If there’s one thing photographers know, it’s light. How much of it there is, where it’s coming from, how to shape and modify it, and how to add to it. Without light, there’s no photography – which is why most cameras stay safely tucked away in their bags once the sun goes down.
But we say no! After dark reveals a different world – indeed, a different universe – and understanding how to harness your OLYMPUS’ low-light capabilities can open a whole new world of photography. Turn your lens heavenwards and join us for the beginners’ guide to star trail photography.
Learn to love ISO
If you’re one of those photographers who shudders at the thought of shooting above ISO 400, look away now, because the stars, even in designated dark sky areas, are pretty dim when it comes to how a camera perceives them. Even at very long exposures – which you’ll want to treat with a degree of caution, as you’ll see in a minute – you’re likely to be shooting much higher ISOs.
Star trails (indeed, all nighttime photography) is a numbers game. The next number to think about is the aperture available on your camera. Anything below f/4 stands you in fairly good stead. You might not always use your lens at its widest aperture, but it’s good to have the option.
Go wide, wide, wide
A wide-angle lens is an absolute must have. May we suggest the M.Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm 1:4.0-5.6? Its large maximum aperture fits the bill, and that 11mm wide-angle setting is perfect for getting dramatic images.
Make life easy
Have a look around for information about shooting star trails online and you’ll find a lot of people firing up various bits of photo-editing software and stacking hundreds of images on top of each other to produce balanced exposure. An approach that produces incredible images – sure. But also a technique that takes a long time to get right and involves dealing with hundreds of large files. If you have an OM-D, you have live composite mode at your finger tips, in which your camera shoots individual images for up to three hours, and then blends the images together – in camera – to produce incredible images. Better still, you can watch your composite coming together on the camera’s screen, allowing you to end the exposure when you have enough star trails.
Location, location, location
What makes for good star trail photography? Light from the stars. What makes for bad star trail photography? Light from virtually anywhere else. Trying astrophotography from the town centre is a recipe for disappointing images, but you’d be surprised exactly how far light pollution can travel. The UK has plenty of places to watch the stars from, so head here to find one near you. You might be surprised how close you are to somewhere to get your star trail photography into gear.
Grabbed some galactically good images? If you’ve found your astronomical groove, share your images with us! Head to our Flickr group or tag us with #OlympusUK on Instagram. We’re looking out for you.
Street photographer in the making? We want to see your photos! The OLYMPUS Flickr group is a great community of photographers shooting all manner of photographic styles and subjects, and can be found here. If you prefer your pictures square, join Instagram, shoot your heart out and use the hashtag #OlympusUK to appear on our Photo Of the Day radar. Good luck and happy shooting!