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Star Trails

Lesson 13 from: Beginner's Guide to Astro Landscape Photography

Peter Baumgarten

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Lesson Info

13. Star Trails

Next Lesson: Capturing Panoramas

Lesson Info

Star Trails

So we're back here in Joshua Tree National Park and gonna do a number of shots tonight. I'm actually really pumped about tonight because we have clear skies, and we've been waiting for that. So one of the cameras that I wanna set up is for a live composite star trail situation here. I know that the North Star is gonna be over here, and I like this rocky outcrop, and I'm fairy certain that once I get this going, it won't interfere with some of the other landscape shooting that we're gonna be doing over in the distance here. So I'm gonna start setting up my gear for a live comp. Let's start. And key for me is getting here early enough that I can sort of find features that I wanna highlight in my live comp image later, even though it will be, I think, well over an hour before we actually can start this. So of course I'm always traveling with a couple of bodies. I'm gonna use the E-M1 Mark II here. And I've got the 12 on it, but for live comp, especially with star trails, I really like the...

effect that the 7-14 gives me, so I'm gonna switch to the 7-14 PRO. And the reason for that is, because it's a rectal-linear lens, if I can put the North Star in either the top left or the top right corner, I'll get some really cool oblong star trails as opposed to perfectly circular ones, and I just like sorta the way that appears. It's sort of like a graphic element almost when it's all done. Before I even set this up, I wanna make sure that I've got a full battery because we're gonna be running this for at least an hour. There we go, 100%. So what I'm looking at in my frame is to make sure that this kinda double-peaked large rock in the distance is gonna be prominent in it. I like this one because I might end up doing a little bit of light painting at the beginning of the live comp sequence and see how that looks before I go full-bore into an hour's worth of shooting. I'll do the light painting first and see what kind of effect I get. I'm shooting fairly low here, but I'm actually gonna tilt this up a little bit more. The sky, in this case, is more important. All right, and while it's daylight, I might as well start putting in the settings that I would use. So I'm in Manual Mode, I'm gonna just go to my Super Control Panel, and I've got ISO 3200, but live comp will top out at 16, so that'll drop down. And I've got my custom white balance set at 3600. I'm shooting in RAW. I've got manual focus, and I wanna make sure that I'm focused at infinity. And best thing to focus on right now are those distant hills, those distant rock outcrops. So I'm gonna move my focus point over to one of those peaks over there, all right. And then I'm going to use the manual focus knob, and you can see that that's quite blurry at the moment, but it's magnifying at 14 times, and as I get closer to infinity, here comes the focus peaking, so I get that nice red outline. And I'm gonna go a little past, and now it's gotten a little soft, so I'm out of focus there, pull it back, and that's looking pretty good. So I think I'm exactly where I wanna be here, but with this particular lens, I'm actually beyond the infinity marker, so don't always trust the infinity marker. You have to make sure that you're absolutely locked on manual focus and that things are sharp at what is visually infinity, not the marker itself always. All right, so now I'm just gonna get rid of all of this other info for a second so I can look at the overall composition, there we go. All right, so now I'm really seeing what this image is gonna look like, and I'm pretty happy with that overall composition. I'm kinda using some of those standard compositional rules. I've got, you know, bottom third with my horizon here, and I've got a bit of subject separation right here. I do want some sky over there. And I should be able to get some depth if I add some light painting. All right, so let's get that info back on. And I'm not worried about exposure at the moment because that's gonna change as we get into the dark skies, but in order to get to live comp with this model of camera, I've got to go through all of my shutter speeds till I get to 60, then we get into bulb, live time, and live comp. And of course, now it looks completely blown out because of course, it's still too light out here. In order to check what my base exposure is for the live comp, I've got my aperture here, and I'm not worried about the fact that I'm more than three exposure values over. Hit the Menu button, and so this is where you can set what your shutter speed is or how often it recycles the, how often it updates the image. And so right now, it'll update the image every 15 seconds, but I could go down to half a second, and I've used that, so there we go, I can go all the way to half a second if I were doing some cloud movement during a sunset or a sunrise, and I can keep going up in increments. I'm gonna stick with, with this lens, this is a slightly slower lens, it's f2.8, so I'm gonna go to 25 seconds here and that's what I'm gonna start with right now, and we'll see how when we start this, the initial image that I'm getting, and I can always stop it and adjust it. But I like that to begin with, so I'm gonna Set OK, get outta there, we're good, all right. And now this camera is set up, ready for some darkness so that we can get a live comp. And I may have to adjust my overall composition once I actually see where Polaris is exactly. I'm hoping that it's in this corner so that I get these oblong star trails over here that kinda spread out and get larger as we go into this kinda negative space over here. But there we go, we're ready to go. So I'm gonna turn that off, put the lens cap off, on rather, to keep the dust off of it. And we're ready to start exploring some other shots.

Ratings and Reviews

Lana Froemming

I purchased the Creative Live + Olympus Step Outside Conference Bundle some time ago, and it has taken me this long (too long) to view the astrophotography class. Although not a beginner, I have been using Olympus gear (EPL5 & EM1) for about 7 years now, I have only dabbled in astrophotography – and as a result, blown my fair share of what should have been killer shots. When I did give it a go, I obtained most of my settings’ tips by combing through Peter’s blog posts and then racing out the door. Although I feel that I know my camera pretty well I still learned so much from this course. I appreciate that he walked the viewer through multiple night time photography events including shooting the milky way, the moon, aurora, meteor showers & star trails as well as talked about the different camera features including night sky panoramas, in-camera multiple exposures, live comp & time lapse and presented a variety of lens choices and why (plus so much more). What I love about Creative Live is that once you purchase a “class” you own it and can return to your classroom over, and over again. I also appreciate that they work with experts who are also amazing teachers. Peter is one of those.

Doug Marshall

Some classes are just fantastic and this is one of them! Peter Baumgarten is a wonderful presenter of his extensive knowledge, experience and passion for the subject. This is a course I will return to watch again and again. Highly recommended if you are like me and are interested in getting into astrophotography and landscape.

elizabeth chambers

To my way of thinking this was the best photographic genre instructor featured during the Olympus Step Outside series. He may be a more seasoned instructor than the photographers demonstrating landscape and bird photography. Whatever the reason, I thought he seemed to understand his audience particularly well. Great advice and the post processing was interesting. Likely because of my familiarity with Lightroom, I found the post production done by the bird and landscape photographers rather mundane whereas the astro photography post production was new and interesting to me.

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