BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: New Questions

Photography Question 
David Coy

star trails


I use a Nikon D80, and I want to take some star trails pictures. I used a tripod, mounted the D80 on it, pointed it towards polaris, and the shutter was open for nearly 15 minutes, and I didn't get the results I wanted. I tried several exposures and combined them in photoshop, but to no avail. What f stop and ISO values should I use?

The same goes with the moon. I used a 18-135mm lens that came with my D80, and I used an ISO of 800, f/5.6, and I retained the white halo around the moon, and the moon just looked like a blob of light. What would be the best values to use to take these pictures?



To love this question, log in above
4/4/2007 10:35:13 AM

Todd Bennett
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/8/2004

Here is a link for moon photography.

Remember when you are photographing the moon you are in reallity photographing sunlight, therefore the Sunny 16 rule or the Moony 11 rule applie as a starting point. Here is a link that explains this rule.

As far as the star trails, I have never done those before; but, I would think you would need a much longer exposure time in the range of a couple of hours. I remember ready somewhere that people would use 1 to 2 hour exposure times to get the right effect. Perhaps some of the other members here can give better insight on star trails.

To love this comment, log in above
4/4/2007 10:47:29 AM

Todd Bennett
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/8/2004

Just found this link for star trails.

Hope some of this helps.

To love this comment, log in above
4/4/2007 10:50:32 AM

Hi David,

for the star trails you need MORE light reaching the sensor: widest aperture, highest ISO, and probably a (much) longer exposure.

For the moon shot you need LESS light reaching the sensor to prevent the moon overexposing (against the black sky background). Experiment with smaller F-stops, shorter shutter speeds, or both.

Have fun!

To love this comment, log in above
4/4/2007 11:10:55 AM

David Coy   Yay!

Thank you all so much. These links help out quite a bit. I will try and upload the finished photo's when I take them. It really depends on whether the night is clear or not. In Texas, its been pretty cloudy lately at night, not great for taking pictures of the moon! Although I just bought my camera, I'm looking into Macro lenses right now. I've used Digital SLR's for nearly 7 years now, but this is the first one I've ever owned. What kind of macro lens would you all suggest? My budget is kind of tight, mainly between $300-$400.

Thanks a bunch,


To love this comment, log in above
4/4/2007 11:32:19 AM

William Schuette
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/8/2006
  David, at you price point you might want to look into the Tokina 100mm macro. I have one. It is built like a tank, has a nice push-pull clutch to take the lens in and out of autofocus and most importantly has great optics, very sharp and contrasty. The only reason I no longer use it is I purchased the Nikkor 105 mm with Vibration Reduction since I often use the macro as a portrait lens.


To love this comment, log in above
4/4/2007 3:09:41 PM

David A. Bliss   Not to say I am any expert at all when it comes to shooting star trails, but here is one that I have done, with the tech specs listed. It can at least give you a starting point.

To love this comment, log in above
4/4/2007 3:14:06 PM

dennis w. mcclain   ok my $0.02 woth. tripod, remote shutter. camera set to bulb. f8 ( this is what I like to use. iso set low (100-200) or you wil get alot of noise. a fully charged battery. aim, focus( maunually) shoot and and hold. try different lengths of time. eg 5min 20min. ect... its hard on the battery so like I said have a few fully charged. pointing at polaris will take longer to trail,than pointing toward the equator.
I like shooting orion. you get to see the streaking colors of the great orion nebula. good luck

To love this comment, log in above
4/14/2007 1:57:34 PM

Sharon  Day
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/27/2004
Contact Sharon
Sharon 's Gallery
  David, I would get the Nikon 60mm macro lens. I have the Nikon 105mm macro but have access to the 60mm and I like the 60mm better. It's also quite a bit less expensive. If you have deep pockets and like the idea of VR on a macro lens then you might want to look at the Nikon 105mm a little closer but I prefer the 60mm of the two. IF you plan on copying old family photos with a copy stand the 60mm is better for that too. I've tried copying larger photos before and couldn't get far enough away from them on the copy stand to make it work. You can get closer with the 60mm.

To love this comment, log in above
4/14/2007 4:10:03 PM

Log in to respond or ask your own question.