Star trails over Lake Ontario

Star Trails Over Lake Ontario

Star Trails Over Lake Ontario – April 17, 2015

After reading the Aurora Forecast for North America today, I decided to spend my first night of the year at our cottage on Lake Ontario. The forecast called for high activity and a good probability of auroral sightings in the northern tier of states. So why, do you ask, is there a photograph of star trails below and not the Aurora Borealis? That’s because I decided to take a series of photographs that would be merged and blended into one star trail photograph while I waited patiently for the ever elusive Northern Lights to appear.  They never appeared.

I use a stacking program called StarStaX. It is a relatively easy program to use and it is FREE. I had composed this image and focused my Canon 5D Mark III with a Rokinon 24mm f/1.4 lens attached prior to sunset.  If you wait until dark, I would recommend magnifying your live view on a bright star to get your focus.  The Rokinon is manual focus only. You also have to set your f stop manually.  While is is a little more work, I’m willing to do it and save the $1,000 or more that I would have had to spend on a fast wide angle Canon lens.  Checking the histogram after taking a couple of test shots decided my settings. Tonight each exposure was shot at 30 seconds, f/2.8, and an ISO of 800.  My first shot was taken with the lens cap on.  StarStaX uses it in averaging and subtracting dark frames to remove hot pixels and noise in the final blended image.

My neighbors “rustic” cottage served as a great foreground element for this shot. It faces WNW so I knew that I had to take about 100/30 second images to get good star trails with a 24mm lens.  The lights glowing on the horizon are reflections from Canada. The lights on the left hand side are from Toronto. The bright star trail on the left is the planet Venus.

– Ed Welch


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