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The Watch Tower

By sherlob  
Taken on halloween in the fine company of Freja and Bruffy. On route we didn't think we'd get a shot at this as the sky was a blanket of cloud, but within minutes of arriving the cloud just disappeared and we decided to give it a go.

I've had significant trouble in the last few years working out how to do star trails digitally. The problem is usually one of noise - long exposures can often cause the sensor to heat and temp is one of the main casues of digital noise. Perhaps others may therefore find this useful:

The technique needed here is called 'stacking'. Basically you need to take lots of shorter exposures then stack them digitally. Here we have 126 30sec exposures. 125 stacked using the 'Star Trails' software freely available on the net. And the last using Photoshop. The last image included the light painting of the fore ground and mid ground, I added this seperately as I wanted to manipulate this image before compiling the final image. Once I edited this painted layer the resulting 'stacked' photo from the Star Trails software was then added using the 'Lighten' blending mode in the layer palette (note before adding this image adjust the levels and curves to really bring out the stars - there will be far more than you first think, but be careful not to push too far as this results in noise).

Final tweaks included some curves adjustments, sharpening, and noise control (deleting the sharpening from the sky). Frame added and Bobs your uncle a star trail.

Now the question is - was it worth it? (Please view large)



PS Fully expecting this to bomb as the thumbnail is not up to much.

Tags: Landscape Cheshire Digitally manipulated Star trail Mow cop Startrail Landscape and travel Flash and lighting

Voters: Angi_Wallace, janehewitt, jdenman and 54 more

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janehewitt 13 215 1 United Kingdom
2 Nov 2008 11:21AM
Ooooh this is a bit special! Lovely and well worth the effort jane

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jdenman 8 18 5 Spain
2 Nov 2008 11:28AM
I think this is brilliant, a fantastic bit of work.
GreyMoonRising 8 1.5k 1
2 Nov 2008 11:31AM
Very nice but so much trouble taken to achieve it...why not just use your camera's b (bulb) setting?

Beautiful none the less
sherlob Plus
10 2.8k 126 United Kingdom
2 Nov 2008 11:34AM
Thanks for the comments.

Peter: With digital you get noise from the heat generated by a very long exposure. This image represents the equivilant of an hours exposure. Now if I had used film, the problem of noise wouldn't have been an issue.

GreyMoonRising 8 1.5k 1
2 Nov 2008 11:35AM
Think I will try this myself (with film) looks amazing.
Rende Plus
9 38 4 Netherlands
2 Nov 2008 11:36AM
Wonderful light and colours, and good composition too. Very interesting and amazing technique; am I right that the total exposure for this image was over an hour? It was worth it though.
GrahamNobles 8 9 4 England
2 Nov 2008 11:51AM
Good shot!
monkeygrip 8 574 6 England
2 Nov 2008 11:52AM
Fantastic shot.Stu
bayleaf 9 8 United Kingdom
2 Nov 2008 12:00PM
Wow super shot and super pf too.

sherlob Plus
10 2.8k 126 United Kingdom
2 Nov 2008 12:04PM
Thanks Guys. Rende - yep, just over an hour. On trips like these you'll probably only get one chance of a decent composition, unless you like been out all night. So make a trip in the daylight and try to visualise what your after.

Peter - one other thingsto watch out for: a clear night with no moon. Good hunting.

Mynett 8 142 6 United Kingdom
2 Nov 2008 12:07PM
Well done a lot of work to this image, and well worth the effort, excellent
Paintman Plus
10 1.2k 177 United Kingdom
2 Nov 2008 12:58PM
I agree with all the above comments. A superbly taken and processed image. There look to be a couple of aircraft trails towards the bottom right of the sky as well, which adds more interest. Excellent work and well worth the effort.

Brenty 9 12 United Kingdom
2 Nov 2008 1:20PM
Certainly worth the effort.
2 Nov 2008 1:21PM
Very impressive, great tutorial thanks.
NexusImages 9 1.8k 4 United Kingdom
2 Nov 2008 1:30PM
Turned out well our kid! I have to say, I did wonder what the devil you were going to come up with from being down that bank.
No inclusion of Fred 'you'll be needing a license for that sort of thing' Bell?
Mand.x. (oh btw, I have your 5 boxes still in the back of my car!
cassiecat 8 39 46 England
2 Nov 2008 1:37PM
TheLizard 10 15 United Kingdom
2 Nov 2008 4:46PM
great effect with the sky.great shot
2 Nov 2008 4:47PM
Nice Job Adam, its come out really well mate
MrsS 10 4.5k 18 England
2 Nov 2008 5:50PM
Looks good to me Adam, but wow, is that a lot of work! Wink

F x
sherlob Plus
10 2.8k 126 United Kingdom
2 Nov 2008 5:59PM
You'd be surprised Fran. In reality its not much worse then blending two images together in PS. The Star Trails software is a breeze to use and its fully automated. If you set the camera to continuous mode and use a lockable cable release all you need to do is set it up, set the exposures going and sit back. In my experiments a minimum of an hour is needed for a decent trail, many folk go 2 or more hours.

woodrow 9 153 Scotland
2 Nov 2008 6:15PM
impressive amount of work and yes, its worth it

chase Plus
11 1.1k 246 England
2 Nov 2008 6:42PM
Wow !!
Codiac 9 333 3 Northern Ireland
2 Nov 2008 7:12PM
Absolutely worth it, we have been talking about doing some of these, if i could get one half as good id be happy.

chris-p Plus
11 65 England
2 Nov 2008 7:21PM
Impressive and well worth it ......
m3lem 10 England
2 Nov 2008 7:29PM
Very impressive, very clever, brilliant
richardwheel 11 217 2 England
2 Nov 2008 8:40PM
very impressive mate, expertly done
GalleryGirl 9 4 2 United Kingdom
2 Nov 2008 9:11PM
Wow cracking image!
Marilyn x
Hoffy Plus
12 262 16 England
3 Nov 2008 9:21AM
Great capture.
chrisco 11 59 3 United Kingdom
3 Nov 2008 10:40AM
superb image,well worth the effort Smile

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