continuous shooting which is a standard setting on the camera, and the delay between the shots is only cause by how fast your camera can write the photo to your memory card. Thus it is important to have a fast memory card to reduce the gaps.

1.7.3         Noise Reduction

Switch off the Live View functionality, as this will reduce your battery power.
Close the eye-piece with a piece of cloth – to ensure that there is no additional light pollution from the back of your camera which may have an impact on your photo.
Turn OFF your camera’s Long Exposure Reduction setting (consult your camera manual to do this). If this is turned on then there will be small gaps between your photos, as the camera will first complete the processing of one photo before it will take the next. I found that if a photo has been taken consisting of thirty seconds then the camera usually process it between 2-5 seconds, and this delay will then cause gaps in your star trail.

1.7.4          White Balance

1.7.4.1           Overview

Your test photograph will look very white with no colour in it. This is because your camera took the photo in neutral white as part of the auto white balance setting. To compensate for the lack of colour you must change the white balance to between 3200k and 4800k. The easiest way to do this is to go into your white balance menu setting (if you do not know where this is then refer to your camera’s manual) and change it from AWB (Auto White Balance) to Tungsten (Tungsten is close to 3200k). This will generate a warmer photo with more colours in it. 

Getting the right colours in your nigh time photographs is a core to any photograph. I would not recommend that you use the Auto White Balance default setting of your camera, as this will not create the desired effect of a “natural looking” photo. To compensate for the lack of colour you must change the white balance to between 3200k and 4800k.

The easiest way to change the setting from the default is to go into your white balance menu setting (if you do not know where this is then refer to your camera’s manual) and change it from AWB (Auto White Balance) to Tungsten (Tungsten is close to 3200k). This will generate a warmer photo with more colours in it.

1.7.4.2           Tungsten Setting

The Tungsten setting is usually used to photograph scenes where there are artificial light in daytime. Tungsten imbues the photo with a yellowish/orange hue to create a natural look for your photo. Tungsten operates at the 3200K range which is ideal for Night Time photography, because it compensates for the lack of colour, and by imbuing more yellow/orange into the photo it actually looks normal: Dark Blue/Blackish.

The following photo shows the effect Tungsten white balance setting on a photograph:

Setting
Value
Exposure Time
30 seconds
Aperture
f/18
ISO
6400
Exposure Bias
0-step
Lenses
18mm
Camera
Canon
Model
760D

1.7.4.3           White Balance Comparison:

The following Photo shows the difference between the different White Balance settings, taken with a Canon 760D. I’ve taken the different photos from Daylight, Shaded, Cloudy, Tungsten and Fluorescent White Balance settings and transposed it into one photo, so that you can make an easy comparison between the different White Balance Settings.

 

Thus it is my recommendation that you use the Tungsten setting when you perform any kind of Night Time photos. There are a lot of scientific reasons which I can give you – but at the end of the day it just looks better and more pleasing to the eye!

1.7.5          Aperture

1.7.5.1         Overview

There are many articles out there which “tell” you what the correct aperture is to take star trails, but none of them shows you the difference between the different aperture ranges. I set out to take different low-light photographs with different apertures and ISO ranges with my trusty Canon 760D camera. I compiled then three photos which shows the differences between the different f-stops on the photo, and what the impact is on the colour range and amount of detail captured in the photograph.

The three areas which I covered were:
·         Comparison of f-stops on ISO 6400,
·         Comparison of f-stops on ISO 3200, and
·         Comparison of f-stops on ISO 1600

Note: I used the same image and did NOT use any image manipulation to alter the photo in any way (I just “cut-out” the relevant section of each photograph and transposed it onto one photo). I shot these in jpeg mode to ensure as well that I have one photo of each of the f-stops. These photos were taken of my home in a light polluted environment, but this will give you a good indication of what are the ideal settings to use.

1.7.5.2         Comparison of f-stops on ISO 6400

The mid-range f-stops were closer to my personal preference in colours, and the lower numbered f-stops produced too much light, the upper numbered f-stops produced too little light and too little star details. I used ISO 6400 (drawback is too much noise in photograph) and tungsten white balance for all the photos. The ideal range thus for colours in relation to star details were between f/8 and f/13 as seen in the next composition.

1.7.5.3         Comparison of f-stops on ISO 3200

The lower to mid-range f-stops were closer to my personal preference in colours, and the lowest numbered f-stops produced too much light, the upper numbered f-stops produced too little light (too dark) and too little star details. I used ISO 3200 and tungsten white balance for all the photos. The ideal range thus for colours in relation to star details were between f/6.3 and f/10 as seen in the next composition.

1.7.5.4         Comparison of f-stops on ISO 1600

The lower range f-stops were closer to my personal preference in colours, and the higher numbered f-stops produced too little light and were too dark to see any star details. I used ISO 1600 and tungsten white balance for all the photos. The ideal range thus for colours in relation to star details were between f/4 (or lower) and f/7.1 as seen in the next composition.
 

1.7.5.5         Conclusion

A lot depends on your own preference for colours and amount of star details in your photographs. But when you perform the comparison between the different composite photographs then you will be able to make up your own mind as to which is better, and what kind of look you are going for in your photograph. I would recommend the following settings though:
·         ISO 6400, White Balance of Tungsten and f-stop between f/8 and f13,
·         ISO 6400, White Balance of Tungsten and f-stop between f/6.3 and f/10. and
·         ISO 6400, White Balance of Tungsten and f-stop between f/4 and f/7.1 

1.7.6         Length of Star Trails

1.7.6.1           Overview

The length of time you take Time-Lapse star trails obviously have an effect on the length of your star trails. But the biggest question usually is: how much impact does it really have.  It is my suggestion that the longer you can photograph Time-Lapse star trails, the better it is. As stated before it is usually boredom and the fight to stay awake which have an impact on the length of time which you can take the photos.

The earth rotates at approximately 15 degrees every hour and so this will affect your star trails by generating 15 degrees lines every hour. A big impact on the length of star trails is your field of view, meaning if you point your camera up 15 degrees with a 80 millimetre lens then your star trails will be shorter length than for example if you point you camera at ) degrees with a 18 millimetre lens. The quick answer if you want long star trails is to be more zoomed in, but if you want more focus on your foreground then I would use a short lens e.g. 18 millimetres.

Set your camera’s shutter speed to 30 seconds. At 30 seconds the stars start to look elongated and thus when you stich all your photos together then it will make a nice Star-Trail. 

1.7.6.2           Gradient View

The following image shows an overlap of the gradients with markers showing the 15 degrees lengths of the star trails overlapped with time:

1.7.6.3           Conclusion

It is my suggestion that the longer you can photograph Time-Lapse star trails, the better it is. As stated before it is usually boredom and the fight to stay awake which have an impact on the length of time which you can take the photos. Thus I would recommend that you take good company with you, plus a second camera to play around with different sceneries and different types of photographs. 

1.7.7          ISO

1.7.7.1         Overview

The last setting which you must set on your camera is the ISO. ISO will determine the sensitivity to detail in your image, the higher the ISO the more detail, and the lower the ISO fewer details will be shown in your photo. One of the drawbacks of using a higher ISO is that it will generate more noise in your photograph.  

There are a lot of articles out there where each one has a different opinion around the correct setting for ISO. Thus I decided to do two tests with regards to ISO 3200 and ISO 6400. I am well aware that ISO 6400 create a lot more noise in the photo, but it picks up as well a lot more natural light from the stars. Thus I set out with this challenge to see what the clear distinctions between these two ISO settings are.  

1.7.7.2         ISO 3200

The first test was taking a Time-Lapse Star trail staked photo with ISO setting 3200. The photo consists of 203 stacked photos (I wanted to see if a longer time-period will have an effect on getting more star lines). The photos were staked using the StarStax application.

The following image shows a cross section from the ISO 3200 Star Trail. When you count the lines from the brightest line (Jupiter) to the left you get 6 star lines.

Setting
Value
Exposure Time
1 Hour 50 Minutes
Aperture
f/8
ISO
3200
Exposure Bias
0-step
Lenses
18mm
Camera
Canon
Model
760D

1.7.7.3         ISO 6400

The second test was taking a Time-Lapse Star trail staked photo with ISO setting 3200. The photo consists of 143 stacked photos, and the photos were staked using the StarStax application.

The following image shows a cross section from the ISO 6400 Star Trail. When you count the lines from the brightest line (Jupiter) to the left you get 14 star lines.

Setting
Value
Exposure Time
1 Hour 18 minutes
Aperture
f/8
ISO
6400
Exposure Bias
0-step
Lenses
18mm
Camera
Canon
Model
760D

1.7.7.4         And the winner is:

The clear winner is the Time-Lapse Star Trails taken with ISO 6400. The biggest draw-back that I can see with this method is that there is a lot more of Noise/Grain in the photo. But the positive side is that your camera will pick up a lot more stars! In the ISO 6400 you had 14 Star Lines, and in the ISO 3200 photo you get approximately 6 lines, thus the amount of Star Trail lines is almost double – WOW!

In my opinion you can use some of today’s photo-editing tools to normalize the noise levels, without affecting the quality of the star trails too much. I must admit I am changing my mind of using a lower ISO in Time-Lapse Star trails, to using a higher ISO level to capture more stars in the star trails photograph.

I would recommend using between 3200 and 6400 ISO level, but the most important part is that you take a couple of test shorts with each ISO level to ensure that your photograph produces the best result with your type of DSLR camera.
 

1.7.8          What Settings do I use?

Finally, to summarise I would use the following settings to take great Time-Lapse star trails Photos:
White Balance (Tungsten), Aperture (8), Shutter Speed (30seconds) and ISO (6400)

1.8        Taking the Photographs

1.8.1          Taking a test Shot

Always remember that your camera will pick up more stars than what your eyes can see, and thus you must always take test shots until you are happy with the outcome of your photo. I recommend that you take quite a few test shots because the image ay look fine on the live-view, but on a computer screen it may look totally different.

The three primary settings you should use is the ISO, Aperture and shutter speed. ISO, Aperture and shutter speed combination will determine the amount of light that gets captured, and it is essential that you get the combination right.

Taking your first test shot:
1.    The first step would be to set your camera to the following settings: ISO = 6400, Shutter Speed = 30 seconds and Aperture f/8,
2.    Cover your eyepiece, because that is allowing extra light from the back of your camera into the camera sensor, and this may lead to “light-leaks”. You can cover this with a small light cloth, or a camera strap,
3.    Press your cable release, and take the photograph (to determine your sharpness, and to check your composition),
4.    Do NOT touch the camera in any way – as this will cause vibrations, and much up your photograph. If you touched your camera by accident in this step, then please redo from step 1, and
5.    When the photo is finished then look at it in playback

In Playback make sure that all the start rails and have pinpoint accuracy. If they are not very sharp then re-focus your lens until the ultimate sharpness can be obtained. If your photo is sharp then sit back and admire your first photograph.

You may have noticed that some of your stars look elongated when you zoom into the image. This is caused by the length of exposure of your photograph.  

1.8.2         Taking the Actual Photographs

The first part is to take the actual photographs: Now that you are ready, press your cable release and “lock it” Your camera will then start continuously shooting pictures of the night sky, I would time the length to approximately 2 hours, so that you have nice movement of the stars. The biggest thing to remember is NOT to touch your camera – as this will influence your picture, and create a “distorted” look.

The second part it to take a “Dark-Frame” photo. The purpose of a “Dark-Frame” photo is to have a dark photo with noise, this photo can then be used in a program for example StarStax to compensate for noise or to compensate for too bright contrasts. A dark frame can as well help StarStax identify hot pixel noise, caused by pixels in your camera’s sensor overheating due to the continuous taking of photographs.
 

1.9        Putting it all Together

I use an application called StarStax to compile your hundreds of star-photos into one singular photo, which will show you star-trail beautifully.
Note: Download the application from: http://www.markus-enzweiler.de/software/software.html

1.9.1          StarStax

Once you have downloaded StarStax then follow the following guidelines to compile the photo:
1.       Open StarStax
2.       Click on File -> Open Images menu option
3.       Select your folder where all the photos are
4.       Click on Build->Star Trails menu option

       5.       Select the radio button “Lighten-Screen-Blend (LSB without gaps, slower) option

6.       Click on OK
7.       This process should take approximately 5-10 minutes – thus go and have a cup of coffee
8.       When done then save your image to your hard drive

Enjoy your photograph J

Comparison of Length of Star Trails

Overview

The length of time you take Time-Lapse star trails obviously have an effect on the length of your star trails. But the biggest question usually is: how much impact does it really have. This article will show you how much of an impact time has on Time-Lapse Star trails. Hopefully this will guide you onto how long you can take the photo to get your desired effect. The biggest challenge for this article is if you stay awake during the whole process then you are a better man than me J (I fell asleep during the taking of this photo sequence)

For technique for how to take time-lapse star trails please refer to the following guide: http://skyclik.blogspot.co.za/2016/02/how-to-do-time-lapse-star-trails.html

 Amount of photos
The following table shows you how many thirty seconds photos were taken during a certain timeframe, there are 55 photos of 30 second duration in half an hour.
Time
NR 30 Seconds Photos
1/2 Hour
55
1 Hour
110
1 1/2 Hour
165
2 Hour
220
2 1/2 Hour
275
3 Hours
330
3 1/2 Hour
385
4 Hours
440

½ Hour

During the first hour 55 photos were taken which were then stacked using Star Stax. The star trails are quite short and does not look like a “real” star trail photo yet.
Setting
Value
Exposure Time
30 seconds
Aperture
f/14
ISO
6400
Exposure Bias
0-step
Lenses
28mm
Camera
Canon
Model
5D Mark ii

1 Hour

During the first hour 110 photos were taken which were then stacked using Star Stax. The star trails are still short but are looking more like a star trail photo.
Setting
Value
Exposure Time
30 seconds
Aperture
f/14
ISO
6400
Exposure Bias
0-step
Lenses
28mm
Camera
Canon
Model
5D Mark ii

1 ½ Hours

During the first hour and a half 165 photos were taken which were then stacked using Star Stax. The star trails are now coming nicely along.
Setting
Value
Exposure Time
30 seconds
Aperture
f/14
ISO
6400
Exposure Bias
0-step
Lenses
28mm
Camera
Canon
Model
5D Mark ii

2 Hours

During the first two hours 220 photos were taken which were then stacked using Star Stax. This is the time-period which I usually like to take star trails, as this usually give a nice blend of star trails and your foreground image.
Setting
Value
Exposure Time
30 seconds
Aperture
f/14
ISO
6400
Exposure Bias
0-step
Lenses
28mm
Camera
Canon
Model
5D Mark ii

 

2 ½ Hours

During the first two hours and half 275 photos were taken which were then stacked using Star Stax. The star trails are now becoming longer and are starting to fill the sky.
Setting
Value
Exposure Time
30 seconds
Aperture
f/14
ISO
6400
Exposure Bias
0-step
Lenses
28mm
Camera
Canon
Model
5D Mark ii

3 Hours

During the first three hours 330 photos were taken which were then stacked using Star Stax. The star trails are becoming very long and start to look like stripes in the sky.
Setting
Value
Exposure Time
30 seconds
Aperture
f/14
ISO
6400
Exposure Bias
0-step
Lenses
28mm
Camera
Canon
Model
5D Mark ii

 

3 ½ Hours

During the first three and a half hours 385 photos were taken which were then stacked using Star Stax. At this point I do not know what to say, except WOW, nice effect:
Setting
Value
Exposure Time
30 seconds
Aperture
f/14
ISO
6400
Exposure Bias
0-step
Lenses
28mm
Camera
Canon
Model
5D Mark ii

4 Hours

During the first four hours 440 photos were taken which were then stacked using Star Stax.
At this point my battery conked out, but as you can see in the diagram it shows the principle of time and star trails quite well. These star trails are now looking nice and long.

Setting
Value
Exposure Time
30 seconds
Aperture
f/14
ISO
6400
Exposure Bias
0-step
Lenses
28mm
Camera
Canon
Model
5D Mark ii

 

Gradient View

The following image shows an overlap of the gradients with markers showing the 15 degrees lengths of the star trails overlapped with time:

Conclusion

It is my suggestion that the longer you can photograph Time-Lapse star trails, the better it is. As stated before it is usually boredom and the fight to stay awake which have an impact on the length of time which you can take the photos. Thus I would recommend that you take good company with you, plus a second camera to play around with different sceneries and different types of photographs.

Star Trails- Comparison between ISO 3200 and 6400

Overview

There are a lot of articles out there where each one has a different opinion around the correct setting for ISO. Thus I decided to do two tests with regards to ISO 3200 and ISO 6400. I am well aware that ISO 6400 create a lot more noise in the photo, but it picks up as well a lot more natural light from the stars. Thus I set out with this challenge to see what the clear distinctions between these two ISO settings are.

Note: Please refer to my article on How to photograph Time-Lapse photos to learn how to perform this technique: http://skyclik.blogspot.co.za/2016/02/how-to-do-time-lapse-star-trails.html

 

ISO 3200

The first test was taking a Time-Lapse Star trail staked photo with ISO setting 3200. The photo consists of 203 stacked photos (I wanted to see if a longer time-period will have an effect on getting more star lines). The photos were staked using the StarStax application.

The following image shows a cross section from the ISO 3200 Star Trail. When you count the lines from the brightest line (Jupiter) to the left you get 6 star lines.

Setting
Value
Exposure Time
1 Hour 50 Minutes
Aperture
f/8
ISO
3200
Exposure Bias
0-step
Lenses
18mm
Camera
Canon
Model
760D

 

ISO 6400

The second test was taking a Time-Lapse Star trail staked photo with ISO setting 3200. The photo consists of 143 stacked photos, and the photos were staked using the StarStax application.

The following image shows a cross section from the ISO 6400 Star Trail. When you count the lines from the brightest line (Jupiter) to the left you get 14 star lines.

Setting
Value
Exposure Time
1 Hour 18 minutes
Aperture
f/8
ISO
6400
Exposure Bias
0-step
Lenses
18mm
Camera
Canon
Model
760D

 

And the winner is:

The clear winner is the Time-Lapse Star Trails taken with ISO 6400. The biggest draw-back that I can see with this method is that there is a lot more of Noise/Grain in the photo. But the positive side is that your camera will pick up a lot more stars! In the ISO 6400 you had 14 Star Lines, and in the ISO 3200 photo you get approximately 6 lines, thus the amount of Star Trail lines is almost double – WOW!

In my opinion you can use some of today’s photo-editing tools to normalize the noise levels, without affecting the quality of the star trails too much. I must admit I am changing my mind of using a lower ISO in Time-Lapse Star trails, to using a higher ISO level to capture more stars in the star trails photograph.

Hope this article was informative, and as always if you have any questions or queries please do not hesitate to contact me.

Can I take Time-Lapse Star Trails from Home?

Overview

The question is Can I take Time-Lapse Star Trails from Home?

The answer is a resounding YESyou can!

Last night I decided to do some Time-Lapse Star Trails at home, and got some excellent results of the stars. When I started I could only see two stars with my eyes, due to the amount light pollution in the sky. Just to make it clear we stay in a residential estate where there is a lot of light pollution. Light pollution usually spoil your photo due to you not being able to see a lot of stars.

This article will show you how to take Tamie-Lapse Star Trail photos at your home. 

Composition

Overview

Ensure that you include as much as possible sky into your photograph; this will ensure that the primary focus of the photograph is on the star trails. A good rule of thumb is between 30% and 50% of your photo frame must include the sky. Ensure that your foreground is clear, and not too distracting – but add to the value of your photograph. Lastly make double sure that your horizon is straight, off centre photographs does not look nice, and distract the viewer’s attention away from your subject.

If you are shooting in your garden then you include a nice flower, tree, shrub or cactus in your shot. This will ensure that you have a nice foreground image. 

How to compose

Mount your camera as well on the tri-pod and take a test photograph or two to ensure that you got your desired composition correct. Connect as well your cable release, as this will ensure that there is no camera movement when you activate your shutter. Camera movement will cause your photos to display blurry, no matter how well you focus on your landscape and stars.

Ensure that you include as much as possible sky into your photograph, this will ensure that the primary focus of the photograph is on the star trails. A good rule of thumb is between 33% fore-ground image and 66% sky.

Composition is one of the most important parts of shooting a Time-Lapse Star Trails photograph, and thus plans your photograph, and this will make the difference between a good photo and an awesome photograph. 

Setting-up

This section will provide you with the technique for photographing the Time-Lapse star trails. The primary settings to remember is that you must use high ISO, slow shutter speed and varying apertures to compensate for the low light conditions.
The following steps show you how to get ready:
1.       Connect your camera to your Tri-Pod
2.       Connect your cable release to your camera
3.       Set your camera to M- Manual mode
4.       Set your camera to continuous shooting
5.       Set your shutter speed to 30seconds
Now you are ready to start with your Time-Lapse star trails photograph.
 

Focusing

The next step is one of the most important parts: how to focus onto the Time-Lapse star trails. It is important to take the time to focus your photographs to pinpoint clarity, and it is one of the few times where you cannot rely on your camera’s autofocus system. Your camera’s auto focus system will not be able to focus on the Time-Lapse star trails as there is not enough contrast for it to focus on specific stars due to the stars being too small.

Follow the following steps to focus on the Time-Lapse star trails:
1.    Set your lens to MF (there are two options AF (Auto Focus) and MF (Manual Focus)),
2.    If your lens has image stabilization, then switch it off (the reason for this is: in the evening your lenses will constantly try to stabilize due to the low light conditions, and may soften your sharpness of your image),
3.    If your lens has the infinity symbol on the focus ring (∞) then set move the focus to there. But if your lens do not have this setting then do not stress, just continue to the next step,
4.    Switch your camera’s live view on,
5.    Move your camera that it points to the Time-Lapse star trails,
6.    Zoom your lens out to the minimum (widest field e.g. 18mm) ,
7.    Turn your focus ring until you can see the stars with pinpoint accuracy. You achieve pinpoint accuracy when the stars do not look like blobs. This can be a painstakingly slow process, but well worth it,
Once you’ve achieved the perfect focus, and then lock your focus on your lens (another flip button on your lens. This will ensure that you have perfect focus for the whole evening’s photos. 

Camera Settings

Overview

Always remember that your camera will pick up more stars than what your eyes can see, and thus you must always take test shots until you are happy with the outcome of your photo. I recommend that you take quite a few test shots because the image ay look fine on the live-view, but on a computer screen it may look totally different.

The three primary settings you should use is the ISO, Aperture and shutter speed. ISO, Aperture and shutter speed combination will determine the amount of light that gets captured, and it is essential that you get the combination right.

Taking your first test shot:

1.    The first step would be to set your camera to the following settings: ISO = 6400, Shutter Speed = 30 seconds and Aperture f/8,
2.    Cover your eyepiece, because that is allowing extra light from the back of your camera into the camera sensor, and this may lead to “light-leaks”. You can cover this with a small light cloth, or a camera strap,
3.    Press your cable release, and take the photograph (to determine your sharpness, and to check your composition),
4.    Do NOT touch the camera in any way – as this will cause vibrations, and much up your photograph. If you touched your camera by accident in this step, then please redo from step 1, and
5.    When the photo is finished then look at it in playback

In Playback make sure that all the start rails and have pinpoint accuracy. If they are not very sharp then re-focus your lens until the ultimate sharpness can be obtained. If your photo is sharp then sit back and admire your first photograph.

You may have noticed that some of your stars look elongated when you zoom into the image. This is caused by the length of exposure of your photograph and that is exactly the effect we want. 

Settings

Now what are the right settings into taking the ultimate Time-Lapse star trails photograph? Follow the following guidelines and you will be able to photograph brilliant Time-Lapse star trails Photos. 

White Balance
Your test photograph will look very white with no colour in it. This is because your camera took the photo in neutral white as part of the auto white balance setting. To compensate for the lack of colour you must change the white balance to between 3200k and 4800k. The easiest way to do this is to go into your white balance menu setting (if you do not know where this is then refer to your camera’s manual) and change it from AWB (Auto White Balance) to Tungsten (Tungsten is close to 3200k). This will generate a warmer photo with more colours in it. 

Exposure
The two primary settings to control in astrophotography are shutter speed and aperture. These two settings manage how much light will be captured by your camera. The amount of light is important because most stars are faint, and you would like to capture as much as possible of this faint light in the dark. 

Aperture
I would recommend setting your lens to the maximum aperture it can go to e.g. f/8 so that the maximum amount of light can be captured by your camera. Sometimes I vary the maximum aperture between f/7 to f/8 to create different effects on the photo, and depending on how much natural light there is in your surroundings. For example if there is some light pollution from a city close to you then I would use an aperture of approximately f/8.  

Shutter Speed
The rule of 500 is used to determine the optimal shutter speed. The rule of 500 indicates: what is the optimal time to set your shutter speed before the stars lose their round shapes. This may sound confusing but it is actually simple. I’m going explain it for the crop sensor cameras and full frame cameras (If you require a more detailed explanation around the rule of 500 then please feel free to google it).
A crop frame camera crops the image by 1.6 thus the calculation is
Shutter seconds = 500 / (Focal Length X 1.6)
Thus if your camera’s focal length is set to 18mm the calculation would be:
Shutter Seconds = 500 / (18 X 1.6) which gives you 17 seconds. This means you can leave your shutter open for 17 seconds before the stars in your photograph stars losing its sharpness and round shapes. 

A full frame camera does not crop an image, and thus the calculation would be:
Shutter Seconds = 500 / (18) which gives you 27 seconds. This means you can leave your shutter open for 27 seconds before the stars in your photograph stars losing its sharpness and round shapes. 

ISO
The last setting which you must set on your camera is the ISO. ISO will determine the sensitivity to detail in your image, the higher the ISO the more detail, and the lower the ISO fewer details will be shown in your photo. One of the drawbacks of using a higher ISO is that it will generate more noise in your photograph.

I would recommend using between 1600 and 6400 ISO level, but the most important part is that you take a couple of test shorts with each ISO level to ensure that your photograph produces the best result with your type of DSLR camera. 

What Settings do I use?
Finally, to summarise I would use the following settings to take great Time-Lapse star trails Photos:
White Balance (Tungsten), Aperture (f8), Shutter Speed (30seconds) and ISO (6400)
 

Taking the Photographs

Now that you are ready, press your cable release and “lock it” Your camera will then start continuously shooting pictures of the night sky, I would time the length to approximately 2 hours, so that you have nice movement of the stars. The biggest thing to remember is NOT to touch your camera – as this will influence your picture, and create a “distorted” look.

Putting it all Together

Overview

I use an application called StarStax to compile your hundreds of star-photos into one singular photo, which will show you star-trail beautifully.

Once you have downloaded StarStax then follow the following guidelines to compile the photo:
1.        Open StarStax
2.        Click on File -> Open Images menu option
3.        Select your folder where all the photos are
4.        Click on Build->Star Trails menu option
5.        Select the radio button “Lighten-Screen-Blend (LSB without gaps, slower) option
6.        Click on OK
7.        This process should take approximately 5-10 minutes – thus go and have a cup of coffee
8.        When done then save your image to your hard drive
9.        Enjoy your photograph J
 Hope fully this article will de-mystify time-lapse star trail s photography in your  own back yard, and make it a lot easier for you. As always please contact me if you have any questions or queries – and I will gladly assist you

 

How to do Time-lapse Star Trails

1.1        Overview

This article will cover how to do Time-Lapse Star trails. I usually do Time-Lapse star trails when there is too much light around you, which may spoil your photograph, or when there are some clouds around in the sky. Time-Lapse star trails method provides you with the opportunity to modify individual “frames” or remove unwanted “frames” in your photograph.

Time-Lapse Star trails in essence is taking hundreds of single photographs and then combining it at the end. This allows you to control your individual photographs light on a shorter basis, so that a singular light source from in front of your photograph does not spoil your photograph.

1.2        Composition

1.2.1          Overview

Ensure that you include as much as possible sky into your photograph; this will ensure that the primary focus of the photograph is on the star trails. A good rule of thumb is between 30% and 50% of your photo frame must include the sky. Ensure that your foreground is clear, and not too distracting – but add to the value of your photograph. Lastly make double sure that your horizon is straight, off centre photographs does not look nice, and distract the viewer’s attention away from your subject.

 

1.2.2          How to Compose

I would recommend that you scout your location first during daylight. During the day you can properly plan your photograph, and see the “lay of the land” This will enable to choose the most optimal site with the most effect for your photograph.

Mount your camera as well on the tri-pod and take a test photograph or two to ensure that you got your desired composition correct. Ensure that you place your tri-pod as well on a solid surface – which will ensure that your photograph comes out very sharp. Another tip is to connect a 2 litre water bottle to the bottom of your tri-pod (there is usually a hook onto where you can connect the water bottle) this will assist your tri-pod to become more stable. Connect as well your cable release, as this will ensure that there is no camera movement when you activate your shutter. Camera movement will cause your photos to display blurry, no matter how well you focus on your landscape and stars.  

Ensure that you include as much as possible sky into your photograph, this will ensure that the primary focus of the photograph is on the star trails. A good rule of thumb is between 33% fore-ground image and 66% sky. Ensure that your foreground can give some perspective of of your planned scene, for example to include a tree, car or a house. Make double sure that your horizon is straight, off centre photographs does not look nice, and distract the viewer’s attention away from your subject.

Composition is one of the most important parts of shooting a Time-Lapse Star Trails photograph, and thus plans your photograph, and this will make the difference between a good photo and an awesome photograph.  

1.2.3          How do you do: Light Painting

I would recommend to perform light-painting on one of your photographs – so that you have one photograph in which the foreground is perfectly exposed. You can use a torch to highlight your foreground landscape when you start taking your photograph. I would suggest to carefully lighting the scene. You can do this by diffusing the light by standing far away from your subject, and flashing the light over the subject from different angles. Be careful of using too much or too little light. If you use too much light then your scene will be too white and harsh and when you use too little light your foreground scene will be too dark. Be careful of using too much light from the back of your camera as this will create a too harsh scene with too much light, but rather try and light your scene from the sides, and other angles. 

1.2.4          Setting-up

This section will provide you with the technique for photographing the Time-Lapse star trails. The primary settings to remember is that you must use high ISO, slow shutter speed and varying apertures to compensate for the low light conditions.

The following steps show you how to get ready:
1.       Connect your camera to your Tri-Pod
2.       Connect your cable release to your camera
3.       Set your camera to M- Manual mode
4.       Set your camera to continuous shooting
5.       Set your shutter speed to 30seconds
Now you are ready to start with your Time-Lapse star trails photograph. 

1.2.5          Focusing

The next step is one of the most important parts: how to focus onto the Time-Lapse star trails. It is important to take the time to focus your photographs to pinpoint clarity, and it is one of the few times where you cannot rely on your camera’s autofocus system. Your camera’s auto focus system will not be able to focus on the Time-Lapse star trails as there is not enough contrast for it to focus on specific stars due to the stars being too small.

Follow the following steps to focus on the Time-Lapse star trails:
1.    Set your lens to MF (there are two options AF (Auto Focus) and MF (Manual Focus)),
2.    If your lens has image stabilization, then switch it off (the reason for this is: in the evening your lenses will constantly try to stabilize due to the low light conditions, and may soften your sharpness of your image),
3.    If your lens has the infinity symbol on the focus ring (∞) then set move the focus to there. But if your lens do not have this setting then do not stress, just continue to the next step,
4.    Switch your camera’s live view on,
5.    Move your camera that it points to the Time-Lapse star trails,
6.    Zoom your lens out to the minimum (widest field e.g. 18mm) ,
7.    Turn your focus ring until you can see the stars with pinpoint accuracy. You achieve pinpoint accuracy when the stars do not look like blobs. This can be a painstakingly slow process, but well worth it,

Once you’ve achieved the perfect focus, and then lock your focus on your lens (another flip button on your lens. This will ensure that you have perfect focus for the whole evening’s photos. 

1.3        Camera Settings

1.3.1          Overview

Always remember that your camera will pick up more stars than what your eyes can see, and thus you must always take test shots until you are happy with the outcome of your photo. I recommend that you take quite a few test shots because the image ay look fine on the live-view, but on a computer screen it may look totally different.

The three primary settings you should use is the ISO, Aperture and shutter speed. ISO, Aperture and shutter speed combination will determine the amount of light that gets captured, and it is essential that you get the combination right.

Taking your first test shot:
1.    The first step would be to set your camera to the following settings: ISO = 1600, Shutter Speed = 25 seconds and Aperture f/2.8,
2.    Cover your eyepiece, because that is allowing extra light from the back of your camera into the camera sensor, and this may lead to “light-leaks”. You can cover this with a small light cloth, or a camera strap,
3.    Press your cable release, and take the photograph (to determine your sharpness, and to check your composition),
4.    Do NOT touch the camera in any way – as this will cause vibrations, and much up your photograph. If you touched your camera by accident in this step, then please redo from step 1, and
5.    When the photo is finished then look at it in playback

In Playback make sure that all the start rails and have pinpoint accuracy. If they are not very sharp then re-focus your lens until the ultimate sharpness can be obtained. If your photo is sharp then sit back and admire your first photograph.

You may have noticed that some of your stars look elongated when you zoom into the image. This is caused by the length of exposure of your photograph.  

1.3.2          Settings

Now what are the right settings into taking the ultimate Time-Lapse star trails photograph? Follow the following guidelines and you will be able to photograph brilliant Time-Lapse star trails Photos. 

White Balance
Your test photograph will look very white with no colour in it. This is because your camera took the photo in neutral white as part of the auto white balance setting. To compensate for the lack of colour you must change the white balance to between 3200k and 4800k. The easiest way to do this is to go into your white balance menu setting (if you do not know where this is then refer to your camera’s manual) and change it from AWB (Auto White Balance) to Tungsten (Tungsten is close to 3200k). This will generate a warmer photo with more colours in it. 

Exposure
The two primary settings to control in astrophotography are shutter speed and aperture. These two settings manage how much light will be captured by your camera. The amount of light is important because most stars are faint, and you would like to capture as much as possible of this faint light in the dark. 

Aperture
I would recommend setting your lens to the maximum aperture it can go to e.g. f/2.8 so that the maximum amount of light can be captured by your camera. Sometimes I vary the maximum aperture between f/2.8 to f/7.1 to create different effects on the photo, and depending on how much natural light there is in your surroundings. For example if there is some light pollution from a city close to you then I would use an aperture of approximately f/7.1.  

Shutter Speed
The rule of 500 is used to determine the optimal shutter speed. The rule of 500 indicates: what is the optimal time to set your shutter speed before the stars lose their round shapes. This may sound confusing but it is actually simple. I’m going explain it for the crop sensor cameras and full frame cameras (If you require a more detailed explanation around the rule of 500 then please feel free to google it).

A crop frame camera crops the image by 1.6 thus the calculation is 
Shutter seconds = 500 / (Focal Length X 1.6)

Thus if your camera’s focal length is set to 18mm the calculation would be:

Shutter Seconds = 500 / (18 X 1.6) which gives you 17 seconds. This means you can leave your shutter open for 17 seconds before the stars in your photograph stars losing its sharpness and round shapes. 

A full frame camera does not crop an image, and thus the calculation would be:
Shutter Seconds = 500 / (18) which gives you 27 seconds. This means you can leave your shutter open for 27 seconds before the stars in your photograph stars losing its sharpness and round shapes. 

ISO
The last setting which you must set on your camera is the ISO. ISO will determine the sensitivity to detail in your image, the higher the ISO the more detail, and the lower the ISO fewer details will be shown in your photo. One of the drawbacks of using a higher ISO is that it will generate more noise in your photograph.

I would recommend using between 800 and 3200 ISO level, but the most important part is that you take a couple of test shorts with each ISO level to ensure that your photograph produces the best result with your type of DSLR camera. 

What Settings do I use?
Finally, to summarise I would use the following settings to take great Time-Lapse star trails Photos: White Balance (Tungsten), Aperture (f2.8), Shutter Speed (30seconds) and ISO (1600) 

1.4        Taking the Photographs

Now that you are ready, press your cable release and “lock it” Your camera will then start continuously shooting pictures of the night sky, I would time the length to approximately 2 hours, so that you have nice movement of the stars. The biggest thing to remember is NOT to touch your camera – as this will influence your picture, and create a “distorted” look. 

1.5        Putting it all Together

1.5.1          Overview

I use an application called StarStax to compile your hundreds of star-photos into one singular photo, which will show you star-trail beautifully.

1.5.2          StarStax

Once you have downloaded StarStax then follow the following guidelines to compile the photo:
1.       Open StarStax
2.       Click on File -> Open Images menu option
3.       Select your folder where all the photos are
4.       Click on Build->Star Trails menu option
5.       Select the radio button “Lighten-Screen-Blend (LSB without gaps, slower) option
6.       Click on OK
7.       This process should take approximately 5-10 minutes – thus go and have a cup of coffee
8.       When done then save your image to your hard drive
9.       Enjoy your photograph J

 Hope fully this article will de-mystify time-lapse star trail s photography, and make it a lot easier for you. As always please contact me if you have any questions or queries – and I will gladly assist you