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Buttermere Star Trails

Taken on the eastern shore of Buttermere in the Lake District.


As featured on the cover of "Extreme Exposure" by David Nightingale


This is something I'd intended to do for a long time. I was inspired to venture out into the sub-zero temperatures from the night before when I was travelling to Edinburgh via the A701. We stopped the car and I got out to have a look at the amazing star-studded sky. The Milky Way was very visible so I laid the camera on the cars' roof and popped a 30 second shot. I was quite excited and motivated over the next 24 hours to take this shot the very next night.


The light pollution was obvious and quite surprising because with the naked eye the hue was very much blue. However without the light in the sky the hills would not be defined.


The aircraft going overhead was interesting to see on the picture, seems like they're originating from the VOR station at Moota, branching off on the various radials. A satellite showed up in one test picture and unfortunately numerous shooting stars weren't picked up by the camera as they were too brief.


The hardest part about this shot was deciding where to aim the camera. If I had another 5 cameras they would all be pointing in different directions at the same time, so many possibilities.


PS - as people on Flickr have been asking why the stars are rotating in a circle; it is because the Earth rotates around its axis every 24 hours - thats why we get night and day. If you point the camera towards the centre of this rotation then you get this effect. In the northern hemisphere the current pole star, Polaris, marks the approximate centre of this rotation. Its strange to think that the pole star will change over the next few thousand years, due to precession of the equinoxes, as it has already. We won't be here to witness that though :)


How I did this shot; The camera was placed on the tripod and I shot off some test shots to get the angles right. I then set the TC-80N timer to take one shot after the other using an exposure of around 40 seconds each. The total time was about 45 minutes and the camera took around 80 shots. I then stacked these in Photoshop and a simple tweak of the contrast etc. produced the final image. The intention that night was a quick experiment, I'm glad I did it!

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Taken on October 28, 2008