Star trails. Shiprock, New Mexico.

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Absolutely. Put your camera on a tripod and pick a lens that is wide enough to capture a LOT of stars and some foreground. Many people will tell you to pick a place with no light pollution on a night with no moon, however I like a quarter moon because it lights up some of the foreground without blotting out too many stars. No light pollution is key though, so drive a couple hours away from major cities. This particular photo includes the North Star, or Polaris, which gives the star trails a circular look with a center. You can point the camera anywhere and get trails, but if you want the *complete circle* look you should figure out how to find polaris in the nigh sky. It’s not hard, but you can always just bring a compass and face north. Once you set up your shot, the first thing you want to do is make sure you’re in focus. This is harder than it sounds. I suggest bumping your ISO way up, taking a 30 second exposure, and zooming in on the preview to check. Once you’re in focus, I would set my camera to 30 seconds and open the aperture up as wide as it can go. Then adjust the ISO to yield a nice exposure without too much noise. Make sure you set the white balance to something other than auto so it doesn’t change from exposure to exposure. Take 30-second-exposure after 30-second-exposure for at least an hour with no gaps in between shots. One way to do this is set your camera to continuous shooting (like you’re photographing sports) and plug in a shutter release cable. When you lock your cable in place it *should* take continues 30 second exposures. If not, you’ll have to just sit there and do it yourself. It’s not that bad, I’ve done it.

When you return home, you will have about 120 photos. Download a program called StarStax. It’s free and there are some basic tutorials online, but it’s pretty easy to figure out. I will sometimes put all the photos through lightroom first to adjust the sharpness and the noise reduction, etc before converting to jpeg. Then open StarStax and upload all the photos, click “stack,” and wait for the result. Save the final image and it *should* look similar to this. StarStax, and other star stacking programs, line up photographs on top of each other and bring the brightest pixels to the top. Since the stars moved but the foreground didn’t, they will appear to streak or “trail” across the photo. This program also works for lightning photography because it’s basically the same thing. If your final photo doesn’t look right, let me know, or look up a StarStax tutorial because the program has a lot to offer for solving problems that might come up. Good luck. It’s a lot of fun, and again let me know if you have any problems and I’ll try to help you!

In the end, the only way to *really* learn this stuff is just to try it, so you might not come back with a winner the first time. After trying it on my own a few times though I came back with this:

http://nicholaslindsey.zenfolio.com/p974844051/ha1003fe#ha1003fe

Keep at it and I promise you’ll be able to produce some satisfying results.

-Nicholas

Some quick edits: Remember to bring a chair with you if you can. I always forget that part and I end up standing for over an hour. Also, I did not take the photo that was posted to Earthporn, I’m just giving explanations. Finally, thanks KaiserPodge for the gold! And thank you all for your questions and gratitude. I always like teaching people how to take photos because the technical side of photography can be intimidating which is an unfair barrier for beginners, but it’s actually pretty easy once you’re shown the techniques.

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