All you need is a tripod, or not. Well, maybe a shutter release cable too, or not. Now cameras are digital, and there are digital shutter releases.

The idea is to hold the camera perfectly still while it gathers the dim light, whether from the moon, stars, cars, lightning, or even street lights. The longer the shutter speed, the more light, and the greater the need for perfect stillness.

Just a few minutes exposure caught this picture of a meteor.

I like to take star trail photos when I go camping. If it is a clear night, I set up my tripod and camera with a wide-angle lens pointed toward the North Star, and get a little horizon in the shot. I go to bed and set my alarm for a couple of hours before the sun comes up. This can get you a good 6 hour exposure (depending on the season).

North Star and star trails: North Rim Grand Canyon

It’s best to avoid the moon directly in the shots, as it will ruin any star trail photo. Set the camera on manual exposure, and manual focus set for infinity, and the aperture at about 5.6 or less. Higher apertures gives finer star trails, but may not show the detail in the foreground.

To make things more interesting use a hand-held flash, or even a flashlight to paint light into the foreground. You can flash trees, buildings, or even a single flash inside your tent  will make it glow.

comet Holmes

Or, don’t use a tripod…..this were taken out the plane window, using 2-3 second exposures.   Spinning the camera or zooming the lens during that time produces additional motion effects. Have fun….