Star Trails photography

Weather conditions were perfect the other night for some Star Trails photography and as I had never actually tried this technique before I thought it was a good chance to have a go.  I used a Canon 40D camera and a Tokina 11-16mm lens but so long as your camera can take individual long exposure shots over a period of time then you should be good to go (if you wanted to).  DLSRs are not really suited to keeping the shutter open for a long time as you end up with hot spots on the image, so a more practical solution is to take a series of shorter exposed images over time.

Required kit
-Camera which can take continuous long exposure images over time
-Charged camera batteries
-Tripod – essential to keep the camera steady and pointing in the same direction
-A clear night  🙂

Additional kit
-Remote release used to keep the shutter release open – else you have to press the shutter release each time to take a shot
-Torch – basically to see where you are going in the dark  😉 
-Some foreground object, a tree perhaps or the top of a building .. etc

Setup
I tested the process in my back garden with the top of a tree as my foreground interest, then with the camera on a tri pod I set it to an exposure time of 30secons, ISO 400, F5.6 and auto white balance.  Focusing on the stars was done manually and I had a cable release for starting the shoot.  After a few test shots to check the settings I pressed the remote and set it to hold the shutter release; so although the camera is capable of taking 6 shots a second it was now taking 1 shot every 30 seconds 🙂  I then left it alone for just over an hour and ended up with 100+ photos.  I shot in RAW and used a 2gb card.
Note: When I decided enough was enough I shone the torch into the tree for the last two exposures, this brought some light to the foreground.  Then I released the shutter and stopped taking pictures.  The last thing you have to do is put the lens cap back on and take one more photo, will tell you why in a moment.

Process
Armed with all those photos I converted them from RAW to JPG (also tweeked the colours slightly) and then used startrails.exe (free software) to stitch all the photos together.  This is possible in photoshop, or a similar package but would take ages, where as with startrails you point the software to the folder containing your images and it does the rest.  Now, the image you took with the lens cap on — this is known as the “darkframe” in Startrails and useful for reducing image noise.

Result
You can see the first result on my Flickr page to the left hand side, however I wanted to share the process.

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The Google Social Graph API

From the site blurb:  “With so many websites to join, users must decide where to invest significant time in adding their same connections over and over. For developers, this means it is difficult to build successful web applications that hinge upon a critical mass of users for content and interaction. With the Social Graph API, developers can now utilize public connections their users have already created in other web services. It makes information about public connections between people easily available and useful.”  Watch the video too – more info here

For those last minute Xmas gifts, why not use Microsoft gift guide 2007

For such beauties as “Plan and track weight loss $19” to “Give a gift of peace of mind, SimplyFile an overflowing inbox. 50% off” then why not visit the Microsoft gift store for 2007 where these and lots of other wonderful add-ons can be picked up.

“Professional backgrounds for PowerPoint for only $199” – Surely they should have thought of those when developing PowerPoint in the first place … and does this mean that the backgrounds which were included with the software are NOT “Professional”

Note to self – find FreeWare alternatives to those add-ons listed and post  🙂

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Microsoft LISTAS

Listas is a tool for the creation, management and sharing of lists, notes, favorites, and more. It allows you to quickly and easily edit lists, share them with others for reading or wiki-style editing, and discover the public lists of other users.  We encourage you to try using it for meeting notes, bookmarks, shopping lists, to plan a night out, or whatever other creative ways you can think of.

Windows Live ID or Passport account needed.

WEBSITE TOOLS INSTANT TEST WIZARD

From Site:

Test the performance and availability of your website from 11 locations around the world. Simply click on the button for the test that you would like to run and input your info. This is the only testing wizard online that gives you results from around the world – FOR FREE

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Feist 1 2 3 4

New ipod commercial in its entirety …. pretty neat.

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02 win contract for UK iPhone

Title says it all really, but 02 have won the exclusive contract to sell the iPhone when it comes to the UK on Novemeber the 9th, so you can buy from 02 stores, Carphone Warehouse and Apple Stores.

Terms of the contract have not been announced, but the tarrifs appear to be for an 18 month contract @ £35, £45 or £55 per month with unlimited data usage.  The iPhone is priced at £269.

Interestingly, users will get free use of 7,500 wi-fi hotspots for Internet usage as well.

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