Photo: Door County Star Trails

Star trails from a 12 minute exposure taken on a perfectly dark night at Peninsula State Park in Door County, WI.

Back Story

It’s fairly easy for me to say that this is new crown jewel in my night sky portfolio, no question.

The family and I were up in Door County, WI last weekend as kind of the last peaceful moment before the holidays kick into high gear. Joining us were my wife’s aunt and uncle, who were responsible for us exploring Door County in the first place.

For the last weekend in October, the weather was extremely nice and the skies were incredibly clear for most of our time there. While exploring the state park in Fish Creek during the day, I made a comment on how nice it would be to come back at night and shoot the stars. Well, that’s what we did.

The Setup

After shooting individual 30 second exposures for about a half hour, I decided to break out of that and go a little longer. So I found the north star (which was a little tricky since the sky was just littered with stars, mind you) and shot a 4 minute exposure at ISO 1600.

Liking what I saw after the 4 minute exposure, I decided to expand on that to get what you see here. I dropped down my ISO to 100 (4 stops) and then tripled my exposure time to 12 minutes, shooting wide open at f/4 on my 24-105mm lens.

Even on the LCD screen afterwards, and showing my wife and her family while zooming in, it looked pretty nice. I would have tried going for a 24 minute exposure, but with everyone with me, that would have been too much for me to ask of them. Maybe next time.

Tweaks in Post

It would have been interesting to see how the 24 minute exposure would have came out, since I ended up increasing the exposure in post by 2 stops. I also cooled down the WB a bit to get back to more of a black sky, an the noise reduction in Lightroom helped quite a bit, too. After bumping up the Clarity slider to 100, you have what you see above.

I also had a quick 4×6 print ran off yesterday, and was very happy with how it transferred from my screen to print. Next, I’ll probably try to blow it up more and see how it looks on a grander scale.

Until Next Time…

Even though much of my previous night sky shooting was done in Maui, the conditions there were never as great as I had seen them this past weekend. And who knows when I’ll get to be back with conditions like that again. I may have to wait an entire year, but if that’s what it takes, I’ll do it. I’ll be prepared to be there all night (or at least until the park closes at 11pm).

In any case, this was my first attempt as shooting star trails like this, and I have to say it’s pretty fun.

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