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  • Jennifer Brecheisen

Star Trails over Arches NP-Behind the Scenes

Updated: Sep 12, 2019



Creating star trail images can be a lot of fun, but they also require a great deal of time and patience. There is a lot wrong with this image as it was my first attempt at star trails, but I wanted to give you guys some starting points to go by, and what it took to create this image. (For a more in depth guide, please see this star trails article by Charles of NightSkyPix.)

This image was created with 7 different images at about 4 minutes exposure time for each image. To get the full trail I would've needed to do at least 7 more exposures; however, I had serious time constraints on this night. I used an iso of 400. I timed it using a nifty intervelometer I picked up off of amazon for $14. I used my Sigma f4.5 12-24mm, and of course, a tripod. (The sturdier the better when it comes to tripods.) In addition to those pieces of equipment, I brought my Nikon D600 along.

The position of the moon is extremely important for what you are wanting to achieve. If you want some visible foreground, then you would want a moon in the sky, and you would want it to be opposite of what you're capturing. If you just want foreground shape, and stunning star trails, then it would be best for you to photograph on or around the new moon phase. The position of polaris is also important. If you are seeking to create the rings, then you will want polaris in the center of the image. If you are facing the opposite way, then you will get lines that curve away from one another in the image. Star trail images are exremely fun, so even if you don't accomplish your vision on the first try, you will take something away from it.

You'll want to be as far away from a large city as much as possible. 200 miles is recommended.

Post-Processing is pretty much a snap. I followed this guide by Tyler Sichelski here.

Here is a rundown of my night!

My husband and I arrived at Arches SUPER late after getting lost...er..multiple times. We are from SC, and we took our long vacation this year in Colorado, so we traveled from Pagosa Springs. We stopped by Canyonlands during the day, and we ALSO got lost there!! Needless to say, by the time we arrived at Arches we were exhausted. Did I mention we could barely see anything? What a trip.

Luckily we found one of the places we were wanting to visit, and we walked the short trail down. It took me a while to get my exposure time right to make sure there was the least amount of noise possible while still retaining details in the image. I would say this process alone took about 30 minutes. Since I couldn't see I used a really high iso with a lower exposure time originally to frame my composition.

Finally I had my settings locked in, and we sat under the stars and talked a bit, but we were both about to pass out. We also kept noticing something above us on the edge of the arch and birds going crazy every once in a while. My instincts told me it was a mountain lion-I'm not really quite sure why...but after further research of the park the next day, I found many instances of mountain lions in the park!!

Our whole time in Colorado and Utah was such an adventure. I cannot wait to travel more!

I hope this gave you guys a few little tips, and be sure to check out that step by step guide mentioned above! As always, please message me with any questions you may have.

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