Backyard Star Trails

Making Star Trails In Your Backyard

Last night I let the dog out at way too late of an hour. It was a nice night so I stepped out onto our deck to take a look at the stars. They were all out, and it looked amazing. I didn’t want to stay up all night making star trail photos, but when the conditions were perfect I thought that I might have to. Sometimes you don’t have to travel far to make an interesting photo.

How I Made This Star Trail

When I decided to put the star trails together I ran into the house and put together a set up to do just that. I had my Sony A7RIII with a 12-24mm lens on it. I had an idea for a wide photo showing the tree in our backyard with the stars swirling around it. We have a nice sturdy table on our deck so I grabbed my playpod to place on the table. With this plate and ball head system I didn’t need to go out and get my tripod. My cheap wired remote trigger is inserted into the multi port on the side of the camera and I am ready to go. Setting up the camera for one of these things is pretty easy. I know that I want to have 30 second exposures. In manual mode I set the camera up for a 30 second exposure. I know that I can have a low ISO so I set it to ISO 100. From there I will adjust the aperture to make the exposure that I want. From there it was as simple as locking the remote and walking away for around two hours.

Putting The Images Together

After roughly two hours of photography I had a couple hundred images of output. My workflow to put them all together is pretty easy. I bring all of the images right into Lightroom. I apply a basic preset to the first image, and then tweak it to where I want it to be. I then copy that edit to the rest of the photos. From there I go through the images to look for planes or satellites that went through my image. When I am on the scene I keep a list of these things in notes on my phone so that I can just go to those images. Here I walked away from the camera so I have to check each photo. After the unwanted things are taken out of my photos I can then export them. Here I try and number them so that they can be sorted in order of images taken. As they are exporting you can move on to something else because it takes a bit.

Once the images are exported I open a program called StarStax. This program makes it easy to stitch all of the photos together. You can do this in Photoshop, but this is an easy pain free way to put the images together. The best part about the program is that it is free! StarStax will stitch all of the images together for you. Once again this takes a little time. You can walk away from the computer for a while during this process. When it is done the file goes back to Lightroom and sometimes Photoshop for some final tweaks. Nothing about the star trail process is quick from making the images to stitching them together. I like the look though when everything is finished.

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