How To Achieve Warp Speed Star Zoom Photo Effect In Camera

July 31, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

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How To Achieve Warp Speed Star Zoom Photo Effect In Camera

Let me preface by saying I am no pioneer in the realm of astrophotography and this is certainly not an original concept. I saw a few really well done star zoom photos, like the ones by Aaron J. Groen and Michael Shainblum and was totally blown away. I love the almost Star Wars effect this technique provides. So let's get to it.

What Gear Do I Need?

You must have a zoom lens to achieve this effect. If you are stumbling across this blog post it is likely you already have the necessary gear for astrophotography, and there isn't anything additional needed for this shot, unless you don't have a zoom lens. Also, your camera settings will be identical to what you typically use for star photos.

Gear/Settings Used:

The Process

Setup Your Camera

  • Setup the shot with your lens fully zoomed out (or zoomed in,) in my case zoomed out to 16mm
  • Find your composition

It is important to note that the stars will appear to zoom out from the lens center or center of the frame, so this could lead to some pretty interesting compositions that I am anxious to try. Go wild with this.

Shutter And Zoom

Once you have the desired composition, it is time to take the photo.

  • Press the shutter, or cable release if you are using a remote.
  • Once the exposure is about halfway complete, in my case half of 20 seconds = 10 seconds, slowly and steadily zoom the lens.
  • If you have foreground subject you can use a flashlight or flash to light paint, which was my technique here. By flashing the foreground with light during the beginning of the exposure, the foreground elements were burned into the shot and anchors the composition into a successful final piece. This step is optional.

There are no hard and fast rules and you could even zoom for the entire exposure at a slower rate, etc. My particular arrangement worked well because I spent the first half of the exposure light-painting, and then started my zoom. I really wanted to avoid making a composite image later in Photoshop.

I hope you found this short tutorial helpful for this relatively simple technique. Have fun out there.

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