Welcome to "How it's made"
Creating Star Trail Photos
You're not just a photographer anymore
When you start exploring photography to the point that you want to become a professional, you'll quickly see that you'll start having many new jobs to learn other than just knowing how to operate a camera.
Step One: Planning, Planning and more Planning
Every image I create starts with some sort of plan or idea. When it comes to night photography, planning is critical to ensure the final product is what I had envisioned. If you want to get into night photography then, having a plan for what you want to create is a must!! Below is my standard pre planning checklist before I head out.
1 - Check the weather - There is nothing worse than getting all setup at the location and then it rains and ruins any chance of getting the shot you were after.
2 - Check the cloud cover radar - I always check the radar, not just for the area that I'm in but also the area 100 miles outside of the area that I'm shooting in. The weather may be perfectly clear in the area you're shooting in but when you're shooting a 4 hour shot, you must make sure that within those 4 hours a big cloud wont come over and ruin your shot.
Step Two: Preparing for the night
Say goodbye to sleep and hello to solitude. As a night photographer sleep is a rarity if you want that spectacular shot of the night sky. Many people that first get into low light photography usually stop shooting shortly after the sun sets. If you want to get those cool Star trail or Milky Way shots then you mind as well pack up a pillow and a few snacks because its going to be a long night. There's one thing that losing sleep during the night brings, that's solitude. No matter how much sleep I lose or how tired I am the next day, one thing is for sure, that time awake was spent under the peaceful night sky doing what I love.
Step Three: The Setup
Probably one of the most challenging things to do is setup a camera in complete darkness.
Step Four: The Camera Settings
This is where is gets tricky. You may have tons of light off in the background or there could be tons of light in your foreground. This is where knowing how to balance light is essential
Step Five: The Wait
Probably one of the most challenging things to do is setup a camera is the dead of night in the complete darkness.
Step Six: The drive back home
If you think this is the easy part then think again. You know when you buy that really nice toy that you've been saving up for forever and how it comes freshly wrapped in plastic that you just can't wait to rip open but you're told that you have to wait until you get home to play with it. Well that anticipation of getting home to see if all your work was a success is very comparable to how I feel driving home from a 3 hour long photo.