“Lake Arrowhead Star Trails” is the first star trails image I have done in several years.
I was fortunate enough to be able to stay at a friend’s house this past week in the San Bernadino mountains. After a surprise snowstorm, the Lake Arrowhead sky cleared and I triend my first set of star trails over their tudor-styled guesthouse. I ended up prefering the snowstorm photo.
So, I decided to try something else and headed down to the lakeside dock. The view from their dock in Shelter Cove was somewhat chaotic. Lots of boat dock scaffolding, houses and roads with lights in the distance. Still, the air was very clear and relatively free from light pollution.
I had forgotten that on the Nikon D750, the interval timer setting needs to be the shutter exposure time PLUS processing time. I had only ended up with 60 shots on my first try because I had not allowed enough time for processing.
This time, my settings were 20″ exposure, f/4 on my 20mm prime lens, ISO800. I set the interval at 22″, but still only got 160 photos. Next time, I would try 24″.
I left the auto white balance in place, to take advantage of the exposure smoothing option. It wasn’t hard to focus my lens because of the houses in the distance, so I was happy with the clarity of the stars. When I set up the tripod before dark, somehow I missed the overhang in the far left corner.
That meant that the post-production process involved: 1) Bulk editing in Lightroom, 2) Stacked images in Photoshop, 3) lightening layers 2 – 160 in the stack, 4) Painstakingly going through all the layers to paint out the many plane lights, and distracting reflections in the water. I left a few plane lines in to reflect the reality of what happened during the 1.5 hours of shooting, but painted out lots others, as well as a lot of the reflections in the water. It was important to me to try and anchor the photo in the water, and try and retain some still, “quiet” space in the image. 5) Finally, I did some cloning, and healing work in that top left corner.
“Lake Arrowhead Star Trails” is not perfect, but I left a copy of the image with our friends as a gift, and I’m happy with it for now… CA. 📷
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