Köln Kranhäuser - Foto von Dominik Berg - star trails

Let’s talk about star trails

Yep, everybody who is into night photography might have heard about star trails. So let’s talk about them for minute. I’m a huge fan of star trails and I think they are great creative detail in photography that reminds somebody on the same time that we are just a tiny little appearance in this wonderful world.

Every time I look at the stars it makes me just humble and let me forget a minute about all the daily nonsense I think might be important. It’s just mind boggling that every star is actually a solar system with planets and shit. Then there are billions of these solar systems which build a galaxy. On top of that there are billions of those galaxies which are part of a cluster. And then there are billions of these…. UUUUUUH you see what I mean. Sometime, it just freaks me out a bit when I think about it.

I’m actually not an expert in night photography

Unfortunately, I’m not watching stars as often as I like. One of the many reasons I wanna dig deeper into the night photography game. Before we talk about capturing star trails, we should talk about taking a “normal” night image.

What gear do you need?

Yep for every kind of photography you need a certain type of gear. Before you heavily invest in it, you should always consider renting stuff and check if it is really up to you. In case you wanna achieve high quality images, I would recommend a full-frame camera with a good sensor that offers a good low-light performance and a wide fast lens with an aperture of at least 2.8. I recently switched from Canon to Sony. The good thing about that is that I can use now really old lenses as well. There are some manual focus lenses with an amazing aperture for cheap money. I really want to try one of those as well one day.

I fucked up.

When I captured this image I made it with Canon 6D and my 24mm Tilt-Shift lens which has not the best aperture. Then this photo was taken in the middle of Cologne where is a crazy amount of light pollution. For night photography you should stay away as far as you can from cities. That night I god perfect weather conditions but captured only a few stars. My result was bad, so I used another star trail exposure I had in my catalogue and cheated a bit.

The lighten blend mode is the secret

Here is how you do it correctly! You need to capture a lot of images, I would say at least 50 – 500 photos of the stars. Then you put those files together in Photoshop using the lighten blend mode. Because the stars are moving, they produce star trails. If you get really creative, you can blend these star trails into a blue hour shot with low ISO and therefore almost noise-free, like I did for my image.

I need to practice more

Now it’s up to you. Try to shoot your own star trails. Once you achieved that, blend them in a blue hour shot. I really have to practice more and will do soon.

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