Thursday, April 7, 2016

38 Minutes of the Milky Way

Welcome to the first star trail image that I've made in quite a long time.  I haven't done one of these in at least a year, probably closer to two.  I don't really know why it's been so long, as this type of photograph is a lot of fun to make.  It does take a bit more planning and definitely more of a time commitment, so maybe that's why.  I actually did screw this one up on my first attempt.  I was out of practice, so I guess I have an excuse.  The first exposure I did was for 46 minutes at ISO 200 and an aperture of f/8.  That exposure came out way too dark.  For my second try I did 38 minutes at ISO 200 and f/4.5 which worked a lot better as you can see here.  

There are programs you can buy that will allow you to do a series of shorter exposures and combine them later to make a "composite" star trail image.  My preference, though, is to try and do it with one single exposure.  I used to do this my old Canon 5D Mark II and it worked quite well, but the resulting images were somewhat noisy.  Not unusable, but definitely noisy.  With the Nikon D750 that I'm now shooting with, the resulting images are amazingly clean.  Camera sensor technology sure has come a long way!  

The only thing I don't like about this image is the fact that there are a few faint light trails from airplanes crossing the sky.  I decided to leave those trails in there, as they are part of the "natural" scene.  Plus, they are a mega pain to clean up nicely.  The plane trails are part of the story, so to speak.  The easiest one to see is in the lower left of the photo.  The others are barely there, I didn't even notice them until I was viewing the image at 100% on my 27" iMac screen.  

At any rate, I think the resulting image is wonderfully beautiful.  Star trails photos represent something that we are unable to see with our naked eye, the passage of time recorded onto a single image and the lines that the star light makes when that light is recorded over a period of time.  From the top left to the lower right of the photo you can also see a milky band of light, which is the center of the Milky Way Galaxy.  Like all the more distinct trails that you see from more prominent stars, the galactic center of the Milky Way moves across our sky and the light gets "spread out" when recorded for a long period of time.  I really had a lot of fun making this image.  That's my favorite part of photography.  It's fun and it gives us a window into the world that lets our imaginations run wild.  Enjoy :-)

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