Star Trails and Waterfalls

By PF Staff in Favorite Photos on Nov 30, 2012

This is one of my favourite shots I've taken, for a variety of reasons but mainly because it was more than an opportunistic single shot and took a good deal of thought, effort and planning to get the result I wanted. Not to mention the result I had imagined before I started!

 star trails
Thornton Force Falls By Night by andy_grundy

Equipment Used

  • tripod
  • shutter release / remote control
  • Pentax K-x with a Samsung 16-45mm F4 lens
  • Adobe Lightroom 3 and Photoshop CS5
  • A seat
  • A friend (I presume it would be hellishly boring if you were on your own)
  • And if you're in the UK:
  • plenty of clothing layers
  • gloves
  • a big woolly hat
  • loads of socks
  • hand warmers


  • 161 RAW shots at:
  • 30 sec
  • f/4
  • ISO 500
  • 16mm

Post Processing

With this sort of shot a lot of the work is done after the event. I ended up with 161 shots that I could work with. In Lightroom I selected all of these with a red flag and filtered the collection by the red flag so I only had the shots I wanted in the selection. Unfortunately, as it was so dark I hadn't realised the composition was on a massive lean so had to straighten all 161 shots. As it turns out, one of my most favourite features of Lightroom, the sync tool, will even sync the crop settings so I straightened 1 of the shots, adjusted the white balance for what looked a more natural look and synced the lot.

Seeing as though I was going to be stacking all these shots together I thought I'd edit a good portion of shots to highlight the waterfall by adjusting the exposure and fill light so that the stack would average out and give a good balance between foreground and stars.

Once these were done it was a case of exporting all the files to be able to use them in another package to stack them. For this I used Photoshop but there's plenty of other free apps that will stack multiple shots on top of each other. To do this in Photoshop though, is actually a whole load easier than I thought it'd be. Go to file>scripts>statistics and import all the files from the export. Make sure the stack mode is set to maximum and click OK. At this point you can go and make a brew or something slightly more exciting 'cos it'll take a while!

All in all this was a thoroughly enjoyable shot to make and I'm sure I'll be doing some more now winter is approaching and the skies are getting clearer. As it was about -4 degrees that night though, I might buy a new hat!


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