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Editing Star Trails


Archbob

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So, I began shooting star trails today with my Canon 550d and the kit 18-55 lens(because I don't have anything else) and I came out with this photo(RAW).
Its a bit out of focus because I can't really focus in the dark that well. I think it came out ok, but I was just wondering how people editing these startrail photos to be so glorious.
I only have photoshop cs3 and photomatix.

IMG_9538.jpg

Let me know how I can improve this image and some steps. I'm watching a few videos on youtube.
 
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Tom Mann

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Star trails have been a favorite subject for photographers for probably close to a century, and an absolutely huge amount of information, techniques, equipment, and specialized software has been developed to help people obtain the beautiful photos one sees.

As a start, may I suggest you study (yes, top-to-bottom, LOL) this page:
http://starcircleacademy.com/startrails/

There is just no way we can summarize even a small fraction of the info contained in that page in a few posts here. Also, you should be aware that there are more specialized discussion forums for star trail photography than this forum. Just Google {star trail photography discussion forum}.

HTH,

Tom M
 
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I applied TOPAZ Clean filter in the sky.
With Hue/Saturation and selective color correction I enhanced the colors in the sky.

IMG_9538 chrisdesign.jpg
 

SCTRWD

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There are several tuts on this from Russell Brown. Something using Stack mode or something else...

Google "russell brown star trails"
 

Archbob

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I think your referring to star stacker. I did this wrong because I didn't do continous shooting of several photos to stack them in that software. I did one long exposure of 10-15 minutes. I'm really having trouble focusing the camera on night mainly because I can't see anything on the LCD.
 
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Tom Mann

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... I'm really having trouble focusing the camera on night mainly because I can't see anything on the LCD. ...
To achieve good focus, star trails photographers will usually use the "Live View" feature of their camera to prefocus on some brighter object at infinity (eg, lights of a distant city or radio tower) and then re-aim their camera in the desired direction without touching the focus. I actually bring a roll of low-stick painters' tape with me, and use a piece of it to lock the focus ring. You should set the focus only after the camera has stabilized to the outside air temperature. This is because expansion and contraction of the optical train with changes in temperature can change the focus slightly.

Also, you have to realize that that the photography of star trails is extremely demanding, and kit lenses like the one you are using are never terribly sharp wide open. For this sort of work, one wants a very low f-number lens that is sharp wide open or nearly wide open. If you only consider modern lenses, such features can be costly. However, older, used, manual focus, non-zoom, fast lenses can often be bought at very reasonable prices, so if you want to pursue this, you may want to consider getting such a lens. They also typically have much tighter and smoother manual focus, and you don't have to worry about "zoom creep", ie, the focal length changing during your exposure because the lens is pointed up at a steep angle.

Finally, don't be shy about using software to improve a soft image. For example, many years ago, I took the attached image in a dark-sky area in upstate Pennsylvania using a borrowed, legendary, old, and very costly ( > $3000) manual focus Noct-Nikkor 58 mm f/1.2 on one of my d700 bodies on a tracker mount. I stopped the lens down to f/1.4 to maximize sharpness. To improve the resulting image, I used a combination of noise reduction software on the NEF file, followed by two passes through "Focus Magic", one pass to reduce any residual linear motion left by the tracker mount, and the other for general de-blurring. I dug into the shadows with tools like curves and shadows/highlights to fill the image with stars of all magnitudes by giving me a more logarithmic response to brightness instead of the usual gamma function response curve. The final step was to composite in some silhouetted trees at ground level because when using a tracker mount, anything on the ground is blurred -- only the stars stay stationary in that frame of reference.

HTH,

Tom M

PS - You should realize that it's a lot easier to get good bright night sky pix when the stars are stationary (because of the tracker mount), than it is to get star trails when the same number of photos are spread over a long curved line of pixels, not just a small area.
 

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Archbob

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Thanks for the tip of the live view, I'll see if there is a feature in my t2i that I can use next time I got out.
Unfortunately the t2i has a lot of noise even at 1600 ISO which I am trying to photoshop out of my stationary pics. I would love an MK3 but I can't afford it right now.
 

Tom Mann

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FWIW, here's what your image looks like after I applied Focus Magic (2 passes, as described above), curves, and vib/sat.

In addition to the things discussed in my previous post, it's clear you also need a more solid tripod because it's obvious it wiggled several times during your exposure.

Don't forget to double click on the in-line forum preview to see it at the full resolution of your original posting.

T
 

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Weetobix

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Hi there,

When doing astrophotography, you may notice that manually setting the focus to infinity on the lens (especially with Canon) is often not in focus.
The best way to do it is to place the camera on the tripod, set up the shot how you want it, then switch to live view and zoom in (also in live view) and from there manually adjust the focus on the stars you see.
Once you have it in focus, leave live view and snap away :)
 

Tom Mann

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It looks like you didn't read the ealier posts in this thread. Check out the first couple of sentences of post #6.

Tom M
 

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