Star Trails Over the Bosque

What technical feedback would you like if any? Any that you have

What artistic feedback would you like if any?

Composition, execution?

Pertinent technical details or techniques:

(If this is a composite, etc. please be honest with your techniques to help others learn)

This is a 45 minute exposure at Bosque Del Apache. We had permission during our workshop to shoot at night on the refuge. Normally the refuge closes 30 minutes after sunset. This image was captured with my Olympus EM1-X, 12mm f/2.0 lens.

This utilized the Live Composite function of the Olympus camera system that enables these long exposure without overexposing the scene even though this image was captured with a moon of about 55%. A very cool feature indeed. Hope you enjoy the composition and the image.

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Pretty cool, Keith. The tree is a nice anchor to the whole scene it is also nice to see some colors on the stars. In fact, I think I’d like to see a little more of that. Does this feature give you a raw file? Perhaps it’s still possible to extract something from the highlight?

@Adhika_Lie Yes, the file is a RAW file from the camera. I too like the colors. I don’t want to add any more color to the stars than was really there. I certainly could edit the raw image if desired.

I like everything about this image. 45 minutes and no airplane trails? No rotating satellites? Nothing from Roswell? Very impressive.

Very cool conception and execution. I too like the tree in the middle that provides a focal point for the eye. The roosting snowgeese in the background adds another dimension to this image. It’s a little odd not to see as many star-trails in the reflection given its density in the sky.


Wow! This is spectacular. I didn’t even notice the geese until I read a comment. I think your comp works perfectly - it’s always good to have a reference I think with the star trails. The mirrored reflection adds a bit of dynamic to this as well. The star streaks, fantastic.

To be super nitpicky - I might clone out (or other wise clone over) the short, white streak on the upper right edge about 1/4 of the way down from the top. Amazing considering all the thousands of streaks… that one little short one draws my eye. Pretty minor picking though…

I’ll show my lack of knowledge on the subject here… but my first thought was how cool it was to get a star trail image out of the camera in one shot. That’s one thing I missed with shooting film (not that I did a lot of star trails, but always loved the results.) But I’m gathering from your description of the “Live composite function” of the camera - that the digital system is still stacking frames and putting them together and output as a single, raw image? Or was the sensor exposed to the scene directly for 45min? It really doesn’t matter, my point is that you as the photographer don’t have to capture hundreds of frames and put them back together on the computer later. I would love to do some star trails with my camera without all that technical construction after the fact.

Fantastic image. Thanks for sharing!


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Keith, what a brilliant idea, it puts Bosque into "a whole new light’ so to speak. This is a refreshing new take on a location that we usually only see avian or sunset images from. I love the mirrored reflection of the stars, that had me thinking for a few seconds, and it really grabs your attention. Beautifully conceived and executed on your part. The exposure on the bush and foreground is perfect, it leaves some detail, but still looks like night.

I agree with @Adhika_Lie, given that this is a raw output file, I’d play with it to tease a little more color variety out of the stars (which does exist in real life) while leaving the sky this hue of blue.

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@Lon_Overacker Thanks for your detailed reply. I think I see the short white trail that is grabbing your eye. I’ll look into that one.

Here’s a longer explanation of how Live Composite works. Yes, the sensor is exposed to the scene for the entire 45 minutes (in this case). By using a single image to determine the length of time required to get enough light on the tree and get stars to appear (I didn’t mention that this was also a night with about a 55% moon directly overhead!! An even harder problem for long exposures) I came up with a 20 second exposure. In Live Composite I set that duration as the time required. I start the exposure and the camera records the entire scene for the first 20 seconds. Then it continues gathering 20 second exposures, but the only thing recorded on the sensor is any area of the scene that is brighter than it was from the original 20 second image. This continues until I press the shutter again to stop the process. So for this image it was 3, 20 second images per minute for 45 minutes or 135 captures. I’m not doing anything with the camera while this is happening except watching the image form on the back of the camera because every 20 seconds the screen updates to show me the trails growing.

It is like using the Lighten blending mode with 135 images stacked in Photoshop with the base image in normal blend mode and the rest in Lighten blend mode. The difference is I don’t have to mess around trying to stack that many. I simply get one great RAW file at the end with the completed image. It is such a great tool for star trails and many other applications of long exposure photography.

That is one great shot, Keith. I am impressed with what that camera can do too, the way you explained it. We sure are living in a wonderful age of technology for us photographers! I really like that you captured the reflection of the star trails as well. That bush anchored everything nicely. Well done. :+1: :+1:

Great shot, Keith. Star trails are fun, but your shot shows the importance of “anchoring” it to the earth in some way. Like the reflections in the water and the geese in the background. Thanks for explaining in greater detail the process used to capture the shot. Is this proprietary to Olympus?

I don’t know if this is proprietary technology or not. I am not aware of other camera systems that have this ability. If anyone knows of other systems, please chime in. All I know is it works really well and provides some very creative opportunities.

Great shot, Dennis. Even nicer is the fact that it was done in camera and not sitting behind the computer stacking all those images. I also think the trees do a very nice job of anchoring this nighttime scene. Fantastic job on this.

@Ed_Lowe Thank You. Yes it makes it even more special since it was done in camera, rather than in post processing. (Little typo: It’s Keith, not Dennis :grinning:)

Oops, sorry Keith. Senior moment. :crazy_face:

Fanastic image - you perfectly found a good anchor to the scene while facing and centering the exact middle of the galactic equator (?terminology) making for a symmetric divergence of the star trails - very well done!

Looks like the bright streak on the mid-right was a planet? Very bright and serves as a distraction to my eye of the harmony of the luminance values otherwise. I personally would be tempted to tone down the overall brightness of the trails in their entirety - this may pull some more color out as previously mentioned. There’s not much night sky, but a ton of stars…must’ve been a super dark night!

Is the horizon straight or tilting slightly up from L—>R? Probably me.

If this was 45 minutes, did the snow geese (which I also missed before seeing it written) stay put because they were roosting for the night?

Sorry for all the questions - thanks for sharing! Great capture!

I leveled my camera with a bubble level. I’m pretty sure it was level. Always situations where it might look titled even after leveled.

Yep, they were there for the night. Very little movement but in my original with more resolution it is pretty cool to see a few “ghost” kinds of shapes from a few geese moving around.

I’ve worked the bright trail at the edge and like it better without it. I made a 17x22 print today. Pretty cool looking. Anxious to get it matted and framed up. I’ll get to that in the next few days.

Wow, this is so cool. A photograph of time passing. Thank you for the explanation of how it was made.


Fantastic night image. Fantastic tool as well for in camera long exposures. I’m not looking at this photo on a calibrated monitor right now, but it would seem to me that the brightness of the sky and reflection of blue in the water seem to bright for a night scene with that many bright star trails. If you could do a color selection and burn the sky down to bring in some darkness, I wonder how that would look.