Night photography: Burned orange 1966 Lincoln with flame job

Burned orange 1966 Lincoln with flame job -- by Joe Reifer
Burned orange 1966 Lincoln with flame job -- by Joe Reifer

Technical details: Three exposures of 7 minutes were stacked for 21 minute long star trails (7 minutes at f/9.5, ISO 200). There is a 1 second interval between exposures -- any longer would show gaps in the star trails. The Canon 5D Mark II is clean at 7 minutes without the need for noise reduction, as long as the ambient temperature is not too warm.

On the first image I did not light paint. The 2nd and 3rd exposures had different light painting. After the first three images were complete, I reviewed the light painting on the back of the camera. The interior and side of the car looked great in image #3, but there was a hot spot above the front grill. I did a fourth exposure of 3 minutes at f/8 to re-do the light painting on the front of the car. Below are all 4 images in Lightroom.

1966 Lincoln
1966 Lincoln

Here are the steps involved in post-processing the final image:

  • The first 3 images for stacking star trails were processed in Lightroom with identical settings
  • The 4th image was processed in Lightroom just for the light painting
  • On the top menu in Lightroom, I opened all four images into one file using: Photo -- Edit In -- Open as Layers in Photoshop
  • The 2nd and 3rd image were set to Lighten blending mode to stack the star trails
  • I selected the sky and made a layer mask on the second and third image to hide the light painting but keep the star trails
  • I added a layer mask to the 4th image, and filled it with black
  • Using a soft brush at 20% opacity, the light painting from the 3rd and 4th image was added using layer masks
  • A Selective Color adjustment layer was used to make subtle changes to the color of the car and also the sky

I hope this behind the scenes look at creating a light painted image with long star trails is helpful.