star trail

Star Trail, the making of

A Star Trail shot of the stars rotating around the Pole Star in the North.

After some cloudy nights the sky finally opened up together so I headed out in the evening to try and make a star trail shot. I made one before at Schiermonnikoog, but I didn’t have my full frame camera and ultra wide angle at that time. Now I did, so I came fully prepared for the shot.

The pole star is approximately aligned with the Earth's axis of rotation so it serves as a rotating point for all the other stars when you set your camera to a long exposure. For a nice shot with stars in a circle you need to face North (if you’re above the Equator). Finding a spot that doesn’t suffer from too much light pollution is pretty hard here in The Netherlands, but I had some ideas on where to go.
The day before I went to this location, a lonely tree on top of a sand dune in the small nature reserve called ‘De Haere’. The area is owned by the nature preservation organization ‘Geldersch Landschap’ and is not accessible after sunset. So after finding a location first thing I did was ask permission to enter the nature reserve in the evening.

Next step was to put some tea in a thermos flask and head out the door for a couple of hours. At the location I first made some high ISO test shots to choose a composition and see what the ambient light was doing. On the horizon you can clearly see the glow of the town of Elburg in the distance, so I decided to pick a shutter time of about ten minutes with an aperture of f/11 at ISO100.
After setting up the camera with 16mm ultra wide angle lens on a tripod with a remote, I chose the bulb mode option and set up the timer on my phone. After the first press of the shutter release the long wait could start. In total I made 11 shots of 10 minute long exposures. During this time I saw 10.000 airplanes, one shooting star and a really clear meteorite.

At home I edited one of the 11 photos and synchronized the other 10 with the first one in Lightroom. I openend the 11 photos as layers in Photoshop and checked the image for unwanted spots. Unfortunately, the 10.000 airplanes left their trace.
On each layer there were dots and stripes that were not stars but airplane lights and airplane trails. So I edited these out in each layer and then finally I could blend the images together in one layer using the ‘lighten’ option. After some fine tuning on color and contrast using Nik Color Efex Pro the final images was done.

The final image is for sale as royalty free stockphoto at Getty Images