Stars in the Middle…

Another blast from the past – A star trails and light painting session with friends all the way back in May last year…

As with previous star trails sessions within Sydney itself I chose a location with relatively clear views eastwards out to the ocean to minimise the issues with light pollution – thus the choice of Middle Head Fort. It’s handy to get to but in a relatively isolated position with less light pollution from either local suburbs and looking east it’s out to sea.

Sunset here was to be at 5:07PM and I figured it would be dark enough to start shooting the stars around 7PM. Unfortunately this evening the moon was rising at 9:40PM so that wouldn’t give us much time to capture some trails – probably around two and half hours at most.

Milky Screams

Milky Screams

NIKON D600 + 14.0 mm f/2.8 @ 14 mm, 27 sec at f/3.2, ISO 2000

So it was an intrepid bunch met at Middle Head Fort around 5PM one Saturday evening. We stuffed around for an hour or so working out where we’d like to shoot the stars. Basically this involved walking around the various fortifications taking test shots with the lens I was going to use for the stars and seeing what might work.

We’d actually spent some time working out approximately where the centre of the rotation of the stars would be (south from here towards south head, Rose Bay and all the eastern suburbs of Sydney). We’d all lined up on the northern side of this fort and had various compositions which would include the centre of the star swirl.

Unhappy with my foreground composition however I made a last minute decision to go back to my original plan (before coming here) and test composition I’d taken earlier just after sunset.

I decided I wanted to shoot vertically looking down this tunnel rampway going under the fort and face mostly east out to sea.

There were a couple technical reasons for wanting to setup here and face this way but mostly it was the composition I was happier with.

Once setup I spent another twenty minutes or so doing some refining shots and some quick light painting of the foreground shots with more normal landscape settings (f/8 at ISO 200). I needed something I could blend into my final star trails frame for all the foreground (which would be relatively black and silhouetted in the actual star trails exposures). I figured we “might” get a chance to do some more at the end but somehow guessed we wouldn’t by then and would just want to go (which we did). So I made sure we had some in the can that could be used later in post – unfortunately I only did five quick experiments and I accidentally deleted the first – doh!.

Here is one of the “experiments” I didn’t use in the final image 🙂

NIKON D600 + 14.0 mm f/2.8 @ 14 mm, 104 sec at f/8, ISO 200

Finally just before 7PM I set my intervalometer in motion to capture the exposures for the trails.

Then we went off lightpainting in some nearby fortifications.

286 Frames (at ten past ten) I stopped my camera. The moon had risen half an hour earlier and was now just coming up into frame behind the fort and the sky was noticeably brightening. We’d had enough with light painting anyway so we packed up and left for home.

Insanity

Insanity

NIKON D600 + 14.0 mm f/2.8 @ 14 mm, 41 sec at f/3.2, ISO 1000 x 286 Frames

Thankfully the (very nice looking clouds) which magically appeared out of nowhere just before sunset vanished by the time we started taking the trails and the skies remained clear all the time we were there.

We had a few visitors come by in the darkness and walk through our frames, and even sit up on the fort itself, with torches and phones. We were also shooting before the 11PM airport curfew so of course there were a number of frames with plan trails in them. All of this had to be individually edited out of the source frames in Lightroom.