Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Star Trail Photography Tips

Star Trail Photography Tips

Link to PictureCorrect Photography Tips

Star Trail Photography Tips

Posted: 18 Nov 2013 04:39 PM PST

One of the lessons in the Photography Lab series I teach is a lesson on night photography, specifically shooting the stars. There are two essentials to know before going out to shoot stars your first time.

star trail photography

Photo captured by Denis Krivoy (Click Image to See More From Denis Krivoy)

ONE: The Earth is rotating. This means you can photograph star constellations, but after about 15 seconds, you will start to get blurring in your stars because of the movement of the Earth.

TWO: You should know a couple of constellations before you go out: the Big Dipper and Orion are the two I use to orient myself.

Why the Orion and The Big Dipper? First, they are extremely bright and easily found in the night sky. Second, besides being my favorite constellation, Orion is usually high enough in the sky to photograph with other stars around, but it can also sit low so you can get nice foreground elements in your compositions. Finally, use the two stars which make up the pouring end of the Big Dipper to find the North Star. Look at the bottom star in the dipper part of The Big Dipper, the non-handle end. Draw a from the bottom star in the dipper to the top star in the dipper, then continue this line until you see the Little Dipper. This line (and these two stars) point to the last star in the handle of the Little Dipper. Why is this important? The last star in the handle of the Little Dipper is Polaris – the North Star.

If you know where Polaris (The North Star) is located, you can point your camera in this direction and, using long exposure times, you will get circular star trails instead of blurry constellations.

how to photograph star trails

“35mm Star Trails May 2010″ captured by Jeremy Jackson (Click Image to See More From Jeremy Jackson)

When I shoot stars, I use 2 lenses: a Canon 10-22mm and a Tamaron 28-300 which I use in the 28mm – 80mm range. I set my camera to M (manual) and use the following settings:

  • Aperture: widest setting F2.8 / F3.5 / F5.0 depending on focal length
  • ISO: 100 or 200
  • Shutter Speed: BULB setting
  • White Balance: Auto or Tungstun
  • Focusing: Set focus to Manual / Infinity

Some other items you may want to bring along:

  • Small flashlight – you can see your gear, get things, set up, change your camera settings, and change your release cable settings. You can use the flashlight to do a sweep of the ground before you leave to make sure you didn’t leave anything behind. Use the flashlight to paint the foreground with light to give your photographs more compositional drama.
  • Small laser pointer – I haven’t tried this yet, but when I was shooting tonight, I could not see what I was composing through the viewfinder. It’s dark outside when you are photographing stars! I would take 30s/45s photographs to test my compositions. I wondered about using a small laser pointer to hold on top of my lens to see exactly where the lens is pointing.
  • Chair – you will be using loooong shutter speeds. You are going to want to sit. Well – I would want one. I want to look up and not get dizzy. A lounge chair is even better! Of course if you have driven to a remote location, you can always sit in your car while waiting for exposures to take.
  • Shutter release cable – some of the DSRLs have shutter release cables to release the shutter with. Some you can even set up to take a photo every X minute with an exposure time of X up to 99h99m99s.
  • Stop Watch – Most cameras have a 15min shutter speed max – but do have a bulb setting you can use if you want longer exposure times but don’t have a shutter release cable. In bulb, you shutter will open once you press the shutter button – and will not close until you press the shutter button again. If you use BULB – you may want a stop watch to help keep track of your exposure time.
  • Blanket – it’s January – and here in New England – it’s COLD in the wee hours of the morning. In addition to a nice coat/jacket – I’ll have a blanket to wrap up in and help stay toasty
  • Hot Chocolate / Coffee / Tea – Did I mention it’s cold in the middle of the night?! Plus – it’s the middle of the night! And I’m bundled up toasty and warm on a lounge chair – staring at stars. Going to need something to help keep me a little awake.
  • Tripod – yes – I know. I said it – tripod. Former students – it’s okay. I know I preach the power of less-is-more – but in this case – you will definitely need a tripod. You are going to also need a tri-pod which swivels so you can point you camera in the right direction. Night shots of star trails and meteor showers require LONG exposures. A rock or car roof won’t work here.
  • Friend – take a friend to share the experience with you. You’ll have someone to talk to (and help keep you from getting bored while you wait for those 1 and 2 hour exposures) and you’ll have great story to tell about taking tons of photographs of stars and meteors and of course – you’ll have the great shots you take too!!
tips for star trail photos

“1st 35mm Star Trail Attempt” captured by Jeremy Jackson (Click Image to See More From Jeremy Jackson)

  • Camera / Lens – you can’t really take photographs if you don’t have your camera… been there – couldn’t photograph that!!
  • Memory Cards – make sure you have a large memory card available and have an extra one just in case.
  • Batteries – how many?? 3. Where are they? Charged set in the camera. Charged set in your pocket. Set charging in charger. Really – I can’t stress extra batteries for night photography enough. Keeping the shutter open for long periods of time sucks up TONS of battery energy. Where a battery will last you for 6 hours of event photography, you might get 2 or 3 hours of night photography.

You can follow me as I continue to experiment with star photography techniques. You can see my attempts (success and failures) in the gallery at http://www.LiteWriting.com.

Now you know what gear you need, what settings to use, and where to point your camera. It’s time to get out there and try some star photography for yourself!

About the Author
Professional photographer Loreen Liberty (www.litewriting.com) has been taking photographs since her early teens, and in the professional industry for the past nine year. After many successful years as a wedding and portrait photographer, Loreen decided to turn her attentions to teaching photography full time. “It gives me more time to practice my craft and be artistic for myself.”

Go to full article: Star Trail Photography Tips

What are your thoughts on this article? Join the discussion on Facebook or Google+

Article from: PictureCorrect Photography Tips

Interesting Photo of the Day: Down the Drain

Posted: 18 Nov 2013 03:21 PM PST

It’s called a Bell-Mouth Spillway, and its an added safeguard against flooding at dam sites. Dams often have human controlled mechanisms for allowing water to pass through downstream, especially in cases where the water is used to generate electricity. But in the case of floods, high water spilling over the dam can damage and sometimes compromise the structure—and a dam failure can be catastrophic. The spillway provides an alternate exit for rising waters, allowing it to safely rush downstream before it ever reaches the top of the dam:

photography dam spillway

Water rushing down a bell-mouth spillway (Via Imgur, click for larger size)

There’s no indication as to what dam is being served by the above spillway, but one about that size is capable of eliminating 362,000 gallons of water PER SECOND.

And to answer the obvious question: No, you cannot ride the spillway.  You will die.

Go to full article: Interesting Photo of the Day: Down the Drain

What are your thoughts on this article? Join the discussion on Facebook or Google+

Article from: PictureCorrect Photography Tips

How to Light Two Surfaces with One Light Source: Portraits (Video)

Posted: 18 Nov 2013 02:31 PM PST

Shooting portraits with hard light is something photographers are generally taught to flee from—"Always use softboxes in studio sessions, and only shoot natural light portraits in the morning and evening, or your photographs will look washed out and amateur," they say.

But while shooting portraits with a hard light source can be tricky, it can be especially rewarding if the light is diffused properly using a reflector panel. In this video tutorial, photographer Joe McNally demonstrates the practice of using one hard light source to light two surfaces:

McNally's example shoot took place in a loft-like room with large, grated window panels leading out to a porch. Thinking that the shadows cast by the window grating would make a nice pattern on the brick wall behind the model, McNally positioned an undiffused Elinchrom Ranger 1100 Watt Second Power Pack out on the porch, angled so that the light "sprayed all over the set" and cast the desired shadows on the wall.

However, while this type of lighting is perfect for creating drastic shadows in the background, it's too harsh for lighting model's faces in the foreground.

To retain those bold shadows, but soften the light on his model's face, McNally used a Lastolite 32" Trigrip Reflector panel, positioned as close to the model as necessary to interrupt the flow of light spilling onto her face without affecting the light striking the back wall.

joe mcnally portrait adorama tv

"I like them because the construction is sort of stiff. It's not a circular one where you sort of have to hold them with two hands," McNally said. "You can just literally slide it… and move it as close as you possibly can to your subject so that you get nice wrap and diffusion while all sorts of hard light goes back [toward the wall]."

Go to full article: How to Light Two Surfaces with One Light Source: Portraits (Video)

What are your thoughts on this article? Join the discussion on Facebook or Google+

Article from: PictureCorrect Photography Tips

Timelapse Photography Tutorial (Video)

Posted: 18 Nov 2013 10:28 AM PST

We feature many timelapse photography projects here on Picture Correct, but rarely do we find such great examples of how they were made as we have with the Dustin Farrell‘s video that you can see below. Over the 17 minute explanation, Farrell generously shares with viewers the process he uses to capture the tens of thousands of images needed to complete a single timelapse film. Take a look:

Using a Canon 5D MK III and a 14mm EF f 2.4 and 24mm lens EF f 1.4, Farrell manages to capture some stunning visual images which he then renders together in post processing. By walking the scene with his camera, Farrell is able previsualize and get a feel for how the photos will turn out. When shooting night skies, Farrell calls on the iPhone app, Night Skies, to help plan out when the stars will be perfectly aligned.

When taking the timelapse images, he sets up an 8-foot Stage Zero dolly which he uses to capture the slow panning effects found in his timelapse films. The dolly is controlled with a MX-2 Motion Controller, which is fully programmable to move at precise increments and intervals. The controller is usually set to move very gradually, so that when the images are played back via timelapse the pan appears smooth and not to quick.

The phone app, Night Skies, allows users to track the movement of the stars and galaxies.

To help light the foreground, Farrell setup a battery powered 1 foot by 1 foot LED Daylight Flood panel, but notes that is a delicate balancing act between too bright of a foreground and too dim. When shooting on the settings he used–30 second exposure, 2500 ISO, at f2.4–it is easy to overlight the foreground. He set the flood panel to just 10% brightness and bounced it into the ground to further diffuse and soften it.

Farrell also states that he shoots RAW 95% of the time, “because having that RAW data is priceless.” Given the high dynamic range of many of the sunsets and landscape scenes he prefers to shoot, the RAW information enables Farrell to fine tune the highlights and shadows.


Once the shoot has commenced, Farrell moves into his office where the tedious task of editing and rendering the footage begins. He starts by importing the photos into Adobe After Effects which automatically opens in them in Camera Raw where he makes minor adjustments such as lens correction, clarity, and white balance settings. Once done in Camera RAW, he makes a duplicate layer in After Effects and the real magic starts to happen.

Given the nature of shooting night and low light settings, noise will always be an issue when using great cameras such as the 5D MK III. To help combat the noise, Farrell uses the Neat Video Pro plug-in which handles the noise and brings it down to a more agreeable level.

Once all the adjustments are made and the images are edited to perfection, Farrell renders them together and sets them to playback at a frame rate of 29.97 frames per second. He prefers this framerate over a commonly used 24 fps, because he feels it is more pleasing to the eye–and judging by the quality work Farrell has repeatedly turned out his eye is a great judge of what looks best!

For Further Training on Timelapse Photography:

There is a COMPLETE guide (146 pages) to shooting, processing and rendering time-lapses using a dslr camera. It can be found here: The Timelapse Photography Guide

Go to full article: Timelapse Photography Tutorial (Video)

What are your thoughts on this article? Join the discussion on Facebook or Google+

Article from: PictureCorrect Photography Tips

No comments:

Post a Comment