The quest for a decent star trail image made some progress at the weekend. Spending time in a holiday home in Cumbria combined with days (and critically nights) of cloudless skies finally meant that there were stars to shoot in abundance. Throw in some trees that were still bare of any noticeable amounts of foliage and I had the perfect opportunity.
There are two predominant techniques to create these images; the first involves shooting a long exposure that tracks the earth’s rotation in a single image, whilst the second requires a succession of consecutive shots that are then layered and blended in Photoshop to produce a single shot that contains the different star positions from each of the component parts. The first produces seamless trails, but it limited by the fact that if you want to create the ultimate star trail shot of concentric circles you would need to keep the shutter open for so long that the resultant picture would be completely over exposed (or so my experience to date would suggest). Perhaps if there were no other light sources present in the shot this would not be such an issue.
The second allows for exposures that are more balanced for the ambient light but necessarily has small breaks in the trails where one exposure ends and the shutter closes before opening again for the second. To capture the number of shots required for this method necessitates a programmable shutter release that will take identically exposed shots at regular intervals over a number of hours, or an obsessive and cold resistant photographer with a very understanding partner. Not surprisingly I opted for the first method – maybe an investment in a new shutter release may be called for!
The method of combining multiple exposures into a single image gave me inspiration for something else however; deliberately shooting double exposure images and trying to create something worthwhile “in camera”. Back in the day when shooting with film, I recall setting up a shot on the steps of a small church to photograph my daughters in different poses on either side of the steps in the rich early evening light of Chianti. The result was nice enough, but really it was no more than a gimmick rather than anything of artistic value.
Similar effects can be achieved using multiple layers and playing with the opacity in Photoshop, and more recently I photographed my daughter Holly adopting a few different poses on Saltburn beach before combining them to make quintuplets. It is however possible to create a multiple exposure image purely using the camera these days and I decided to give this a try at the weekend too.
I have to say that the results straight out of camera were disappointing to my eye with insufficient contrast to give shape to the subject matter, so I resorted to a hybrid technique that took these images and combined them with their component single exposures as well as other layers.
I have some way to go before I reach the standard of artists such as Yaser Almajed or Christoffer Relander (whose We Are Nature series introduced me to the possibilities) but I think these will do for starters…