How to Use the Earth's Rotation to Your Advantage


I’ve had a lot of questions on how I took my most popular photo, so I thought I’d share how to capture star trails. Enjoy!

What you’ll need:
- camera with “bulb” exposure mode or light meter
- favorite kind of film
- tripod
- cable release
- patience!

Star trails are really simple. Set your camera up on your tripod (make sure it’s on bulb mode if it doesn’t have a light meter) and aim it towards the sky. In my opinion, the best pictures are the ones that have something in the foreground. Screw your cable release in and start exposing!

Now for the somewhat tricky part: deciding how long to expose the film (if you have a camera with a light meter, you don’t have to worry about this. Just make sure you listen for that second click of the shutter). If you don’t have a light meter, experiment! Exposure times really depend on how much light is around. 25 to 40 minute exposures seemed to yield the best results for me, although I was in the desert with minimal lighting.

One thing to keep in mind: you’ll want to be somewhere with little to no light and very good star visibility.

Well that’s all folks. Get out there and try it! (:

written by tjbeard8985 on 2011-05-17 #gear #tutorials #art #tipster #star-trails-night-long-exposure-dark


  1. simonh82
    simonh82 ·

    What speed film/aperture setting do you use for these? I'm never sure how bright star light actually is, so i've been afraid of wasting film on star trails that don't come out. That and the near impossibility of finding somewhere truly dark in the whole of the south east of England!

  2. xxxanderrr
    xxxanderrr ·

    @simonh82 do you have a digital slr that you could test with? because that is your best bet on all the exposure info.

  3. tjbeard8985
    tjbeard8985 ·

    I used 200 film. And I used an LC-A+ for first two pictures so I wasn't able to choose the aperture. For the last one I used a diana mini set at f/8.

  4. shoujoai
    shoujoai ·

    Nice tip, I did an alien invaison picture that way there I set the Lubitel to f/22 (I think) and waited for about one to three hours, don't know exactly

  5. novakmisi
    novakmisi ·

    great,congrats !!!

  6. renenob
    renenob ·

    Must-try, before i die.

  7. pomps
    pomps ·

    super tipster! I'll try it!

  8. renenob
    renenob ·

    how long was the exposure for the last photo?

  9. tjbeard8985
    tjbeard8985 ·

    I think the last one was somewhere between 35 and 45 minutes, but I'm not positive.

  10. wuxiong
    wuxiong ·

    I must try this, but We have long not clear night here in the city, till the day they stop driving...<:)

  11. eva_eva
    eva_eva ·

    gosh always wanted to try this. but too bad, im too lazy >.<

  12. ceduxi0n
    ceduxi0n ·

    great article. we also went to joshua tree to shoot star trails. i think an important thing to know is where to find Polaris so you can get that circular trail effect too :)

  13. gelibee
    gelibee ·

    You're very patient! Great photos! :D

  14. nicx
    nicx ·

    I love doing this but haven't in a while i am now inspired to do more!

  15. plasticpopsicle
    plasticpopsicle ·

    Something I've been wanting to try on film for the longest time!

  16. bylcuenca
    bylcuenca ·

    trying soon... =) great work!

  17. stonerfairy
    stonerfairy ·

    Thanx for this great tips on star trail on film camera.

  18. welland
    welland ·

    Can you not really do long enough exposures on the LCA then? I have one and it clicks when its exposed so can I keep going?

  19. cecily
    cecily ·

    thanks for having revealed your secret :)
    I want to try as soon as possible!

  20. theycallmeelton
    theycallmeelton ·

    Gonna try it as soon as I get a new roll of film! Cheers for the great tipster! :)

  21. kwakken
    kwakken ·


  22. 110isnotdead
    110isnotdead ·

    Great idea, gotta try that :)

More Interesting Articles