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Startrails at the Cradle Mountain Boatshed

Startrails at the Cradle Mountain Boatshed

Monday June 1, 2015

The Cradle Mountain boatshed needs no introduction – it is one of the most popular spots to visit and photograph for visitors to Cradle Mountain. I regularly visit the boatshed as part of my 3 day photography workshops in the region, and during April, we included a trip to the boatshed on a starry night to shoot some startrails at this iconic spot.

The Cradle Mountain boatshed with startrails

The Cradle Mountain boatshed with startrails

Shooting Startrails

There are many ways to approach shooting star trails. It used to be standard practice to lock your shutter open in Bulb (B) for as long as you felt like waiting but increasingly popular now is to take multiple shots and blend or stack them together using software. There are some free programs such as Star Trails you can download, or you can use the Statistics function in Photoshop (File>Scripts>Statistics). If using the statistics method, your final step is selecting the blend mode from a drop down menu. “Maximum” is the most effective for a nice star trail image.

Startrails Cradle Mountain Tasmania

Startrails using the “Statistics” blending method in Photoshop. This image includes some light from our headtorches. This image was stacked using the “Maximum” filter, meaning the brightest pixels of each image file are prioritised in the blending process.

It is also important not to leave a lot of time between exposures, as tiny gaps may appear in your final image. The best way to avoid this is to switch to “Burst” in your drive mode and lock the shutter release open with your remote or cable. The camera will shoot immediately as each exposure completes leaving you with a complete star trail. If going for one long “Bulb” exposure, the most important issues to keep in mind are ISO and how much moonlight you have. A big full moon will seriously reduce the amount of exposure time you can get away with, and a low ISO will be necessary. We are well into the long dark nights of winter in Tasmania so if you can handle the cold now is the time to get out and experiment!

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