Jerry Day has some great new work on his website, including the incredible long star trail image above. I often talk about making 6-8 minute long exposures with noise reduction turned off on the Canon 5D, and stacking multiple exposures for 20-30 minute long star trails. What you’re seeing above in Jerry’s work is this same technique, but for over 10 hours in total duration. Jerry and I exchanged emails about his technique:
Yes, this is a digital composition spanning the entire night, sunset to sunrise. Bracketed images at sunset/sunrise processed as HDR, merged and then layered on a base image of star trails from twilight to twilight – about 10.25 hours shot in a sequence of 6 minute exposures. At least 114 images total went into the composition. I shot two compositions that night using Canon 5D for the twin mesa view and the Canon 5D Mark II for the single mesa composition. Had a great night camping out under the stars.
My follow up question for Jerry was “what do you use to power a Canon 5D for a 10 hour exposure?”
I use a DC adapter hooked into a 12V battery pack – the same setup I use for astrophotography with the Canon 20Da. The coupler is modified by Hutech to be DC only – no need for the intermediate AC adapter and power inverter.
For the Canon 5D Mark II, I had the proper DC coupler, but intended to use the original AC adapter provided by Canon for use with the 20Da or 5D. Unfortunately, I found in the field that the coupler was incompatible with the existing AC adapter receptacle – I would need to purchase the full AC adapter kit for the 5D Mark II (Canon strikes again!)
My solution – set my alarm for about 3 hour intervals – crawl out of the bivy-bag, quickly swap battery pack and restart the timer. Done properly, the gaps in the star trails are not any more noticable than the 1 second gaps the Canon timer cable imposes after each frame. For my next outing I will have the proper adapters.
I’d like to thank Jerry for sharing his technique and equipment notes. Check out the rest of the night photography galleries on his website, Dark Sky Dreams.