Star Trail Adventures - Part 1

Updated: Mar 17

I've planned to head to the Everglades and capture star trails down and around Big Cypress Swamp at the end of February. I scouted suitable locations months before and invited the Low Light Photo Group members to join me, and a few did. Hanging out in the dark by yourself can be a bit intimidating. 🥴 However, mother nature had other plans and dumped a storm on the sites I had picked. (sigh)


The first site I picked was at the ValuJet Memorial along US 41. I'd made a successful single capture back in December and I'd been itching to try and create some blended shots; however, the clouds were rolling in and not going anywhere soon. After driving three hours to get there, I was determined to take a photo.


The main goal was to photograph star trails over the memorial and blend photos taken in the blue hour to create the image. (sigh) With the oncoming storm, it wasn't meant to be. I waited for the storm clouds to gather over the memorial and set up the shot. I ended up taking nine, bracketing each shot by 1/3.


Braketed photos of a storm clouds over a park
Some examples of Bracketing

I placed the camera low to the ground, close to the front of the memorial. The lens caused a perspective distortion which I corrected in Lightroom. I only used one of the bracketed shots for the finished image. I used Photoshop and Luminar NEO, balancing out the tonal difference.


storm clouds over a park
Perspective Distortion Correction in Lightroom

Even though I didn't achieve my original goal with this shot, the storm created a moody image that seemed appropriate to the setting and moment. I'm not sure what I could've done differently other than try it again another time.


storm clouds over a park
A Break in the Clouds

The storm was slowly heading away from us to the East. The other photographers and I decided to head down the road to the following site about 33 minutes to the West. The weather report from there was a bit more favorable.

 

Notes:
  • Blending is a technique that blends images taken at different times and combines them. A well-known blending example of nightscapes is shooting the exact location during the golden hour or blue hour and then at night.

  • Bracketing is a photographic technique where I take different exposures to create images from the brightest to the darkest. I can choose one with the "best" result by selecting exposures or combining them into one image.

  • Star trails are created by locking the camera down on a tripod or a firm surface. You set the camera to photograph the night sky with a very long exposure capturing the motion blur of the stars.

Gear and Settings Used - I used the Olympus O-MD E-M1 II, MZuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO at 7mm, and a MeFoto Globetrotter Tripod. The camera settings were f/2.8 with 1/400 second shutter speed at 100 ISO. I placed the camera low to the ground facing North. Other than the diffused sunlight, I used no additional lighting.


Continues in Star Trail Adventures - Part 2


Edited 3/17/22


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