Star Trails and Stacking

The last few weeks i have been experimenting with a few different techniques for stacking individual short exposures into a simulated long exposure photograph like i used to take back when i was shooting film.

This image was put together using LightroomPhotoshop CS6 and a starstacking program called Starstax.

My general sequence for processing these is:

  1. Processes the group of images in Lightroom 4 like i would any night photo, I generally use about 40-120 images for a startrail image.
  2. Export the images as full sized tiff files into a folder
  3. Import the images into starstax and set the blending mode to “Lighten”
  4. Press the “start processing” button, wait until its finished.
  5. Save the image by pressing the “Save As..” button and rename the image with a .tif file extension (this is currently the only way to save the file as a tiff image, there is no file type dropdown menu).
  6. Open Photoshop and load the last image in the sequence you just combined into the star-stacked image (you will have two images open at the same time now)
  7. copy the starstacked image and paste it into the final image of the sequence that you also had open.
  8. you can now adjust the opacity of the startrail layer to show the image that has single points of light
  9. You can also add a layer mask to the startrail image to show more of the milkyway.

This photo above is about 50 individual images with the exposure of:

  • ISO 2500
  • F/ 1.4
  • 24mm
  • 24 seconds

The camera was the Canon 5D markII with the Canon 24mm 1.4 mounted on Manfrotto 055CXPRO3  with a Manfrotto 498RC2 ball head.

About thomas o'brien

Thomas O'Brien is a visual artist living in Aspen Colorado.

He is primarily a photographer. but has been shooting video and time-lapse since about 2008. Thomas is also available for consulting and personal instruction in photography, digital processing, retouching and photo tours/workshops. All of the images are available for sale (both fine art prints and licensing).