Star Trail Photography by Stuart Templeton

Star Trail - 1Stacking Method

  • long exposure – up to 2 hours
  • Short exposure (30 seconds) and combine in software

I will discuss the second method tonight.  It is the main method that I use.


  • Location

Light Pollution Map

  • Weather

  • Good to Stargaze

Good to Star Gaze

  • Moon cycle

Photographic Equipment

  • Charge the batteries
  • Camera
  • Wide Lens
  • Tripod – the sturdier the better
  • Intervalometer


An intervalometer is a device that plugs into a camera and controls how often, how long and how many shots are taken. Models vary from manufacturer to manufacturer but they all serve the same purpose. Think of it as the old remote blub plunger on steroids.

The Canon model TC-80N3 pictured at right is indicative of many models available today. Some of its key features include:

  1. Locking shutter release for ultra long exposures shot manually (while reducing camera shake from holding the shutter release on the camera).
  2. Initial self timer for first shot, selectable up to a 100 hours in advance.
  3. Interval between shots, selectable to a max of 100 hours between shots.
  4. Exposure length. Each shot can be controlled by the camera shutter speed setting, or set to bulb (if one second or more) and controlled by the intervalometer with times up to 100 hours available.
  5. Number of shots to be taken, selectable up to 99 frames.

The intervalometer can be used for more than just shooting time lapse films. Other uses include:

  1. Shooting images for a stacked composition, such as star trails photos.
  2. Hands free long shutter speeds for blurred action.
  3. Delayed shots for setting up a remote camera timed to fire at a given moment.
  4. Creative self portraits, functioning much like the iPhone Photobooth app, but with the ability to keep shooting one image every second for 1.5 minutes.

Other Equipment

  • Compass to help find south
  • Torch for light painting
  • Head torch for setting up in the dark
  • Electrical tape – tape everything in position
  • Hand warmers – Essential requirement to prevent lens from fogging over after 15-20mins.
  • Hair ties to hold cables etc
  • Phone – lots of useful apps / set timer
  • book to read


  • 30 Second Exposure
  • ISO 3200
  • F/4
  • White balance 4000
  • Silent continuous
  • Exposure mode – Manual
  • Focus – manual
  • Long exposure noise reduction – off
  • Image stabilization – off

Getting the Shot

  • South to South East

South Pole

Imagine a line connecting the Pointers. Midway along this line, extend another line at a right angle to it, until it meets another line drawn down the long axis of the Southern Cross. The meeting place is the approximate location of the South Celestial Pole. Locate south by dropping a vertical line from here to the horizon.

  • Finding the focus –

Choose a distant well lit object.  It is a bother to pre-focus before dark.  You can dial up infinity on the focal length indicator, but remember that modern lenses focus just past infinity.

  • Test shot

Star Trail - 2

  • Adjust setting if needed.  Start by adjusting the ISO
  • Adjust composition if needed
  • Light Painting if you want foreground interest.
  • Minimum 30 minutes or 60 photos

Post Production

  • Lightroom (if needed)

Batch process multiple images.

  • Photoshop (if needed)
  • StarStax


StarStaX is a fast multi-platform image stacking and blending software, which is developed primarily for Star Trail Photography. It allows to merge a series of photos into a single image, where the relative motion of the stars creates structures looking like star trails.  StarStaX is available as Freeware for Mac OS X, Windows and Linux.


Star Trail - 4

Star Trail - 3

Contact Details

Stuart Templeton

0421 330 701