Turimetta Star Trails

So towards the start of February I noticed that mid week it was going to be a new moon and that the clouds (and somewhat the stars) will align into a great opportunity to try some Star Trails.. in Sydney! Not so shocking to you no doubt, but infact due to the light pollution in every big city they are practically impossible to capture without a lot of unnecessary and distracting camera noise (from the light/clouds/air particles).

I noticed on a previous trip to Turimetta Beach just north of Narrabeen in Sydney that at night there is very little light spill from the surrounding area. Added to this that it isnt the most densely populated part of Sydney I thought it was worth a shot.

So onwards and upwards I contacted my from Campbell and mentioned that.. everything is looking good for some star trails.. and his new camera having a built in intervalometer he decided yes! Lets give it a go. To boot he brought along some Glow Sticks and some Flashes/Triggers for us to have some fun mucking around with off camera flash. At this point you are probably thinking.. Star Trails? What are they? Well as you can see from the first photo its the illusion of the sky as it is seen over a period of time. This is 100 photos all stacked together in photoshop to show how they have moved over a period of around 1 hour. If i were to put them in sequence instead of overlaying them ontop of each other you would see the sky move around the axis of rotation (rather than the trails).

A time lapse would show the movement of the earth as it rotates throughout the night, and this is something I would like to do more of but for now I have decided to focus mainly on star trails. What do you need for this? Well you need a cable release/intervalometer or a drinking bird that can press the shutter button at regular intervals. These remotes allow you to choose a number of photos, as well as the length of each exposure and an interval between photos. This means for Photo#1 I did a test shot which outlined the exposure I was after. This setting was F4.2 @ 30 seconds with ISO1600. I set my remote to take 100 photos with an exposure time of 30 seconds and a interval of 3 seconds between each photo. Once home I imported all of the images into a photo and picked up this Photoshop Action to stack the images into layers within Photoshop. One key thing to note is that when doing these exposures you MUST turn off in camera Noise Reduction and High ISO processing as this effectively doubles the time between photos (giving you gaps which you do not want). I think tweaked the image into a black and white version I was happy with and hey presto.

But.. its not quite that easy right? right? Well.. yes this is true.. there are quite a few other things that can introduced as potential issues when doing exposures such as this. This includes.. heat, cold, condensation, noise, power, rain, sea spray, salt, stability and boredom (ill get to that). So with technology like cameras they create heat… the more advanced they become the more capabilities they get.. as a trade off generally they require more oomph (power) and generate more heat. Not such a problem in the normal sphere of photography but when you are dealing with multiple shots for long periods over a period of time this creates extra problems for the camera. You can actually create hot spots in your photos from where the sensor heats up around the edges/corners and this is hard to avoid. In addition to this if you start taking long exposures as soon as you take your camera out of the warm car and down to the cold beach in the middle of the night you are introducing the risk of condensation (which will fog up your shots). It is a fine line but really it can be treated it just requires careful planning. I like to check the camera every 20 shots or so. I will keep the same settings on the remote but stop the shot for perhaps 10 seconds whilst I investigate the current conditions. If there is salt spray or rain or condensation ill clean up the front element and start the next exposure ASAP. Of course .. it doesnt always work that way and my first time out I wasted around 45mins sitting around whilst doing long exposures with a foggy front element! I have yet to do a multi hour shoot yet (im talking 3 – 6 hours) over night but it is something I want to look into. At this stage I can probably complete this with 2 full batteries but If I ever want to go long (or do video) ill need an external power source to keep my camera running all night. Stability is a given.. you need to have it in a place where it wont get blown over, kicked over, bumped or moved by accident; otherwise you can potentially ruin a shot. Moving the camera on the 40th shot in a 100 shot exposure will mean you restrict the amount of space you have to crop/work with (as you have to realign all of the 100 shots into one frame).

Annnnd boredom. No Ipod? FML. Nobody to talk to? FML. No comfortable chair to relax in? FML. Fall asleep and miss checking the front element and ruin half your shots? FML… as you can see.. some prior planning goes a long way to helping you remain sane and loving life 🙂

I rambled again didnt I? Well.. to be fair there is so much to share! I wont go along much more in terms of the process or the consequences but moreso the results. I plan on doing an entire write up on the process (including the gear collection, the choosing of location, the process, the processing and the final result). I thought I would share another fun shot from the North Narrabeen Ocean Pool. I started this 30 second exposure by running down the boardwalk in the middle of the pool and waving it about like a mad man. The end result? Something I like to call the Northern Lights Down Under.

Hope you enjoy.

Till next time..



  • Beautiful shot Jack! 🙂

    March 6, 2011
  • Thanks Alex 🙂

    Cant wait to go shooting with you one day.. I have so much to improve on. I want to buy a time lapse dolly and come visit you 🙂

    March 7, 2011

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