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Stacking the Stars

In the past, I would take long exposure shots of the night sky. 30 minutes for a single photo was a normal affair. Last summer however, I started shooting time lapse sequences. Setting up My camera to automatically take a picture at what ever interval is desired, changed things up a lot. I found Myself going camping and letting My camera run, aimed toward the heavens while I slept. At first I was taking the resulting photos and making videos. Which is quite cool, watching the stars fly by at high speed. Not very long ago I found a free program called StarStax and have added another dimention to the time lapses I’ve been shooting. There is a video in the works, but it won’t be ready for a while. So, here are the stacked still images of a few of the night sky time lapses I captured this year.

Starting with this gem, which was a 5 and a half hour long series of 1,000 images. Nearly a quarter of earth’s rotation, viewed in one still shot. For those who are curious, The moon was on the other side of the earth and My Canon 6D with 24mm lens were set up as follows: Manual mode, f/1.4(focused on the stars), ISO 640, white balance 5400K, shutter speed of 13 seconds, taking a picture every 15 seconds. There is no edit involved, except running the images through StarStax. The second shot is the same image set, with “comet mode” selected in StarStax, no other edits…

Tree and Stars at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park © Andor (1) Tree and Stars at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park © Andor (2)

I’m particularly proud of that time lapse! The rest of these were taken with Similar settings, at different locations over the last 6 months. Sadly, the moon was in the sky for all of them but the last one, so there are less stars visible compared to the above shots. Even so, They look pretty cool. If I say so Myself… It’s been cloudy here for weeks, but as soon as I get a chance, there will be more coming.

Night Sky at USA International Raceway, DD50 © Andor (1) Night Sky at USA International Raceway, DD50 © Andor (2)North Polar Axis over the Avery Wildlife Refuge © AndorNight Sky in Central Minnesota © AndorOrion Passing By © Andor


Urban Vibration

Urban Vibration © Andor (4)

Last night, I went out with a friend who is in to time lapse photography. Which basically means You will be sitting in one place for a couple of hours. So, I set up My tripod and proceeded to take a bunch of long exposures. These pictures captured something more than just the lights of buildings and cars passing by. The lights of the vehicles revealed the vibration of the bridge upon which we stood. That bridge being a walk-way, maybe eight feet wide, spanning the ten lanes of traffic on I-35W, just south of the I-94 junction. It was pretty windy early on, but it was the semi trucks that were causing the bulk of the motion. You can see in the cropped image below, the effect of a large vehicle passing underneath. Head lights apear as if the highway was a row of small waves, with increased hight when a large truck goes by.

Capturing Vibration © Andor (3)

Despite the constant vibration and the rain early on, I came through with some decent shots of downtown Minneapolis. They are not a crisp as I would like, but the texture added to the streaking lights is kind of nice. A neutral density filter, which I usually do these kind of shots with, was not involved. I will try that spot again sometime, but clearly a more stable position to do long exposure shots with traffic and the city skyline is more desirable. This is a great vantage point though, there aren’t many places in town with such a nice perspective.


Shooting the Stars

Shooting the Stars © Andor (1)

Last night, My Brother and I wandered out of the city to find a nice view in the country. It was said there would be a meteor shower, or possibly even a ‘meteor storm.’ We headed east of town, trying to get ahead of the approaching clouds. The shooting stars that we were seeking should have been mostly in the northern sky. We roamed the rural roads north of Hudson, WI for a while, finding a lack of northerly views that weren’t spoiled by peoples lights. Then, there was an openning to the south which revealed an awesome array of stars. We parked in someone’s driveway and proceeded to shoot from there for 2 or more hours. In some of the pictures, You can almost make out the edge of the milky-way. I was however aiming directly at I94, Hudson and the Twin Cities, with all the light pollution they emit. So after a few shots I turned to aim up and above the horizon. Which gave Me the awesome star trails, layered up around the Earth’s northern rotational axis. We only saw a couple of shooting stars, but it was still a great time.

The slightly ghost-like picture at the end was aquired with a 10 second exposure, ISO-800 at an aperture of f/1.4. All pictures taken with a Sigma 30mm 1.4 Ex on My Canon t4i.


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