Pic of the Month: September ‘10

by | Sep 30, 2010 | Pic of the Month | 5 comments

Spinning Stars

Canon 40D, 17mm, f/8.0, 2966 seconds, ISO 100


There are two kinds of movement you can creatively capture with a camera, each one producing it’s own unique affect. The first is subject movement, the second is camera movement.

Subject movement is easily captured by slowing down your shutter speed. You get cool affects like silk-like water, firework bursts, and lines of light gilding busy highways.

Camera movement, much less common but as equally creative, is also achieved by using a slow shutter speed. This gives action to static objects. It can create beautiful, abstract patterns. It’s the concept behind panning, which sets moving objects in focus against a blurry background.

What kind of movement do you think is used to shoot star trails? Think about it. Are the stars moving? No. The earth is! Believe it or not, star trails are a result of the camera moving with the earth. It amazes me how truly creative this camera movement stuff can get! There are better ways to shoot star trails I’m sure, but here’s the way I took this one:

  1. Set up my tripod in a location far away from city lights and well after sunset or before sunrise. (It was seriously pitch black that night!)
  2. Set the Exposure Program Dial to M (or Manual).
  3. Set my aperture to f/8.0
  4. Set my shutter speed to Blub (the next choice after 30sec. on an SLR)
  5. Set my ISO to 100 (Because it’s going to be such a long exposure, you need all the quality you can get to cut the grain.)
  6. Set White Balance to Custom, around 2500K
  7. Turned on Long Exposure Noise Reduction (under my Custom Function settings in the menu.)
  8. Manually focused to infinity (with the help of a makeshift flashlight, my handy cell phone).
  9. Composed the picture by comparing it to a Star Field shot.
  10. Here’s the secret: Used an external shutter-release to open the shutter for 3000 seconds (2966 seconds to be exact, or approximately one hour).

I’ve yet to do more experimenting to make these pictures better and brighter, but this is at least a start!


  1. Robert

    Amazing, James!

  2. Donald

    You had me on that one James. I guessed it was star movement at first! Also, the horizon light is perfect.

  3. Benjamin Cahill

    Actually, it is the earth’s rotation, that causes the stars to form trails. 😉

  4. James

    I have slightly modified one of the 10 steps: for number 3, I prefer to use f/5.6; otherwise the picture turns out too dark.



  1. StaddonFamily.com » Blog Archive » Pic of the Month: September ‘10 - [...] Spinning Stars [...]
  2. The Glory of the Creator « Lenspiration - [...] instructions on photographing star trails, view the September 2010 Pic of the Month. [...]

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