Day 348 (13 Dec 2012) Star Trails, or Lessons Learned

So the night of the 13th ended up having an amazing meteor shower!  I saw lots and lots, from really bright to dim in the two hours I was out watching.  Prior to going out I planned my shoot to a T, I thought: I found an image stacker designed to make star trails from individual images (the best way to make them w/o lots of noise or being affected as much by light pollution), had my camera settings set, used a dark sky site to find the darkest area around here, located several candidate sites, make a thermos of hot coco, dressed in LOTs of layers (it was 24F / -4C), put toe warmers in my boots, packed a sleeping bag to wrap in if needed, loaded all my camera gear (inc. the wired remote) and headed out.

First lesson learned: remember to pack my camp chair!  I wasn’t going to foul up my sleeping bag on the rocks/dirt.  Second: don’t forget to put the extra hand warmer on my lens.  I brought an extra for that reason to keep it from icing.  I forgot till too late.  Third: it appears most meteors are visible around the horizon (I didn’t catch any in an hour, yet saw dozens).  I pointed at the Gemini constellation, as thats where I read most would start from, which was almost straight up.  Also, pointing up more exposes your front lens element to space more, which will cause it to cool to colder than the air and get ice/condensation faster (leave a comment if you want the science behind this, and I’ll explain)  Fourth: a scraggly tree does not provide a good foreground subject against streaks of light.  Fifth: don’t knock over your glass-lined thermos on the rocks, because the glass inside will break 😦  Sixth, and maybe most important: DO NOT stop the camera sequence, unless you want to start completely over.  Notice the gaps in the trails?  Those each are from a 30ish second gap in shooting.  I had do delete one image because a car drove by and illuminated the tree.  Pulling out the aircraft light images make it look a lot worse due to a lot more gaps.

So, I count this expedition a success!  Yes, my image isn’t what I hoped for, but the next one will have some more knowledge to do this better 🙂  Like not setting up near a road, being more careful w/ my thermos, setting up the camera pointing in a better position and leaving it alone!


The software I used for this is StarStax.  Click on the link to get it!

Day 225 (12 Aug 2012) Perseid Meteor Shower

Seems I’m running a day late!  Well, I did send the last hour of yesterday with my shutter open (and the first hour of today waiting for the image), so I hope you like the result!

Since the sky was clear and the Perseid meteor shower in progress, I set up my tripod in my drive way, triggered the shutter, took a nap, and hoped for the best.  Well, actually I did spend about 10-15 min on my deck and saw two meteors.  However, in an hour, my camera only caught one (maybe North isn’t the best direction?).  My lens fogged up at some point, so you can see the it in the way the star trails change over time, but It’s still a good image.  Can you spot the one meteor streak?

2012_Aug_12_Perseid Meteor_001

18 mm, 61 min, f/4.5, ISO 100 (Perseid Meteor Shower)

It crosses the bottom left corner 🙂

Day 180 (28 June 2012) Emerging Stars

Last night (and by last night I mean at 2 am today) I attempted to capture some meteors from the Bootis Meteor shower.  It’s usually not a huge show, so I set the camera on bulb, opened the shutter (after driving for 40 min to find an open area with a view to the north), took a nap, then shut the shutter, and drove home.  I awoke to this image.  No meteors, but I’ll try again during Fall’s big show 🙂

This is my submission for “emerging star”, on the SeeingSpotsPhoto and Nick Exposed photo scavenger hunt since there were so many ’emerging’ 🙂

2012_Jun_28_Star Trails_002

18 mm, 60 min, f/3.5, ISO 100, Emerging Stars

Day 100! (9 April 2012) 100th day! (and Star Trails)

Monday’s begin the crazy days where I usually don’t get to pull out my camera before 10 pm left me with limited ways to celebrate my 100th post.  So, I thought: it’s gonna be dark out, why not try some basic light painting?  And what better to paint than “100”?

Well, it being late and after a full day, I didn’t spend the effort to get any fabulous shots (I thought I had some sparklers left, but they ended up being fire crackers.  With fire danger being high this week, I didn’t feel up to that risk).  So, day 100 is here, and soon to pass.  Regardless of what these photos look like, I am happy that I’ve made it to 100 w/o missing a single day of shooting!

Looking back over the the past 100 days, I can’t help but be pleased with many of my photos, and even more pleased with the growth I’ve had in my skill and creativity.  I can’t wait to see what I’m doing by day 200!


18 mm, 30 sec, f/3.5, ISO 100, 18-55mm kit lens (100)

2012_Apr_09_Day 100_001

18 mm, 30 sec, f/8.0, ISO 100, 18-55mm kit lens (100)


18 mm, 30 sec, f/3.5, ISO 100, 18-55mm kit lens (100)

Edit: here is a nice 30 min exposure of star trails, Too much light pollution here, but I like anyway 🙂

Star Trails

18 mm, 31 min 8 sec, f/8.0, ISO 100, 18-55mm kit lens (Star Trails)

Day 40 (9 Feb 2012) Hope

No, this post has nothing to do with inspiring you to any type of hope, unfortunately.  It’s titled that way because I’m hoping that my shot came out OK.  Why would I have to hope, you ask?  Good question.  It’s because that as I’m typing this right now, my camera is still processing the 11+ minute exposure I just completed.  I hope that the composition is good.  I hope the image is in focus.  I hope that it wasn’t over or under exposed.

Why would I leave today’s photo up to hope?  Well, I had not intended it to be that way.  I had picked out a great spot to go with the current conditions (near full moon, clear sky) that was along my way home from helping a friend pick up and transport an entertainment center they just bought (I’m that guy w/ a truck you hope will help you).  I set up the tripod, leveling the head, planned out a few angles to shoot the scene, put the camera on the tripod and turned it on.  I was left very annoyed when all it did was flash the dead battery sign.  My other battery was in my other bag in my other vehicle (the one I drive almost all the time).  So, I packed up everything and came home, more than a little disappointed in myself.

Being quite tired due to the time and how late I stayed up yesterday to get yesterday’s shot, my body wasn’t enjoying the 28F air too much, so I set up the camera inside (all but focus), pointed it at something I think will be interesting, used a flashlight to set the focus, and opened the shutter.  About 11 min later I went back outside and closed it.

The camera just now finished processing, so I’m headed to Lightroom to convert it and upload.

Ok, it’s uploading.  And it’s not terrible.  My composition could have been better, but I’m not complaining too much, as I didn’t want to spend a long time lying on the ground getting it just right tonight.  Exposure is good (adjusted a little), and noise wasn’t too bad (fixed a little, too).  Color was pretty good, IMO.  I was so tired, I didn’t even consider that I would have star trails, but, I managed to catch the North Star just barely, so I think it adds to it.  But this is just me rambling at after 11 pm.  Maybe I won’t like it as much in the morning.  But it is, what it is, so please share your thoughts on how I could improve on this for next time.

Moon Lit Tree and Star Trails

18 mm,11 min 28 sec, f/11, ISO 100, Canon 18-55mm kit lens (Moon Lit Tree and Star Trails)

Day 14 (14 Jan 2012) 13 Minutes In Heaven

13 minutes and 39 seconds to be exact.  That’s how long the shutter was open pointing at the North Star tonight.  It was great finally having a clear night I could do this!  I’ll be trying much longer times to see how long I can get the star trails.  The bright area in the lower left is light pollution from a nearby town.  It’s hard to avoid in New England 😦

Taking long night exposures is very time-consuming: first you have the actual time the shutter is open, then over twice as long (it seems) for the camera to conduct noise reduction processing.  But it’s worth it, IMO.  Enjoy!

2012_Jan_14_13 min exposure_001
20 mm, 13 min 39 sec, f/10, ISO 100 (Star Trails North)