I get a lot of requests regarding how to shoot star trails with light painted objects so here’s a visual to help! This is a fun story actually and a great way to improvise when you don’t have the right equipment!
If you’ve ever been to the Palouse, you know this barn is VERY FAR from the road. Way too far for my 5K lumen flashlight even. I wasn’t going to leave there without the light painted shot I wanted so I set up my70-200 lens, set for the stars to trail (which is no longer than 20-25 seconds to prevent star movement) and improvised the lighting. The road was humped slightly so I put the vehicle perpendicular to the road and drove back and forward (making the headlights go up and down) to spread the light up, down over and around the barn and field. As my friends looked at me like I was crazy, I got enough shots for the trail and enough light painted pieces to pick and choose which was better and not too blown out. Let me explain why I shoot light painted trails like this:
With film, we could leave the shutter open and get great trails due to the film’s reciprocity. Digital sensors really crap out when left open for a lengthy trail and are basically useless to my clientele. Shooting this way 20-25 seconds or less gives me (or my client) 3 products in one : 1. Points of light image with stars that aren’t moving and it’s a great still shot! 2. A stop motion video of the moving stars to either make just move or additive motion. 3. My favorite: a star trail shot!
The photoshop portion isn’t that fancy- as long as your tripod did’t move, you’re ok! Layer them altogether, change layer to lighten and BAM! magic. Find the light painted barn you like, add to the layer and hide the layer with a mask. Using your white brush, paint the parts in the you like, adjust colors and you have a masterpiece.
I normally wait until the very end of the star shooting to paint the building however I was dodging traffic and nervous companion @linda.ianson
so I had to paint whenever I had the chance. There is nothing “created” in photoshop, the elements are all there so using your digital artistry to pick and choose parts of your scene is commercially acceptable.