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Night Photography, Star Trails and Light Painting


24mm, f/7.1, 6.5 sec, ISO 10,000

Star Trails
For star trails use long exposures and ISOs of 400-800 (more or less) with f/2.8 to 4.0 wide angle lenses. As exposures go into the minutes background light can start to become a problem, so it is sometimes an option to use shorter exposures and stack the images in post processing.
I've set my 60D at 30 seconds, locked the shutter down, walked away for a couple hours and gotten some good trails.

39mm, f/5.6, 30 sec at ISO 400

166 sequential 30 second images taken over a ~90 minute period then stacked in Photoshop to minimize background light.
If you look closely you can see where the camera moved in the first few frames causing a slight 'J' hook at the start of the trails.
You can also see at least 7 aircraft tracking through the image.

The Milky Way

For stationary star images exposures need to be less then 30 seconds to avoid motion blur.
With an f/4 lens an ISO of  6400 may be needed to see the Milky Way.

28mm, f/4.0, 15 sec, ISO 8000

This image of the Milky Way, taken from our backyard in October, had a considerable amount of background light from Bloomington.

Sagittarius, the Galactic Center and Dark Skies

17mm, f/5.6, 15 sec, ISO 6400

Taken at Dawson Lake in late July, the glow from LeRoy and I-74 is evident at the horizon, partially obscuring the Galactic core.

17mm, f/4.0, 10 sec, ISO 10000

Taken in Door County, WI in mid August. Although there is some glow from Whitefish Bay  (right side), the Galactic core is considerably more visible.

14mm, f/2.8, 20 sec, ISO 4000

Taken at Sugar Grove Nature Center in early August with Sagittarius high in a relatively dark sky.
The 2.8 lens also helps.