I just returned from a week shooting in Yellowstone National Park, and some of my favorite images were taken at night. My favorite star trail shots use both the North Star and land elements in the composition. Adding landscape grounds the swirling stars above, and using the North Star gives a pleasing central point for the rotation streaks. But how do you find the North Star?
The easiest way is to look north, find the Big Dipper, and use the end stars in the ‘dipper’ to point to the North Star. See the arrow in the image above as a reference. Another way to find the North Star, especially if you can’t find the Big Dipper, is use a smart phone app like Night Sky. With the app turned on, you just hold your phone above your head in the direction you want to identify the stars. The app will show you exactly what you are looking at in the sky.
The shot at top was done shooting at F 2.8, ISO 100 and a one hour exposure time. I had my long exposure noise reduction turned on to help reduce noise. Old Faithful erupted during the exposure, and this was illuminated with a strong flash light to make it more visible in the final shot. I changed the white balance to 2800 Kelvin to make the sky more blue.