Long exposures are one of my favorite tools to add a surreal touch to my images, blurring motion and making time visible by keeping the shutter open for long periods of time. Using this technique I can blur clouds moving across the sky, waves crashing on to the shore or traffic passing by. One especially intriguing, but extremely slow, movement to capture in long exposures is the rotation of the earth. To unveil how the earth is moving around its axis, you can expose the night sky from several minutes up to several hours. This will show the stars forming streaks across the sky. What is generally referred to as star trails is not actually the stars crossing the sky, but rather the earth moving amidst the surrounding celestial bodies of our home galaxy. I can think of few images that capture a greater sense of awe and humility, considering our insignificance in the broader interstellar context, than star trails. Not only does it evoke an emotion of feeling small and connected to one’s not-so-immediate surroundings, it is also a challenging and stunning subject to photographically engage with. Thus, in this article I wish to delve into the dos and don’ts of star-trail photography and inspire you to go out and try it for yourself.
Considerations for composition and planning
There are some considerations that this sub-genre of night photography shares with general after-dark landscape photography. You need to find a suitable composition and you will face some other obstacles on the way, such as finding clear skies, focusing in the dark or coping with noise. Focusing in the dark is a matter of marking the infinity point on the focus dial of your lens during experimentation – usually while it is still bright outside. Using the ...