Star trails and astrophotography

On our recent trip out to the Bunya Mountains National Park (see previous blog) I took the opportunity to play with a little night photography of the stars.

Usually when we go camping we end up in a great spot but surrounded by trees so that the best you can hope for is a glimpse of the sky. The great thing about our campsite this time was that it was set in a big clearing on the edge of a cliff so we had uninterrupted views out to the west with a big chunk of sky to play with. I didn’t even have to leave the campsite and go wandering away in the darkness to set up my gear, I just walked 50m away and that was far enough.

The other bonus was that it was a gorgeous clear night and being so far from “civilisation” meant that there was very little light pollution which makes it much easier to photograph the night sky. Trying to get stars in a sky with a lot of city light pollution or a big bright moon can make it much harder if not impossible to get decent star shots.

So for those that are interested I’ll run through a quick “how I did it”. (For those that have no interest please feel free to go straight to the piccys. 🙂 )

The biggest challenge was finding something interesting to place in the foreground which I may have failed at (as in not that interesting). The dead tree was the best standout feature on the cliff edge so I picked that. I put the camera into manual mode and up on a tripod well away from the lights of our camp and made sure I had a torch to use while I fiddled with the dials (it can be hard to see them in the dark but make sure it is not on once you start the shot – the torch light will add too much light). For the astrophotography shot – the still stars – I set the camera to a really high ISO, 2500 in this case, opened up the aperture as wide as it would go to get as much light as possible and trialled a couple of different shutter speeds to get the best image that I could. In the end the image was shot at ISO 2500, F 3.5, 30secs. Technically at 30sec I have some movement in the stars but it is minimal and I can live with it. For the star trail – the streaking stars – I used the same set up on the tripod but I dropped the ISO to 100 and put the camera on BULB (explanation of bulb here) for the shutter speed, locking it open using a cable release for 2794 secs (nearly 47mins) and just left it hanging out in the paddock. I had my ‘in camera noise reduction’ on so the image wasn’t revealed for another 47 mins while the camera processed the shot. All in all the hardest part of creating these shots was finding the camera again in the dark 😉 Each shot was then processed in Lightroom 5 to bring out the details and give a bit more punch.

So, that said, I hope you like my piccys 🙂 Dave and I have declared that we are definitely going back to the Bunya Mountains and we have a few new ideas to try for some astrophotography so stay tuned. There is more to come 😉

Bunya Mountains National Park Stars

oBBunya Mountains National Park Stars

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2 Responses to Star trails and astrophotography

  1. Tanya Robertson says:

    Augustine, these are fab! I don’t think you failed at all with foreground interest…the tree definitely adds ‘something’! Really love the Milky Way shot!

  2. Augustine says:

    Thanks Tanya 🙂 Really enjoyed making these shots

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