This is my first ever commentary video showing my night of Time Lapse and Astro photography at Maldon and Baringhup, Victoria. The afternoon started off a bit worrying with thunderstorms and lightning everywhere but thankfully cleared into a perfect night.
I haven’t had much opportunity to get out under the stars this year as Christmas is always a very busy time for me at work. But the Milky Way is returning to our skies and I had an opportunity to head up to Maldon and Baringhup about a month ago. There was a particular water tank and windmill on the side of the road that caught my eye last year and have wanted to get back to since then.
It also proved I’m a bit rusty and made some “Rookie” errors but overall, I was happy with the results. I was also trying out my new GoPro Hero 11 attached to a Hohem stabilising gimbal. My big disclaimer is I am not a professional videographer and it is a very steep learning curve. Given video is not my thing, I’ll talk more about the still images and how I created them.
Like most astro images, you have to visualise the end product and work backwards to gather the images you need to make it work. In this case I wanted a star trail behind the illuminated water tank. Star trails are composed in post production by adding all the images together in Photoshop layers and using the blend mode “Lighten”. This takes all the bright parts of the image (the stars) and allows them to appear through each layer. Alternatively you can use a program like StarStax which basically does the same thing, just better.
The consideration is that I also wanted the foreground to be lit. If I had placed an LED light on the tank and windmill as each image was taken for the star trail, then this would also show through each layer and continually add the brightness until it reached the point of being totally blown out due to the light adding over and over again. Therefore I had to shoot the star trail with absolutely no lights on the foreground at all. That way only the stars show through. Because the stars are moving (actually it’s us that are moving but that’s another story) the light adds to each layer but in a different position so the brightness doesn’t increase, it just moves to a new position through each layer.
Here is the completed star trail image in its original format. There is a little light on the grass in the background but that was from the lights of a passing car and it actually added very nicely to the image. I was just lucky there was only 1 car and not 50 otherwise it would have blown out this area and made life very difficult.
Here is the Foreground image I shot on it’s own using 2 LED lights. Note that I don’t care about the sky exposure (which is virtually black) because I will lay the star trail over it anyway. I now have 2 choices, simply add this image to one of the layers during the star trail stacking process and it will show through OR add it as a separate layer in photoshop.
In this case I just added it as a layer during the stacking process because masking around the windmill and grass in photoshop would have been a nightmare! However there is a little gotcha. The dork sky in the foreground image still has some stars visible and when they get blended into the star trail image they show up as annoying white dots. The trick is to mask out the sky on this foreground image prior to adding it as a layer so that nothing shows through during the stacking process. It’s very simple to do but you just need to remember to do it otherwise you have to create the entire star stack again. (Ask me how I know this!). The final step was to make final adjustments in Lightroom then send to photoshop and use my Star Spikes Pro plugin to add the spikes.
The conundrum with this shot was I was also trying to create a timelapse from the same series of images. However in a timelapse, every image needs the foreground lighting as I am creating a movie of individual stills and there is no blending of layers involved. But it’s one or the other and so my timelapse has a dark foreground but I am still happy with it and have been able to get a bit creative with the editing in video to make one blend into the other.
After sleeping the night in the back of the Subaru while the camera did it’s job, I’m very happy with the result and hope you enjoy my first video blog.
Cheers for now.
PS. Flying to Tasmania in the morning to start my East Coast and Lake Tour so will be posting a bit on social media over the next week and a blog at the end.