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UPDATE: See Astronomy 2016 by Qasar publishing for a great article on Star trails and Time lapse.

First attempt with a fisheye lens...


A simple guide to imaging star trails.

What you need

  • A camera capable of taking mutiple 30 second duration images
  • Preferably a wide angle lens but not neccesarily
  • A tripod
  • A cable release (or intervalometer), or connect to a laptop and use camera software
  • Fully charged batteries!
  • Software for stacking images (I use STARSTAX)

What to do

  • Find a dark site
  • Compose your shot. Daytime is easier
  • Pointing towards the celestial pole is my preference
  • Set up the camera on a tripod pointing at the South Celestial pole (remember 3rd rules in composition)

Camera Settings

  • Turn off noise reduction in the camera. Otherwise this will cause gaps in the trails as the camera will do an additional 30 secs of processing before doing next image
  • Focus on a bright staror distant light. If that doesn't work, then set the focus to infinity symbol only, not beyond (the Buzz Light Year setting). It's very easy if you use live view through a laptop.
  • Turn off Raw and Jpeg. Shoot just large jpg (this is my presonal preference)
  • Use large aperture (smallest number) EG: f2.8, F4 etc
  • ISO of between 800 and 3200. It all depends on your lens. If you have an F2.8 lens you can use a lower ISO. If your lens is around F5, then you'll probably need 3200
  • Shot duration 30 secs
  • Shot number 40 - 100

Stacking the Images

  • Use StarStaX to combine all the images. Its multi-platform and freeware
  • It's great fun to see those hours of imagery combine to make one beautiful image. You can also use these image to make a timelapse movie. We'll cover that in a later article. cheers Jeremy Price - RAS member

Here's good vid with star trails info towards the end.